SOCIAL SCIENCES

Augustus: First Emperor of Rome

Yale Univ. 2014. 640p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780300178722. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780300210071. HIST
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OrangeReviewStarGoldsworthy (Caesar: Life of a Colossus) continues his tradition of chronicling the Roman empire in this monumental work. In detailing the life of Augustus Caesar (63 BCE-14 CE), the eminent classicist succeeds in his aim to present the most complete history of the founder of the principate (27 BCE-284 CE). The narrative covers Augustus's military and political efforts (Romans would see no divergence in these roles), what we can know of his interior life, and the world in which he dominated. Never shy to admit when scholars simply do not have enough evidence and ever willing to be critical of biased ancient sources, the author is a historian at his best. And Augustus is a subject worthy of such treatment, a man of contradictions—brutal and merciful, initiator of opportunistic civil wars, and establisher of lasting civil concord—who claimed to have found Rome in "mud bricks" and "left it in marble." Goldsworthy never lets the reader forget that Augustus's success was not inevitable and that "everything…he achieved in his life was based on his success as a warlord…[but] once established, he ruled well."
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers of biography and military or political history, Roman or otherwise.

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