Augustus actually created an autocratic system of Roman government. During his
reign, Caesar's building projects were completed, such as Caesar's forum, and Augustus
himself claimed to have built 82 temples in one year (28 BC). Pompey's theatre was
restored and two new ones built, the Theater of Ballus and the Theater of Marcellus.
Old aqueducts were reparied and new ones built, such as the Aqua Virgo by Agrippa,
Augustus' son in law, from 21-19 BC, and the Aqua Alsientina, built to supply water for an
artificial lake meant for aquatic displays.
Accoring to Suetonius, Augustus
was fond of claiming that he found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble.
While many structures did remain made of brick, Augustus did utilize white marble
out of Luna, in Northern Italy, and colored marble out of North AFrica, Greece, and Asia
Minor on a grander scale than ever before. The forum itself also underwent major
changes under Augustus. The Basilica Julia was enlarged and completed on the
southwest side, and the new Senate House, the Curia Julia, was finished on the northeast
side. The rostra was moved to the bottom of the capitol, while at the top stood the
temple of the deified Caesar adjacent to the Triumphal Arch of Augustus. Augustus
also built himself his own forum to the north of the Forum Romanum, to celebrate his
victory over Caesar's assassins. The forum, and its temple of Mars Ultor (the
avenger) were dedicated in 2 BC. The complex was very large with many Greek
features. The Senate also ordered an alter be built in the Campus Martius. The
large rectangular structure now stands by the Tiber, celebrating the blessings of peace
brought to Italy by Augustus. Beyond it and to the west was the Horologium
Augusti, oriented toward the alter, known as the Ara Pacis.
The historian Tacitus
described Augustus' successors, all members of his Julio-Claudian family, as
"hypocrite, madman, fool, and knave," respectively. The first was
Tiberius, who was less concerned with keeping up the republicn pretenses of Augustus.
He moved the Praetorian Guard (the imperial bodyguards) to a new camp some miles
outside Rome, known as the castra praetoria. He also built himself a large
palace on the corner of the Palatine, the domus Tiberiana.
At the age of 25 in AD
37, Caligula came into power with the support of the Praetorian Guard. The early
months of his rule seemed to mark the beginning of a new era: taxes were reduced,
entertainment increased, and moral was exceedingly high. However, he soon took ill,
and while he recovered physically, he was mentally damaged beyond hope.
For example, in the
Eastern Greek kingdoms, it was common to worship rulers before death. Augustus had
allowed this to develop in the East for the purpose of worshippng the emperor and his
family, but forbade such practices until after death in Rome. Caligula became
obsessed with the belief that he was a god, insisting to be worshipped. This almost caused
a rebellion in Judea when he ordered a statue of himself to be placed in the temple at
Jerusalem. By his own right, Caligula extended Tiberius' palace farther into the
forum, engulfing the temple of Castor and Pollux as a set of vestibules. He
reportedly built a large viaduct across the Capitoline to more easily commune with
Caligula seems to have
obtained funds by forced legacies, insanely high taxes, and judicial murders. A
conspiracy of his own guard cornered him in a Palace garden early in AD 41, killing him,
his wife, and his child after only four years as emperor. He was succeeeded by his
uncle, Claudius, whom people felt was stupid due to his poor physical condition - although
incorrectly. Claudius brought a short period of judicious and political stability to
Rome, in addition to building the port city of Portus to the north of Ostia, in order to
facilitate food imports. He also built two new aqueducts, the Aqua Claudia and the
Aqua Anio Novus.
Nero came into power in
AD 54 at the age of 16. However, a dangerous combination of passion and
succeptibility to flattery made him unfit to rule Rome. As a emperor, Nero loved the
arts, gymnastics, and chariot racing, and belived himself to be very gifted. He
built a new bridge and a set of large public baths, and tried, usually through brutal
methods, to build a huge estate in the center of Rome. For example, he constructed a
new palace, the domus transitoria, accross the Esquiline Valley to gain direct
access to the Gardens of Maecenas, some 1.5 kilometers away.
June 18, 64 AD a hug
fire broke out, raging for six days and gutting Rome. Talk lingered of arson,
especially when Nero seized the damaged area for his new estate. Some witnesses even
claimed to see people heaping fuel into the fire, and report were made of Nero singing an
aria on the burning of Trow while accompaning himself on the lyre as Rome burned.
However, other reports indicate that Nero gave shelter to the homeless after the
fire, reducing the price of grain to feed them. After a fire brigade finally got the
blaze under control, it broke out in another part of the city, damaging ten of Rome's
fourteen districts. Three were completely destroyed.
The public wanted a
scapegoat for the fire, and Christians, who resided in Rome in several communities, were
obscure in practice, and were rumored to eat human flesh, seemed the perfect target.
In addition, many pagan temples had been burned in the fire, seeming to indicate a
correlation. This led to the first persecution of Christians by the Roman
government. Many were tried and sentenced to die based on anarcistic tendencies,
while others were crucified and still more covered in inflammable material and lighted as
human torches in Nero's gardens.
Between 64 and 68, Nero
built his new palace, the domus aurea. A villa covering 125 acres from the
Palatine across the Valley to the Esquiline gardens, it was laid out like a country
estate, complete with a lake, fields, and woodlands. It used to major Roman roads as
entrances, the Via Sacra and the Nova Via. This angered the Roman
people, not because it was so lavish, but because it had been built in the center of Rome.
As if to further the damage his reputation, Nero went to Greece, postponing the
Olympic Games from 65-67 so that he could participate. He was awarded 1800 prizes,
such as the crown of victory for the Chriot Racing competition, even though he had fallen
off his horse and never finished the race.
Finally, the Praetorian
Guard ended the sham in 68, mutinied, and declared Nero a public enemy. Nero managed
to kill himself before the guard could get to him, muttering the words "What an
artist dies in me," ending the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
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