The Twelve Caesars Essay
The Twelve CaesarsI choose to look at three Caesars I think represent both the good and the bad of Roman leadership as well as someone you can say falls in-between both good and bad. The Caesars I choice are Augustus, who is one of the better Caesars, Nero who I see as one of the worst of the Caesars and Claudius who you could say falls somewhere in the middle of the other two.
I choice Augustus as one of the better rulers because of his modest nature and the things he did to improve the Roman infrastructure. He also helps to reform the army and makes the soldiers abide by a strict moral code. Unlike some Roman emperors he does not imprison or kill those who speak badly about him and will mostly let them off with fines only. He never punishes anyone for speaking their mind and showing independence, not even in the senate. The reason Nero was put in the category of negative emperor is because he was a very disturbed person as emperor.
He has many horrible vices, including being unfaithful, and has so little respect for everything and everyone around him that he even rapes the Vestal Virgin Rubria and kills his own mother. Claudius falls in between because while he did some good things as emperor, he also let others control him. His entire family is cruel to him and all say he is ugly, slow, and worthless. He ends up being one of Rome’s favorite leaders, but his vices get the better of him in the end. One of his faults trusts his wife and freedmen too much and they all use him. Augustus is one of the most beloved emperors and everything he does is to avenge Julius Caesar and bring great honor to the empire. He works a bit differently, however.
He is more professional towards the army, rather than affectionate as Julius Caesar had been. Augustus does not try to expand the empire; rather his main goal is to uphold its integrity. As a leader Augustus introduces many reforms into the Army such as bringing back no longer in use practices and putting in place the strictest discipline. He goes so far as to limit his generals time with their wives to winter only. Unlike Julius Caesar, Augustus cares about the morality of his soldiers and gives them all background checks. If they have done anything immoral they are punished.
Augustus is generous when it comes to recognizing military talent and lets Senators sons familiarize themselves with the administration before their military careers begin so they can gain plenty of experience. He also makes it so everyone in the army receives the same pay to discourage them from revolting for more money once they retire.Outside of the Military reforms Augustus divides the city into districts and wards and appoints magistrates to watch over the districts and locally elected supervisors to watch over the wards. He also restores ruined and burned temples, making them better than they were before. He also changes the calendar back to what it used to be, before Julius Caesar changed it, and he also renames the month Sextilis to August, because Sextilis was the month he won his first Consulship.Augustus was also a vey modest leader and he always felt horrified and insulted when called ‘My Load’. One time at a show, an actor says the words “O just and generous Lord!” and the entire audience rises and applauds as if it refers to him.
He was so upset by this that he issued a “edict of stern reprimand” that makes it illegal for even his adopted children and grandchildren to use the “obsequious word” (though it might only be in joke), either when talking to him or about him (Augustus #53 pg. 77). He slowly becomes more modest and paranoid. He never leaves the city during times when people might be forced to give him a formal hello or goodbye because it makes him feel uncomfortable. These acts of modesty make the public like him a lot more. The people want to give him the title “Father of his Country” and the Senate agrees, even though Augustus has turned down the request once before.
He is much moved and says “Fathers of the Senate, I have at last achieved my highest ambition. What more can I ask of the immortal gods than that they may permit me to enjoy your approval until my dying day?” (August #58 pg. 80) Augustus is very cautious of people and never rushes into a friendship.
Once he makes a friend, he keeps him for life and treats him very well. He is very honorable to them and if they list him as an heir to part of their belongings, he quickly turns it over to his friend’s grown up children or saves it until the children are grown. Then he turns over the money with interest.
Augustus is guilty of various improprieties and he often commits adultery, which his friends justify by saying he slept with the wives and daughters of his enemies in hopes of finding more out about them.During Nero’s time as ruler he commits many acts of unacceptable public abuses. He has no ambition to extend the boundaries of the Roman Empire and even considers taking his forces out of Britain.
He only plans two foreign tours, one to Alexandria and the other to Greece. A warning portent made him cancel the Alexandria voyage, on the very day when his ships would have sailed. (Nero #19 pg.
222) At night Nero makes his way to local taverns and roams the streets disguised in a cap or a wig looking for trouble. One of his games was he would beat those he met coming home from dinner, stabbing them if they resist, and then dropping their bodies in the sewers. He also breaks into shops and robs them and then later opens a shop of his own and sells the stolen goods. Once he even molests a senator’s wife and is almost beaten to death by her husband. After this he never went out during the night without some tribunes following him at a little distance (Nero # 26 pg. 227).
He eventually gets worse and stops trying to hide the horrible things he does. He starts out seducing free born boys and married women, but he grows tired of them and rapes Rubria, a Vestal Virgin. Even more disturbing, he castrates a boy named Sporus so that he can marry him, then takes him to his palace where he “treated him as his wife” with a full audience. (Nero #28 pg. 228)He is not very good to the women in his life. He tries killing his mother on several occasions, poisoning her three times.
He finally sends someone to kill her, and is always haunted by her ghost. He has three wives total, one of which he kicks to death while she is pregnant because she complains he comes home too late from the races. It is no surprise that he is even worse with strangers. He even sets part of Rome on fire because he is “disgusted with the drab old buildings” (Nero #38 pg. 236).The Gauls, lead by Galba, become desperate and attack Nero after fourteenth year as ruler. Nero knows he cannot win against Galba and tears his clothes while he beats his forehead crying.
He is so irrational that his initial military preparations are to find enough wagons to carry his stage equipment and get his concubines ready by having male haircuts and be given Amazonian shields. He tries escaping, but is unsuccessful. He is finally so loathed by everyone that the Senate says Nero is now a public enemy and he would be punished “in ancient style” when arrested. When Nero asked what that is he is told that ancient style means he will be stripped naked, his head thrust in a wooden fork, and then flogged to death with rods.
He commits suicide by stabbing himself in the throat, with the help of his secretary because he is too cowardly to do it himself. One of his last requests is for Sporus to “weep and mourn him” (Nero #49 pg. 244-45).
Claudius becomes emperor by accident. When he hears that Gaius has been murdered, he is so scared that he hides behind a curtain. A guardsman goes looking for him and sees his two feet peaking out. The guardsman exposes him and Claudius drops to the floor as the guard proclaims him emperor.
The people sincerely want him to be emperor and demand that he accept the position. He finally does and has his guards pledge allegiance to him and give them all one hundred fifty gold pieces. He is the first Caesar to purchase the loyalty of his troops (Claudius #10 pg. 189).
He is a simple leader at first and is very loyal to his family, never missing a chance to honor Augustus. He has the love of the people early on. During gladiator games he stands and applauds with the audience and claps and shouts along with them during the shows. This makes him seem humble and adds to his popularity. In contrast to that, at gladiatorial shows, whether or not they were staged by himself, he ruled that all combatants who fell accidentally should have their throats cuts, above all net-fighters, so he could gaze on their death agony (Claudius #34 pg. 205). In spite of his popularity there were also plots against his life. First a commoner tries to stab him, then a group of his slaves try to kill him, and finally a civil war begins, though it is over in less than five days (Claudius #13 pg.
191). He holds four consulships and is a very thorough judge. He strives to be fair and when he feels that sentences are too harsh or lenient, he changes them himself. However he also tends to decide against whichever party in a suit happened to be absent and after a man was found guilty of forgery and was to have his hands cut off, he bowed to public pressure and immediately sent for a block and cleaver. One time he even says that “I decide in favor of the party which has told the truth,” because of such rulings he becomes so discredited that he came into open and widespread contempt (Claudius #15 pg.
192). It is believed that he was poisoned, perhaps by his wife, poisoning a dish of Mushrooms; others have said it was Halotus his official taster. What happened after he was poisoned is also disputed. Some say he was in pain all night long and died shortly before dawn.
While others have said he vomited up the entire contents of his stomach and was then poisoned a second time either by gruel or by means of an enema (Claudius # 44 pg. 211). He was given a princely funeral and officially deified, an honor which Nero later neglected and then canceled; but which Vespasian restored (Claudius #45 pg.