This week -- after I do a little bit of catching up (specifically, to cover events leading to and including the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC) -- we transition into a consideration of political libertas under the Principate or Empire, which for the sake of convenience may be said to begin roughly with the battle of Actium in 31 BC (where Octavian, the future emperor Augustus, defeated Mark Antony) and the reign of Augustus (31 BC - AD 14). A good deal of what we will be looking at later (personal, intellectual, and religious freedom) is located in the early Principate, so here, in connection with political libertas, I'm going to limit us to a couple of key moments. They are: an all-too-short look at aspects of the reign of the first emperor Augustus; the transition to and some treason trials under Rome's second emperor, Tiberius (AD 14-37); the Lex de imperio Vespasiani (the law on the powers of the emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian dynasty and emperor from AD 69-79); and a speech in praise of the emperor Trajan (AD 98-117) by Pliny the Younger.
NOTE: It is likely that we will not get to the Pliny reading until the following week, so if you're feeling overburdened by the reading, you can probably leave that until later (unless I am remarkably efficient).
[Please remember that as a general rule, I list the readings here in the order in which I'll cover them in lectures]
- As promised, we start this week with the assassination of Caesar. So please read (or reread) the account by the historian Appian (Book 2 of his The Civil Wars, chapters 106-148 or pp. 125-50, included in this pdf) along with Wirszubski Chap. 3. This week's writing assignment has to do with the assassination.
- Patterson, Chapter 14 (pp. 258-63, a very short chapter on Augustus...we'll read Chap. 13 later)
- Wirszubski, Chap. 4, 'The Augustan Principate in Relation to Libertas,' (click HERE for pdf of this chapter, with usual reminder that you may acquire the whole book electronically through the UW library)
- Tacitus, Annals, Book 1, Chapters 1-15 (pp. 1-11), on the accession of Tiberius in AD 14 on the death of Augustus; and Chapters 72-75 (p. 37-39), on the first of the so-called 'treason' (maiestas) trials. Click HERE for a pdf of the Tacitus reading.
NB: Tacitus, who is writing under the emperor Trajan (AD 98-117), was one of Rome's greatest historians. His Annals cover the first century of the Principate, from Tiberius to the death of Nero in AD 68.
- The Lex de imperio Vespasiani ('Law concerning the power of Vespasian') of AD 69-70. Click HERE for pdf.
NB: An important (short) inscription that in essence defines the powers of a Roman emperor.
- Pliny's Panegyricus, ONLY Sections 55-78, pp. 447-509 of THIS pdf (which, you should note, contains the entire text of the speech).
NB: You do NOT have to read this entire speech (you are welcome to, if you wish), merely the portion assigned to give you a taste of what it's like. This long, ponderous speech was delivered by Pliny the Younger (whom you'll encounter later at the end of the quarter) before the emperor Trajan in AD 100 to celebrate his accession as emperor. It is, surprisingly, pretty much the only surviving speech from the imperial period. A central theme is libertas, and the restoration of libertas, under Trajan.
Augustus claimed to have restored the Republic -- to have restored Libertas. From the readings in Patterson or Wirszubski, try to identify something about Augustus' rule that suggests just the opposite.
Libertas (and its loss) is a central issue for Tacitus. Be on the lookout in the Tacitus readings for his usually cynical view about 'freedom' and the ways in which he frames Roman political life under Tiberius (and other emperors, for that matter), as 'slavery'. Does he see the treason trials as an infringement on political liberty?
The 'Law of the power of Vespasian' is quite short, but how does it negate the concept of libertas/freedom you encountered under the Republic? Or does it?
Do you find Pliny's speech plausible and sincere? and if not, why not? Is there anything specific you can point to in the speech that suggests he does not mean what he says?