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Augustus (Roman Imperial Biographies) [Paperback]

Patricia Southern
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 23, 2001 0415258553 978-0415258555 1

Despite his talent for self-promotion, the character of the emperor Augustus is rarely revealed and as such makes this biography unique in its presentation of Augustus the man. Pat Southern chronologically traces the life, works and times of the emperor, presenting ideology and events from his point of view to provide a compelling depiction of an extraordinary man, who was the guiding light in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Southern (Domitian: Tragic Tyrant) has contributed the first true biography of Augustus Caesar in 75 years. Even though hundreds of books and articles have appeared, Southern's approach is to disregard all the writing about politics, the arts and other specialized studies. Instead, she concentrates on the man himself, a daunting task because the man originally known as Octavian carefully orchestrated the public perception of himself. Her approach is chronological, from his family's heritage to his deathbed, when Octavian asked his family and friends if they had enjoyed the performance. Along the way, Southern analyzes problems and conflicts among surviving Roman sources and offers her own informed opinion as to which were more accurate. The frail youth Octavian was hardly suited to greatness, but his ties to Julius Caesar brought him into prominence. In the death throes of the Republic, Octavian emerged as Caesar's avenger, crushed his chief rival, Mark Anthony, then went on to hold supreme power for 44 years. Always careful to appear that he followed legal procedures, Octavian, Southern cogently argues, did not have a master plan to change the Republic into an empire. He simply brought order out of chaos, improvising as he went, and held power for so long that upon his death in A.D. 14 many of his subjects knew no other form of government. Although Octavian could have failed many times, Southern's astute character portrait shows why he ultimately succeeded. 30 b&w photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Southern's biography, Augustus is thorough ... supplies a reliable up-to-date guide through the snake pits of Roman politics.' - Frederic Raphael, Sunday Times

'Southern deserves credit for carefully weighing the primary evidence, working through an overwhelming amount of secondary scholarship, and producing a clear and balanced account.' - Bryn Mawr, Classical Review

Product Details

  • Series: Roman Imperial Biographies
  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (September 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415258553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415258555
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,746,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent New Biography of Augustus January 16, 1999
By A Customer
Augustus is a legendary figure in Roman history. For us, and the later Roman world, he is a mythical figure, an image of himself that Augustus helped to foster. He is the god-like archetypal father of his country. In this new biography, Pat Southern has succeeded (as much as can be done) in penetrating behind the mask to give us the man behind the legend.
Her opening chapters brilliantly relate the background of Roman history prior to the career of Octavian. She does a remarkable job of untangling the politiacal web of late Republican politics and placing the figures of Julius Caesar, Pompey, Crassus, Mark Antony and Cleopatra into perspective. She guides us along the very difficult and tortuous route that brought Octavian , the non-entity equestrian, to become the adoptive son of Caesar, the Triumver and finally the beloved ruler of the Roman world.
It is easy to take for granted that Augustus would become the eventual victor in the power struggle following the assassination of Caesar. It is a period populated by meny men who had their eyes on becoming the sole ruler of the Roman empire. Ms. Southern takes us step by step, including the mistakes made by Octavian. In this she reveals much about the personalities of the participants but Roman society.
This is a scholarly book. You will find Mark Antony referred to by his correct name Marcus Antonius; and Pompey is Pompeius. It is a scholarly book that is well written and also even exciting to read at times. She knows her material and has written a thoughtful biography that is the best portrait of Augustus, the man and princeps, that we have.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good effort but unextraordinary January 24, 2002
While clearly well-researched with extensive endnotes and references, I found this treatment of the life of a truly fascinating historical figure to be generally uninsightful. The author manages to paint a fairly vanilla portrait of Augustus and in my opinion does not present a compelling rationale for *why* he did some of the things he did. That being said, reading this book is not wasted time. It presents the who, what, when, where, and how of Augustus' life very clearly and concisely. And as always, the quality of the production of this Routledge book is extremely high.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short, but satisfying...... December 7, 2002
By nto62
Augustus, the adopted son of Gaius Julius Caesar, had a genius for politics. Upon the murder of Caesar in 44 BC, Octavian, as he was known then, painstakingly plotted his path to autocratic rule. Establishing the second Triumvirate which included himself, Marc Antony, and Lepidus, Octavian merely waited for his partners to self-destruct (with a little help from himself) before "unwillingly" accepting the adulation and sole leadership of Rome and it's provinces.
Careful to avoid the missteps of his deified father, Augustus created an environment whereby the Senate appeared to have a say in governance, but for all practical purposes did not. Thus, he oversaw the death throes of Republican Rome and established the foundation for emperors to come.
Pat Southern has written a short, though precise account of this time that both informs and provokes. Questioning the traditional Augustinian lore, Southern gives his readers much to ponder. Both the casual and specialized reader will enjoy this book for it's utilitarian brevity and it's pace. Augustus, by Pat Southern, deserves a solid 4 stars and a place among the bookshelves of all interested in early Rome.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, detailed biography January 25, 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Overall, this was a good biography of Augustus. The author clearly resarched the subject thoroughly. The book does a very good job of portraying Augustus, his personality, and those closest to him. In some ways, the book is almost too focused on Augustus, without adequate attention to the background of Roman society. While the author does address background factors, these sometimes seem to get lost in the very detailed focus on Augustus himself. This book would probably be most enjoyed by those looking for a fairly academic approach, and those who have read other books on Augustus. Despite some of my misgivings, I still recommend this book. I enjoyed it, and learned from it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Augustus biography in English? March 7, 2008
Don't waste your time on Anthony Everett's pop bio of Augustus, unless you're a complete neophyte to Roman history. Southern's bio makes the Everett book superfluous.

Southern is comprehensive, judicious, and readable. She's up front about issues with the ancient sources where she needs to be, and thrashes out lesser issues in the endnotes. And while her wit isn't so broad as Everett's, she does enliven the text with the occasional flash of humor, such as remarking that the Senate rejected Octavian's first request that he be made a consul, "probably after they stopped laughing." (Octavian of course laughed last.)

Augustus will always be a mystery, but this is the best book I know towards figuring out what he did and what he was like. Of course, anyone really curious should also pick up Suetonius's brief "Life" as well.
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