Friday, September 3, 2010

Augustus: Managing an Empire Part 2

During roughly the same timeframe as the previous article, adjustments of some magnitude were happening in the family of Augustus. There were consequences for its members and also for Rome. Julia, the daughter of Augustus had married Agrippa in 21 BC and had two sons: Gaius, born in 20 BC and Lucius in 17 BC. Augustus and Livia didn't have any male children, so upon the arrival of Lucius, Augustus adopted them both--"an heir and a spare." After this they were known as Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar. The situation was reminiscent of Julia acting as nothing more than an incubator for the offspring of two fathers.

This was an obvious move to secure the chances of an Augustan dynasty. This move also seemed at the time to leave Livia's sons, Tiberius and Drusus, of the running permanently. It was largely thought at the time that Livia would do just about anything to advance her sons' standing. However, there is no historical evidence to suggest she ever did anything impudent in this regard. The sheer fact that Livia remained in high favor and regard by Augustus throughout his life would seem to support this--rumours of stepmother-like doings not withstanding.

Whatever Livia, Tiberius, and Drusus thought privately, the lives they led left no room for complaint. Tiberius, aged 25 and Drusus, aged 21, had already shown talent and ambition and were well rewarded fo it. Augustus arranged for both his stepsons to be able to hold office before the minium ag and he trusted them with multiple challenging duties. Tiberius was known as somewhat dour and withdrawn, but Drusus was overwhelmingly popular and outgoing.

Undated letters of Augustus speak of affection for them both. Both Tiberius and Drusus had an aptitude for military life and leadership--qualities that Augustus expanded upon and exploited.

Events in Gaul soon caused or supplied the pretext to begin the imperial grand strategy. Germanic tribes had won a battle over Marcus Lollius in 17 BC in Gaul. Although the battle wasn't essential, and was even redressed, a legionary standard had been lost. But, out of all proportion, Augustus acted as if this attack was an extreme emergency. He left for Gaul immediately and brought Tiberius with him.

However, upon arrival, there wasn't anything for him to do. Marcus Lollius, a corrupt, status-seeking man who was also a favorite of Augustus, was already preparing a military strike. In addition, when the tribes learned Augustus himself was coming to Gaul, they vanished into their own territory. Still, Augustus would stay in Gaul for three years. Why?

There are not enough historical records left to us to answer definitively. One rumor circulating at the time in Rome was that he left the capitol to cultivate an affair with Marcenas' wife Terrentia. This is possible but would be strange, because it is most probable that Livia traveled with her husband on this campaign as she did on his other jaunts around the empire.

There was news of a plot against Augustus while he was in Gaul. The plot implicated a grandson of Pompey the Great, and a young man named Gnaeus (possibly Lucius) Cornelius Cinna. Cassius Dio wrote that Augustus spent many sleepless nights trying to decide if he should execute the young men or not. Apparently Livia convinced him that he should show clemency to quiet his critics and dissuade future machinations against him.

It is most probable that Augustus spent this time planning future military campaigns. Aggression began in 16 or 17 BC when the governor of Illyricum launched an assault against two Alpine tribes. After this, in 15 BC, Tiberius and Drusus commanded a two-pronged maneuver into what would become the modern Switzerland, Lichtenstein, western Austria, and southern Bavaria. Drusus and Lucius must have achieved an overwhelming victory, for their goals were met in one summer campaign. The following year, Roman forces annexed the maritime Alps. Thus the province of Raetia was born.

One of the ways that the peace was kept here, was that Tberius and Drusus deported thousands of men of fighting age from the area. Although the humanity of this move can obviously be argued--there was a definite
"method to their madness." When Roman armies achieved victory over 'barbarian" tribes it was most often with an overwhelming amount of force. However, there were always enough men left to hide and then proceed to launch future guerilla attacks. So when the geographer Strabo visited the area a generation later, he reported a "state of tranquility," --it was likely the "tranquility" of being barren.

During the time he was in Gaul, Augustus also reorganized the army by demobilizing a great number of men whose period of service was up and settled them in Gaul and Spain. As these men were rewarded fo their years of service, there would probably have a recruitment campaign to make up for the retired men. The length of a legionary's duty was extended to sixteen years and to twelve years for a member of the Praetorian Guard. It was alos during Augustus' time spent in Gaul that the mint in Lugdunum (modern Lyon) appears to have begun operating as a major mint issuing both gold and silver coins to pay legions in campaigns in Gaul and Germany.

"Not only had stage one of the military strategy been swiftly and brilliantly completed, but in the process stage two had been launched. This was because Raetia's northern border was the river Danube, and a little additional fighting led to the acquisition of the neighboring territory of Noricum to the east (roughly the rest of Austria). Noricum abutted Pannonia, whose tribesmen had been defeated in Octavian's Illyrian wars; although the Pannonians had been neither conquered nor occupied, for the time being they were quiet." Anthony Everitt, Augustus, p,266.

Moesia, on Pannonia's eastern border had already been conquered--although another generation (perhaps a little more) passed before it was deemed beneficial to make it a formal province. Pannonia was still very much an issue. In fact, control of Pannonia was still tenuous at best in 14 AD-the year Augustus died. The three Pannonian legions were headquartered to the south-west of the province; fairly close to the border of Italy. There were auxiliary detachments in the forts of Aquincum (Budapest) and Arrabona on the Danube, however, the first legionary camp was set-up at Carnuntum, just about the time Augustus left this mortal coil--14-15 AD.

It was not until the wars of Domitian (r. 81-96 AD), that the Pannonian Danube frontier was strengthened. To do this, client kingdoms were once again relied upon just as they had been on the Rhine. The Suebi had taken control of the area north of the upper Danube, when the Marcomannic king, Maroboduus, sought exile in Rome in 19 AD. The Romans installed a king over the Suebi who lasted until 50 AD, and his successors still showed allegiance to Rome in 69-70 AD. The legions were also stationed well south of the Danube in Moesia; but here the first legionary camp on the Danube, installed in 15 AD, was followed by three others in the middle of the century.

However, the things that Drusus and Tiberius had achieved were real and permanent. Augustus was very happy with his adopted sons and commissioned a huge celebratory monument, the Tropaeum Alpium (Treaty of the Alps) to distinguish this accomplishment. This monument was a great stone edifice, fifty feet tall, and supported a wide circular tower that was surrouned by columns and had a large stepped roof. A statue of Augustus would probably have been placed at the apex--looking out over his conquered territory like a god surveying his mortal charges from on high. The remains of this monument can be viewed at La Turbie, near Monaco, still remarkable after the passage of more than 20 centuries. More here . The image is of the remains of the Tropaeum Alpium. The research resources I used for this article were Anthony Everitt's, Augustus, 2006 and Fergus Millar's The Roman Empire and its neighbours, 1967. Peace and be well to anyone stopping by!

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