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The Julio-Claudian Emperors, 31 BC–AD 68

The Roman Way - Life at the Top

[Source: BBC Radio 4 - The Roman Way]

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Life at the top. The Roman Empire, at its peak, spread right around the Mediterranean and stretched from Northumbria to Armenia. From the reign of the Emperor Augustus onwards, power of all that territory lay in the hands of one man: the emperor himself. What did the emperor do all day? We have two stereotypical images of Roman emperors: the good ones led victorious armies in battle, the bad ones indulged in orgies and excess. How accurate is this picture? Though the emperor sat at the peak of the command chain, there were other powerful figures in the Roman world - the imperial advisors, for example. So who were these people? And how much power did they have? Since the emperor's word was final, his whim was complete, and his tyranny absolute - how easy was it to keep friendly with the emperor? Friendship was a vital tool in the running of the empire. Letters of recommendation were commonplace, and occurred at all levels. How did this network of friends-of-friends operate? What were the benefits - and disadvantages? Those at the bottom of the social scale were not completely powerless. The emperor depended upon the good will and opinion of the people - and he knew it. How did they express their disapproval? And don't forget about the slave population of Rome, who vastly outnumbered the ranks of the free. They weren't without power, either.

The Augustan Age

[Source: BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time]

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Melvyn Bragg and guests Mary Beard, Catharine Edwards and Duncan Kennedy discuss the political regime and cultural influence of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Called the Augustan Age, it was a golden age of literature with Virgil's Aeneid and Ovid's Metamorphosis among its treasures. But they were forged amidst creeping tyranny and the demands of literary propaganda. Augustus tightened public morals, funded architectural renewal and prosecuted adultery. Ovid was exiled for his saucy love poems but Virgil's Aeneid, a celebration of Rome's grand purpose, was supported by the regime. Indeed, Augustus saw literature, architecture, culture and morality as vehicles for his values. He presented his regime as a return to old Roman virtues of forbearance, valour and moral rectitude, but he created a very new form of power. He was the first Roman Emperor and, above all, he established the idea that Rome would be an empire without end. Catharine Edwards is Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck College, University of London; Duncan Kennedy is Professor of Latin Literature and the Theory of Criticism at the University of Bristol; Mary Beard is Professor of Classics at Cambridge University.

Head of Augustus

[Source: BBC Radio 4 - A History of the World in 100 Objects, Empire Builders (300 BC - 1 AD)]

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Neil MacGregor concludes the first week of the second part of his global history as told through objects from the British Museum. This week he has been exploring the lives and methods of powerful rulers around the world about 2000 years ago, from Alexander the Great in Egypt to Asoka in India. Today he introduces us to the great Roman emperor Augustus, whose powerful, God-like status is brilliantly enshrined in a larger than life bronze head with striking eyes. Neil MacGregor describes how Augustus dramatically enlarged the Roman Empire, establishing his image as one of its most familiar objects. The historian Susan Walker and the politician Boris Johnson help explain the power and methodology of Augustus.

Augustus

[Source: BBC Radio 3 - Free Thinking]

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Charlotte Higgins, author of Under Another Sky about Roman Britain, discusses the lessons we can learn from the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus, who died in AD 14 (23:15-33:00).

Tacitus and the Decadence of Rome

[Source: BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time]

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Roman historian Tacitus who chronicled some of Rome’s most notorious emperors, including Nero and Caligula, and whose portrayal of Roman decadence influences the way we see Rome today. “The story I now commence is rich in vicissitudes, grim with warfare, torn by civil strife, a tale of horror even during times of peace”. So reads page one of The Histories by the Roman historian Tacitus and it doesn’t disappoint. Convinced that Rome was going to the dogs, Tacitus depicts a Rome which is a hotbed of sex and violence, of excessive wealth and senatorial corruption. His work is a pungent study in tyranny and decline that has influenced depictions of Rome, from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall to Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. But is it a true picture of the age or does Tacitus’ work present the tyranny and decadence of Rome at the expense of its virtues? And to what extent, when we look at the Roman Empire today, do we still see it through Tacitus' eyes?With Catharine Edwards, Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London; Ellen O’Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol and Maria Wyke, Professor of Latin at University College London

The Fall of Sejanus

Prof. Kevin Butcher of the University of Warwick on the fall of Sejanus during the reign of the emperor Tiberius.

Caligula and his Sisters

Prof. Kevin Butcher of the University of Warwick on a coin representing Caligula and his sisters.

Nero and Agrippina

Prof. Kevin Butcher of the University of Warwick on what can be learnt of the accession of Nero from the study of a coin showing the emperor with his mother, Agrippina.

Nero Plays the Lyre

Prof. Kevin Butcher of the University of Warwick on the image of the lyre player on a Neronian coin.