What I'm writing now, are summaries on Roman Background readings. When you learn a new language, it's useful to know something about the culture that speaks the language. This is true for ancient as well as modern languages. And thankfully, we know a fair amount about Roman culture, even though it no longer exists in this form.
The following are summary points taken from passages in the textbook we used: The Oxford Latin Course: Part III, (ed. Balme, M & Morwood, J - 2nd edition)
Brutus & Cassius (37)
- Brutus & Cassius fled from Rome almost immediately after Caesar's death
- They claimed to have acted in the name of freedom from dicatatorship, but meant power would be restored to the aristocracy
- History depicts Cassius unfavourably, Shakespeare shows two sides to him: he is "sincere in his hatred of tyranny"
- Brutus is more likeable - drawn unwillingly into the plot, he is a geniune philosopher as well as a soldier. He roused up the young students of Athens to join his cause.
- Brutus was also a writer, writing a book on virtus
- The moment Octavius heard of Caesar's death, he rushed back to Italy
- As Caesars' heir, he began to promote himself and changed his name to C. Julius Caesar Octavianus.
- He quickly aroused the jealousy of Antony, who saw him a young upstart.
- The senate tried to use him to destroy Antony. After he succeeded, they tried to brush him aside.
- The 19 year-old would have none of this. He demanded and won the consulship, for which the minimum age had been 43.
- In 42 BC, with Octavian taken ill, Antony won the battle of Phillipi
- While Ant. established peace in the East, Oct. began to find land for the veterans by confiscating the farms of farmers who had not supported him
- Tension between Ant and Oct grew as Ant's wife and brother supported the farmers
- Civil War was imminent on Ant's return to Italy, but they managed to effect a truce.
- The confiscations were devastating for the Romans. Horace's family, and perhaps even Vergil, suffered lost their farms
- Vergil describes the sense of loss in two poems: They speak of how the dispossessed feel, either having to work as servants of the new landowners, or having been forced to find a new home
To Scythia, bone-dry Africa, the chalky spate of the Oxus,
Even to Britain - that place at the very world's end.
- Despite Ocavian's ruthlessness during this time, ten years later he would be it's patron
- Now he improved roads, reduced crime and encouraged poets who were some of country-folk whose farms he'd siezed
- Came to the throne of Egypt as joint-hier with her brother on their father's death
- Was exiled by her brother, but restored with Caesar's help
- She had a son by Caesar, Caesarion. The mother and child lived in a villa in Rome till Caesar's death. They then returned to Egypt
- 3 years later she first met
- Antony as he was establishing matters in the East
- They had twins and perhaps a third child before he left her to make peace with Octavian
- Four years later, Ant returned to the East, leaving his wife Octavia and publicly declaring himself Cleopatra's husband
- Octavian was able to use this as fuel against Ant and Cleopatra against whom he and the senate declared war
Caesar Augustus (49)
- Rome, it seems, had had enough of Civil War. Tired of the instability, the people welcomed Octavian as their hero and saviour.
- They awarded him the name Augustus ("worthy of honour and reverence")
- Poets such as Vergil and Horace praised him, Vergil even linking him to the family of his hero Aeneas (prince of Troy and founder of the precursor to Rome)
- Many celebrated him as the peace-maker. The Gates of War, in Janus' temple were shut for the first time in years and an "Altar of Peace" set up near the Tiber.
- By taking the name princeps and not rex, Augustus transformed the Republic to an Empire, but most of the people did not seem to mind.