Augustus, Res Gestae

Res Gestae Divi Augusti ("the achievements of the deified Augustus"): the official autobiography of Augustus, which survives as an inscription in Ancyra (modern Ankara).

Ankara, Temple of Roma and Augustus

The Res Gestae Divi Augusti ("the achievements of the deified Augustus") are the official autobiography of Augustus, the man who had renovated the Roman Empire during his long reign from 31 BCE to 14 CE. The text tells us how he wanted to be remembered. It is best summarized in the full title: "the achievements of the deified Augustus by which he placed the whole world under the sovereignty of the Roman people, and of the amounts which he expended upon the state and the Roman people". In other words - it is propaganda.

Ankara, Temple of Roma and Augustus, model

The text, which was inscribed on two columns near the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome, has survived as an inscription in the Temple of Roma and Augustus in modern Ankara (ancient Ancyra), which is currently in use as a mosque. The text, which was first published by the famous botanist Charles de l' Écluse (or Clusius; 1526-1609), is not complete, but there are other copies from Central Anatolia (from a/o Antioch in Pisidia and Apollonia in Pisidia). The first scholar to combine all fragments and publish a proper scholarly edition was Theodor Mommsen (1883²).

The translation offered here, made by F.W. Shipley, was copied from LacusCurtius, where you can also find the Greek and Latin text.

The Achievements of the Deified Augustus

[1] Below is a copy of the acts of the Deified Augustus by which he placed the whole world under the sovereignty of the Roman people, and of the amounts which he expended upon the state and the Roman people, as engraved upon two bronze columns which have been set up in Rome.

At the age of nineteen,note on my own initiative and at my own expense, I raised an army by means of which I restored liberty to the republic, which had been oppressed by the tyranny of a faction. For which service the Senate, with complimentary resolutions, enrolled me in its order,note in the consulship of Gaius Pansa and Aulus Hirtius, giving me at the same time consular precedence in voting; it also gave me the imperium. As propraetor it ordered me, along with the consuls, "to see that the republic suffered no harm." In the same year, moreover, as both consuls had fallen in war, the people elected me consul and a triumvir for settling the constitution.

[2] Those who slew my father I drove into exile, punishing their deed by due process of law, and afterwards when they waged war upon the republic I twice defeated them in battle.note

[3] Wars, both civil and foreign, I undertook throughout the world, and when victorious I spared all citizens who sued for pardon. The foreign nations which could with safety be pardoned I preferred to save rather than to destroy. The number of Roman citizens who bound themselves to me by military oath was about 500,000. Of these I settled in colonies or sent back into their own towns, after their term of service, something more than 300,000, and to all I assigned lands, or gave money as a reward for military service. I captured six hundred ships, over and above those which were smaller than triremes.

[4] Twice I triumphed with an ovation, thrice I celebrated curule triumphs, and was saluted as imperator twenty-one times. Although the Senate decreed me additional triumphs I set them aside. When I had performed the vows which I had undertaken in each war I deposited upon the Capitol the laurels which adorned my fasces. For successful operations on land and sea, conducted either by myself or by my lieutenants under my auspices, the Senate on fifty-five occasions decreed that thanks should be rendered to the immortal gods. The days on which such thanks were rendered by decree of the Senate numbered 890. In my triumphs there were led before my chariot nine kings or children of kings. At the time of writing these wordsnote I had been thirteen times consul, and was in the thirty-seventh year of my tribunician power.

[5] The dictatorship offered me by the people and the Roman Senate, in my absence and later when present, in the consulship of Marcus Marcellus and Lucius Arruntiusnote I did not accept. I did not decline at a time of the greatest scarcity of grain the charge of the grain-supply, which I so administered that, within a few days, I freed the entire people, at my own expense, from the fear and danger in which they were. The consulship, either yearly or for life, then offered me I did not accept.

[6] In the consulship of Marcus Vinicius and Quintus Lucretius,note and afterwards in that of Publius and Gnaeus Lentulus,note and a third time in that of Paullus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Tubero,note when the Senate and the Roman people unanimously agreed that I should be elected overseer of laws and morals, without a colleague and with the fullest power, I refused to accept any power offered me which was contrary to the traditions of our ancestors. Those things which at that time the Senate wished me to administer I carried out by virtue of my tribunician power. And even in this office I five times received from the Senate a colleague at my own request.

[7] For ten years in succession I was one of the triumvirs for the re-establishment of the constitution. To the day of writing this I have been princeps senatus for forty years. I have been pontifex maximus, augur, a member of the fifteen commissioners for performing sacred rites, one of the seven for sacred feasts, an arval brother, a sodalis Titius, a fetial priest.

[8] As consul for the fifth time,note by order of the people and the Senate I increased the number of the patricians. Three times I revised the roll of the Senate. In my sixth consulship, with Marcus Agrippa as my colleague, I made a census of the people. I performed the lustrum after an interval of forty-one years. In this lustration 4,063,000 Roman citizens were entered on the census roll. A second time, in the consulship of Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinius,note I again performed the lustrum alone, with the consular imperium. In this lustrum 4,233,000 Roman citizens were entered on the census roll. A third time, with the consular imperium, and with my son Tiberius Caesar as my colleague,note I performed the lustrum in the consulship of Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Apuleius. In this lustrum 4,937,000 Roman citizens were entered on the census roll. By the passage of new laws I restored many traditions of our ancestors which were then falling into disuse, and I myself set precedents in many things for posterity to imitate.

[9] The Senate decreed that every fifth year vows should be undertaken for my health by the consuls and the priests. In fulfilment of these vows games were often held in my lifetime, sometimes by the four chief colleges of priests, sometimes by the consuls. In addition the entire body of citizens with one accord, both individually and by municipalities, performed continued sacrifices for my health at all the couches of the gods.

[10] By decree of the Senate my name was included in the Salian hymn, and it was enacted by law that my person should be sacred in perpetuity and that so long as I lived I should hold the tribunician power. I declined to be made pontifex maximus in succession to a colleague still living, when the people tendered me that priesthood which my father had held. Several years later I accepted that sacred office when he at last was dead who, taking advantage of a time of civil disturbance, had seized it for himself,note such a multitude from all Italy assembling for my election, in the consulship of Publius Sulpicius and Gaius Valgius,note as is never recorded to have been in Rome before.

[11] The Senate consecrated in honor of my return an altar to Fortuna Redux at the Porta Capena, near the temple of Honor and Virtue, on which it ordered the pontiffs and the Vestal virgins to perform a yearly sacrifice on the anniversary of the day on which I returnednote to the city from Syria, in the consulship of Quintus Lucretius and Marcus Vinicius, and named the day, after my cognomen, the Augustalia.

[12] At the same time, by decree of the Senate, part of the praetors and of the tribunes of the people, together with the consul Quintus Lucretius and the leading men of the state, were sent to Campania to meet me, an honor which up to the present time has been decreed to no one except myself. When I returned from Spain and Gaul, in the consulship of Tiberius Nero and Publius Quintilius,note after successful operations in those provinces, the Senate voted in honor of my return the consecration of an altar to Pax Augusta in the Campus Martius, and on this altar it ordered the magistrates and priests and Vestal Virgins to make annual sacrifice.

[13] Janus Quirinus, which our ancestors ordered to be closed whenever there was peace, secured by victory, throughout the whole domain of the Roman people on land and sea, and which, before my birth is recorded to have been closed but twice in all since the foundation of the city, the Senate ordered to be closed thrice while I was princeps.

[14] My sons Gaius and Lucius Caesar, whom fortune snatched away from me in their youth, the Senate and the Roman people to do me honor made consuls designate, each in his fifteenth year, providing that each should enter upon that office after a period of five years. The Senate decreed that from the day on which they were introduced to the forum they should take part in the counsels of state. Moreover, the entire body of Roman knights gave each of them the title of princeps iuventutis and presented them with silver shields and spears.

[15] To the Roman plebs I paid out three hundred sesterces per man in accordance with the will of my father,note and in my own name in my fifth consulshipnote I gave four hundred sesterces apiece from the spoils of war;note a second time, moreover, in my tenth consulshipnote I paid out of my own patrimony four hundred sesterces per man by way of bounty, and in my eleventh consulshipnote I made twelve distributions of food from grain bought at my own expense, and in the twelfth year of my tribunician powernote I gave for the third time four hundred sesterces to each man. These largesses of mine reached a number of persons never less than two hundred and fifty thousand. In the eighteenth year of my tribunician power,note as consul for the twelfth time,note I gave to three hundred and twenty thousand of the city plebs sixty denarii apiece. In the colonies of my soldiers, as consul for the fifth time, I gave one thousand sesterces to each man from the spoils of war; about one hundred and twenty thousand men in the colonies received this triumphal largesse. When consul for the thirteenth timenoteI gave sixty denarii apiece to the plebs who were then receiving public grain; these were a little more than two hundred thousand persons

[16] To the municipal towns I paid money for the lands which I assigned to soldiers in my own fourth consulshipnote and afterwards in the consulship of Marcus Crassus and Gnaeus Lentulus.note The sum which I paid for estates in Italy was about six hundred million sesterces, and the amount which I paid for lands in the provinces was about two hundred and sixty million. I was the first and only one to do this of all those who up to my time settled colonies of soldiers in Italy or in the provinces. And later, in the consulship of Tiberius Nero and Gnaeus Piso,note likewise in the consulship of Gaius Antistius and Decimus Laelius,note and of Gaius Calvisius and Lucius Pasienus,note and of Lucius Lentulus and Marcus Messalla,note and of Lucius Caninius and Quintus Fabricius,note I paid cash gratuities to the soldiers whom I settled in their own towns at the expiration of their service, and for this purpose I expended four hundred million sesterces as an act of grace.

[17] Four times I aided the public treasury with my own money, paying out in this manner to those in charge of the treasury one hundred and fifty million sesterces. And in the consulship of Marcus Lepidus and Lucius Arruntiusnote I contributed one hundred and seventy million sesterces out of my own patrimony to the military treasury, which was established on my advice that from it gratuities might be paid to soldiers who had seen twenty or more years of service.

[18] Beginning with the year in which Gnaeus and Publius Lentulus were consuls,note whenever taxes were in arrears, I furnished from my own purse and my own patrimony tickets for grain and money, sometimes to a hundred thousand persons, sometimes to many more.

[19] I built the Curia and the Chalcidicum adjoining it, the temple of Apollo on the Palatine with its porticoes, the temple of the deified Julius, the Lupercal, the portico at the Circus Flaminius which I allowed to be called Octavia after the name of him who had constructed an earlier one on the same site, the state box at the Circus Maximus, the temples on the Capitol of Jupiter Feretrius and Jupiter Tonans, the temple of Quirinus, the temples of Minerva, of Juno the Queen, and of Jupiter Libertas, on the Aventine, the temple of the Lares at the highest point of the Sacra Via, the temple of the Di Penates on the Velia, the temple of Youth, and the temple of the Great Mother on the Palatine.

[20] The Capitol and the theater of Pompey, both works involving great expense, I rebuilt without any inscription of my own name. I restored the channels of the aqueducts which in several places were falling into disrepair through age, and doubled the capacity of the aqueduct called the Marcia by turning a new spring into its channel. I completed the Julian Forum and the basilica which was between the temple of Castor and the temple of Saturn, works begun and far advanced by my father, and when the same basilicanote was destroyed by fire,note I began its reconstruction on an enlarged site, to be inscribed with the names of my sons, and ordered that in case I should not live to complete it, it should be completed by my heirs. In my sixth consulship,note in accordance with a decree of the Senate, I rebuilt in the city eighty-two temples of the gods, omitting none which at that time stood in need of repair. As consul for the seventh time,noteI constructed the Via Flaminia from the city to Ariminum, and all the bridges except the Mulvian and the Minucian.

[21] On my own ground I built the temple of Mars Ultor and the Augustan Forum from the spoils of war.note On ground purchased for the most part from private owners I built the theater near the temple of Apollo which was to bear the name of my son-in‑law Marcus Marcellus. From the spoils of war I consecrated offerings on the Capitol, and in the temple of the divine Julius, and in the temple of Apollo, and in the temple of Vesta, and in the temple of Mars Ultor, which cost me about one hundred million sesterces. In my fifth consulshipnote I remitted thirty-five thousand pounds weight of coronary gold contributed by the municipia and the colonies of Italy, and thereafter, whenever I was saluted as imperator, I did not accept the coronary gold, although the municipia and colonies voted it in the same kindly spirit as before.

[22] Three times in my own name I gave a show of gladiators, and five times in the name of my sons or grandsons; in these shows there fought about ten thousand men. Twice in my own name I furnished for the people an exhibition of athletes gathered from all parts of the world, and a third time in the name of my grandson. Four times I gave games in my own name; as representing other magistrates twenty-three times. For the college of quindecemvirs, as master of that college and with Marcus Agrippa as my colleague, I conducted the Secular Games in the consulship of Gaius Furnius and Marcus Silanus.note In my thirteenth consulshipnote I gave, for the first time, the games of Mars, which, since that time, the consuls by decree of the Senate have given in successive years in conjunction with me. In my own name, or that of my sons or grandsons, on twenty-six occasions I gave to the people, in the circus, in the forum, or in the amphitheatre, hunts of African wild beasts, in which about three thousand five hundred beasts were slain.

[23] I gave the people the spectacle of a naval battle beyond the Tiber, at the place where now stands the grove of the Caesars, the ground having been excavated for a length of eighteen hundred and a breadth of twelve hundred feet. In this spectacle thirty beaked ships, triremes or biremes, and a large number of smaller vessels met in conflict. In these fleets there fought about three thousand men exclusive of the rowers.

[24] After my victorynote I replaced in the temples in all the cities of the province of Asia the ornaments which my antagonist in the war, when he despoiled the temples, had appropriated to his private use. Silver statues of me, on foot, on horseback, and in chariots were erected in the city to the number of about eighty; these I myself removed, and from the money thus obtained I placed in the temple of Apollo golden offerings in my own name and in the name of those who had paid me the honor of a statue.

[25] I freed the sea from pirates. About thirty thousand slaves, captured in that war, who had run away from their masters and had taken up arms against the republic, I delivered to their masters for punishment. The whole of Italy voluntarily took oath of allegiance to me and demanded me as its leader in the war in which I was victorious at Actium. The provinces of the Spains, the Gauls, Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia took the same oath of allegiance. Those who served under my standards at that time included more than 700 senators, and among them eighty-three who had previously or have since been consuls up to the day on which these words were written, and about 170 have been priests.

[26] I extended the boundaries of all the provinces which were bordered by races not yet subject to our empire. The provinces of the Gauls, the Spains, and Germany, bounded by the ocean from Gades to the mouth of the Elbe, I reduced to a state of peace. The Alps, from the region which lies nearest to the Adriatic as far as the Tuscan Sea, I brought to a state of peace without waging on any tribe an unjust war. My fleet sailed from the mouth of the Rhine eastward as far as the lands of the Cimbri to which, up to that time, no Roman had ever penetrated either by land or by sea, and the Cimbri and Charydes and Semnones and other peoples of the Germans of that same region through their envoys sought my friendship and that of the Roman people. On my order and under my auspices two armies were led, at almost the same time, into Ethiopia and into Arabia which is called the "Happy," and very large forces of the enemy of both races were cut to pieces in battle and many towns were captured. Ethiopia was penetrated as far as the town of Napata, which is next to Meroë. In Arabia the army advanced into the territories of the Sabaei to the town of Mariba.

[27] Egypt I added to the empire of the Roman people.note In the case of Greater Armenia, though I might have made it a province after the assassination of its King Artaxes,note I preferred, following the precedent of our fathers, to hand that kingdom over to Tigranes, the son of King Artavasdes and grandson of King Tigranes, through Tiberius Nero who was then my stepson. And later, when the same people revolted and rebelled,note and was subdued by my son Gaius,note I gave it over to King Ariobarzanes the son of Artabazus, King of the Medes, to rule, and after his death to his son Artavasdes.note When he was murdered I sent into that kingdom Tigranes,note who was sprung from the royal family of the Armenians. I recovered all the provinces extending eastward beyond the Adriatic Sea, and Cyrene, which were then for the most part in possession of kings, and, at an earlier time, Sicily and Sardinia, which had been seized in the servile war.

[28] I settled colonies of soldiers in Africa, Sicily, Macedonia, both Spains, Achaea, Asia, Syria, Gallia Narbonensis, Pisidia. Moreover, Italy has twenty-eight colonies founded under my auspices which have grown to be famous and populous during my lifetime.

[29] From Spain, Gaul, and the Dalmatians, I recovered, after conquering the enemy, many military standards which had been lost by other generals. The Parthians I compelled to restore to me the spoils and standards of three Roman armies, and to seek as suppliants the friendship of the Roman people. These standards I deposited in the inner shrine which is in the Temple of Mars Ultor.

[30] The tribes of the Pannonians, to which no army of the Roman people had ever penetrated before my principate, having been subdued by Tiberius Nero who was then my stepson and my legate, I brought under the sovereignty of the Roman people, and I pushed forward the frontier of Illyricum as far as the bank of the river Danube. An army of Dacians which crossed to the south of that river was, under my auspices, defeated and crushed, and afterwards my own army was led across the Danube and compelled the tribes of the Dacians to submit to the orders of the Roman people.

[31] Embassies were often sent to me from the kings of India, a thing never seen before in the camp of any general of the Romans. Our friendship was sought, through ambassadors, by the Bastarnae and Scythians, and by the kings of the Sarmatians who live on either side of the river Tanais, and by the king of the Albani and of the Hiberi and of the Medes.

[32] Kings of the Parthians, Tiridates, and later Phraates, the son of King Phraates took refuge with me as suppliants; of the Medes, Artavasdes; of the Adiabeni, Artaxares; of the Britons, Dumnobellaunus and Tim[...]; of the Sugambri, Maelo; of the Marcomanni and Suebi [...]rus. Phraates, son of Orodes, king of the Parthians, sent all his sons and grandsons to me in Italy, not because he had been conquered in war, but rather seeking our friendship by means of his own children as pledges. And a large number of other nations experienced the good faith of the Roman people during my principate who never before had had any interchange of embassies or of friendship with the Roman people.

[33] From me the peoples of the Parthians and of the Medes received the kings for whom they asked through ambassadors, the chief men of those peoples; the Parthians Vonones, son of King Phraates, grandson of King Orodes; the Medes Ariobarzanes, the son of King Atavazdes, grandson of King Ariobarzanes.

[34] In my sixth and seventh consulships,note when I had extinguished the flames of civil war, after receiving by universal consent the absolute control of affairs, I transferred the republic from my own control to the will of the Senate and the Roman people. For this service on my part I was given the title of Augustus by decree of the Senate, and the doorposts of my house were covered with laurels by public act, and a civic crown was fixed above my door, and a golden shield was placed in the Curia Julia whose inscription testified that the Senate and the Roman people gave me this in recognition of my valour, my clemency, my justice, and my piety. After that time I took precedence of all in rank, but of power I possessed no more than those who were my colleagues in any magistracy.

[35] While I was administering my thirteenth consulship the Senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title of Father of my Country, and decreed that this title should be inscribed upon the vestibule of my house and in the senate-house and in the Forum Augustum beneath the quadriga erected in my honour by decree of the Senate. At the time of writing this I was in my seventy-sixth year.

[Appendix] The sum total of the money which he contributed to the treasury or to the Roman plebs or to discharged soldiers was 600,000,000 denarii. The new works which he built were: the temple of Mars, of Jupiter Tonans and Feretrius, of Apollo, of the Deified Julius, of Quirinus, of Minerva, of Juno the queen, of Jupiter Libertas, of the Lares, of the Di Penates, of Youth, of the Mother of the gods, the Lupercal, the state box at the circus, the senate-house with the Chalcidicum, the Augustan Forum, the Basilica Julia, the theater of Marcellus, [...] the grove of the Caesars beyond the Tiber. He restored the Capitol and sacred buildings to the number of eighty-two, the theater of Pompey, the aqueducts, the Flaminian Way. The expenditures provided for theatrical shows, gladiatorial sports, for exhibitions of athletes, for hunts of wild beasts, and the naval combat, and his gifts to colonies in Italy, to cities in the provinces which had been destroyed by earthquake or conflagration, or to individual friends and senators, whose property he raised to the required rating, are too numerous to be reckoned.

This page was created in 2007; last modified on 15 September 2020.