Monday, 5 October 2009


As I promised last night I will try and chat a bit about dynasty and Imperial succession.

I mentioned last time that there was no such thing as a hereditary position in the Republican period yet Augustus was clear that this was exactly his plan. How he went about this was very clever but led to the problems I discussed before.

For Augustus wished his rule to fit within the original Republican framework, so he could not declare his intent in any legal form. There was no mention in his will or legislation passed, so he had to be more cunning.

Augustus chose instead to adopt his chosen heir and then allow them to share in his powers. Take Tiberius as an example

" He was adopted as a son, as a colleague in empire and a partner in the tribunitian power, and paraded through all the armies" (Tacitus Annals 1.56)

Augustus is clearly declaring his intent for Tiberius to follow in his footsteps (even if he wasn't his first choice). Augustus then further displayed his dynastic intent by forcing Tiberius to in turn adopt his nephew Germanicus, rather than his own son.

It was not merely the wish to keep the Empire in the hands of the gens Ivlia for his own sake but in fact vital for the survival of the entire system. Augustus realised that in order to hold power the military was critical. He had to ensure the loyalty of the legions for they were his only tool to ensure the senate never changed their mind about all the powers he had been granted.

Since the time of the Republic the legions had felt deeply loyal to their commanders and were willing to follow them through hell and high water. Look at Caesar's famous Gallic legions, willing to be declared enemies of the state and march upon Rome, all out of loyalty to their general. Augustus harnessed this loyalty to raise him to the purple and realised that the legions loyal to Caesar were now loyal to him upon his adoption. Not only was he the son of their beloved general but he was also now the son of the Divine Caesar.

This was the formation of the imperial cult which is tomorrow's topic.

For now I'm going to leave you with a couple of Antoniniani from the period of Military Anarchy.

Gordian III. Rome, A.D. 239.

Obverse: IMP CAES M ANT GORDIANVS AVG, Radiate head of Gordian right
Reverse: ROMAE AETERNAE, Roma seated left on shield, holding Victory and sceptre

RIC IV 38. 3.53g 22mm

Probus Æ Antoninianus 276-282 AD Antioch mint

Obverse: "IMP C M AVR PROBVS AVG radiate draped bust right
Reverse: "CLEMENTIA TEMP, Probus standing right with scepter & receiving globe from Jupiter, D• between, XXI in ex.

RIC 921, 21mm, 3.77g

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