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'Assessing Augustus'

'Assessing Augustus'

‘Assessing Augustus at the Bimillenium of his death’ 

On the evening of Monday 7th March, a group of 6.1 Classicists departed Radley with Mr Glendon-Doyle to attend a lecture at Abingdon School on the Emperor Augustus, delivered by Alison Cooley, a Professor of Classics at the University of Warwick. The talk began with a discussion of Mussolini’s use of Augustus’ legacy to promote himself as his successor and justify his actions, such as an invasion of Africa. Professor Cooley suggested that Mussolini had been trying to identify himself as a latter-day Augustus who was attempting similarly to bring Italy into a new Golden Age. In fact, Mussolini directly associated himself with his idol through means such as the ‘liberation’ of the Mausoleum of Augustus, which he led personally, and the famous ‘Ara Pacis’ was lifted up by Mussolini himself. 

The second half of the talk was about Augustus’ self-presentation within the “Res Gestae Divi Augusti”. Here, Professor Cooley focused on how Augustus was effectively the exemplary prototype for all other emperors who came after him, with the Emperor Vespasian even changing his name to incorporate ‘Augustus’. Augustus’ focus on world conquest and the transformation of the city of Rome seems particularly pertinent as Mussolini then espoused similar theories when he was in power 2000 years after his predecessor’s birth. 

At the end of the talk, Professor Cooley challenged the boys to be cautious about looking at Augustus simply through the way he was presented by Mussolini, but to be equally cautious about believing all that Augustus claimed in his “Res Gestae” and suggested that interpretations would continue to change as modern agendas did as well; thus one must decide for themselves the truth: a worthy message for all Radleians. Thus, the boys were able to return to Radley armed to the teeth with exciting views and facts with which to make their arguments on their ‘Aeneid’ set text, as well as with a much-enhanced view of the classical world. 

Report by Arthur Dingemans and Charlie Besley, C Social 6.1s 

 

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