hist 1 - Chris Collotta History 391T Paper 1 Coping with...

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Chris Collotta History 391T Paper# 1 Coping with the Tyrant Throughout Roman history, tyrants beat and battered their subjects to a point of complete submission or death, usually whichever came first. These Roman subjects had only a few options to combat such oppressive emperors. Some of these defensive methods included shunning the emperor, committing suicide or confronting the emperor. The last method hardly, if ever, worked for the poor Romans. In this paper I will examine how the Romans dealt with tyrants and try to figure out which defensive method worked best. The Roman republic came to an end when Octavius Caesar Augustus became emperor in 27 BCE. To guarantee that he would have no competition to the crown Augustus quickly defeated his enemies in a series of civil wars after his uncle, Julius Caesar, was assassinated. In the beginning of Augustus’ reign he was seen as a fair emperor rather than a tyrant. He did many great things to better Rome, such as rebuild the streets and buildings as well as add another court system. In Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars he writes of Augustus’s works: “. .so much improved under his administration, that he boasted, not without reason, that he "found it of brick, but left it of marble." He also rendered it secure for the time to come against such disasters, as far as could be effected by human foresight.” Augustus was not always a fair ruler though and many unfortunate Roman citizens discovered this while they were being tortured or humiliated. Augustus knew if he was to be a strong emperor than his subjects had to fear him as well as show respect. He even showed malice towards his family members when he felt they had dishonored him. In Suetonius we learn the fate of his two Julias, his daughter and grand-daughter who acted lewd in public. “The two Julias, his daughter and grand-daughter, abandoned themselves to such courses of lewdness and debauchery, that he banished them both……but in the case of his daughter, he stated the facts to the senate in a message read to them by the quaestor, not having the heart to be present himself; indeed, he was so much ashamed of her infamous conduct, that for some time he avoided all company, and had thoughts of putting her to death. It is certain that when one Phoebe, a freed-woman and confidant of hers, hanged herself about the same time, he said, "I had rather be the father of Phoebe than of Julia.” Roman subjects who lived under Augustus or any of the tyrants that followed after him had to change their lifestyles completely from what they were used to during the time of the republic. No longer was free thought allowed if it went against the beliefs of the emperor. Aristocrats had to applaud the emperors every move in order to stay on his good side. There were a few methods to deal with the insults of an emperor, but one had to be careful when employing them. A victim of a tyrant’s abuse could choose to show no pain or suffering while being tortured. This approach, also called the snub gambit, would show the tyrant that his cruelty was not effective in breaking the honor of the victim. Another way
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This note was uploaded on 06/22/2008 for the course HISTORY 391t taught by Professor Barton during the Spring '08 term at UMass (Amherst).

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hist 1 - Chris Collotta History 391T Paper 1 Coping with...

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