The Roman Revolution


The Roman Revolution (1939) is a scholarly study of the final years of the ancient Roman Republic and the creation of the Roman Empire by Caesar Augustus. The book was the work of Sir Ronald Syme (1903–1989), a noted Tacitean scholar, and was published by the Oxford University Press. It was immediately controversial. Its main conclusion was that the structure of the Republic and its Senate were inadequate to the needs of Roman rule, and that Augustus was merely doing what was necessary to restore order in public life. This was a situation and reasoning uncomfortably reminiscent of contemporary events in Nazi Germany and the other fascist regimes of the time. Syme relies on prosopography, especially the work of German scholars Friedrich Münzer and Matthias Gelzer, to show the extent to which Augustus achieved his unofficial but undisputed power by the development of personal relationships into a "Caesarian" party, then used it to defeat and diminish the opposition one by one. The process was slow, with the young Octavian initially just using his position as a relative of Julius Caesar to pursue Caesar's assassins, then over a period of years gradually accumulating personal power while nominally restoring the Republic. In addition, the portrait he paints of Augustus as a somewhat sinister autocratic figure has been immensely influential among subsequent generations of classicists.
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original title: The Roman Revolution
date of publication: 1939


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