The Age of Augustus

Module code: AH2551

The reign of Augustus (c.31 BCE – 14 CE) was the great turning point in Roman history. Augustus himself proudly proclaimed that he found Rome a city of bricks, and left it a city of marble, that he presided over a golden age of literature and art, and ushered in a new era of Roman culture. Yet he also transformed a tottering Republic into an imperial state, taking into his own hands powers that had long been shared between the Senate and its magistrates. Saviour of Rome? Or tyrant who killed the Republic? Augustus remains a fascinating and vital figure at the very heart of Roman history.

In this module we will explore the creation and evolution of Augustus’ principate. We will examine his political strategies, military activities and religious initiatives through his own writing, the accounts of (often hostile) historians and a range of literary and archaeological sources. We will focus particularly on the extraordinary poetry that survives from Augustus’ reign – by the greatest of Latin writers – and will look at texts like Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphoses as reflections of this dramatically changing world.


    This is studied by distance learning. Teaching materials will include a module handbook and set readings, some of which may be delivered through Blackboard.


    • Essay, 3,000 words (70%) - you will be provided with an introductory bibliography but will be expected to research more deeply
    • Source criticism, 1,500 words (30%)