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The capital of the world

Virgil Reading the Aeneid to Augustus, Octavia, and Livia by Jean-Baptiste Wicar

Under Augustus, Rome went through an enlightened period where literature reined supreme within the eternal city. Latin’s great poets: Virgil, Horace and Ovid published their brilliant works mostly during the Augustan age, while others like the satirist Petronius, Strabo the geographer, Vitruvius and the invaluable ancient historian Livy contributed their own forms of literature. But the written word was not the only great contribution of the Augustan age. Under his friend and confidant Marcus Vipsanisu Agrippa, Rome received a major face-lift in which it was transformed from a city of brick into a true imperial city of great marble structures, worthy of the title: Capital of the World.

Among those projects undertaken were 3 aqueducts supplying fresh water to the growing city: the Julia, Virgo and Alsietina. The original Pantheon, the great temple of the Roman gods, Agrippa’s baths, the Saepta Julia and Augustus’ Mausoleum were built as well. Improvements to, or complete replacements were constructed for nearly every public building including courthouses, offices and administrative buildings of all kinds. Perhaps even more importantly, Augustus conducted a major census of the city and provinces, which had long been neglected during the civil wars.

Though he faced many challenges, some devastating, like the loss of 3 legions in the Teutoburger Wald of Germania, Augustus ruled Rome in virtual contrast to all administrations both before and after. Stability and general prosperity ruled the day. Even the urban poor in a vast, sprawling city then exceeding 1 million residents, seemed to have little complaint. Octavian’s imperial name of Augustus was not only an honorific title, but proved to be the truest definition of the man who bore it: Imperator Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus was a man without peer in the ancient world.