This is, perhaps, the most famous inscription left us by Antiquity. It is
inscribed on marble in a building which was a temple of Augustus in Ankara, Asia Minor
[today's Turkish capital]. The original of this document seems to have been set up in
bronze before the great Emperor's mausoleum in Rome, and this is one of the copies
distributed through the provinces. Only a fraction of the long inscription can be cited,
and it is hard to abridge what is throughout of high historical value. It gives us what
Augustus wished to have regarded as the leading glories of his reign, distorting and
suppressing some facts, but adding much to our knowledge of others.
Below is a copy of the deeds of the divine Augustus, by which he subjected the
whole world to the dominion of the Roman People, and of the sums of money he spent upon
the Republic and the Roman People, even as they are graven on the two brazen columns which
are set up in Rome.
In my twentieth year [44 B.C.], acting on my own initiative and at my own charges, I
raised an army wherewith I brought again liberty to the Republic oppressed by the
dominance of a faction. Therefore did the Senate admit me to its own order by honorary
decrees, in the consulship of Gaius Pansa and Aulus Hirtius. At the same time they gave
unto me rank among the consulars in the expressing of my opinion [in the Senate]; and they
gave unto me the imperium. It also voted that I, as propreetor, together with the consuls,
should "see to it that the state suffered no harm." In the same year, too, when
both consuls had fallen in battle, the people made me consul and triumvir for the
re-establishing of the Republic.
The men who killed my father [Arkenberg: Julius Caesar, who adopted his nephew as his
son in his will] I drove into exile by strictly judicial process, and then, when they took
up arms against the Republic, twice I overcame them in battle.
I undertook civil and foreign wars both by land and by sea; as victor therein I showed
mercy to all surviving [Roman] citizens. Foreign nations, that I could safely pardon, I
preferred to spare rather than to destroy. About 500,000 Roman citizens took the military
oath of allegiance to me. Rather over 300,000 of these have I settled in colonies, or sent
back to their home towns (municipia) when their term of service ran out; and to all of
these I have given lands bought by me, or the money for farms---and this out of my private
means. I have taken 600 ships, besides those smaller than triremes.
Twice have I had the lesser triumph [i.e., the ovation]; thrice the [full] curule
triumph; twenty-one times have I been saluted as "Imperator." After that, when
the Senate voted me many triumphs, I declined them. Also I often deposited the laurels in
the Capitol, fulfilling the vows which I had made in battle. On account of the enterprises
brought to a happy issue on land and sea by me, or by my legates, under my auspices,
fifty-five times has the Senate decreed a thanksgiving unto the Immortal Gods. The number
of days, too, on which thanksgiving was professed, fulfilling the Senate's decrees, was
890. Nine kings, or children of kings, have been led before my car in my triumphs. And
when I wrote these words, thirteen times had I been consul, and for the thirty-seventh
year was holding the tribunician power.
The dictatorship which was offered me by the People and by the Senate, both when I was
present and when I was absent, I did not accept. The annual and perpetual consulship I did
not accept. Ten years in succession I was one of the "triumvirs for the
reestablishing of the Republic." Up to the day that I wrote these words I have been
princeps of the Senate forty years. I have been pontifex maximus, augur, member of the
"College of Fifteen for the Sacred Rites" [and of the other religious
In my fifth consulship, by order of the People and the Senate, I increased the number
of patricians. Three times I revised the Senate list. In my sixth consulship, with my
colleague, Marcus Agrippa, I made a census of the People. [By it] the number of Roman
citizens was 4,063,000. Again in the consulship of Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinus [8
B.C.] I [took the census, when] the number of Roman citizens was 4,230,000. A third time .
. . in the consulship of Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Appuleius [14 A.D.], with Tiberius
Caesar as colleague, I [took the census when] the number of Roman citizens was 4,937,000.
By new legislation I have restored many customs of our ancestors which had begun to fall
into disuse, and I have myself also set many examples worthy of imitation by those to
By decree of the Senate my name has been included in the hymn of the Salii [Davis: as
if Augustus were a god], and it has been enacted by law that as long as I live I shall be
invested with the tribunician power. I refused to be pontifex maximus in place of a
colleague still living, when the people proffered me [that] priesthood which my father had
[The temple of] Janus Quirinus, which it was the purpose of our fathers to close when
there was a victorious peace throughout the whole Roman Empire---by land and sea---and
which---before my birth---had been alleged to have been closed only twice at all, since
Rome was founded: thrice did the Senate order it closed while I was princeps.
To each of the Roman plebs I paid 300 sesterces [Arkenberg: about $172 in 1998 dollars]
in accord with the last will of my father [Caesar]. In my own name in my fifth consulship
[29 B.C.] I gave 400 sesterces [Arkenberg: about $229 in 1998 dollars] from the spoils of
war. Again in my tenth consulship [24 B.C.] I gave from my own estate to every man [among
the Romans] 400 sesterces as a donative. In my eleventh, twelve times I made distributions
of food, buying grain at my own charges. And I made like gifts on several other occasions.
The sum which I spent for Italian farms [for the veterans] was about 600,000,000 sesterces
[Arkenberg: about $200,000,000 in 1998 dollars] and for lands in the provinces about
260,000,000 [Arkenberg: about $158,600,000 in 1998 dollars].... Four times have I aided
the public treasury from my own means, to such extent that I furnished to those managing
the treasury department 150,000,000 sesterces [Arkenberg: about $86,000,000 in 1998
I built the Curia [Senate House], and the Chalcidicum adjacent thereunto, the temple of
Apollo on the Palatine with its porticoes, the temple of the deified Julius [Caesar], the
Lupercal, the portico to the Circus of Flaminius [and a vast number of other public
buildings and temples].
Aqueducts which have crumbled through age I have restored, and I have doubled the water
[in the aqueduct] called the Marcian by turning a new stream into its course. The Forum
Julium and the basilica which was between the temple of Castor and the temple of Saturn,
works begun and almost completed by my father, I finished.
Three times in my own name and five times in that of my [adoptive] sons or my grandsons
I have given gladiator exhibitions; in these exhibitions about 10,000 men have fought.
[Besides other games] twenty-six times in my own name, or in that of my sons and grandsons
I have given hunts of African wild beasts in the circus, the Forum, the
amphitheaters---and about 3500 wild beasts have been slain.
I gave the people the spectacle of a naval battle beyond the Tiber where is now the
grove of the Caesars. For this purpose an excavation was made 1800 feet long and 1200
wide. In this contest thirty warships---triremes or biremes---took part, and many others
smaller. About 3000 men fought on these craft beside the rowers.
I have cleared the sea from pirates. In that war with the slaves I delivered to their
masters for punishment 30,000 slaves who had fled their masters and taken up arms against
the Republic. The provinces of Gaul, Spain, Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia swore the same
allegiance to me. I have extended the boundaries of all the provinces of the Roman People
which were bordered by nations not yet subjected to our sway. My fleet has navigated the
ocean from the mouth of the Rhine as far as the boundaries of the Cimbri where aforetime
no Roman had ever penetrated by land or by sea. The German peoples there sent their
legates, seeking my friendship, and that of the Roman people. At almost the same time, by
my command and under my auspices two armies have been led into Ethiopia and into Arabia,
which is called Felix ["The Happy"] and very many of the enemy of both peoples
have fallen in battle, and many towns have been captured.
I added Egypt to the Empire of the Roman People. When the king of Greater Armenia was
killed I could have made that country a province, but I preferred after the manner of our
fathers to deliver the kingdom to Tigranes [a vassal prince].... I have compelled the
Parthians to give up to me the spoils and standards of three Roman armies, and as
suppliants to seek the friendship of the Roman people. Those [recovered] standards,
moreover, I have deposited in the sanctuary located in the temple of Mars the Avenger.
In my sixth and seventh consulships [28 and 27 B.C.] when I had put an end to the civil
wars, after having obtained complete control of the government, by universal consent I
transferred the Republic from my own dominion back to the authority of the Senate and
Roman People. In return for this favor by me, I received by decree of the Senate the title
Augustus, the door-posts of my house were publicly decked with laurels, a civic crown was
fixed above my door, and in the Julian Curia [Senate-house] was set a golden shield, which
by its inscription bore witness that it was bestowed on me, by the Senate and Roman
People, on account of my valor, clemency, justice, and piety. After that time I excelled
all others in dignity, but of power I held no more than those who were my colleagues in
[A kind of supplement to the inscription adds]: The sum of money which he gave into the
treasury or to the Roman People or discharged soldiers was 600,000,000 denarii [Arkenberg:
about $1,372,000,000 in 1998 dollars] [and names many other public works].