Episode Ten: Make Rome Great Again!
This episode, Myth Dynamite gets political (gasp!) as we delve into the world of the Emperor Augustus and his manipulation of myth in one of the boldest and most drastic political overhauls of all time. A big claim and we’re sticking to it. In 27 BCE, Augustus became the first Emperor of Rome and dragged it from warring Republic into “peaceful” and “harmonious” autocracy. And he used myth *cough* Fake News *cough* to do it. We’ve started to wonder if there is a little more of Donald Trump in the Augustus we’ve known and loved (or at least respected).
There is nothing new under the Sun.
In ‘Make Rome Great Again’, we get our History hats on (the range in this podcast, guys!) and we tell you the, not-so-wholesome, stories that darken and bloody the founding of Rome. Built up from a mytho-history of rape and fratricide, Rome’s a little touchy about the endless Civil Wars that plague the end of the Republic. And Augustus (P.S. his name was Octavian before 27 BCE) offers himself as the answer.
After you’ve got the background sorted, we then move on to the display par excellence of propagandist literature produced under Augustus – academics who think “propaganda” is anachronistic, look away now – The Aeneid, a Latin epic written by the great Virgil. Seriously, it takes some skill to appease a man like Augustus and still write a stunning piece of poetry in the process. Kudos. We chat about what makes the epic’s protagonist, Aeneas, the perfect Roman hero and ideal role model for the new Augustan agenda.
Phew. Don’t worry. We’ll never get political again.
Also, we’ve got a surprise guest appearance piping up throughout the podcast...
The passages you hear at the beginning and the end come from Virgil’s Aeneid. The sound bites you hear throughout are from the Res Gestae Divi Augusti and they were generously recorded by the wonderful, Quentin Beroud (https://twitter.com/qberoud)
The Aeneid, Virgil, 29-19 BCE
Ab Urbe Condita, Livy, 27-9 BCE
12 Caesars, Suetonius, 121 CE
Res Gestae Divi Augusti, put up after Augustus’ death in 14 CE but mostly likely written