Augustus is coming


Listen to Boris talk about the Roman emperor Augustus
this Friday, 21st. May, on Radio 4 at 9.45 a.m.,
repeated at 7.45 p.m. and on Saturday at 12.30 a.m.


Although Rome’s empire grew throughout the late republic — from the middle of the third century to the death of Julius Caesar in 44 b.c. — the first emperor, appointed by the Senate, was Augustus.

On Friday, 21st. May, Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor — in his interesting and entertaining series A History of the World in 100 Objects (B.B.C. Radio-4, 0945, 1945 and the following morning at 0030) — will introduce Augustus in the form of a larger-than-life bronze head with inlaid eyes of glass, calcite and metal rings, staring in to the distance.

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  Caesar Augustus

The head — originally part of a statue in Egypt, which Augustus had annexed following the defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII — had been severed and taken home by an invading Kushite army from Meroë (in to-day’s Sudan), there to be buried beneath the threshold of a temple.  Any-one crossing the threshold would have deliberately trodden on the head of Augustus in the process, demonstrating contempt for him and the Roman Empire :  ironically the Kushites ensured the head’s survival in to our age.

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With contributions from Dr. Susan Walker, Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the Ashmolean, and Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, Neil will tell how Augustus significantly enlarged the Empire, his image projecting everywhere the power of Rome.

Read more about Augustus at the B.B.C.’s History of the World site.

The wives of the emperors were no less colourful :  a recently published account of the life of Livia, third – and enduring – wife of Augustus, is reviewed in this week’s edition of The Spectator.


11 thoughts on “Augustus is coming”

  1. I’m not sure why qwer’s comments get moderated. (S)he normally seems to hoist himself / herself by his/her own petard.

  2. History of the world in 100 objects is a marvellous example of the BBC doing better stuff than any broadcaster broadcasting anywhere. Just one complaint – the music. Which is excruciating. But still, it’s a very, very good show and I look forward to Boris’s contribution.

  3. Young Gaius Julius does look a little like our own dear Andy Burnham, don’t you think? I wonder whether Mr Burnham has any ambition patriotically to slaughter his rivals, overturn the constitution and establish supreme personal rule?

  4. Are you all dumb asses? Labour has left nothing for the new government and you want to talk about Richard Burton and Liz Taylor?

    18/5/2010: Out going Labour Treasury Chief Liam Byrne left his successor a letter. It reads:

    ” Dear Chief secretary,
    I’m afraid there’s no money. Kind regards – and good luck!

    Liam Byrne. ”

    The letter was penned on April 6. Yet all the time up to the election day Labour always insisted that there was no need for them to cut spending until NEXT year.

    And up to May 9 Brown, refusing to resign, emailed Labour supporters, saying: ” My resolve has not, and will not, change. I pledged to do everything in my power to fight for the people of this country. ”

    It’s not funny. The people of this country will never forget this. And Labour will have to pay for this sick joke.

  5. Edna, I am not a dumb ass. And the antics of Liam Byrne are neither surprising nor entertaining. Just another example of ‘social justice’.
    Augustus, on the other hand, was a player.

  6. Well said Edna, which leads me to ask why a nation of supposedly intelligent people were fooled by such a bunch of twisted incompetents for so long.

  7. Edna, Boris says we can learn from the classics, and that is true, I have learnt loads since reading the things on this website. I am looking forward to the Augustus talk very much.

    It is so great we have English sporting victories to celebrate and those victories will be celebrated at No. 10. David Cameron is going to entertain the victorious England cricket team who won the 20/20 World Title. Gordon’s dark brooding presence had an unfortunate effect on our team, we were cursed, but now that curse is lifted.

    Mel, I don’t suppose that Boris could entertain the cricket guys at City Hall so the public could get a butchers close up, do you? If he is short of slots in his diary, he could bump Nick Clegg! No? on well……

  8. @ed gibb: Boris did refer to Augustus as a player and described him as being in the First XI of all the greatest intellects and powerful rulers of all time and he would be a midfield player.

    I thought this Augustus programme was very good if a little too short. It was a bite size view of the great Emperor who was so revered that many people across the Roman Empire would have his bust above the mantelpiece.

    Now I must listen to the repeat to hear again how it was that he remained forever young despite living till 76 years of age …

  9. Right up to election day Gordon Brown was still stubbornly claiming that ” We are winning! “. Even Labour supporting Daily Mirror was hoodwinked by Labour, claiming that: ” Labour is winning! ” the day before election day. Winning my ass!

    Now we know that, the truth is by April 6, Labour already knew that they had lost the general election and that they had spent all this country’s money. Hence Liam Byrne’s letter written on April 6.

    It’s very well for Labour creating many non-jobs, pen-pushers and quango jobs in the public sector in return for favoured election votes. But then Labour had to also create endless paperwork and forms for these people to push their pens onto. Surely? By doing that, they created bureaucracy, red tape etc… That’s no way to run a country!


    A terrible price has to be paid for Labour’s self-indulgence just as Mrs Thatcher had to get tough after the wreckage left by the outgoing Callaghan Labour government in 1979.

    The greedy public sector elite could be drastically pruned. The NHS management salaries have risen by 25% in 3 years, while the BBC has 382 top dogs on pay above £100,000 per year.

    Far greater efficiency could be achieved in the public sector. The Institute of Directors claims £25Billion a year could be saved by improving the State’s procurement of goods and services, while the £4Billion annual bill for public employees’ absenteeism could be dramatically trimmed if there was stronger management. (?) ( I thought Labour had already employed a lots of people to fill those management jobs? )

    There should be an end to all the unjust perks of being on the State payroll, such as heavily subsidised retirement, better pensions, higher average pay, longer holidays and shorter hours.

    Rackets such as police overtime costing more than £400Million a year should be ended (?) ( Doing what? Forms filling? )

    Wasteful bureaucracy such as the useless quangos or endless tears of management in the civil services and town halls, should be tackled. Serious welfare reform, the abolition of the surveillance state and reductions in over-sea aid would save Billions.

    What is needed is political will. In Canada in the Nineties the budget decifit was reduced from 9.1% of GDP to zero in 5 years by cutting spending rather than increasing taxes.

    Leo McKinstry, political editor, Daily Express.

  10. “… endless tears of management in the civil service and town halls …” — Edna

    A consequence of the cuts Edna proposes, no doubt.

    What a marvellous picture that conjures up.


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