In time for the 2,000th anniversary of the first Roman emperor Augustus’ death on August 19, New York Review of Books Classics has just reissued the historical novel “Augustus” by John Williams. Winner of the National Book Award in 1973, the epistolary novel brought the Roman Empire and its first emperor to life. The 2014 edition features an introduction by renowned author and classicist Daniel Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn will be appearing at the independent bookstore McNally Jackson, 52 Prince Street in Manhattan on Monday August 25 at 7 p.m. for a discussion about Emperor Augustus with Adrian Goldsworthy author of the Yale University Press biography “Augustus: First Emperor of Rome.”
Augustus, who changed his name more often than rappers and rock stars do, began life as Gaius Octavius Thurinus, son of Julius Caesar’s niece. Augustus was adopted by his great uncle Julius Caesar, and then became known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, Octavian for short. After his great uncle’s assassination in 44 BC, he called himself Gaius Julius Caesar “Divi Filius" (son of the divine in Latin) since the Roman Senate had voted to deify the late Julius Caesar.
He only became Augustus in 27 BC when the Roman Senate voted to give him the title “Augustus” which means “to be revered” in Greek and Latin. Augustus earned his title by defeating his rivals in battle and setting up a stable government in Rome and across the empire. His autocratic rule ushered in the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) that was hardly very peaceful. Wars sprang up in just about every province of the empire, but brute force and strictly disciplined troops kept the Roman’s vast empire in business. The month of August was named after the emperor, though not because he was born in the month formerly known as Sextilis, but because some of his greatest triumphs happened in that month, including his final defeat of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra in 30 BC.
Both the novel “Augustus” by John Williams, introduction by Daniel Mendelsohn, and the biography “Augustus: First Emperor of Rome” by Adrian Goldsworthy are available for purchase at McNally Jackson and online.
For more information on the Emperor Augustus discussion at McNally Jackson on August 25, check out the bookstore’s website.