Sidera Augusta: The Role of the Stars in Augustus' Quest for Supreme Auctoritas
Carswell, Christopher J. A.
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Auctoritas was the foundation of Augustus' legitimacy, success, and survival in Roman politics. The necessary precondition of successfully founding political legitimacy upon auctoritas, however, was that Augustus' auctoritas had to be supreme. This thesis will show that one of the most important ways Augustus achieved supreme auctoritas was by integrating himself into traditional beliefs about the stars and by harnessing the associations with the divine and supernatural that were latent in these beliefs. Augustus reinforced his association with these beliefs by employing a number of powerful symbols drawn from among the stars. Chapters Two and Three will focus upon one of these symbols, the sidus Iulium (the comet of Caesar). Chapter Two will demonstrate how Augustus harnessed the general acceptance of Caesar's astral apotheosis (catasterism) and of catasterism in general in the Roman world at that time and then used the sidus Iulium as a symbol of his connection with Divus Iulius and of his own semi-divine status. Chapter Three will explore how Augustus promoted the sidus Iulium as the harbinger of a golden age for the Roman people and as an omen of the fact that it was his destiny to lead them into it. Chapter Four will turn to another astral symbol, the constellation Capricorn. This chapter will examine how Augustus integrated himself into the greatly popular discipline of astrology and used its language of fate to promote himself as a man of great destiny. Throughout we will consider a variety of evidence, particularly numismatic and literary. This will help us to achieve the fullest possible picture of the lengths to which Augustus went to create a useful ally of the stars in his never-ending quest for auctoritas.