Velleius' portrayal of Augustus

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Velleius’ portrayal of Augustus

First of all, Res Gestae is probably the source that most agrees with Velleius’ portrayal of Augustus. The two sources, when compared with each other, agree on a number of aspects of Augustus, specifically his campaign to bring an end to the civil war and how he restored many factors that made up the republic. Both sources, compared, give many good reasons why Augustus was held in such esteem and why he was so well-recognised throughout the Republic.

However, while Res Gestae is a source that hugely in agreement with many of Velleius’ statements about Augustus, it is also grossly inaccurate, as it is well-known that Res Gestae was written by Augustus himself, making it one of the most biased books ever written in that period of time, as Augustus tried as much as possible to make himself a true saviour of Rome in the book, omitting parts of his life that would tarnish that image. In contrast, Tacitus writes about Augustus in a derogatory style, completely disagreeing with Velleius’ portrayal of him.

In section two of his annals, he talks about how the provinces had lost faith in the senate and how people had been denied the protection of the laws, citing that violence, intrigue and corruption were responsible. In this section, he also talks about Augustus took the functions of the senate, the magistrates and the law. This is in complete contrast to Velleius’ claims, who said that Augustus gave powers back to the republic, not taking them for himself.

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In section nine, Tacitus talks about a rift between people who thought Augustus was as true saviour and those who criticised his actions. This shows another contrast between Velleius’ presentation of Augustus and this, as Velleius doesn’t mention that there was a faction of people who criticised Augustus’ actions. In section ten, this debate between the two factions is continued, with them arguing about questionable details of Augustus’ life, such as how he extorted a consulship from the senate and how he turned against the republic the force that he received for his actions against Antony.

Additional details that cast a bad light on Augustus

These, plus additional details that cast a bad light on Augustus, show us that he was not all he was cracked up to be, and was in fact acting for the benefit of himself, and not the republic. However, Tacitus is not known to have been the most reliable historian, often showing a tendency to being biased against Augustus. Horace, in G44, seems full of praise for Augustus, showing much comparison with Velleius’ presentation of Augustus. The two sources, when compared, both give similar reasons why Augustus was so highly regarded, such as his victories at the Battle of Actium and the gifts he bestowed upon the people of Rome.

This poem highlights many of Augustus’ victories and praises him for every aspect of the Battle of Actium, including his strategy and the way he executed it. However, Horace can’t be relied upon due to the fact that he lived around the same time as Augustus and therefore could have had his work influenced by Augustus so as to not paint an image of Augustus in his poems that would detract from his “supposed” status as the saviour of Rome. M68, on page 304, contrasts with every presentation of Augustus’ character mentioned earlier.

Strabo, through the source, is commenting how Augustus was taxing villages too much, as they can’t raise the money and they had to send a messenger with a petition to lower the level of tax. This paints Augustus in an extremely unsavoury light, as it makes him out to be a tax collector, which is not an image that Augustus wants to have associated with him. Since Strabo was contemporary, we can’t trust the reliability of his works, and so we have to discount his writing. Seneca the Younger writes about Augustus pardoned a well-known nobleman with an impeccable reputation.

Similarities to other sources

This shows similarities to other sources in that Augustus was known for being lenient against wrong-doers. However, if this passage is examined in greater detail, Augustus has the capability of having someone killed, but his wife Livia appeals to his common sense and makes him see that pardoning this young man would greatly increase his reputation. Another passage that Seneca the Younger wrote, P15 on page 336/7, details how Augustus pardoned his daughter Julia’s lovers, and gave them personal letters of recommendation that they could use in other countries.

However, if the whole of this source is examined, it seems that it is agreeing with previous sources about how Augustus deserved his titles. However, this source gives different reasons, saying that he smiled at direct insults and that he appeared to be the victim of punishment rather than the enforcer of it. In summary, this source shows yet again many similarities with Velleius’ presentation of Augustus. This source can be treated as fairly reliable, as Seneca the Younger wrote after Augustus died, which shows that there is a fairly slim chance of his work being influenced to cast Augustus in a good light, even posthumously.

In conclusion, there are a number of sources that show similarities with Velleius’ presentation of Augustus. However, when all these sources are evaluated, much of the information about Augustus has to be ignored, as we can’t verify the reliability of it. 2. Velleius’ style of writing, both in this passage and the rest of his writing, is to cast anyone who was working towards making the republic a better place in a good light, as he is well known for being patriotic and for being biased towards the official point of view.

This causes problems for anyone who acts against Augustus, or is trying to assassinate him, as he paints these people in a bad light, naming them villains, or enemies of the state. He appears to write complementary words about people who are high in up in the food chain of the senate, showing that he is quite possibly trying to suck up to them in order to gain favour with them. Another problem with his style of writing is that it does not contain facts but mostly opinion about people, whether they are good or bad in his eyes.

This leads to the fact that his writing is largely considered as being too biased and therefore useless when writing factual information about leading members of state. It appears that he writes about Augustus, or people connected with Augustus, whether they were waging a war on his behalf or acting in the senate on his behalf, in a most complementary light, shedding heaps of praise upon them and reserving his dislike for those who would work and plot against Augustus’ wishes.


In conclusion, Velleius’ work is strongly influenced by his patriotism and his fondness for Augustus, Tiberius and anyone who carries out either of their wishes. This creates many problems, both for other historians and for people acting against Augustus and Tiberius, or anyone carrying out their orders; the former because they can’t rely upon his information as being correct, and the latter because they will have their reputation tarnished forever if Velleius writes disparaging comments about them and their actions.

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Velleius' portrayal of Augustus. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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