The popular reception of Augustus and the self-infantalization of Rome's citizenry

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Suetonius reports that the acclamation of Augustus as pater patriae in 2 BCE was popular—and widespread. It was desired by all (universi). He then registers the different sectors of the community that persisted in pushing this honor upon the princeps, from the Plebs to the ordo senatorius. Epigraphic evidence (as well as Ovid) adds the ordo equester. Suetonius also emphasizes the spontaneity of the moment, although Augustus had for a long time been awarded the title unofficially. This chapter contemplates the serious ramifications of a Roman citizen hailing another as “Father,” given the extraordinary aspects of Roman fatherhood. It explores the extent to which the language of infancy and youth was the language of diminution and even servitude. Assuredly the gesture in 2 BCE was in a large degree symbolic, but the gravity of the symbolism must not be underestimated. It represented a certain abjuration of autonomy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Alternative Augustan Age
EditorsKit Morrell, Josiah Osgood, Kathryn Welch
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780190901400
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Augustus
  • pater patriae
  • populus Romanus
  • fatherhood
  • infancy
  • Senate
  • plebs


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