Original Research - Special Collection: Marianne Dircksen Festschrift

Auto-memorialisation: Augustus’ Res Gestae as slanted narrative

Johanna Maria Claassen
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 53, No 3 | a2442 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v53i3.2442 | © 2019 Johanna Claasen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 January 2019 | Published: 20 June 2019


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Abstract

That Augustus wanted to utilise the to-be-publicly-published record of his career, the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, as subtle propaganda, is a well-established critical assumption. While never blatantly inventing ‘facts’ about his many achievements, the emperor manipulated his brief narrations of individual achievements to fit in with his programme of propaganda. This article not so much explores the ‘facts’ behind Augustus’ categorical assertions of achievements in many spheres, but analyses stylistically his presentation of these facts and his narrative strategies. The exiled poet, Ovid, is shown as one of the first critical readers of the document, his apparent allusions to it seemingly exposing Augustus’ often tendentious manipulation of the contrast between ‘what happened’ and ‘how it is told’. The article ends with reference to another critical reader of Augustus’ slanted auto-memorialisation.

Keywords

Res Gestae; Emperor Augustus; Autobiography; Slanting of narrative; Narratological strategies; Veracity; Ancient history

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