Monday, September 24, 2018


Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Augustan Rome, second edition. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. Pp. 176. ISBN 9781472534262. $20.95 (pb).

Reviewed by S. J. Northwood, Charterhouse (

Version at BMCR home site


Since its original publication in 1993 Andrew Wallace-Hadrill's Augustan Rome has been an essential item on A-level and undergraduate reading lists on the Augustan principate. A powerful interpretative essay, it has maintained its position as an important complement to the standard textbooks and surveys. This new edition, appearing now under the imprint of Bloomsbury, retains the main body of the text unaltered1: 'Were I to write it now, it would be a different and much longer text. But, in fact, there is nothing now I would unsay'(xv). This reflects the continued strength of the original text in spite of the wealth of interest and new research into Augustus in the intervening quarter century. We get a new short introduction (1-7), concerned chiefly with the contribution of contemporary literature and visual and archaeological material to our understanding of the Augustan principate in Rome, and the impact that fascist uses of Augustan monuments and ideology has had on the reception of Augustus. There is now also a really excellent postscript on the legacy of Augustus (131-7), and up-to-date suggestions for further reading (139-42).2 (The 'Augustan Authors (Who's Who)', which I am sure many will have found a useful reference tool when teaching A-level, has regrettably been removed.) But the main improvement in this new edition is in the quantity and quality of its illustrations.

Augustan Rome now has 56 figures where the original had 33, and the overall feel of the book is much better (glossy pages, more readable text). Many of the images are of the same subject matter, but are often better chosen examples (e.g. coins) and viewpoints (e.g. buildings), and almost always—at least when it comes to photographic images—more clearly reproduced. For example, the aerial photo of the victory monument at Actium (fig. 1.5), supported now with artistic reconstructions of the monument and its triumphal relief, and a photographic detail (figs. 1.6-8), is a great improvement on the obscure view looking out from the monument and along its front in the first edition (fig. 3). The temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus (fig. 4.8) receives a much fuller and clearer photograph than previously (fig. 20). Likewise the new photographs and reconstructions of the Ara Pacis (figs. 5.3-8 compared with figs. 24-8). There are some valuable additions, such as coins showing Agrippa wearing the naval crown (fig. 1.2), Venus Genetrix as ancestress of Caesar (fig. 7.1), Augustus distributing suffimenta (fig. 5.1), and now of course the aureus of 28 BC showing Augustus restoring the laws and rights of the people (fig. 2.3). We have a plan of the Solarium, showing the relationship between the obelisk and the Ara Pacis (fig. 6.5), a plan of Bruno and Carandini's reconstruction of the House of Augustus (fig. 3.2) in addition to the plan of the area from the first edition (fig. 3.1 = fig.7), and there is a view of the Pantheon (fig. 4.10). Some items have been combined, e.g. the clipeus virtutis and oak wreath are illustrated using a single coin (fig. 2.4) rather than two (fig. 6 b-c), allowing space for another coin showing the laurels outside the door of Augustus' house (fig. 2.5) (maybe unnecessarily since they are also illustrated on another coin (fig. 3.3)).

In only three cases are the illustrations disappointing. The close-up of the breastplate on the Prima Porta statue (fig. 3.6) is smaller and less clear than in the first edition (fig. 10); and in neither edition can we see clearly in the detail of the Altar of the Vicomagistri the Genius of Augustus in his toga or the Lares 'dancing in short skirts' as advertised (fig. 4.2; fig. 15). The line illustrations of the Parthian arch and fragment of the Fasti triumphales (fig. 4.4), taken directly from the first edition (fig.17), have lost definition and appear in bold smudge. Nevertheless the overall quality of illustration is much, much higher than in the first edition.

In summary, we had in its 1993 edition an important interpretative essay that stood the test of time but was not illustrated consistently to the same high standard. In its new incarnation the illustrations are now worthy of the text, thus ensuring that in a more visually demanding age Augustan Rome will surely maintain its special place in the teaching of the Augustan principate.


1.   The small number of typos/proof errors in the original edition have been corrected, but there is now one in the new introduction (3). In the 'Chronological Overview' (xvii-xx) we still have Munda instead of Mutina under 43 BC, in spite of this mistake having been pointed out by Andrew Fear in his review of the first edition: CR 44.2 (1994) 414-15.
2.   The only important omission is Catherine Edwards's 2008 annotated translation of Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars in the Oxford World's Classics series.

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