Francis Cairns Publications

ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs ISSN 0309-5541

Augustus and the Principate. The Evolution of the System

W.K. Lacey

ARCA 35. ISBN 978-0-905205-91-5.  x+245 pp. Cloth. Publ. 1996.

In this compact volume W.K. Lacey synthesises, updates and enlarges upon a lifetime's work on Augustus and his 'constitutions'.

Lacey's series of thematically linked studies rejects as illusory the two 'Constitutional Settlements' (27 and 23 BC) which are emphasised in most accounts of Augustus’ development of the Principate. Instead, taking as a starting-point Tacitus' incisive analysis in Book I of the Annales, Lacey illustrates the process of gradual encroachment whereby Octavian/Augustus unobtrusively and with minimal opposition accumulated more and more of the powers of the state into his own hands.

Among the topics handled in Lacey’s book are: the evolution by Augustus of the tribunician power; the uses he made of religious cult, and his personal prominence in this sphere; the nature of the role given to Agrippa; developments in other areas of state policy; and his dynastic arrangements - in which even the disgrace of his daughter Julia for alleged adultery is shown to form part of Augustus’ defence of the planned succession of his adopted sons. Of the ten chapters, five are substantially revised versions of major periodical contributions, and five are new. A bibliography and indexes are included.

This book will be of interest to all students, teachers and researchers in the history of the early Roman Empire. All Latin and Greek is translated, and Greek terms are transliterated.

W.K. LACEY was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and read Classics at Cambridge University, where his studies were interrupted by a spell in the Indian Army. Subsequently he was a Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, before moving to the Chair of Classics and Ancient History in the University of Auckland, New Zealand (1968-1987), of which he is now Emeritus. His best known books are The Family in Classical Greece (1968, reprinted many times) and Cicero and the End of the Roman Republic (1978); and he is a frequent contributor to classical journals, collections and works of reference.



1. Coming Home

2. Managing the Res Publica

3. Octavian in the Senate, January 27

4. Protecting the People

5. Agrippa's Provincia

6. The Beginning of the Principate

7. Tribunicia Potestas: The Path to the Summi Fastigii Vocabulum

8. Augustus and the Religion of the Family

9. The Succession to Augustus

10. Encroachment and Servile Flattery (Adulatio)



The Classical Journal 93.1 (Oct-Nov. 1997) 93-99 esp. p.99 (Karl Galinsky, Review article ‘Making haste slowly: new books on the Augustan age’. See, partly in response, W.K. Lacey, "Augustus' Auctoritas and other aspects of his government", Prudentia 30 (1998) 16-32).

JACT Review n.s. 22 (1997) 11-12 (Malcolm Green): "The book is well documented with footnotes on each page and ample citation of ancient and modern evidence. The view of Augustus that emerges is one that would find general acceptance today: a man determined to hold on to power but intent on exercising that power with a style that the Republican principes would have recognised as their own.

Prudentia 29 (1997) 78-80 (J.A. Crook)

Latomus 57 (1988) 452-6 (Fr. Hurlet). "Malgré des répétitions, conséquence logique d’un recueil d’articles indépendants, l’ouvrage se lit agreablement et doit être recommandé pour une vision d’ensemble stimulante: la longue activité scientifique de Lacey a réussi à donner du principat augustéen une définition originale, et fondée à bien des égards."

Gnomon 71 (1999) 274-5 (Karl Christ)

L'Antiquité Classique 77 (1998) 486-8 (Stéphane Benoist)

Classical Review 49 (1999) 284-5 (B. Levick). "Here is a nourishing, outspoken book."

Anzeiger für du Altertumswissenschaft, 52 (1999) col. 277-282 (Gerhard Dobesch).

Journal of Roman Studies, 91 (2001) 230-31 (James Thorne). “Not only is it original and scholarly, but it is conspicuous by its accessibility, and both as a whole, and in its several chapters, it belongs on the reading list of the many undergraduate course-units to which it will be pertinent. … Of course, praise in this respect ought not to suggest it is to be overlooked by more advanced readers.”