Res Gestae Divi Augusti

Res Gestae Divi Augusti, (Latin: "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus") is the funerary inscription of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, giving a first-person record of his life and accomplishments.

Structure of the text

The text consists of 35 paragraphs that are conventionally grouped in four sections, and a short introduction and post-mortem appendix.

Political career

The first part of the Res Gestae (paragraphs 2 – 14) is concerned with Augustus' political career, recording the offices and political honours that he held.

Public benefactions

The second part (paragraphs 15 – 24) lists Augustus' donations of money, land and grain to the citizens of Italy and his soldiers, as well as the public works and gladiatorial spectacles that he commissioned. The text is careful to point out that all this was paid for out of Augustus' own funds.

Military accomplishments

The third part (paragraphs 25 – 33) describes his military deeds and how he established alliances with other nations during his reign.

Political statement

The last part (paragraphs 34 – 35) sums up Augustus' exceptional position in the government.


The appendix (written in the third person, and likely not by Augustus himself) summarizes the entire text, and lists various buildings he renovated or constructed; it states 600 million denarii (About US$ 100 billion of today in parity of purchasing power of labour) from his own funds were spent during his reign towards public projects.


According to the text it was written just before Augustus' death in AD 14, but it was probably written years earlier and revised over the years. Augustus left the text with his will, which instructed the Senate to set up the inscriptions. The original, which has not survived, was engraved upon a pair of bronze pillars and placed in front of Augustus' mausoleum. Many copies of the text were made and carved in stone on monuments or temples throughout the Roman Empire, some of which have survived; most notably, almost a full copy, written in the original Latin and a Greek translation was preserved on a temple to Augustus in Ancyra (the Monumentum Ancyranum of Ankara, Turkey); others have been found at Apollonia and Antioch, both in Pisidia.

By their very nature the Res Gestae are less objective history and more propaganda for the principate that Augustus instituted. They tend to gloss over the events between the assassination of Augustus' adoptive father Julius Caesar and the victory at Actium when his foothold on power was finally undisputed. Caesar's murderers Brutus and Cassius are not referred to by name, they are simply "those who killed my father." The Battle of Philippi is mentioned only passim and not by name. Mark Antony and Sextus Pompeius, Augustus' opponents in the East, remain equally anonymous; the former is "he with whom I fought the war," while the latter is merely a "pirate." Likewise, the text fails to mention his imperium maius and his exceptional tribunicial powers. Often quoted is Augustus' official position on his government: "From that time (27 BC, the end of the civil war) I surpassed all others in influence, yet my official powers were no greater than those of my colleague in office." This is in keeping with a reign that promoted itself from the beginning as a "restoration" of the old republic, with a leader who was nothing more than "first among equals," but was virtually akin to absolute monarchy by divine right, backed by the swords of the legions.

The Res Gestae were a unique public relations move for the first emperor of the Roman Empire, whose political career was in many ways experimental. If their frequent use as "history" by later historians (both ancient and modern) who characterized Augustus' rule according to categories he himself constructed in the Res Gestae is any indication, they were a rather successful piece of propaganda.



  • Concetta Barini (1937), Res Gestae Divi Augusti ex Monumentis Ancyrano, Antiocheno, Apolloniensi, Rome.
  • Alison Cooley (forthcoming Feb. 2009), Res Gestae divi Augusti, edition with introduction, translation, and commentary, Cambridge University Press.
  • Jean Gagé (1935), Res gestae divi Augusti ex monumentis Ancyrano et Antiocheno latinis, Paris.
  • Theodor Mommsen. Res gestae Divi Augusti ex monumentis Ancyrano et Apolloniensi. Berolini : Weidmannos, 1883.
  • John Scheid. Res Gestae Divi Augusti: hauts faits du divin Auguste. Paris: Belles Lettres, 2007.
  • Hans Volkmann (1942), Res gestae Divi Augusti Das Monumentum Ancyranum, Leipzig.

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