To what extent does the architecture of Rome highlight the aims of the emperors?

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To what extent does the architecture of Rome highlight the aims of the emperors?

The architecture of Rome of course reflected the aims of the emperor as every building they constructed or sponsored was an investment, an investment that they wanted to pay off for them. In order for this to work they set about constructing a number of different buildings which promoted themselves or appeased the masses for example, religious buildings made the emperors appear pious, theatres and amphitheatres to appease the masses as well as aqueducts and the like to ensure that Rome remained well supplied and the plebeians contented. However, all of these things led into one major theme, propaganda, the need to win over the people of Rome.

Firstly, as it is to be expected in a society as religious as ancient Rome, a number of emperors spent lavishly on the construction of religious sites. For example, according to the Deeds of the Divine Augustus, Augustus claimed to have rebuilt eighty-two temples in Rome at his own personal expense showing a true commitment to a building programme including the maintenance of religious buildings.  Augustus’ use of his own funds as opposed to state funds also displays a commitment that would have endeared him to the people of Rome as a fair leader and a pious one at that having lost at his own personal expense to maintain the temples. However, it should be taken into account that Augustus would record a positive account of himself and so this account is no doubt bias to present Augustus as pious and honourable. Yet it can be supported by Augustus’ erection of temples such as the Temple of Mars Ultor, the Pantheon and the Temple of Apollo Palatinus which according to Cassius Dio’s, History, 54.29.4, was constructed after Augustus had pledged a temple to his patron god Apollo should he be granted victory over Sextus Pompeius and Mark Antony. Not only do these show us that Augustus ensures the construction of a number of temples but also that he wanted to publicly display that he was to fulfil his oaths to the gods of Rome once again using his building programme to portray himself as a pious man. Similarly, Vespasian’s building programme highlights his desire to be seen as a pious leader due to his reconstruction of older temples and erection of new temples. In order to rebuild the Temple of Jupiter on the Capotiline, Vespasian reportedly levelled a tax upon the Jews but was reported to have also carried away the rubble personally. Not only does this demonstrate his piety by rebuilding the temple but the reports of his doing so only serve give us a more positive account of the man for his dedication and seemingly hard-working qualities. According to Suetonius, Vespasian 9, he also constructed the Temple of Pax with spoils from the Jewish War and was filled with an array of books and treasures which the public could see and use. In contrast, some emperor’s building programmes actually showed a lack of respect for the gods and show to us that it was not their aim to pay respect to the traditions and customs of Roman religion. For example, Alston tells us that Caligula constructed temples to his “numen” or divine image on both the Capotiline and Palatine hills as he believed he was a god and that he should be worshipped. It was against the beliefs of the Romans that a living man should be considered a god and so Caligula’s buildings were disrespecting the customs of Rome as would Nero’s construction of a one hundred and twenty foot statue of himself portrayed as a god labelled “The Colossus”. These emperors stand in contrast to many of the emperors and for the most part the architecture of Rome reflects the aims of the emperors in their desire to pay homage to the gods and to ensure that they were seen to be doing so by the people

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Furthermore, the building programmes of many emperors shows to us that it was the aim of many of the emperors to maintain the happiness of the plebeians through the provision of entertainment. The most prominent example of this would be the construction of the Flavian Amphitheatre begun by Vespasian and completed by Titus at great expense demonstrating the desire of the Flavians to keep the people on side with entertainment. Martial praises the construction of the Amphitheatre over Nero’s old palace as “Rome has been restored to herself, and under thy governance, Caesar, that is now the delight of a ...

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