Monarch by Universal Consent: Revisiting Augustus’ Alternative Truth

Public lecture: Tuesday, 2 October, 6:00
Forum Theatre, Arts West Building, The University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Frederik Vervaet, The University of Melbourne

In April 44 BCE, barely two months after the Ides of March, the young C. Octavius (born 63 BCE) arrived in Italy to claim the political inheritance of his adoptive father, the slain dictator Julius Caesar.  Some fourteen years later, his final victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt in the summer of 30 BCE paved the way for almost 45 years of undisputed mastery over the entire Roman world.  This lecture endeavours to reappraise the momentous career of the man who would be known as Imperator Caesar Augustus from January 27 and is widely considered as Rome’s first Emperor.  The chosen approach will be to confront the ‘alternative facts’ of his ‘post-truth’ retrospective in his Res Gestae, the official record of achievements he divulged in 13 CE, one year before his death, with the extant historical sources.  This exercise will reveal his breathtaking distortions of the truth and offer valuable insights into authoritarian statecraft and mass communication.

Associate Professor Frederik Vervaet is a member of the Council of the Classical Association of Victoria.  He received his PhD from Ghent University, Flanders, and is an expert in Roman political and socio-institutional history and Roman public law.  Before coming to Melbourne in 2007 he was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, Wolfson College, Oxford and the Belgian Historical Institute at Rome.  He authored a substantial monograph on The High Command in the Roman Republic (Stuttgart 2014, termed “magisterial” in The Classical Review and was awarded with the 2017 Woodward Medal in Humanities and Social Sciences).  Associate Professor Vervaet spent the northern spring of 2018 as a member at Princeton’s renowned Institute for Advanced Study to pursue further study into Augustan statecraft.

Frederik Vervaet is Associate Professor in Ancient History at the University of Melbourne, where he specializes in Roman socio-institutional and political history, and Roman public law.  He was awarded the Woodward Medal in Humanities and Social Sciences his 2014 book, The High Command in the Roman Republic: The Principle of the summum imperium auspiciumque from 509 to 19 BCE.  Most recently he was a Visiting Fellow at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study.

This lecture is part of the “Truth” Lecture series run by the University of Melbourne’s School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHAPS).  The lecture is free but please register your attendance at