Ten Caesars | Barry S. Strauss

Summary of: Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine
By: Barry S. Strauss


Step into the fascinating world of Roman emperors as we embark on a journey through the lives and reigns of Augustus to Constantine in Barry S. Strauss’s ‘Ten Caesars’. This book summary delves into the birth of the Roman Empire, its golden age, times of crisis, and its eventual transformation into a Christian empire. Discover the individual legacies of these influential rulers as they navigate the intricate realms of power, war, peace, and cultural evolution. Get ready to explore a vivid narrative that unveils how these remarkable men changed the course of history and shaped the destiny of Rome.

Rise of the First Roman Emperor

The Roman Republic, despite being one of the most influential and powerful states in the ancient world, was highly unstable due to political conflicts often escalating into civil wars. Julius Caesar, who came to power in 49 BC, ruled as a dictator perpetuo or “dictator for life.” His assassination in 44 BC led to a new civil war, and before his death, he named his nephew Octavian as his successor. Despite the Caesar’s assassins wanting to restore the Republic and believing Octavian would be easy to brush aside, Octavian proved them wrong by winning the loyalty of his uncle’s troops and crushing rebellion. In a terrifying purge, around 300 of Rome’s most powerful citizens were killed. Octavian shared power with Mark Antony and brought Caesar’s assassins to justice, but turned on Antony and defeated him in a showdown in Greece. Octavian became the last man standing and Rome was his to rule alone. Although he promised to restore the old Republic, he became the first emperor of the new Roman Empire.

Augustus and the Golden Age of Rome

Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, transformed the empire from a state of civil disarray to a prosperous and stable society. He implemented numerous political, economic, and moral reforms that laid the foundation for a 200-year period of peace and progress known as the “pax Romana.” Through his policies, Rome experienced significant military expansion and became a hub for international trade. Augustus also prioritized social welfare, supporting families and creating jobs for the poor. His legacy endured for centuries, and Rome flourished under his guidance.

Hadrian, the Renovator

Hadrian was a gifted student born to a prominent family. After inheriting the Roman Empire, he prioritized cultural renewal by consolidating internal affairs, rather than expanding the empire through warfare. He secured its borders, built Hadrian’s Wall in Britain and brought together a diverse culture to renew Rome’s glory days.

Hadrian, The Visionary Emperor

Hadrian rose to the throne with a clear sense of ruling the vast Roman empire. While Rome believed that the empire should be ruled by men of action with no idle talk, Hadrian saw the future of Rome in Greece. His love for Greek culture made him an outsider, but he saw the importance of winning local support to stabilize Rome’s vulnerable eastern flank. He wooed the empire’s Greeks by renovating smaller cities and lavishing gifts on Athens, the heart of the Greek world. With the loyalty of the Greeks, Hadrian rebuilt his capital, completing the iconic Pantheon. By the time of his death, Hadrian had achieved his goal of securing the empire and integrating its citizens, with a vision that proved to be ahead of his time.

Marcus Aurelius’ Philosophy

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor, was known for his adherence to Stoicism, a philosophy that focuses on controlling our responses to external events. He is considered an exemplar of an ideal human who remained calm and virtuous amidst overwhelming pressure. Even though he made significant contributions to the Roman empire, he is most remembered for his personal philosophy, which he outlined in his book, “Meditations.” Marcus found solace in the Stoic belief in fate, which asserts that individuals have no control over external events, but they can choose how they respond to them. He believed that staying virtuous in trying situations was the highest goal for humans, and he followed this throughout his life. When Marcus became emperor at 40 years old, he had never ruled a province or commanded an army. Nevertheless, he relied on his inner strength, which came from his philosophical training, to navigate the challenges. Marcus’s approach to life still inspires many people today, and his book remains popular among readers.

Want to read the full book summary?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed