Archive for October, 2009

Who Are Criminals?

October 17, 2009

Inaugurating a three-day long conference of Directors General and Inspectors General of police organized by the Intelligence Bureau, home minister of India P. Chidambaram described terrorist attacks on November 26, 2008 as a “game changer”: “The attacks in Mumbai on November 26, last year were a game changer. We can no longer afford to business as usual.” He pointed out Left Wing Extremism (Naxalism or “Maoism”) as one of the threats to the national security, and the biggest challenge to democracy. The prime minister of India also said that the Maoist movement was India’s gravest security threat. In June 2009 the government labeled Naxal group a terrorist organization.

The Home Ministry has been planning a major offensive, due to start in November 2009, against Naxals, particularly in two Indian states – Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. A plan to deploy more than 70,000 paramilitary personnel has been chalked out. In order to combat Naxals Chidambaram “favored the Indian Air Force firing on Naxals.”[1] India has also “sought input from American security officials on how to best root out the leftist rebels.”[2] In September 2009 Chidambaram paid a four day visit to US that focused on India-US anti-terror cooperation, assistance in technology, assessment of security situation in South Asia and studying counter-terrorism institutions and structures.

Probably, US with its experience in “war on terror” after 9/11 is considered valuable, particularly its use of corporate media to create momentum for the occupation of Iraq by programming the public mind to go along with the state agenda, and highlight of the “evil of the other” not only to justify its genocidal violence, but also to conceal “real intentions” behind the occupation of Iraq.

Taking the fight against Naxals to a new level, the Home Ministry of India has sought to actively involve the mainstream media directly by issuing advertisements depicting “cold-blooded killings” of innocent citizens by Naxals. “Naxals are nothing but coldblooded murderers” the advertisement screamed across the corporate media. The visual showed a series of men, women and children brutally killed by Naxals. Upping the ante, media has been screaming all along that Naxals have been waging “a guerrilla war on the Indian state.”

The combined voice of the government and corporate media has heightened the threat posed by Naxals in order to rally public support with gripping fear about their own existence. It has drowned dissenting voices, and been trying to program the public mind to go along with the state agenda against Naxals. The corporate media is playing as the chief instrument of state propaganda. It is creating the momentum for the onslaught on Naxals. Josef Goebbels had this dictum: “If you say something often enough, the people will believe it.”[3] Herman Goering, a Nazi, said, “People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders…All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”[4]

 Naxals’ portrayal as enemies of the state and democracy breaks social link between these enemies and the society. Their status as enemies of the society would not only unite people against them, but also legitimize the “good” violence that exterminates them.

 However, the collective violence of “all against one” requires concealment of entire truth. Any act or even any thought of making a victim of another casts a veil over truth. The power of the “scapegoat mechanism” lies in its deception and concealment.

Who Are Naxals?

Naxals belong to varied milieu – disempowered dalits, destitute tribals, middle class intellectuals, and privileged rich. They do not believe in parliamentary democracy, as they see power being still concentrated in the hands of the rich, upper class. So the objective of their four decade old struggle is to liberate disempowered and destitute masses from the exploitative and oppressive political system through armed struggle. In their long struggle, Naxals have used brutal tactics to further their cause.[5] In 2008 there were 1591 Naxal-related violent incidents in which 721 were killed. By August 2009, in 1405 incidents 580 persons have been killed. Recently, on October 8, 2009 they are alleged to have killed seventeen police men in Maharashtra.

Naxals’ struggle has, naturally, drawn mixed reactions from the government and elites, and the marginalized Indian masses. Because of their armed struggle and brutal tactics, they are considered to be security threat to the sovereignty of the state. On the other hand, Naxals enjoy wide support among the marginalized people, who have been ignored by the successive governments for the past sixty years. The October 2008 report of an expert committee, appointed by the Planning Commission, acknowledged that “the main support for the Naxalite movement comes from dalits and adivasi tribals.”[6] The report identifies “structural violence implicit in our social and economic system” as the main reason for Naxalite violence. Dalits and tribals comprise one fourth of India’s population. 

Condition of the Tribals

In the huge region of mineral rich forest in eastern and central India spreading from West Bengal through the states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh live indigenous people. These tribals are the poorest of the poor in India. The mainstream media and the political pundits have ignored to acknowledge that the cause of these people is not served in the largest democracy. The tribals have no schools, no hospitals, no water, none of the amenities the state is supposed to provide. Successive governments have failed to address the basic needs of people in the poverty-stricken, but mineral rich, region. These places are epitome of neglect, deprivation and government corruption.

The tribals are ruthlessly exploited by local landlords, traders, officials, mafia and contractors. Local police allegedly supports local mafia, landlords and traders. On January 8, 2009 seventeen tribals were killed by the police in a fake “encounter”, according to Ramesh Varlyani, Chhattisgarh state Congress general secretary. In its scathing 118 page report “Broken System: Dysfunction, Abuse and Impunity in the Indian Police”, the Human Rights Watch pointed out “a range of human rights violations committed by police, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and extrajudicial killings.”[7] It notes, “Several police officers admitted to Human Rights Watch that they routinely committed abuses. One officer said that he had been ordered to commit an “encounter killing,” as the practice of taking into custody and extra-judicially executing an individual commonly known. “I am looking for my target,” the officer said. “I will eliminate him…I fear being put in jail, but if I don’t do it, I’ll lose my position.””

The report also documents “the particular vulnerability to police abuse of traditionally marginalized groups in India. They include the poor, women, Dalits (so-called “untouchables”) and religious and sexual minorities. Police often fail to investigate crimes against them because of discrimination, the victims’ inability to pay bribes, or their lack of social status or political connections. Members of these groups are also more vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and torture, especially meted out by police as punishment for alleged crimes.”

Thus, the state has not only ignored to address basic concerns of tribal people, but also tried to destroy the voice and language of their victims by aligning with the exploiters. E.A.S. Sarma, former Commissioner of Tribal Welfare and former secretary, Expenditure and Economic Affairs, says, “Left extremism is a secondary issue. How many tribals even know there is a government? Their only experience of the State is the police, contractors, and real estate goons. Besides, the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution grants tribals complete rights over their traditional land and forests and prohibits private companies from mining on their land. This constitutional schedule was upheld by the Samatha judgement of the Supreme Court (1997). If successive governments lived by the spirit of the Constitution and this judgment, tribal discontent would automatically recede.”[8]

By violating their human dignity, value and rights, the state has committed violence against the tribals. The tribal dissent, as Shoma Chaudhury says, “is a dissent out of desperation for human dignity, value and rights.”[9] Among these poor, disempowered, and oppressed and exploited tribals Naxals have wide support due to latter’s struggle for their cause. Prime minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged that “Left wing extremism requires a nuanced strategy, a holisitic approach – it cannot be treated simply as a law and order problem. Despite its sanguinary nature, the movement manages to retain the support of a section of the tribal communities and the poorest of the poor in many affected areas. It has influence among certain sections of civil society, the intelligentsia and the youth.”

Criminalization of Politics

What has been missing in the dominant narrative of the government and corporate media is the necessity, in the light of Mumbai terrorist attacks, to have leaders with high level of personal integrity to provide effective leadership to India. It is well known that corruption and criminalization of politics in India are the two biggest hurdles for inclusive development. Shashi Tharoor in his book India: From Midnight to the Millennium sees “bureaucratic corruption and criminalization of politics as two of the most widespread problems facing India.” Bureaucratic corruption is largely a result of “the permit-license-quota Raj”. Tharoor cites as “the most dangerous phenomenon of independent India’s political life, the criminalization of politics, for many a lawbreaker has found it useful to become a lawmaker.”[10]

The controversy in 2004 over granting membership in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a top mafia don D.P. Yadav highlights the extent to which India’s political parties have become criminalized. According to police records D.P. Yadav is a “hardened professional criminal”. He was named in nine murder cases, three attempted murders, two dacoitees, and several cases of kidnapping for extortion. He has been charged under a number of acts, including the Excise Act, Gangsters’ Act, and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act. His economic and muscle power has been welcomed with open arms by political parties. He entered into politics and was elected in 1989. He even held a ministerial position in the Utter Pradesh state assembly.

In the previous Manmohan Singh government, the Union Coal minister Sibu Soren was forced to step down when he was convicted of murder (though he was later acquitted on appeal). Surprisingly, Singh, who could identify “criminals” among common people, needed a law to define “criminal” in the case of politicians. He suggested that “the country needed a law to define the meaning of “criminal”, and who should and who should not be a minister.”[11]

Criminals enter into politics with their money and muscle power in order to gain influence and political power. This, in turn, ensures that the criminal cases against them may either be dropped or not proceeded with. The Times of India points out, “Indeed, today, far from shrinking at the thought of harboring criminal elements, parties seek them out, judging the muscle and money combination they represent to be emotive value. Rough estimates suggest that in any state election 20 percent of candidates are drawn from criminal backgrounds. For the parties, it means overflowing coffers and unlimited funds to fight elections and for the criminals it means protection from the law and respectability in the eyes of society.” Asia Human Rights Commission also observes that the nexus between criminals and political party benefits both: “Criminals protect the illegitimate interests of politicians and in turn obtain protection from them and their parties.” It further says that this mutually beneficial relationship works against the establishment of the rule of law.

This promising nexus between criminal-political party prompted India’s parliamentarians across party lines to join hands to refrain from passing legislation that would rid politics of criminal and corrupt elements. However, under 2003 Supreme Court ruling, the Election Commission has made it mandatory for candidates to disclose at the time of filing their nominations for election details including their criminal background (if any), and assets. However, the Court order does not disqualify criminal elements.

The disclosure law seemed to have little impact. Asia Human Rights Commission deplores, “Criminalization of politics in India is a growing problem, despite legal attempts to address it.” According to the National Election Watch, in 2004, out of 535 elected members of parliament (MPs), 128 MPs were with criminal records and 55 with serious criminal records. Most experts’ opinion is that the situation is deteriorating. As Himanshu Jha of the National Social Watch Coalition says, “The general opinion is that the influence of criminals in politics is steadily increasing.” This is confirmed by 2009 elections: out of 535 elected MPs 153 MPs were with criminal records and 74 with serious criminal records. That means, there is an increase of 19.5% in MPs with criminal records, and 34.5% in MPs with serious criminal records.

The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution pointed out that criminalization has become a worrying characteristic of India’s politics and electoral system. This tears into the moral fabric of the country and has an impact on governance.

Politicians are aware of “the impunity that is built into the very edifice of Indian politics and law.” The 1984 anti-Sikh riots confirm the impunity enjoyed by law-makers-cum-law-breakers. On April 7, 2009 a Sikh reporter Jarnail Singh hurled a shoe at the home minister Chidambaram in protest against the clean chit given by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to the two Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, prime accused of the riots. Even before they received clean chit, the Congress party gave them tickets to contest in 2009 elections. The gesture of the reporter was sparked by the deep, traumatic pain caused not only by the three day massacre of more than 3000 Sikhs (some were burned alive) during the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, but also the impunity enjoyed by the politicians.

The massacre of Sikhs took place in the full public view. But there has been absolutely no accountability for those heinous crimes, because the system has collaborated with politicians to protect the guilty. Commenting on the involvement of the then Congress government in the riots, eminent journalist and writer Khushwant Singh said that probably the government of the day had a hand in it as it was organized violence.[12] The violent mobs were provided with voters’ lists to identify the homes and business establishments of Sikhs.[13]

“The ’84 killings…were mercilessly planned and executed by the state, with a breathtaking disregard for governance and constitutional rights. After this bloodbath, the state and its partners-in-crime preferred to forget the bloody drama they had enacted.” Patwant Singh wonders, “Are the lives of innocent men, women and children of so little consequence to politicians and men in public office that they can be brutally murdered en masse in the country’s capital for over four days before an effort is made to stop the killings? Does it then have to take over 22 years and 10 inquiry commissions to book the guilty for the chilling inhumanity against the Sikhs.”

One may recall the speech of Rajiv Gandhi, who was immediately sworn in as the prime minister after his mother’s death, justifying the pogrom: “Some riots took place in the country following the murder of Indiraji. We know the people were very angry and for a few days it seemed that India had been shaken. But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little.”[14] A Sikh wondered, “That’s okay. But were there only Sikhs sitting under that big tree?”

“Development” in Tribal Region

There has been a proposal for “development” in the tribal areas. Recently Chidambaram talked about “development” in this region. But he wanted Maoist-controlled areas to be liberated before any development programs could be launched there. Critics argue that it is the lack of development in the tribal inhabited region for the past sixty years that is the cause for their dissent and wide support to Naxals. So there is growing concern about the intentions of the government in taking security-centric strategy without disclosing the development plan for the mineral rich, but poverty stricken region.

In an interview Chidambaram said that minerals were not meant to be kept buried under Mother Earth, and they have to be put to use. The land inhabited by the tribals is the mineral heart land. There are huge deposits of iron ore, tin, bauxite, corundum and limestone, which multinational companies want to get their hands on. Government officials and private companies want the Union government to acquire the tribal lands for private investors in order to expedite the development of the states. So, development means displacement of the owners of the land, and mining. “Industrialization is a must for the state’s development since agriculture alone cannot support Jharkhand’s economy. If we stop acquiring land for private investors in Naxal-hit areas, the state will head for a major disaster,” said a state official.

Therefore, security-centric strategy serves the above purpose where major offensive against Naxals not only decimates Naxal control in the tribal region, but also displaces the tribals from their lands. If tribals no longer live on that land, the inconvenient Fifth Schedule of the Constitution will not apply.

Weapons and violence will lead us nowhere. Violence begets violence. Therefore, all the forces concerned should give peace a chance and begin dialogue to sort out genuine problems prevailing in tribal areas. Instead of running democracy only on the strength of weapons and violence against its own citizens, government should aim at inclusive democracy and development.



[2] Siddharth Srivastava, “India Plans All-Out Attack on Maoists,” in Asia Times (Sepetember 29, 2009).

[3] John Pilger, “Lies and More Lies,” ZNetCommentary (September 23, 2003).

[4] Arundhati Roy, “Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy: Buy One, Get One Free,” (May 18, 2003).

[5] Shoma Chaudhury, “Weapons of Mass Desperation,” in Tehelka Magazine 6:39, 3 October 2009.

[6] Chaudhury, “Weapons of Mass Desperation.”

[7] “India: Overhaul Abusive, Failing Police System,” in Human Rights Watch (August 4, 2009).

[8] Shoma Chaudhury, “Weapons of Mass Desperation,” in Tehelka Magazine 6:39, 3 October 2009.

[9] Shoma Chaudhury, “Weapons of Mass Desperation,” in Tehelka Magazine 6:39, 3 October 2009.

[10] Shashi Tharoor, India: From Midnight to the Millennium (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1997), reviewed by C.J.S. Wallia, IndiaStar Review of Books.

[11] Seema Chishti, “India’s Love Affair with ‘Tainted’ Politicians,” in BBC News (August 2, 2004).

[12] Basharat Peer, “Anti-Sikh Riots a Pogrom: Khushwant.”

[13] “1984 Anti-Sikh Riots” in Wikipedia.

[14] In 1998 Sonia Gandhi, wife of Rajiv Gandhi, officially apologized for the insensitive remarks.


Agricultural Trade and Right to Food Act in India

October 3, 2009

Addressing a joint session of Parliament on June 4, 2009, the President of India Pratibha Patil announced that India would soon pass a National Food Security Act. This announcement has not only received accolades from people like Amartya Sen, who called the Government’s initiative being “a step in the right direction”, but also generated an intense debate. If passed, the Right to Food Act can become – with the Right to Information Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act – very significant.  

The historical and political background of the right to food concerns the development of the notion of access to adequate food as a right. Lack of access to food can be due to two reasons: scarcity of food, or problem of access to available food. The issue of world hunger has been characterized as shortage of food. Guaranteeing the right to food has, therefore, been linked to food production to overcome shortage.

However, hunger and malnutrition persist even if food is abundant. For many years the website of the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. has described India’s agriculture and rural development as “a saga of success”. It boasts, “From a nation dependent on food imports to feed its population, India today is not only self-sufficient in grain production, but also has a substantial reserve.”[1] It is true that the country now produces enough food to feed its entire population. Despite agricultural successes, India still has a huge number of malnourished people, more than any other country.

The greater cause for hunger and malnutrition, therefore, is the problem of access to adequate food. Poor and marginalized segments of the population lack purchasing power to buy minimum amount of food they need to prevent hunger. Food insecurity exists even if there is food in abundance. Trading more food will not help the poor and the marginalized, if they are excluded from production and have no means to buy the food which arrives on the markets. Producing more food will not assist them in purchasing food, if their incomes remain too low. The problem is one of accessibility of food for the poor and the marginalized. So a focus solely on increasing the supply of food could lead to policy choices that make hunger worse.[2] Policy makers should address the problem of access to adequate food and make changes in income distribution and trade policies that are needed to ensure that the human right to adequate food is realized in practice. 

Access to adequate food is funda­mental for the right to adequate food. Accessed food must be ade­quate in terms of quality, quantity and cultural accept­ability. Access to adequate food has been defined in terms of intake of nutrients, calories and proteins. Malnutrition need not be lack of quantity of food in­take, but could also be due to lack of quality food. Both are often the results of poverty and discrimi­nation.

Right to adequate food sets obligations on the state. It also helps empower those vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition to hold government accountable. Poor and marginalized are not mere passive beneficiaries of government programs or private charities, but participate in the democratic process of policy formation and implementation.

State Obligation to Right to Adequate Food

Given the crucial importance of access to adequate food in a world of plenty where massive hunger persists, it is not surprising that the right to adequate food has received attention in the community of states. More appropriately, it is a reminder to the states of their commitment to ensure that the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger and the right to adequate food is safeguarded.

For sixty years, the legal, political and cultural concept of the human right to food has been evolving as a set of universal norms for the United Nations community, its member states, and civil society. Paragraph 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) declares: “…everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself [sic] and his family, including food…” Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adds: “State parties to the present Covenant recognize the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger…” and agree “to take steps to the maximum of available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized, including “adequate food.” Some two hundred additional UN instruments and declarations address the right to adequate food and nutrition within civil-political, economic-social-cultural, development, indigenous, women’s, and children’s rights constructions.

Under Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “the right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.”[3] The core content of the right to adequate food implies the availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture. The right to adequate food is “indivisibly linked to the inherent dignity of the human person and is indispensable for the fulfillment of other human rights enshrined in the International Bill of Human Rights. It is also inseparable from social justice, requiring the adoption of appropriate economic, environmental and social policies, at both the national and international levels, oriented to the eradication of poverty and the fulfillment of all human rights for all.”[4]

The right to adequate food imposes threefold obligation on States: to respect, protect and fulfill the human right to adequate food. The State is obliged to refrain from taking any measures that result in preventing existing access to adequate food (respect); to ensure that private actors or individuals do not deprive individuals of their access to adequate food (protect); and pro-actively engage in activities intended to strengthen people’s access to and utilization of resources and means to ensure their livelihood, including food security (fulfill as facilitate). Finally, whenever an individual or group is unable, for reasons beyond their control, to enjoy the right to adequate food by the means at their disposal, States have the obligation to fulfill (as provide) that right directly. This obligation also applies for persons who are victims of natural or other disasters.[5]

States have committed themselves to implement policies aimed at eradicating poverty and hunger, and improving physical and economic access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food.[6] In 1996 in their Rome Declaration on World Food Security, world leaders and their representatives stated: “We consider it intolerable that more than 800 million people throughout the world, and particularly in developing countries, do not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs. This situation is unacceptable.”[7]

Reality of Poverty and Malnutrition

In spite of growing recognition and solemn commitments made by world leaders, the stark reality is that there are more hungry people today. The number of hungry people has increased from approximately 840 million in 1996 to 967 million in 2008.[8] More than 2 billion people worldwide suffer from “hidden hunger”, or micronutrient malnutrition. Majority of the hungry are in rural areas, as around 70% of the world’s poor people live in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture for their income, food supply and livelihoods. According to a UN-Hunger Task Force report, three out of five small farmers suffer from hunger.[9]

Action Aid International has identified the following groups as the most affected by hunger and malnutrition: agricultural laborers, landless, poor farmers, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, informal sector workers, unemployed people, street children, the homeless, people living in areas of conflict or at risk from conflict,[10] refugees, migrant workers, settlers and the internally displaced. Within these groups, women, children, especially girls, disabled people, the elderly and female-headed households are the most vulnerable.[11] 125 million people die each year from malnutrition related causes. Children and adults are left mentally and physically stunted, deformed or blind, condemning them to a marginal existence. Hunger repeats itself through the generations, as undernourished mothers give birth to children who will never fully develop.[12]

In India it is evident that, although the 1990s saw a period of sustained economic growth as the country moved towards a more market-oriented economy, this economic growth did not benefit all Indians equally. Middle and upper classes in urban areas have benefited under “India Shining”, but the poor have suffered a decline in living standards and rising food insecurity. Poverty[13] and malnutrition, especially among women, children, and people who belong to scheduled castes and tribes, remain very high. About 2 million children die every year as a result of serious malnutrition and preventable diseases. Nearly half suffer from moderate or severe malnutrition. This is one of the highest levels of child malnutrition in the world. Nearly a third of children (30%) are born underweight, which means that their mothers are themselves underweight and undernourished.[14]

Hunger and malnourishment is predominant in rural areas of India. 70% of Indians still live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods (65%). Very low agricultural wages (minimum wages are not always enforced), landlessness, lack of work during the agricultural lean season, and the impacts of trade liberalization have contributed to food insecurity.

Right to Adequate Food and Agricultural Trade

As noted above, the majority of hungry and malnourished live in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture for their income, food supply and livelihoods. They are food producers, such as landless laborers or small farm holders. Among the factors that contribute to this paradox of hungry farmers is the agricultural trading system, according to Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

The dominant trend in market-oriented globalization is “to expand the global reach for investments and to broaden market for profit.”[15] Investments in agriculture, food processing and marketing are on the rise. International trade in food has increased due to reduced trade barriers. Relentless pressure for unrestricted international trade and investment has not only constrained the policy space of governments, but also resulted in national and local governments and economies ceding some sovereignty over their markets.       

Today, agricultural trade is far from being free or fair. Many developed countries continue to protect agriculture as a question of national security and food security, while persuading  developing countries into unilaterally liberalizing their agricultural sectors, often under the programs of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In his address to the Future Farmers of America in Washington on July 27, 2001George W. Bush, then President, stated, “It’s important for our nation to build – to grow foodstuffs, to feed our people. Can you imagine a country that was unable to grow enough food to feed the people? It would be a nation subject to international pressure. It would be a nation at risk. And so when we’re talking about American agriculture, we’re really talking about a national security issue.”[16] In the same speech, Bush argued against “the trade barriers, the protectionist tendencies around the world that prevent our products from getting into markets.”[17]

Despite preaching the “benefits” of “free” trade in agriculture, US, EU, Japan and other industrialized countries continue to skew their farm subsidies so heavily in favor of their biggest agricultural producers. From 1995 to 2006 USDA provided $177 billion in subsidy to its farmers.[18] Top 10% of the agricultural producers received 74% of the total amount.[19] During this period US government provided nearly one billion dollar subsidy to just three American rice growers.[20] Rice is staple food for nearly 3.7 billion Asians. Nobel Prize winner in economics Joseph Stiglitz described the United States Farm Bill as “the perfect illustration of the Bush administration’s hypocrisy on trade liberalization.”

In 2004 EU paid its biggest 2,460 famers on average $667,000 each, or $1.7 billion in total. In Germany, 14% of the biggest farm producers got 65% of all payments; in France, 29% of the biggest farm producers got 72% of all payments; in UK, 31% of the biggest farm producers got 84% of all payments; and in Italy, 1.6% of the biggest farm producers got 34% of all payments.[21] These figures make a mockery of claims that the US Farm Bill and EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are geared toward small farmers and rural development. This huge subsidy allows food cartel to sell rice, wheat and other staple foods at very low price to dominate global food market. This displaces local production of basic foodstuffs and farming livelihoods in developing countries. “These subsidies continue to promote over-production and dumping, hurting poor farmers in developing countries,” said Luis Morago, Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair spokesperson. He further said, “Europe’s common agricultural policy and the US Farm Bill continue to ignore small farmers at home and cripple poorer farmers abroad.”[22]

While developed countries pay huge subsidies to their biggest food producers to dominate the production of staple foods like rice, corn/maize and wheat, and milk, developing countries are left at a severe disadvantage, as they cannot afford to subsidize their agriculture, but must reduce tariffs and open up to unfair competition from subsidized products of the developed countries. Measures to help smallholders such as farm subsidies and cheap credit policies has been opposed by international financial institutions and has fallen out of favor at  the national level of many developing countries because it does not serve the interests of those who influence the government. In most developing countries small farm holders do not have the strength to either compete in or resist the pressures of market globalization.

Right to Adequate Food and Agribusiness Companies

The agricultural trade liberalization has benefited big farms and agribusiness companies of the developed countries. It benefited 1% of farms larger than 100 hectares, while harming 85% of farms with less than 2 hectares.[23] The globalization of agriculture has been accompanied by concentration of market power into the hands of a limited number of large-scale trade and retail agribusiness companies. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) notes,  

One of the more striking features of industry changes…has been the convergence of ownership between agrochemical and seed/genomic firms. This strategy has worked well to sell proprietary bundled lines of chemicals, genetic technologies and seeds, which can be attractive to farmers as a purchased management tool. However, such bundles can increase reliance on expensive inputs, increase farmers’ costs, and reduce flexibility of on-farm management strategies for pests and weeds, as well as implementation of novel consumer-driven production systems.[24]

Transnational corporations have monopolized the food chain, from the production, trade, processing, to the marketing and retailing of food. Globally, the seed industry is increasingly driven by US and Europe based transnational agribusiness companies. Just 10 companies, which include Aventis, Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta, control one-third of the $23 billion commercial seed market and 80 per cent of the $28 billion global pesticide market. Monsanto alone controls 91 per cent of the global market for genetically modified seed. Another 10 companies, including Cargill, control 57 per cent of the total sales of the world’s leading 30 retailers.[25] 

With the trade deal between India and the United States, known as the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA), the Indian markets and agricultural policies are increasingly coming under the influence of transnational companies such as Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland Company, a US grain purchaser and trader and is, with Cargill, one of the companies that maintains “oligopolistic control of the American food-manufacturing and food-processing markets”, and Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer.[26] These three companies are members on the KIA Board, which implements the KIA. The Board has decided to focus initially on four core areas: agricultural education, food processing and marketing, biotechnology and water management.[27] “The KIA is part of the US comprehensive strategy on revitalizing the bilateral relationship in agriculture with India,” said Susan Owens, director of the FAS Research and Scientific Exchanges Division. Owen stated: “We want to broaden the scope of the AKI (or KIA) beyond just research…We want to use the AKI (or KIA) to increase agricultural production in India….”[28]

Monsanto owns the patent on Bt cotton. In 2005 approximately 1.26 million hectares, and in 2006 nearly 3.28 million hectares of land in India was under Bt cotton cultivation. Farmers who buy GM seeds enter into a licensing agreement with Monsanto for the use of that particular gene and the company prescribed fertilizer. They are forbidden from saving seeds for the next season. They must buy new seed from the company each season. This denies farmers’ right to save seed. The implications of this are huge for poor farmers. Saved seed is the one resource that the poor farmers depend upon to carry them through the year. Denial of this right will greatly impact them economically. For they have to pay more each season to buy new seed. Monsanto is now charging 1850 Indian rupees per 450 gram pack of Bt cotton seeds as compared to 38 Indian rupees charged in China for the same quantity. In India, the price for non-Bt cotton variety is at 450 to 500 Indian rupees. India has recently allowed field trials of GM varieties of rice, brinjal and groundnut.

In many regions of the world, transnational corporations now have unprecedented control over food, and there is no coherent system of accountability to ensure that they do not abuse this power. Global food companies have become too powerful and are undermining the right to adequate food in developing countries.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)

Introduction of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) has become an increasingly important source of competitive advantage and accumulation in the production and trade of agricultural goods. This has resulted in the increasing concentration of control over seeds and other resources in a few transnational companies. The IPR owners, usually transnational companies, can prevent others from producing or selling the seeds or plant varieties over which they own the rights. They can set prices or royalties on the seeds, and terms and conditions for use of the seeds and inputs. This not only denies the right of farmers to save seeds for the next season, but also forces them to depend on transnational companies for seeds and inputs. With raising prices of seeds and inputs, coupled with prevention of saving seeds, small scale farmers become vulnerable whether there is bumper crop, or failure or low yield. In times of bumper crop, they get lower price for their produce, and in times of failure or low yield they incur loss. But the farming costs keep rising.

Because of their sheer size and assurance of huge financial returns due to IPRs, transnational companies are increasingly engaged in agro-biotechnology research. As the goal of companies is profit, their research and production efforts tend to focus on only a few crops, thus weakening biodiversity and sustainability caused by expanding monoculture in food production. The consequences are terrible on “minor crops”, which are commercially not profitable for the companies.

With the trends towards strengthening IPR systems worldwide (and in India), there is an increasing ability of agribusiness companies privatizing genetic resources and agricultural knowledge. The tendency will be to focus on research on lucrative developing country markets, rather than developing country needs. Therefore, IPRs are not designed to respond to socio-economic concerns such as food security of developing countries, or to protect the livelihoods of landless and small scale farmers, but to promote the greed of agribusiness companies at the expense of landless and small scale famers in these countries. Thus, IPRs can impede progress towards sustainability, food security and distributive justice.

Right to Adequate Food – the Guiding Framework for Policies and Action

The present liberalized agricultural trade system excludes millions of landless and small scale farmers, and undermines the ability of developing countries to protect their farmers. What is very clear is that in the long run hundreds of millions will die from hunger, while the markets expand.

Therefore, an approach to international trade based on human rights, particularly the right to adequate food, shifts the focus not only to the impacts of trade and its policies on the most vulnerable and food insecure, but also to enhance the welfare of the vulnerable people. The right to adequate food can only be fully realized by States within a multilateral trading system which enables them to pursue policies aimed at realizing the right to adequate food. Trading system should not only refrain from imposing obligations which directly infringe upon the right to adequate food, but also ensure that all States have the policy space they require to take measures which contribute to the progressive realization of the right to adequate food under their jurisdiction.[29] State, as part of its obligation to protect people’s resource base for food, should take appropriate steps to ensure that activities of the private business companies are in conformity with the right to adequate food.

The report of The International Assessment of Agricultural Science, Knowledge and Technology for Development (IAASTD) provides valuable insights and recommendations recognizing the need for complementary and diversified approaches to sustainable agriculture, pointing out that agricultural models based on small farming can present alternatives appropriate for a human rights based food security. While the report was strongly welcomed by NGOs for its calls for immediate radical changes in international agriculture, there was a strong opposition from countries such as US, UK, Canada and Australia.[30] A few months before the launch of the report, major private sector stakeholders, such as Monsanto and Syngenta, resigned altogether from the IAASTD project in October 2007 as the conclusions were clearly against their interests.

Some of IAASTD’s observations and suggestions are[31]:

  • modern agriculture has brought significant increases in food production. But the benefits have been spread unevenly and have come at an increasingly intolerable price, paid by small-scale farmers, workers, rural communities and the environment;
  • the way the world grows its food will have to change radically to better serve the poor and hungry if the world is to cope with a growing population and climate change while avoiding social breakdown and environmental collapse;
  • prioritize the promotion of small farmer agriculture and the livelihood of indigenous peoples, giving special attention to the role and situation of women in food production;
  • take measures to promote and protect the security of land tenure, especially with respect to women and vulnerable groups, with special attention to equitable land distribution, with agrarian reform if necessary, as mentioned in Article 11(2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Voluntary Guidelines for the progressive realization of the right to adequate food;
  • take measures to strengthen local markets, shortening the chain from food production to food consumption;
  • promote small scale agriculture as important source of employment and livelihood.
  • All national and international policies should be guided by a human rights based approach, to guarantee that they respect, protect and fulfill the progressive realization of the right to adequate food; 
  • develop mechanisms to monitor private companies in order to ensure that they respect the right to adequate food, consistent with the obligation of States to protect this right.

The formulation and implementation of national strategies for the right to food requires full compliance with the principles of accountability, transparency, people’s participation, decentralization, legislative capacity and the independence of the judiciary. Good governance is essential to the realization of all human rights, including right to adequate food.[32] When political elites recognize that promotion of human rights, including economic and social rights such as the right to adequate food, actually enhances sustainable economic growth, we can start to expect that freedom from hunger will become a matter of the past.




























[1] George Kent, Swaraj against Hunger, University of Hawaii,  August 9, 2009.

[2] “The Right to Food and the WTO,” (April 8, 2009).

[3] The Right to Adequate Food (Art. 11): 12/05/99. E/C. 12/1999/5. (General Comments).

 [4] The Right to Adequate Food (Art. 11): 12/05/99. E/C. 12/1999/5. 

[5] The Right to Adequate Food (Art. 11): 12/05/99. E/C. 12/1999/5.

[6] The Cordoba Declaration on the Right to Food, December 12, 2008.

[7] The Cordoba Declaration on the Right to Food, December 12, 2008.

[8] The Cordoba Declaration on the Right to Food, December 12, 2008.

[9] Arun Shrivastava, “Poverty and Food Insecurity in the Developing World: For Us, Tolls the Bell,” in  Global Research (May 7, 2009).

[10] “U.S. weapons sales are likely to continue to fuel conflict and abet human rights abuses. During the two Bush terms, the majority of U.S. arms sales to the developing world went to countries that our own State Department defined as undemocratic regimes and/or major human rights abusers. And over two-thirds of the world’s active conflicts involved weapons that had been supplied by the United States.” Frida Berrigan, “Weapons: Our No#1 Export?” in Foreign Policy In Focus (July 1, 2009).

[11] Annual Report 2005-Right to Food, Action Aid International.

[12] ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS: The Right to Food. Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2003/25, E/CN.4/2004/10, 9 February 2004.

[13] According to the World Bank poverty line of $1.25 (Rs. 56.13) per day, the number of poor in India during 2004-2005 was 456 million, that is, 41.6% of the population.

[14] ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS: The right to food. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, Addendum MISSION TO INDIA (20 August-2 September 2005), E/CN.4/2006/44/Add.2, 20 March 2006.

[15] Asbjorn Eide, “The Human Right to Food and Contemporary Globalization.”

[16] See

[17] See






[23] “The Right to Food and the WTO,” (April 8, 2009).

[24] “Food Security in a Volatile World,” International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD).

[25] “ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS: The right to food,” Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2003/25. E/CN.4/2004/10, 9 February 2004.

[26] Kamalakar Duvvuru, “Monsanto, a Contemporary East India Company, and Corporate Knowledge in India,” in DissidentVoice (July 25, 2009).

[27] Dinesh C. Sharma, “Preparing for New Challenges,” in Span (March/April 2007).

[28] Julia Debes, “U.S.-India Agricultural Cooperation: A New Beginning,” in FAS Worldwide (September 2006).

[29] Background Document Prepared by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Mr. Olivier De Schutter, on His Mission to the World Trade Organization (WTO), presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2009 (background study to UN doc. A/HRC/10/005/Add.2)

[30] Wenche Barth Eide and Uwe Kracht, “Official Responses to the World Food Crisis in Light of the Human Right to Food,” (February 11, 2009).

[31] Wenche Barth Eide and Uwe Kracht, “Official Responses to the World Food Crisis.”

 [32] The Right to Adequate Food (Art. 11): 12/05/99. E/C. 12/1999/5.

“WE BRING PEACE AND FREEDOM TO THE WORLD”: Caesar Augustus’ “Acts of the Divine Augustus”

October 1, 2009

Part VI

F. Implied Message of the “Acts of the Divine Augustus” to the Subjects

Even though AA was primarily addressed to the people of Rome, its message was same to the entire empire: the dawning of the Golden Age of peace through divinely ordained Augustus. There was an implied message to the provinces as the existence of the copies of AA in both Greek and Latin demonstrates. Setting up copies of AA in the Roman provinces was an imperial demand for acceptance of the imperial myth not only about the events that had taken place in the empire, but, more importantly, also about the imperial system of peace and freedom brought by Augustus. The very existence of these copies in the Roman provinces constituted a powerful form of imperial propaganda about the imperial system of peace and freedom. It was also a demand of identification with the imperial order established, embodied and maintained by AA. The message of this dominant imperial myth was legitimization of not only the imperial system of peace and freedom, but also the emperor, with whom this system was bound up, as the author, protector and promoter of the system. In a way the Roman emperor was making AA a charter for the imperial system of peace and freedom, by convincing that the miseries were due to the “enemies of peace”, and he was the protector and promoter of peace and freedom. Restoration of peace in the empire confirmed the guilt of the enemies, and general correctness of the diagnosis. The crisis in the empire was introduced by the enemies. The remedy for this crisis was to remove the cancerous element from the empire. Thus, removal of the enemies of the imperial peace was essential for an imperial order to flourish. AA did not make any attempt to conceal either its diagnosis or remedy. By characterizing the Roman emperor as the divinely ordained author, protector and promoter of the Golden Age of peace, AA was making a general pronouncement of the identity of the enemies of peace, and also the remedy. The violence against the enemies of the imperial system of peace and freedom was divinely and unanimously (at least according to AA) ordained. Since the imperial system of peace and freedom was bound up with Augustus, not only as the author but also as the protector and promoter of this system, the identification with the imperial system of peace and freedom was nothing but allegiance to the emperor. Enemies of Augustus were the enemies of the imperial system of peace and freedom.

Therefore, unanimous identification of people in Roman provinces with the imperial system, and allegiance to the emperor was required to maintain the Golden Age of peace. That was why oaths of allegiance to Augustus were taken as indicated by an inscription, dating 3 BCE. This inscription was an oath taken by the inhabitants of Paphlagonia, which was annexed to Galatia in 6/5 BCE. It read:

I swear by Zeus, Hera, the Sun, and all the gods and goddesses, and Augustus himself, that I will be loyal to Caesar Augustus and his children and descendants all the time of my life by word and deed and thought, holding as friends whomsoever they so hold, and considering as enemies whomsoever they so judge, and for their interests I will spare neither body, nor soul, nor life, nor children…If I see or hear anything being said or planned or done against them, I will lay information and I will be the enemy of such sayer or planner or doer…If I do anything contrary to this oath or not according as I have sworn, I invoke death and destruction upon myself and my body and soul and children and all my race and interests to the last generation of my children’s children…The same oath was sworn by all the rural population at the shrines of Augustus in the districts beside the altars of Augustus (OGIS 532).

The Paphlagonian oath reveals the position of the emperor in the Roman provinces. This oath was not a public declaration of allegiance to the power of the state, “but an affirmation of loyalty to Octavian and his descendants personally, and a pledge to support him against his private enemies.”[1] Therefore, the responsibility of the subjugated people was to maintain the imperial system of peace and freedom through loyalty to the emperor.

In Galatia a copy of AA was inscribed at the entrance of the temple of Roma and Augustus. That means, the inscription was very much visible to the public and they would have been acquainted with the imperial myth. Since the inscription was set up in locations which had cultic significance, it would have been natural for the people to identify with the inscription religiously as well as politically. The identification of people in the provinces to the imperial system of peace and freedom embodied by AA was expressed in the form of the imperial cult. Identification with the imperial order and loyalty to the Roman emperor was sacred duty of subjugated people. Such a myth reflects a highly centralized state in which emperor ruled as a representative of gods. Resistance to emperor was treason against gods. That was why the imperial cult proved to be an indissoluble element of the imperial system of peace and freedom.

The subjects were aware of the power of the emperor. The power of the emperor was clearly expressed in Seneca’s soliloquy taught to Nero:

Here I of all mortals found favor with heaven and been chosen to serve on earth as vicar of the gods? I am the arbiter of life and death for the nations; it rests in my power what each man’s lot and state shall be: by my lips for tune proclaims what gift she would bestow on each human being: from my utterance peoples and cities gather reasons for rejoicing; without my favor and grace no part of the whole world can prosper; all those many thousands of swords which my peace restrains will be drawn at my nod, what nations shall be utterly destroyed, which banished, which shall receive the gift of liberty, which have it taken from them, what kings shall become slave and whose heads shall be crowned with royal honor, what cities shall fall and which shall rise-this is mine to decree” (Seneca, De Clementia I, 1,2).

Power was conceived in terms of violence. Since god was the most powerful being, god’s power was considered in terms of superior violence. Therefore, victory as a decisive act of superior violence was the manifestation of god. The emperor, the most powerful human being on the earth, was the vicar of god(s).

Thus, the purpose of AA in the Roman provinces was to draw from subjects not just an intellectual assent to what had been achieved by the Roman emperor. But, more importantly, the purpose was to demand identification with the imperial system of peace and freedom established by the divinely ordained emperor, and consequently allegiance to the emperor with whom the system was bound up. Although there was no evidence to suggest that Augustus had decreed that copies of AA be set up in subject territories, those who were responsible for placing the copies there wanted this to be a medium of imperial propaganda to the subjects. They wanted to convey the message of the document that all peoples allied with the imperial system of peace and freedom, and so with the descendants of Augustus, could enjoy the benefits of the Golden Age of peace that Augustus had brought forth. 


[1] Jones, Augustus, p. 38.


“WE BRING PEACE AND FREEDOM TO THE WORLD”: Caesar Augustus’ “Acts of the Divine Augustus”

October 1, 2009

Part V

E. Formation of the Roman Province of Galatia

Galatia emerged as a Roman province during the reign of Augustus. Prior to this, client kings ruled this territory under the authority of Rome. The land was divided into three districts corresponding geographically to each of the three Galatian tribes, Tolistobogii (around Pessinus), Tectosages (around Ancyra), and Trocmi (around Tavium). The tetrarch of the Tolistobogii Deiotarus, who was later granted by Rome the title ‘king’, extended his control over the land of the Trocmi. Though he was deprived of his rule over the land of the Trocmi for a short while by Caesar, Deiotarus was again made the ruler over this land by Antony after the death of Caesar. After murdering treacherously the tetrarch of the Tectosages, Deiotarus became king of the entire Galatia (Strabo, 12.5.1). After his death and a brief rule by his son, Amyntas was appointed as a new king by Antony in 36 BCE. Amyntas extended the frontiers of Galatia, which included now the three lands of the three Galatian tribes, much of Lycaonia and part of Pamphylia (Strabo, 12.5.1; Dio, 49.32.3, 53.26.3; Plutarch, Ant 61.2). Though Amyntas was loyal to Antony till then, he shifted his loyalty to Augustus in the war at Actium (Plutarch, Ant 63.3). Because of his loyalty in the war, Augustus confirmed him as king and extended his rule over much of Pisidia, Isauria in the south, and western part of Cilicia called Cilicia Tracheia (Strabo, 14.6.1). Augustus’ victory over Antony at Actium in 31 BCE brought to an end the turbulent period in Galatia due to domestic unrest and complex maneuverings with the Roman rulers during the civil wars. However, Amyntas had faced resistance from the southern region tribe, Homanadenses, to the efforts of pacification through subjugation. While engaged in a war to subjugate this tribe in 25 BCE, he was killed (Dio, 53.26.3). Amyntas, thus, failed in his attempt to bring peace in the entire land, which was important to Rome to promote its self-interests.

Soon after the death of Amyntas, Augustus annexed Galatia in order to bring internal peace and order, and made the entire area ruled by Amyntas an imperial province in 25 BCE (Dio, 53.26.3; Strabo, 12.5.1). Dio noted:

On the death of Amyntas he (Augustus) did not entrust his kingdom to his sons but made it part of the subject territory. Thus Galatia together with Lycoania obtained a Roman governor, and the portions of Pamphylia formerly assigned to Amyntas were restored to their own districts (Dio, History 53. 26. 3).

Galatian province included the land of the three Galatian tribes, Pisidia, Isauria, Lycaonia and part of Pamphylia. Later Paphlagonia (in 6/5 BCE) and Pontus Galaticus (in 3/2 BCE) were added. For Rome, internal peace and order in Galatia was important. Because Asia Minor was like a bridge between the west and the east. So Rome wanted this region to be firmly under its control.

 1. Colonies

Rome, as a deliberate imperial policy, created colonies. The death of Amyntas in 25 BCE while attempting to subjugate the resisting tribe of Homanadenses, was clear evidence of unstable conditions in the southern part of the Galatian province. This tribe and others, like Isaurians lived in the mountain ranges north-east of Pisidia and revolted against the Roman control in 6 CE, had always been a source of resistance to the Roman rule and its client kings. As a strong measure to bring peace by military force through subjugation of the resisting groups, Augustus founded colonies of the legionary veterans such as Pisidian Antioch, Cremna, Lystra, Olbasa, Parlais and Comama.[1] The land required for a colony was usually confiscated. Roman settlers formed the citizens’ body, and the natives might become either a separate community or subjects of the colony.[2] The constitution of the colonies was organized on a Roman pattern.

2. Roads

In order to maintain Roman peace in the subject territory, Rome had developed a road-system in the Galatian province. Roads were primarily for military and administrative purposes. This objective was characteristic of the Roman imperialism. Roads were used to control and exploit resources in the subject territories through military and administrative means.[3]

In Galatia the road, Via Sebaste, was laid in 6 BCE with Pisidian Antioch as the pivot and from there to the south-central Anatolian port of Perga, and on the east to the colonies of Iconium and Lystra. In the same year the Roman army used this road to wage war against the resisting Homanadenses to subjugate them. Military activity and construction of roads in subject territories offer a pattern of Roman methods to maintain Roman peace by subduing the resisting local groups. Roman roads in Galatia “implicitly symbolized but explicitly articulated Rome’s and specially the emperor’s domination.”[4] In other words, the presence of the Roman roads was a visible symbol of the Roman political control of the Galatian province.[5] A text on the milestone in Galatia summarizes it all: “Imperator Caesar Son of God Pontifex Maximus” (CIL 3.6974). The primary function of milestone was to advertise the dominion of the emperor.[6]

3. Cities

Urbanization was a Roman imperial policy to further its dominion over subject. Soon after the annexation of Galatia in 25 BCE, Augustus created three new cities in the north, Pessinus, Tavium, and Ancyra, and one in the south, Pisidian Antioch. The name sebaste was given to Pessinus, Tavium, and Ancyra indicating that the province represented by these cities began a new era under Augustus. This new era was characterized by Roman peace and security. Pisidian Antioch was renamed as Colonia Caesarea. However, the old name prevailed. But the principal square of this city was named Augustea Platea.[7] Renaming the cities by adding the emperor’s name was an indicator of Roman domination and control. This renaming served two purposes: one was that it ensured that the person and authority of the emperor was before the populace, and the other was, it became a symbol of loyalty of the populace. The political ideals of autonomy and independence that had defined the classical Greek polis were replaced in the Roman civitas by “two aims that were both functional and ideological.”[8] Crosaan and Reed describe these two aims:

One was to use cities as administrative centers for supervising the production and distribution of local and regional resources. That also…meant taxation flowing back to Rome. The other one was to build communities by creating for the empire’s urban populations a common form of civic life (and) a common set of civic buildings…That …meant loyalty flowing back to Rome.[9]

For Galatians, autonomy and freedom from external control were hallmarks of the Greek polis and basic to its political organization. Pausanias reflected this definition of a city when he commented that “Panopeus, for all its miserable appearance, was yet free because it still sent its own delegate to the Phocian assembly.”[10] Freedom and autonomy of a city had diminished with the arrival of the Roman rule. A public document of 88 BCE of a city in Asia clearly mentions the freedom under Roman imperialism: “Without the rule of the Romans we do not choose even to live.”[11] The index of city status was no longer political autonomy but other criteria such as public buildings. This shift indicates the intention of Rome. Consolidation of the Roman control was maintained through establishment of the imperial cult and programs of public buildings in cities. Economic support for public building projects was provided by the local wealthy aristocratic class, which maintained close links with the imperial power.[12] 

Galatia was primarily a rural province with a few cities. Cities were small and separated by vast areas of countryside. Roman roads passed through these vast areas connecting the cities. The importance given by Rome to urban wealthy aristocracy would indicate that countryside was neglected.[13] For Rome believed that the internal peace and security of provinces was based on maintenance of the status quo, not social change. As Anthony Macro comments,

Whatever the immediate occasion may have been, the collaboration of Rome with the indigenous upper classes was at all events an explicit piece of political calculation. It could relate both to the existence, extension and security of the empire and to the internal situation of the province in question.[14]

Maintenance of peace and security in the provinces was for its own economic benefit where money flowed into Rome through taxes and duties. For the local wealthy aristocracy, the Roman peace guaranteed preservation of the existing order and therefore continuation of their status.[15] The predominance of the local wealthy aristocracy in the province was confirmed by their loyalty to the Roman power. The wealthy controlled life in city, whether in city council, or market square. Position in cities tended to correspond closely to wealth, so long as a man was freeborn.[16] Local powers were increasingly concentrated in the local elite and wealthy. Due to the obvious fact of the aristocratic omnipotence, in the empire popular participation in the government reached its lowest point and the sense of unity tended to diminish.[17] Thus, mutual self-interest between the central power at Rome and the local wealthy aristocracy was the bed-rock of Rome’s rule in the east.[18]

In response to the demonstration of allegiance to his authority, Augustus rewarded cities with autonomy. In several cases cities were “given” freedom to have local administration, and allowed to have their own laws.[19] They could organize a system of taxation on a more systematic basis, and determine the amounts to be collected. However, even “free cities” were required to pay taxes to Rome. Revenues flowed from provinces into the treasury of Rome. Even though free cities were granted autonomy, it was not the freedom which Galatians understood as autonomy and being free from the control of external power. It was the freedom “given” to them by the Roman power for their loyalty and submission. Rome put several restrictions on the freedom of local government. Self-rule was a gift rather than an inalienable right. Even though libertas conveyed the idea of freedom from meddling in city affairs by provincial governors, in practice freedom of any city was dependent on Rome’s favor.[20] Plutarch deplored of liberty peoples have “as great a share as our rulers grant them” (Plutarch, Moralia 824 C). It was true that “under the guise of freedom all things happen at Rome’s pleasure” (Livy 35.31.12 ff). The setting up of AA in the temple of Roma and Augustus, the place of public ritual and community gatherings, was intended to remind the populace of Galatia that their freedom was depended on the acceptance of the imperial system of peace and freedom.


[1] Robert K. Sherk, “Roman Galatia: The Governors from 25 B.C. to A.D. 114,” ANRW, II.7.2, p. 963.

[2] A.H.M. Jones, Augustus (London: Chatto & Windus, 1970), p. 98.

[3] D.H. French, “The Roman Road-System of Asia Minor,” ANRW, II.7.2, p. 700.

[4] Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, p. 201.

[5] Stephen Mitchell, Anatolia: Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor: The Celts in Anatolia and the Impact of Roman Rule, Vol. I (Oxford, NY: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 63.

[6] G.H.R. Horsley, “Two New Milestones from Pisidia,” in Anatolian Studies, XXXIX (1989), p. 80.

[7]David Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor: To the End of the Third Century after Christ, Vol. I: Text (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950), p. 460.

[8] Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, p. 185.

[9] Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, p. 185.

[10] Mitchell, Anatolia, p. 81.

[11] J. Reynolds, Aphrodisias and Rome, 1982, 12 doc. 2.

[12] Jones, Augustus, p. 94.

[13] Stephen Mitchell, “Population and the Land in Roman Galatia,” ANRW, II.7.2, p. 1068.

[14] Anthony D. Macro, “The Cities of Asia Minor under the Roman Imperium,” ANRW, II.7.2, p. 682.

[15] Macro, “The Cities of Asia Minor,” p. 682.

[16] Chester G. Starr, Civilization and the Caesars: The Intellectual Revolution in the Roman Empire (New York: Cornell University Press, 1954), p. 91.

[17] Starr, Civilization and the Caesars, p. 100.

[18] Macro, “The Cities of Asia Minor,” p. 659.

[19] Dawson, Freedom as Liberating Power, p. 76.

[20] Maggie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor, p. 474.

“WE BRING PEACE AND FREEDOM TO THE WORLD”: Caesar Augustus’ “Acts of the Divine Augustus”

October 1, 2009

Part IV

D. Imperial System of Peace and Freedom in the “Acts of the Divine Augustus”

 AA is a dominant story of the Roman imperial power. Understandably the content of the document is highly selective. The document contains things that were consistent with the picture that Augustus wanted to draw and omits things that were inconsistent with that picture. So what is included and excluded in the content of the document would indicate “the way in which the author wished to ‘slant’ his narrative.”[1] AA was not intended as a complete record of Augustus’ reign. It is often as informative in its omissions as in the language of its presentation.

The imperial peace and freedom achieved by Augustus is emphasized in AA. Imperial peace and the notion of freedom are very much synonymous. AA defines peace as the peace secured by victory (AA 13). Military victories achieved peace on land and sea. Peace means not only pacification but also extension of Roman power to other regions. That is why Augustus laid much emphasis in AA on his military achievements that not only brought civil wars to an end, but also extended the Roman power. The connection between peace, freedom and victory is well illustrated by the image on the coin issued to commemorate the victory of Augustus:

In the case of the coin, while the restorer of libertas is celebrated on the obverse, the message of the reverse is more important for Augustus’ purposes. Here Peace appears holding a caduceus in her right hand and standing on a sword. A cista mystica with a snake emerging from it appears to her left and the whole is surrounded by a laurel wreath. With the obverse, then, the emperor may be announcing himself as the restorer of libertas, but on the reverse he suggests how this was done and points to its ramifications. He has achieved his goal through Victoria (laurel wreath) and this has brought peace (pax) and prosperity (caduceus).[2]   

AA 34.1 confirms the restoration of peace. This peace through military victory is connected to the temple of Janus (AA 13). 

 In AA the Roman emperor Augustus primarily addressed the people of Rome and described how the republic was restored through his acts: “I successfully championed the liberty of the republic when it was oppressed by the tyranny of a faction” (AA 1.1).[3] Augustus’ claim that his acts restored the republic implies that his opponents were enemies of the republic. Augustus deliberately avoided mentioning the names of these enemies. This was done not to evoke vengeance among the supporters of these enemies. Otherwise it would lead to a spiral of violence. The emperor portrayed the murderers of Julius Caesar as making “war on the republic” (AA 2). However, Brutus and Cassius considered that they killed Julius Caesar to liberate Rome from a tyrant. In their view, Augustus, being an adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar, was also a threat to the republic. In 42 BCE Brutus and Cassius sought to free Rome from the domination of the triumvirate. Intentionally Augustus did not portray the War of Philippi as an act of revenge against the murderers of his adopted father, Julius Caesar. To avoid a new wave of vengeance and to unite people against Brutus and Cassius, he described this war as a lawful battle against the enemies of the republic. By portraying Brutus and Cassius as the enemies of the republic, Augustus not only prevented violence of “all against all”, but also united the people of Rome against the killers of Julius Caesar. Although Augustus was careful in the dominant story of AA not to characterize his war against Brutus and Cassius as vengeance, his treatment of the dead body of Brutus did not conceal his vengeance. He had the head of Brutus chopped off and sent it to Rome to be thrown at the feet of a statue of Julius Caesar. Augustus’ brutality was well recorded by Suetonius. About Augustus’ treatment of the prisoners of war during the Perusian war, Suetonius wrote:

(Octavian) took vengeance on crowds of prisoners and returned the same answer to all who sued for pardon or tried to explain their presence among the rebels. It was simply: “You must die!” According to some historians, he chose 300 prisoners of equestrian or senatorial rank, and offered them on the Ides of March at the altar of the god Julius, as human sacrifices.

Similarly, the triumvirs, Augustus, Antony and Lepidus, marked down their political enemies as public enemies. In order to liquidate their opponents and amass large sums of money from their confiscated estates to fund their future wars, they followed an official mechanism called proscription, which is not mentioned in AA. This was first employed by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 81 BCE. Everyone, whose name was found in the proscription decree, “automatically forfeited his citizenship and protection from the law.”[4] Informers about proscribed men were rewarded. Anyone who killed a proscribed man was entitled to keep a share of his wealth and the remainder was taken by the state. Describing the resultant violence Appian wrote:

Many people were murdered in all kinds of ways, and decapitated to furnish evidence for the reward. They fled in undignified fashion and abandoned their former conspicuous dress for strange disguises. Some went down wells, some descended into the filth of the sewers, and others climbed up into smoky rafters or sat in total silence under close-packed roofs. To some, just as terrifying as the executioners were wives or children with whom they were not in good terms, or ex-slaves and slaves, or creditors, or neighboring landowners who coveted their estates.       

Thus, the proscription brought a widespread cruelty. About three hundred senators, including Cicero, and about two thousand equestrians were killed. Both the proscription and the War of Philippi largely liquidated the republican opposition in Italy. Even though Augustus in AA claimed that his acts had restored the liberty of the republic, the proscription and the War of Philippi suggest that it was not his intension. Everitt comments:

(H)is (Augustus) lies and killings were always for a carefully planned purpose. He had learned his politics from Caesar, and from the outset he aimed to reestablish an autocracy, not only out of personal ambition but also from a conviction that the Republic was incompetent and needed to be replaced.[5]

The characterization of Augustus’ personal enemies as the Roman public enemies continued also in the case of Sextus Pompey. Although Augustus’ claim in AA 25.1 that he “made the sea peaceful and freed it of pirates” should not be restricted to his victory over Sextus Pompey in 36 BCE, there is an allusion to this. From the maritime vantage point, Sextus, being in Sicily, controlled the grain supply to Rome from Egypt, Africa, and Sicily. This resulted in endemic famine in Rome. By depicting Sextus as a pirate, Augustus was portraying him as an enemy of the Roman people and their welfare. This was mere propaganda of Augustus as Sextus enjoyed the support of many eminent republicans.[6] Moreover, Sextus provided shelter to proscribed men and escaped slaves from all over Italy. As Appian reported, “His small boats and merchant vessels met any who came by sea; his warships patrolled the shores, made signals to help the lost, and picked up anyone they encountered. He came in person to meet the new arrivals.” What is not mentioned in AA is that Sextus was a power contender. By depicting him as the public enemy, Augustus not only averted a spiral of violence due to vengeance, but also united the public against Sextus. The Senate celebrated Augustus’ victory over Sextus Pompey with a monument. Appian wrote, “(T)he inscription would say that he has restored the peace on land and sea which had for so long been rent with discord” (Appian 5.130).

Augustus’ efforts to bring peace through military victory continued with his war against his arch rival and power contender, Antony. By portraying his rival “a faction” that had “oppressed” the republic, Augustus made Antony an enemy of the republic (AA 2.1), and himself a savior of the republic. His boasting about the voluntary allegiance of the “whole of Italy” and their “demand” to be their leader in the War of Actium (AA 26.2) conceals his evil designs. Augustus arose suspicion towards Antony by drawing public attention to some of the acts of Antony that the latter was “going native”.

After his victory over Armenia in 34 BCE, Antony celebrated it in Egypt like a triumphal procession. Riding on a chariot preceded by Armenian prisoners of war, he made his way to central square where Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, was waiting for him. This was used by Augustus against Antony. It was offensive for a Roman general to arrange triumphal celebration outside of Rome. Moreover, during the same time Antony issued a coin, on one side his bare head and behind it the royal tiara of Armenia, with a message “Antony, after the conquest of Armenia”, and on the other the head of Cleopatra, diademed and with jewels in her hair, and an inscription “To, Cleopatra, queen of kings and of her sons who are kings.” When he divorced Octavia in 32 BCE, Roman public viewed it that he had not only behaved cruelly towards his loving wife, but also done this in favor of a foreign woman, Cleopatra. The last nail to Antony’s public image was Augustus’ reading of Antony’s will, which was lodged with the Vestal Virgins, to the Senate. Augustus mainly drew attention of the Senate to his opponent’s wish to be buried in Alexandria, legacies he left for his children by Cleopatra and reasserting that Caesarion (officially Ptolemy XV Caesar) was Julius Caesar’s child through Cleopatra. All these evidences added up to the Roman public suspicion that “Antony was going native”. The portrayal of Antony as the Roman state and public enemy was also carried out by the pro-Augustus writers such as Virgil:

On one side Caesar Augustus leading the Italians to battle, with senate and people, the gods of household and state…on the other Antony with his barbarian wealth and motley panoply, victorious from the peoples of the dawn and the shore of the Red sea, brings with him Egypt and the might of the East and the remote Bactrians; in his train, a sinful sight, his Egyptian paramour (Aenoid VIII, 678ff).

Deliberately Augustus and his supporters identified Antony with Egypt and so, an enemy of Rome and its gods: “Italy versus the Orient with its luxuria, against Egypt with its animal-headed gods and its decadence.”[7] By doing this, the War of Actium was portrayed as a war against Egypt. Blaming Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, Horace wrote:

Plotting destruction to our Capitol, and ruin to the Empire with her squalid pack of diseased half-men-mad, wishful grandeur, tipsy with sweet good luck! But all her fleet burnt, scarcely one ship saved – that tamed her rage; and Caesar, when his galleys chased her from Italy, soon brought her, dreaming and drugged with native wine, back to the hard realities of fear.  

However, this was a false propaganda by the pro-Augustus poet. Cleopatra was not plotting destruction of Rome or Roman empire; all her fleet was not burnt; she was not chased from Italy; and she was not drunk. The false propaganda by Augustus and his supporters was done not only to avoid evoking vengeance among Antony’s supporters, which would lead to a cycle of violence, but also to unite Roman people for the War of Actium. Therefore, Augustus’ victory in the War was a victory against the “Eastern barbarians”. However, Augustus could not conceal his vengeance against his enemy. He made Antony’s name removed from the Fasti, the state registers of official events. This was done to erase Antony’s memory.

It was the mimetic rivalry between Augustus and Antony that resulted in the former’s murderous violence against the latter. They imitated each other’s desire for power and became murderously competitive. The social cohesion became pitifully unstable. It was a war of “all against all”. Spontaneously the antidote did appear. Antony was marked as a scapegoat victim on whom the violence of all was focused. Thus, the war of “all against all” became the war of “all against one”. Augustus drew the Senate and people into his mimetic rivalry against his enemy. The crucial thing is that the blood of Antony and other victims was mute. Their voice had been silenced.

Augustus celebrated his triumph over Egypt in 29 BCE (AA 4.1). Roman triumphal celebration was a public display of Roman victory over its enemy. Before the victorious general crossed the pomerium – the sacred boundary that defined the city of Rome as a sacred space – trumpeters sounded “a fearsome call to battle.”[8] After the oxen destined for sacrifice were paraded, prisoners of war followed. In the Augustus triumphal procession the spoils of Egypt, an effigy of the dead Cleopatra lying on a couch, and her surviving children, Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene and Ptolemy Philadelphus were displayed. Usually the victorious general followed the holders of offices of state and the Senate. However, on this occasion, in a clear demonstration of his political predominance, Augustus went first on a chariot drawn by four horses, wearing a gold embroidered toga, a flowered tunic and on his head a laurel wreath signifying victory. The procession concluded at the base of the Capitoline. The prisoners of war were led to be executed, while the triumphator ascended the hill.

The celebration of triumph contained “acts of external military violence within the form of civic and religious ritual….”[9] In a way triumphal procession through the city streets allowed the Roman public to partake mimetically not only in the military violence (with the trumpeters call for battle), but also in the victory over enemy, thus in bringing peace. The execution of prisoners of war at the base of the Capitoline signified killing of enemy soldiers on the battlefield as sacrificial victims. The primary focus of the triumphal celebration was the victory over public enemy(s). It was through military victory that Augustus claimed to have brought peace not only in Rome, but also throughout the empire. Romans believed that peace could be achieved through war and victory.

Victory is nothing but a decisive act of violence. As Girard says, “Desire…is attracted to violence triumphant and strives desperately to incarnate this “irresistible” force. Desire clings to violence and stalks it like a shadow because violence is the signifier of cherished being, the signifier of divinity.”[10] People pursue victory as an absolute, a kind of divinity. Then, war becomes a contest between two opposing power contenders or two nations for the prize of divinity. Victory as a decisive act of violence gives the victor a “semidivine prestige”, or “mystical election attained by military victory”.[11] God, through superior violence, becomes a personification of victory. Since god is a personification of victory, victory signifies God’s presence with the victor. Romans believed that military victory resulted due to special relationship between gods, and emperor and the nation: “You rule, Roman, because you hold yourself inferior to the gods; from them all things begin; to them ascribe every outcome” (Horace, Carm. 3.6.5-6; Sallust, Cat. 12.4-5; Livy, 5.51-52). In the triumphal procession the face of victorious general was painted red, more like a divinity (at least momentarily) than a Roman citizen or a soldier.[12] Victorious general was displayed as a caricature of extraordinary power and might. Thus, he was superior “Other”. As Stroup notes, “the triumphator functions as a kind of divinely mandated human receptacle for the divinely mandated martial force of Rome.”[13]

Augustus’ divinely mandated task of bringing imperial peace continued even after bringing the civil wars to an end. He embarked on a program of world conquest. There were campaigns in Gaul during 27-25 BCE, in Syria 27-19 BCE, and in Germany 12-6 BCE (AA 26.2). Pacification of the Alpine tribes was achieved in a series of campaigns from 35 to 7/6 BCE (AA 26.3). The imperial peace that Augustus brought in the Alps was subjugation of the Alpine tribes (AA 26.1). A monument that was set up to Augustus in commemoration of the Alpine victory read: “Because under his leadership and auspices all the Alpine tribes from the upper to the lower sea had been brought under the rule of the Roman people.”[14] Augustus claimed that he did not wage “an unjust war on any people” (AA 26.3). This claim finds support in Suetonius: “He (Augustus) made no war on any people without just and necessary reasons” (Augustus 21). However, Brunt and Moore comment, “That had always been the Roman way by their own account, but they made themselves judges in their own cause.”[15] Most people of Salassi, an Alpine tribe, were sold into slavery after being subjugated by Augustus (Dio, LIII, 25,4). When Alpine people levied tolls on travelers over the pass they controlled, Romans called this brigandage (Strabo IV, 205). After subjugating the Alpine tribes, Romans collected tolls from the travelers in the Alpine passes!!!

Also, in AA 26.5 Augustus mentioned his expedition to Ethiopia in 24-22 BCE and Arabia in 25-24 BCE. He described these people as enemies. The reason for such depiction was because they were not under the control of the Roman government. There was also an economic dimension to Augustus’ expedition to Arabia. It was noted, “Augustus desired to lay hands himself on the large revenues accruing from the heavy tolls charged by the Sabaeans on the spice trade, or to reduce the heavy loss of gold and silver which the trade entailed for the empire” (Pliny, Natural History VI, 162; XII, 84; Strabo, XVI, 780). Also Augustus made Egypt into a Roman province (Velleius, II, 39). However, it was administered as “a private appanage of the emperor.” Senators were not allowed to enter Egypt without Augustus’ consent. The reason for this prohibition is not clear. However, Brunt and Moore conjecture:

It seems possible that the main reason why Augustus excluded from Egypt all senators, the class in whom the Republican tradition was most alive, was the fact that in Egypt he had to rule in the ancient style, with the attributes of the Hellenistic dynasty of the Ptolemies, or of the Pharaohs.[16]

Augustus blamed Antony for “going native”, and thus portrayed him as an enemy of Rome.[17] Augustus’ own position now was much the same, for he was regarded by Egyptians as Pharaoh.

Augustus also boasted about how he controlled the political affairs in Armenia. By making it a client kingdom, he ruled it by installing kings loyal to Rome (AA 27.2). Colonies were established not only for settlement of the Roman veterans, but also for pacification of the turbulent areas. For Romans subjugating Parthians was regarded as one of the prerequisites for the beginning of the Golden Age of peace. Because without the restoration of standards and eagles, and prisoners that were lost by Crassus to the Parthians in 53 BCE “the restoration of the state itself would be incomplete. A passage was even found in the Sibylline Books, hinting that the Golden Age would dawn only after the conquest of the Parthian.”[18] As a result of the diplomatic settlement in 20 BCE between Augustus and Phraates, the Parthian king, the latter returned the standards. Later the Parthian king sent a few of his wives and children to Rome as hostages, thus recognizing Rome’s supremacy (AA 29.2, 32.1-2). In AA Augustus referred Parthians as “suppliants”, which means “vassals”. As an acknowledgment of Parthians’ subjugation by Augustus, the Senate erected an arch with three portals and the triumphal chariot of the victor (Dio 54.8). On the arch were depicted the defeated Parthians, either as retreating archers or handing over the signa to victor. Large issues of denarii had a kneeling Parthian handing over the standards. Horace described Phraates “on his knees accepting the right and rule of Caesar” (Epodes 1.12.27). This image of kneeling Parthian was so popular that Romans even wore this image on their rings. This image had shaped the Roman view of the subjects and their relationship to the subject peoples. Thus, the celebration of Augustus’ victory over Parthians expressed not only the dawning of the Golden Age of peace, but also Augustus as the guarantor of the world order of peace. Augustus claimed this in the introduction of the Ancyra copy of the AA that through his military acts he “subjected the earth to the rule of the Roman people.” That means, the subjection of the world under Rome through divinely sanctioned violence was disguised as the existence of peace, and the dawning of the Golden Age of peace.

The inauguration of the Golden Age of peace secured through sacred violence was represented by the closure of the gates of the Janus temple and the Secular Games (AA 13, 22.2). Augustus boasted that his military victories “had secured peace by land and sea throughout the whole empire of the Roman people” (AA 13). Mention of his victories over land and sea was intended to emphasize the establishment of imperial peace in distant regions. The gates of the Janus temple had been closed only twice in the history of Rome before the birth of Augustus. However, they were closed three times during Augustus’s rule. They were closed for the first time in January 29 BCE, after Augustus had defeated Mark Antony, and thus bringing an end to the civil wars. The temple gates were closed for the second time in the autumn of 25 BCE, when the Spanish Cantabrians were subdued. However, it is uncertain when they were closed for the third time. By connecting his victories over the enemies of the Roman peace to the religious significance of the gates of the Janus temple, Augustus was claiming divine legitimacy to his violence. Bringing peace in the empire was a divinely sanctioned duty. It was his victories over the enemies of Rome through divinely sanctioned military violence that established peace. When Augustus boasted that the gates of Janus temple had been closed more times under his rule than during all recorded history of Rome, he was claiming himself to be the most successful divine agent, through whom the Golden Age of peace had dawned.

Augustus’ special status in relation to gods was recognized by the Senate through conferring on him the title “Augustus”. The title “Augustus” had a broad range of meanings, including “stately”, “dignified” and “holy”. It could also recall augur, the priest who interpreted omens. As an honorific title, “it surrounded him with a special aura, “as if the name alone had already conferred divinity upon him” (Florus 2.34.66).”[19] Suetonius confirmed this meaning of the title “Augustus”:

Afterwards (Octavian) took the names Gaius Caesar and then Augustus, the one by the will of his great-uncle, the other on the motion of Munatius Plancus. For when some had proposed that he should be called Romulus, as if he were a second founder of the city, Plancus carried the proposal that he should instead be called Augustus, not only because the name was new, but also because it was more impressive, insofar as places-whether sacred (religiosa) in their own right or consecrated by augury-are called ‘august’ (Suetonius, Augustus 7.2).

Explaining to the Greeks the significance of the title “Augustus” Cassius Dio wrote:

When he had completed these matters of detail, the name Augustus was awarded to him by the Senate and the people. They desired to address him in a fashion both unique and appropriate-some proposed one name, and others chose another-while Caesar desired strongly to be called Romulus. When he saw that because of this he was suspected of desiring the kingship, he ceased to claim it and called himself Augustus instead, as if he were something more than human. For everything that is greatly honored and sacred is termed “august”. Because of this, speakers of Greek address him sebastoi, meaning someone worthy of veneration, from the word sebazesqai (to venerate, worship) (Dio 53. 16.6-8).        

In conferring the title “Augustus” to the emperor, the Senate acknowledged his unique stature and relationship to gods. The evidence for this was Roman victories under his rule that dawned the Golden Age of peace.

The inauguration of the Golden Age of peace by Augustus was celebrated by conducting the Secular Games in 17 BCE. The celebration of the Secular Games was a sacred ceremony. It brought citizens together to commemorate the dawning of the Golden Age of peace. This age was marked out by Augustus. Two inscriptions give evidence to it. According to the calendrical inscription of Priene dated 9 BCE, near the provincial capital Ephesus, Augustus was celebrated as the ruler given by providence, “who has brought war to an end and has ordained peace…(thus) for the world, the birthday of the god (i.e. Augustus) means the beginning of the tidings of peace” (OGIS 458). The inscription from Halicarnassus in Asia Minor testified that Augustus was celebrated as the savior of the whole human race. The reason was, “Land and sea have peace, the cities flourish under a good legal system, in harmony and with an abundance of food, there is an abundance of all good things, people are filled with happy hopes for the future and with delight at the present….”[20]

Intellectual rationalization and propaganda for the Golden Age of peace established by Augustus was provided by pro-Augustus writers like Virgil and Horace. Virgil probably supported the emperor for financial security and from political conviction.[21] Virgil wrote:

This, this is he whom so often you hear promised to you, Augustus Caesar, son of god, who shall again set up the golden age in Latium amid the fields where Saturn once reigned, and shall spread his empire past Garament and Indian, to a land that lay beyond the stars (Virgil, Aeneid VI, 791-795, cf. Eclogue IV, 4-10).

So also the central message of the hymn, written by Horace and sung by twenty-seven boys and twenty-seven girls, confirmed the establishment of peace and prosperity: “Now faith and peace and honor and old-fashioned conscience and unremembered virtue to walk again, and with them blessed plenty pouring her brimming horn.” The Golden age of peace connotes an order based on the Roman understanding of peace in terms of pacification and subjugation. This had provided a context to use military violence as sacred violence against those perceived to be a threat to this imperial order, and to subjugate those regions that were not under the control of Rome. Therefore, the Golden Age of peace was maintained through war, victory and dominance.

The Golden Age of peace was so bound up with Augustus that he continued to be the protector and enforcer of the Roman imperial order of peace. The inclusion of Augustus’ name in the hymn of the Salii indicated that the security of the imperial order of peace was bound up with Augustus (AA 10.1). This hymn was an incantation accompanied by dance. Through this the Salii served not only to start but to conclude the summer war campaign religiously. Thus, this religious ceremony assured the security of the imperial order of peace. The inclusion of Augustus’ name in the hymn of the Salii gave him divine authorization to protect and enforce the Roman imperial order of peace.

 There were divergent views about Augustus being the restorer of republic and peace. Velleius declared:

In the twentieth year civil wars were brought to an end, foreign wars were buried, peace recalled; the frenzy of arms was everywhere lulled to sleep, the laws recovered their vigor, the courts their authority, the senate its majesty, the imperium of the magistrates was restored to its ancient extent,…the pristine form of the republic was recalled as of old. (II, 89).

However, Dio called this the beginning of the autocracy (LII, 1, 1; LIII, 11, 4), and Tacitus the beginning of monarchy. Although Augustus handed over the legal power and authority to the Senate and the people, in reality he did not hand over any real power. Augustus also admitted this: “After this time, I exceeded everybody in authority” (AA 34.3). He held back his command over most of Rome’s armies, which were in his provinces, Syria, Spain, Cyprus, Cilicia and Gaul. Augustus assumed tribunicia potestas in perpetuity. With this he would enjoy the power of tribune without actually having to hold the post. Tribunes attended the Senate meetings and presented laws for approval by people. They could also veto any officeholder’s decisions, including those of other tribunes. Augustus was also given “a general and overriding proconsular authority (imperium maius, “greater power”), the right to intervene anywhere in the empire at and when he chose.”[22] Thus, he accumulated more power to himself. Though Augustus insisted that power and honor were bestowed upon him by people and the Senate, and was unwilling to accept unrepublican honors and powers, he never mentioned in AA that there was no precedent for any man holding so many powers and positions at the same time.[23] This is an example of clever propaganda. Ronald Syme in his book The Roman Revolution[24] exposed the real workings of the autocratic power behind the empty façade of republican government. Augustus was pater patriae (“father of his country”). In the imperial art the Roman provinces were depicted as women.[25] That means, not only the people of Rome, but also the subjects were expected to be submissive to the pater patriae in order to maintain the Golden Age of peace.


[1] Brunt and Moore, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, p. 3.

[2] Ramage, The Nature and Purpose, p. 71.

[3] Brunt and Moore, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, p. 19.

[4] Anthony Everitt, Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor (New York: Random House, 2006), p. 80.


[5] Everitt, Augustus, p. 95.

[6] Brunt and Moore, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, p. 66.

[7] Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, tr. by Alan Shapiro (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1990), pp. 52-53.

[8] Sarah Culpepper Stroup, “Making Memory: Ritual, Rhetoric, and Violence in the Roman Triumph,” in Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence across Time and Tradition, ed. by James K. Wellman (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), p. 30.

[9] Stroup, “Making Memory,” p. 31.

[10] Girard, Violence and the Sacred, p. 151.

[11] Girard, Violence and the Sacred, p. 152.

[12] Stroup, “Making Memory,” p. 30.

[13] Stroup, “Making Memory,” p. 37.

[14] V. Ehrenberg and A.H.M. Jones, Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 40.

[15] Brunt and Moore, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, p. 71.

[16] Brunt and Moore, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, p. 72.

[17] Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 273ff. 

[18] Zanker, The Power of Images, p. 186.

[19] Zanker, The Power of Images, p. 98.

[20] The Collection of Ancient Greek Inscriptions in the British Museum IV, ed. by G. Herschfeld (London: 1893), no. 894.

[21] Everitt, Augustus, p. 115.

[22] Everitt, Augustus, p. 218.

[23] Brunt and Moore, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, p. 5.

[24] Syme, The Roman Revolution.

[25] John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, In Search of Paul: How Jesus’ Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom: A New Vision of Paul’s Words & World (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004), p. 268.

“WE BRING PEACE AND FREEDOM TO THE WORLD”: Caesar Augustus’ “Acts of the Divine Augustus”

October 1, 2009

Part III

C. Religious Legitimation to the Imperial System of Peace and Freedom

Dumezil says, “(R)eligion is always and everywhere an actual and active thing; its rites are celebrated daily or annually, its concepts and its gods intervene in the routine of peaceful times as well as in the fever of times of crisis.”[1] Religion played an important role in the life of the Roman society. In times of crises Roman gods had always guided her to victory over her enemies. Victory was conceived as an expression of good relations between the republic and its gods. Victory is nothing but a decisive act of violence. Victory embraces superior violence. Through superior violence God bestows victory. In other words, military victory was regarded as a direct manifestation of the divine. So, the actual conduct of warfare was set within a religious context. War was always preceded by consultation of gods and sacrifices. The fetial priests were concerned with rituals that marked the declaration of wars and the making of treaties. The performance of these rituals was intended to ensure that the war had divine sanction. At the beginning and the conclusion of the season for warfare two feasts were celebrated: Quinquatrus on March 19 and Armilustrium on October 19. By their arms and dances the Salii[2] served not only to start but to conclude the summer campaign religiously. Thus, they assure, like the opening and closing of the gates of Janus temple, a transition either from war to peace, or peace to war.

 Janus, the Roman god, was connected to war and peace. Modern scholars do not really understand the cult of Janus. During the reign of Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE) Romans started to connect things with the cult of Janus. Unfortunately, there are hardly any texts on this cult preceding this period. This makes it impossible to reconstruct the original cult. It is interesting to know that Janus did not have a counterpart in Greek mythology.[3]

Janus was one of the oldest Roman gods. He was the god of doorways, gates, and beginnings and endings. January was named for him. Agonalia festival was celebrated in January when the Rex Sacrorum[4] would sacrifice a ram to Janus. As beginner of all things and all acts he would be offered to first in a ritual. As Cicero wrote, “In all matters, beginnings and ends are the vital features. This is why they cite Janus first in the sacrifices” (Nat Deor. II 67). Janus said to Ovid that He was recited first in all prayers so that “through Me, the Doorkeeper, you may attain access to whatever Gods you please” (Fasti I.173-4). He was often portrayed with two faces, one looking forward and the other backward. Ovid explained Janus’ biform that he was Guardian of every household’s front doorway, with one face directed outward that “views the people”, and one face that looked inward towards the Lar Familiaris of the family’s shrine. There was a festival on August 17 where people offered keys to the fire of Janus to bless their homes.

According to tradition, Numa (c 715-673 BCE) was the founder of the original temple of Janus to serve as an indicator of war and peace. The most important shrine of Janus in Rome was the Temple of Janus Geminus, a double-gated structure (one door facing the rising sun and the other the setting sun) found on the Forum Romanum through which the Roman legionaries marched off to battle. According to Virgil, the consul opened the gates of the Janus temple when the Senate decided for war:

When the senators have irrevocably decided for battle, the consul himself, a figure conspicuous in Quirine toga of State and Gabine cincture, unbolts these gates, and their hinge-posts groan; it is he who calls the fighting forth, then the rest of their manhood follows, and the bronze horns, in hoarse assent, add their breath. (7.613-615).

Janus temple served a symbolic function. When the gates of the temple were closed, it represented peace within the Roman Empire. When the gates were open, it meant that Rome was at war. Plutarch in Life of King Numa 20. 1-2 wrote:  

Janus also has a temple at Rome with double doors, which they call the gates of war; for the temple always stands open in time of war, but are closed when peace has come. The latter was a difficult matter, and it rarely happened, since the realm was always engaged in some war, as its increasing size brought it into collision with the barbarous nations which encompassed it round about. 

Augustus confirmed the symbolic significance of the doors of the Janus temple in AA: “It was the will of our ancestors that the gateway of Janus Quirinus should be shut when victories had secured peace by land and sea throughout the whole empire of the Roman people.”[5] Explaining the meaning of the closing of the doors, Virgil notes that the temple doors were closed to keep war and violence in: “The terrible iron-constricted Gates of War shall shut; and safe within them shall stay the godless and ghastly Lust of Blood, propped on his pitiless piled armory, and still roaring from gory mouth, but held fast by a hundred chains of bronze knotted behind his back” (Aeneid, 1.293-296). Ovid agreed with Virgil’s explanation that Janus was responsible for confining the wars (Fasti, 123-124) and for letting peace into the world (Ovid, Fasti, I.121-122). However, Virgil’s contemporary and colleague Horace stated exactly the opposite. For him, peace was kept inside the temple of Janus (Horace, Epist. 2.1.255). However, the explanations of Virgil and Ovid, and Horace about the significance of the gates of the Janus temple were not contradictory. The imagery was consistent with the significance surrounding the temple of Janus.

Janus was characterized by the blending of maleficent and beneficent. This Roman god was involved in the Roman imperial wars. He turned his face alternately warlike and peaceful. If Janus turned his countenance “to symbolize foreign war, that is because foreign war is merely another form of sacrificial violence.”[6] Violence against the cause of disorder in the empire received divine sanction and legitimation. The imperial peace came about when the cause of disorder was exterminated from the empire. Janus suggested that his doors were open in times of war so that the Roman soldiers, who set out to war, might be able to return (Ovid, Fasti, I.279-282). That means, Janus temple was the sacred precincts from which the Roman army set out to war against the challenge to the imperial system of peace and freedom, and to which the army returned after either subjugating or liquidating the cause of disorder. Thus, imperial violence against the enemy of the system of peace and freedom got divine sanction and legitimacy. Imperial war was sacred violence. Livy 1.19.2 specifically connected the closing of Janus with the pacification of Rome’s neighbors. In AA 2.13 Augustus made the connection between “peace through victory” and the closing of the gates of the temple of Janus. Stefan Weinstock and Erich Gruen have shown that for the Romans, “peace” really meant pacification: the successful outcome of war against enemies.[7] By setting out from the sacred precincts of the temple of Janus, imperial war got divine legitimation. Thus, violence was at the heart of the Roman god Janus. The sacred violence generated unanimity against the enemy, the sacrificial victim. The sacrifice of the enemy accompanied its desired effect, that is, “bad violence” of disorder was expelled from the empire through “good” sacrificial violence. As a result, peace was restored. Successful sacrifice proved victimizer’s innocence and demonstrated his obedience to the divine will. Victimizer was a representative of collective will and fulfilling the divine will in eliminating evil. Therefore, for this sacrificial process to be effective it must be accomplished in the service of a transcendent cause and capable of being repeated. The divine sanction and legitimation for the imperial war provided a shield for the ill effects of the imperial violence against the enemy. 

Collective will in the sacred violence of war was expressed by the ritual of the triumphal ceremony. In this the victorious general was paraded through the streets of the city at the head of his troops presenting his spoils and enemy prisoners to the cheering Roman public. Splendidly dressed and riding in a chariot drawn by four horses, the general entered the city through a special gateway, the Triumphal Gate. He was dressed in red and his face was painted red, like the statue of Jupiter. In a sense the triumphal general was deified for a day. However, at the sacrifice of oxen, with which the procession ended, it was the general who offered sacrifice and Jupiter who received the sacrifice. Prisoners of war were paraded through the streets in the presence of the entire populace and then led to the base of Capitoline to be killed as “sacrificial victims”. This celebration of Triumph was a sacrificial ceremony, a metonymy of war and victory, where the entire populace participated mimetically in the killing of sacrificial victims.


[1]Georges Dumezil, Archaic Roman Religion, Vol. I, tr. by Philip Krapp (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970), p. 13.

[2] Salii were a college of twelve priests of Mars.

[3]Ovid, Fasti, tr. by James George Frazer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1951), I. 89-90.

[4] The Latin term Rex Sacrorum means “king of sacred things”. He discharged the religious duties on behalf of the Roman king.

[5] Brunt and Moore, Res Gestae Divi Augusti.

[6] Girard, Violence and the Sacred, p. 251.

[7] Stefan Weinstock, “Pax and the ‘Ara Pacis’,” in JRS 50 (1960), pp. 44-50; Livy 1.19.2 specifically connects the closing of Janus with the pacification of Rome’s neighbors. Augustus makes the connection between peace and victory explicit in “Acts of Divine Augustus” 2.13 where he talks about the closing of the gates of the Janus temple.

“WE BRING PEACE AND FREEDOM TO THE WORLD”: Caesar Augustus’ “Acts of the Divine Augustus”

October 1, 2009

Part II

B. Sacred Violence and Imperial Wars

The root of all conflicts is acquisitive mimetic desire. Acquisitive mimetic desire is the desire to imitate the very thing desired or possessed by the other. Mimetic and acquisitive desire inexorably leads to mimetic rivalry, which contests for recognition and status. Mimetic rivalry, sooner or later, results in mimetic violence. Mimetic violence poses a threat to the community through contagion. In this “mimetic crisis”, when a society is wobbling on the brink of destroying itself, mimetic contagion suddenly focuses on one person (or a group of people), accusing him (or them) of being responsible for the violence and social chaos. This person (or group) becomes the scapegoat, on whom the mimetic and contagious violence of each one is focused. Thus, the war of “all against all” is replaced by the war of “all against one”. This “responsible” person (or group) is then killed through spontaneous “mob” violence, which results in a mysterious peace in the community. The purpose of “scapegoating” this “responsible” person (or group) is to restore communal harmony and to reinforce the social fabric. Scapegoating channels and expels violence so that communal life and the existing social order may continue. This pattern is the foundation of what Rene Girard calls the “scapegoat mechanism”.[1]

Therefore, mimetic crisis generates scapegoat mechanism. The power of this mechanism lies in its deception and concealment. To stabilize a society through collective violence, it is essential that the “lynching” of the scapegoat victim must not be seen for what it is. There must be a total concealment of what actually happened. Myth recounts the mimetic crisis and its resolution in ways that systematically disguises the violence of the “lynching mob” and portrays the scapegoated victim as the cause of violence and social disorder.

Mimetic and acquisitive desire for power underlies the Roman civil wars. This desire among power contenders led to mimetic rivalry that ultimately resulted in murderous violence. People and subjects were drawn into this mimetic rivalry, which led to a spiral of violence and civil wars. Civil war does not descend immediately into mindless slaughter. It begins, continues and ends as mindless slaughter. That means, it is entirely driven by murderous mimetic desire.

Imperial wars were also driven by a desire for accumulation of power, land and wealth. Their objective was not restoration of freedom and republic. Because the insatiable demand of imperial system did not tolerate freedom of peoples and resistance to the imperial system of peace and freedom. Moreover, imperial violence was sacred violence because it claimed to have divine sanction and legitimacy. By divine sanction and legitimacy the emperor utilized sacred violence to “cleanse” the empire of evil that threatened the imperial system of peace and freedom. Augustus’ war against enemies of peace and freedom was attributed to the two-face Roman god Janus. Thus, the emperor directed the readers’ attention to the divine origins of his onslaught. Whenever there was a challenge to the existing imperial system of peace and freedom, the doors of the temple of Janus were opened. Opening the doors of the temple of Janus indicated the sacrificial crisis, which in turn generated the scapegoat mechanism. There was an unleashing of sacred violence against the enemy of imperial peace and freedom. Thus, imperial military violence against enemies was sacred violence that would restore imperial peace and freedom. The act of war was to be repeated whenever there was a threat to the imperial system of peace and freedom.  

Since military violence was sacrificial violence, enemy of the imperial system of peace and freedom was to be marked as a sacrificial victim in order to unify people for the sacrificial violence. Otherwise, there is a danger that “the act of vengeance will initiate a chain reaction whose consequences will quickly prove fatal to any society….”[2] Since vengeance is “an interminable, infinitely repetitive process…it threatens to involve the whole social body.”[3] One can see its devastating effect in the Roman civil wars. Therefore, proper function of the sacrificial process requires complete separation of the sacrificial victim(s) from the community. As the gulf between the victim and the community increases, the victim will not be able to draw violent reprisal, the repetition of mimetic violence. This is the reason why Augustus did not portray the extermination of the killers of Julius Caesar as an act of vengeance. He, rather, portrayed them as enemies of the republic, thus breaking any social link between these enemies and the society. Their status as enemies of the society would not only unite people against them, but also prevent any future reprisals. Thus, these sacrificial victims were invariably distinguishable from the community by this one essential characteristic. Between these victims and the community “a crucial social link is missing, so they can be exposed to violence without any fear of reprisal. Their death does not entail an act of vengeance.”[4] This would avert the danger of escalation of violence through revenge. The violence that eliminated the enemies of the republic was a “good” violence of “all against one” that glued the society together. Thus, the violence against the enemies of the republic restored peace and freedom in the society. A myth or a dominant story arose on what had happened, obscuring the violence of the “lynching mob” and blaming the sacrificial victims.

Therefore, violence and lies are twin allies. When mimetic contagion takes over, all awareness of truth is lost. The collective violence of “all against one” requires avoidance of truth. Any act or even any thought of making a victim of another casts a veil over the truth. The cries for vengeance against his adopted father’s enemies show that Augustus was caught in the encompassing violence that required victims. However, Augustus concealed his act of violence against his political rivals from any resemblance to vengeance. The fact that the victims of Augustus were portrayed as disturbers of peace, and so against god, was crucial element in their suitability for violent death. Girard says:

The sacrificial process requires a certain degree of misunderstanding. The celebrants do not and must not comprehend the true nature of the sacrificial act. The theological basis of the sacrifice has a crucial role in fostering this misunderstanding. It is the god who supposedly demands the victims; he alone, in principle, who savors the smoke from the altars and requisitions the slaughtered flesh.[5]

In a way Augustus’ violence assumed transcendental character as it was portrayed as “holy, legal, and legitimate” that successfully opposed to a violence that is “unjust, illegal, and illegitimate” and brought peace and freedom into the society.  


[1] Rene Girard, The Scapegoat (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1986).


[2] Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred, tr. by Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1972), pp. 14-15.

[3] Girard, Violence and the Sacred, p. 15.


[4] Girard, Violence and the Sacred, p. 13.

[5] Girard, Violence and the Sacred, p. 7.

“WE BRING PEACE AND FREEDOM TO THE WORLD”: Caesar Augustus’ “Acts of the Divine Augustus”

October 1, 2009

Part I 

The myth of redemptive violence lies at the root of the imperial system of peace and freedom. Imperial peace and freedom is established by means of violence. Creation of a peaceful and free empire is a violent victory over enemies and subjugation of their lands. Enemy, here, is one who is either a power contender or one who resists the imperial power and authority. By vanquishing enemies through violence and war, the victor fashions an empire of peace and freedom. Imperial peace and freedom is violent suppression and subjugation, and even liquidation of enemy. That means, the very origin and foundation of imperial order is violence. It is violence that not only originates but also perpetuates imperial order. The imperial system continues to promote violence against those perceived to be the cause of disorder in order to protect the imperial system of peace and freedom.

The imperial system of peace and freedom established by the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus[1] is delineated in his document written in Latin, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, which is translated as the “Acts of the Divine Augustus”. Edwin Ramage comments:

“Res Gestae is the single most important historical document of the Augustan period and one of the most important of the empire, since it comes from the hand of Augustus himself and deals with activities and policies that were from the first an integral part of the imperial system. The Romans also recognized its significance, for after Augustus’ death they followed his wishes and set it up outside his tomb in Rome and even put both Latin and Greek versions of it on display in the Greek world.”[2] 

A. Historical Evidence of the “Acts of the Divine Augustus”

 1. Archeological Evidence

Archeological discoveries have unearthed copies of the text of the “Acts of the Divine Augustus” (AA) in Latin and Greek versions. Strangely enough, the three copies of AA come from cities which fall within the sphere of the Galatian koinon.[3] The first copy was found on the walls of a mosque at Ancyra (now Ankara, capital of Turkey) and made known to the world by a Dutch scholar Buysbecche in 1555. This inscription of AA, written both in Latin and in Greek, is now called “Manumentum Ancyranum”.[4] Thoedor Mommsen calls it the “queen of inscriptions”. Epigraphical evidence confirms that the site, where the copy of AA was found, was once a temple of Roma and Augustus.[5] The Latin text was inscribed in six columns on the inner walls of the vestibule of the temple and the Greek text in nineteen columns on the outer wall.[6] The Greek text was not a direct translation of the Latin text, but “a fairly close paraphrase”.[7]

The first faithful and trustworthy copy of Manumentum Ancyranum was made by Georges Perrot and Edmund Guillaume in 1861 (or 1862?).[8] They made a facsimile copy of the entire Latin version, and as much of the Greek one as they could get. This was the basis for Mommsen’s edition of the text of AA in 1865 and of Bergk’s in 1873.[9] In 1882, Carl Humann made casts of both the Latin and the Greek inscriptions. These casts were relatively complete, although marred in places by the scaling of the stone. Using these casts as a basis, Mommsen published his critical edition of AA in 1883.[10] This edition of Mommsen has become the basis for all subsequent work. A second copy of AA was found in Apollonia in Pisidia. This copy was a Greek version of the text. The fragments of AA found here were helpful in supplying what was missing or indecipherable in the Greek text of Manumentum Ancyranum.[11] A third copy was found by William Ramsay in 1914 in Antioch in Pisidia. These were the fragments of the Latin text. They were significant in supplementing what was missing in the Latin version of Manumentum Ancyranum. Even though there are very minor variations among the three copies, “it is clear that all three spring from a common original.”[12]

The discovery of the inscription of AA both in the north and in the south of Galatia indicates that the text had reached a widespread audience in the Roman province of Galatia. People would have been well acquainted with the text. Deliberately the Greek version of the AA was inscribed on the exterior walls of the temple of Roma and Augustus so that it was more visible to the Greek-speaking public of Galatia. The Latin version was inscribed on the interior walls, which was visible only upon entry into the temple.

2. Literary Evidence

Suetonius, in his writing Divus Augustus, testified that Augustus wrote a summary of his acts. He stated that Augustus, sixteen months before his death in 14 CE, wrote a will with the help of two freedmen Polybius and Hilarian. Along with the will, Augustus also wrote three documents and committed all four to the custody of Vestal Virgins (Divus Augustus, 101). These documents were opened and read in the Senate after the death of Augustus in 14 CE. The first document contained instructions for Augustus’ funeral, and the third a concise statement of the condition of the whole empire. The second document contained a summary of Augustus’ acts, which he wanted to be engraved on bronze tablets and placed before the mausoleum (Divus Augustus, 101.4). This indicates that Augustus wanted AA to be a public document. The testimony of Suetonius substantiates the authenticity of the copies of AA.[13]


[1] Augustus’ original name is Octavian. Instead of the name Octavian, the title Augustus, which Octavian was bestowed upon in the latter part of his life, is used throughout this book.


[2] Edwin S. Ramage, The Nature and Purpose of Augustus’ “Res Gestae” (Stuttgart: Franz Steine Verlag Wiesbaden GMBH, 1987), p. 11.

[3] Ronald Mellor, Qea Rwmh: The Worship of the Goddess Roma in the Greek World (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1975), p. 89. Koinon means provisional or regional federation of cities.

[4] The 1865 edition of Manumentum Ancyranum was produced under the direction of Theodor Mommsen, a German scholar. The critical edition which was published in 1883 forms the basis for the subsequent scholarly work.

[5] Jean Gage, Res Gestae Divi Augusti ex Monumentis Ancyrano et Antiocheno Latinis Ancyrano et Apolloniensi Graecis (Paris: Societe d’Edition “Les Belles Lettres, 1977), p. 4.

[6] Gage, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, p. 5.

[7] P.A. Brunt and J.M. Moore, Res Gestae Divi Augusti: The Achievements of the Divine Augustus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 2.




[11] Gage, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, p. 6.

[12] Brunt and Moore, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, p. 2.

[13] Anne Dawson, Freedom as Liberating Power: A Socio-Political Reading of the Ecousia Texts in the Gospel of Mark (Universitatsverlag, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2000), p. 15.