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Quotes of Augustus

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Augustus (Gaius Iulius Caesar Octavianus) lived in the years 63 BCE – 14 CE. He was the first emperor of Rome in 27 BCE – 14 CE and the creator of the so-called principate.

  • “The sea I pacified from pirates”
    • latin: [Mare pacavi a praedonibus]
    • description: in the time of Octavian, in 5 BCE, the threat of pirates was dealt with. In total, 4000 Cillicians were taken prisoner.
    • source: Res Gestae, 25
  • “Have I have played my part well in the comedy of life?”
    • description: one of the words spoken on his deathbed
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 99
  • “That is done quickly enough which is done well enough”
    • latin: [Sat celeriter fieri quidquid fiat satis bene]
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 25
  • “Live mindful of our wedlock, Livia, and farewell!”
    • latin: [Livia, nostri coniugii memor vive, ac vale!]
    • description: according to Suetonius, Augustus died with these words on his lips, embracing Livia
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 99
  • “On the Greek Kalends”
    • latin: [Ad calendas Graecas]
    • description: in the Greek calendar (which, incidentally, was very different depending on the polis), there were no characteristic Roman specifications: Kalends, Nones and Ides. August, when he doubted that the debtor would pay off his debt, used to say that he would pay for the Greek calendars, so “for Holy Never” – there were no calendars in the Greek calendar.
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 87
  • “May it be my privilege to establish the State in a firm and secure position, and reap from that act the fruit that I desire; but only if I may be called the author of the best possible government, and bear with me the hope when I die that the foundations which I have laid for the State will remain unshaken”
    • latin: [Ita mihi salvam ac sospitem rem p. sistere in sua sede liceat atque eius rei fructum percipere, quem peto, ut optimi status auctor dicar et moriens ut feram mecum spem, mansura in vestigio suo fundamenta rei p. quae iecero]
    • description: the words of Augustus said in one of the proclamations that characterized his rule
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 28
  • “Having attained my highest hopes, Fathers of the Senate, what more have I to ask of the immortal gods than that I may retain this same unanimous approval of yours to the very end of my life”
    • latin: [Compos factus votorum meorum, p. c., quid habeo aliud deos immortales precari, quam ut hunc consensum vestrum ad ultimum finem vitae mihi perferre liceat?]
    • description: Augustus’ response to the name received from the Senate “Father of the Country”.
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 58
  • “The noisomeness of far-fetched words”
    • latin: [Reconditorum verborum]
    • description: a scornful term for outdated expressions which Augustus detested.
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 86
  • “More haste, less speed”
    • latin: [Festina lente]
    • description: Augustus spoke those words in Greek, believing that it was not fitting for a leader to make hasty and ill-considered decisions
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 25
  • “The play is over”
    • latin: [Acta est fabula]
    • description: the words ending a theater play in ancient Rome. These words were said to have been uttered by Octavian on his deathbed. In the work of Suetonius, however, we find “Since well I’ve played my part, all clap your hands” (Augustus, 99)
  • “Quicker than you can cook asparagus”
    • latin: [Velocius quam asparagi conquantur]
    • description: Octavian used to say those words to illustrate the smooth performance
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 87
  • “You must die”
    • latin: [Moriendum esse]
    • description: words spoken by Augustus in response to opponents’ pleas for favor after the capture of Perusia
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 15
  • “Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!”
    • latin: [Vare, redde mihi legiones!]
    • description: words spoken after the defeat in the Teutoburg Forest (9 CE), in which Publius Varus lost three legions. This defeat shook Augustus strongly,; he did not shave or but hair for several months, and he celebrated each anniversary in mourning.
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 23
  • “Present a petition with as much hesitation as he would a penny to an elephant”
    • latin: [Quod sic sibi libellum porrigere dubitaret, quasi elephanto stipem]
    • description: playfully rebuked the petitioners who approached him with fear
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 53
  • “Those who slew my father I drove into exile, punishing their deed by due process of law, and afterwards when they waged war upon the republic I twice defeated them in battle”
    • latin: [Qui parentem meum interfecerunt, eos in exilium expuli iudiciis legi timis ultus eorum facinus, et postea bellum inferentis rei publicae vici bis acie]
    • source: Res Gestae divi Augusti, 2
  • “Found it built of brick and left it in marble”
    • latin: [Marmoream se relinquere, quam latericiam accepisse]
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 28
  • “My wish was to see a king, not corpses”
    • latin: [Regem voluisse videre, non mortuos]
    • description: after defeating Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BCE, Octavian gained power in Egypt. During his stay in Alexandria, he decided to visit the tomb of Alexander the Great. The future emperor, as a sign of respect, was to put a crown on the head of the Macedonian king and general and shower him with flowers. Then he was asked whether he also wanted to visit the Ptolemaic tomb; Augustus was to answer with the words just mentioned.
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 18
  • “I have contrived this to lead the citizens to require​ me, while I live, and the rulers of later times as well, to attain the standard set by those worthies of old”
    • latin: [Commentum id se, ut ad illorum vitam​25 velut ad exemplar et ipse, dum viveret, et insequentium aetatium principes exigerentur a civibus]
    • description: Augustus ordered that the original inscriptions aas well as the statues of the initiators of the buildings, will be preserved when the renovation was completed.
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 31
  • “You surely did not kill your father, did you?”
    • latin: [Certe patrem tuum non occidisti?]
    • description: During his reign, Augustus had personal control over court sentences. For the patricide in ancient Rome, the condemned man was beaten to the blood with rods (virgis sanguineis), then he was sewed into a sack together with a monkey, a dog, a rooster and a snake, and thrown into the river. However, for the punishment to be fulfilled, the accused had to plead guilty. Octavian, in order to dispel all doubts, asked such a question.
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 33
  • “My son-in‑law Agrippa has taken good care, by building several aqueducts, that men shall not go thirsty”
    • latin: [Satis provisum a genero suo Agrippa perductis pluribus aquis, ne homines sitirent]
    • description: when the people complained about the lack of or expensive wine.
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 42
  • “I would rather have been Phoebe’s father”
    • latin: [Maluisse se ait Phoebes​ patrem fuisse]
    • description: reaction to the news that the freedwoman Phoebe​, a friend of Julia, Augustus’ daughter, had hanged herself. Julia brought disgrace to August with her promiscuous way of life.
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 65
  • “The birds will soon settle that question”
    • latin: [Iam istam volucrum fore potestatem]
    • description: when the captives from Philippi asked him for a dignified burial after their execution.
    • source: Suetonius, Augustus, 13

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