This is an extract of our Roman Foreign And Frontier Policy document, which we sell as part of our Roman History; 46 BC to 54 AD Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Oxford students.
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Is it true that the imperial foreign and frontier policy was motivated mainly by the considerations of the political struggle at Rome?
Imperial foreign and frontier policy differed with each emperor as did the considerations of their political struggles at Rome; however it certainly seems to be the case that the two are interrelated. The particular needs and personality of each emperor extends to all aspects of their governance, whether this is the foreign policy they choose to pursue or the way that they dealt with their political difficulties in Rome. In his Res Gestae, Augustus makes some grand claims about his foreign and frontier policy; he makes it seem that it was directed towards extensive conquest of new provinces and the pacification of those already under Roman control. "I extended the boundaries of all the provinces which were bordered by races not yet subject to the empire. The provinces of the Gauls, the Spains and Germany, bounded by the ocean from Gades to the mouth of the Elbe, I reduced to a state of peace." He goes on to list extensively the countries into which he launched military operations and the provinces which he captured, including Egypt, the most important province of all. The nature of the Res Gestae, a self-celebration of his own achievements, makes it clearly liable to exaggeration or at least giving an erroneous impression of the facts. However it is nevertheless useful for precisely this reason; it lets one know the impression which Augustus wanted to give of his rule and, in particular here, of his frontier policy. There is certainly a discrepancy between what actually went on in the provinces and the way in which Augustus portrayed himself at home as an aggressive and highly successful extender of the empire; the Res Gestae gives very good evidence of the image which Augustus created for himself. Velleius Paterculus, the perennially pro-Augustan historian, similarly portrays the first princeps as a great conqueror and pacifier of the empire; "There, then, were the provinces, so extensive, so populous, and so warlike, which Caesar Augustus, about fifty years ago, brought to such a condition of peace, that whereas they had never before been free from serious war, they were now." This comment follows a similarly extensive list of his conquests along with the claim that he almost subdued Germany to the status of a tributary state, certainly a premature claim in the time of Augustus. This, then, was the image that was created of Augustus for the public at Rome and for posterity, but the question as to whether this was the truth and, if not, why he created such an image, is more complicated. The most obvious way to answer this question is to examine all the provinces and to assess whether the reality matches the propaganda he put out to record events there, including documents such as the Res Gestae and records of the triumphal honours he took in each case. Firstly, Egypt, which Augustus claims to have added to the empire, and in a way this is true because before 30 BC it had been a nominally independent kingdom. However before this it had essentially been a Roman protectorate because since 57 BC it had a considerable Roman force permanently stationed there. It was profitable to Augustus to give the impression that he conquered the country himself because it was thus more justifiable that
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