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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

A positive measure of Augustus for the integration of peoples

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In such troubled times like these, the memory of a little story may not be very important, but there is a story of Octavius Augustus which has some interest; it concerns a positive, proactive measure, as it is said now, of integration between cultures called to supplement these self.

The Latin poet Horace left to posterity a few sentences converted to full content famous phrases. One of them refers to the Roman military and political dominance over Greece but also to the Greek cultural superiority, in Epistles II, 1, 156-157, :

Conquered Greece took captive her savage conqueror and brought her arts into rustic Latium.

Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes intulit in agresti Latio.

We shall consider that the Greek people recited the verses of the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer even before Rome exist.

Well, the Greeks endured Roman domination and Roman always were attracted and "dominated" by Greek culture, to the point that every cult  Roman fellowt, important person or people of rich family, go  to Greece to complete their studies and  well learn  the Greek language.

In honor of the truth, there was someone who opposed the influence. In the third century BC, Cato the Elder, defender of the Roman tradition, interpreted the Greek influence as a lethal danger to Rome and he opposed her in his youth, but eventually with little success,  as Plutarch says in Parallel Lives, Marcus Cato 2, 4:

Further than this, it is said, he did not learn Greek till late in life, and was quite well on in years when he took to reading Greek books; then he profited in oratory somewhat from Thucydides, but more from Demosthenes. However, his writings are moderately embellished with Greek sentiments and stories, and many literal translations from the Greek have found a place among his maxims and proverbs. (Translated by Bernadotte Perrin).

Well, there is a small story of Augustus which reflects  the spirit and desire for integration by proposing a positive measure that seeks the good understanding between the two peoples, Roman and Greek. Suetonius refers it in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Life of Augustus. XCVIII, 1-3:

notwithstanding which, he went round the coast of Campania, and the adjacent islands, and spent four days in that of Capri; where he gave himself up entirely to repose and relaxation.

Happening to sail by the bay of Puteoli, the passengers and mariners aboard a ship of Alexandria, just then arrived, clad all in white, with chaplets upon their heads, and offering incense, loaded him with praises and joyful acclamations, crying out, " By you we live, by you we sail securely, by you enjoy our liberty and our fortunes." At which being greatly pleased, he distributed to each of those who attended him, forty gold pieces, requiring from them an assurance on oath, not to employ the sum given them in any other way, than the purchase of Alexandrian merchandize.

And during several days afterwards, he distributed Togae  and Pallia, among other gifts, on condition that the Romans should use the Greek, and the Greeks the Roman dress and language. (Translation by Alexander Thomson).

tunc Campaniae ora proximisque insulis circuitis Caprearum quoque secessui quadriduum impendit remississimo ad otium et ad omnem comitatem animo.
Forte Puteolanum sinum praeteruehenti uectores nautaeque de naui Alexandrina, quae tantum quod appulerat, candidati coronatique et tura libantes fausta omina et eximias laudes congesserant: per illum se uiuere, per illum nauigare, libertate atque fortunis per illum frui. qua re admodum exhilaratus quadragenos aureos comitibus diuisit iusque iurandum et cautionem exegit a singulis, non alio datam summam quam in emptionem Alexandrinarum mercium absumpturos.
sed et ceteros continuos dies inter uaria munuscula togas insuper ac pallia distribuit, lege proposita ut Romani Graeco, Graeci Romano habitu et sermone uterentur

2000 years have passed. Augustus died shortly after this story, but if we talk about integration between peoples,  the positive measures of assimilation will be  today as yesterday more appropriate than confrontation. Of course,  messages such as "you do not consume products of... Alexandria” don’t help us for good living .
 

   
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