Station: [3] The end of the Roman Republic

  • MoneyMuseum

It wasn't actually Caesar, who destroyed the Roman republic. Major generals like Marius or Sulla had risen to extreme power long before his time. They had captured so much booty and distributed it to their army that their many, many soldiers had become their clients. This led to an imbalance of power.

But Augustus was the first one who systematically acquired enough financial resources to turn all Roman voters into his clients. The capture of Egypt in 31 BC became the foundation of his power. At that time, the realm at the Nile was the wealthiest country in the Mediterranean world. Augustus reserved all his income for his own coffers. 

In addition, he was in control of the Roman army by keeping the supreme command of all provinces with large military divisions. And he made himself responsible for his soldiers’ salary. As a result, he had to mint coins. And he did so quite extensively. Not at the mint in Rome, though. He handed that one back to the senate with a grand gesture. He did not need it. A multitude of what was minted by the Roman senators was instead produced inLyon and Spain. 

Augustus took an incredible wealth from the provinces of the Roman empire and distributed huge parts of it. His gifts bound the entire Roman society to him as clients. He became the highest patron of Rome and he was thus at the top of the Roman hierarchy, both politically and socially. In our Picture Tour, you will see just exactly how he achieved that.