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Authors: Allan Massie

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Historical Novel
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The first in an acclaimed series of historical novels--including Tiberius and Caesar--reconstructs the lost memoirs of Augustus, recounting the life of the founder of the Roman Empire in his own frank, forceful style


The author was born in Singapore in 1938, brought up in Aberdeenshire and educated at Glenalmond and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read history.

His other novels include THE LAST PEACOCK, which won the Frederick Niven Award in 1981, A QUESTION OF LOYALTIES, winner of the Saltire Society/Scotsman Book of the Year Award, THE DEATH OF MEN, THE SINS OF THE FATHER, and TIBERIUS and CAESAR, the second and third in this trilogy of 'Roman' novels of which AUGUSTUS is the first. His latest novel THESE ENCHANTED WOODS will be published later this year. His non-fiction includes BYRON'S TRAVELS and a biography of Colette. He has also written an historical work on the twelve emperors of Ancient Rome, THE CAESARS, and his acclaimed GLASGOW: PORTRAITS OF A CITY.

Allan Massie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has been a Booker Prize judge. He is
The Scotsman's
lead fiction reviewer, and a columnist and reviewer for
The Daily Telegraph.
He is married, has three children, and lives in the Scottish Borders.

'Massie writes a witty, illuminating and an elegiac account of Augustus from the killing of Julius Caesar until his own death. AUGUSTUS proves that Massie is the best novelist north of the Scots border where the Roman Empire reached its limits'

Andrew Sinclair in The Times

'AUGUSTUS represents a fusion of learning and the historical imagination. This produces some striking scenes . . . The nov
el is dotted with arresting epi
grams . . There are some beautifully written set pieces. Surely this is Allan Massie's best novel to date'
Joseph Farrell in the Scotsman

'A fine and talented writer'

William Boyd in The Times Literary Supplement

'What I liked most about AUGUSTUS is its sheer readability. It positively flows along, at times a chuckling, sprightly book, at other times a broad and grave river'

Dublin Sunday Press

'. . . a highly accomplished novelist. . . Clearly, with writers like Allan Massie, the novel is alive and well and living in Scotland'

Alan Bold

'A fine novelist. . . The rise and fall of Augustus is full of character and incident. . . deserves the inevitable comparison with I CLAUDIUS'

Jonathan Mantle in Sunday Today

'A fascinating exercise in historical recreation. It compares well with Yourcenar's MEMOIRS OF HADRIAN. He succeeds in portraying the drama and agonies of Augustus's long and dutiful life. AUGUSTUS has the remarkable merit of human interest: a flawed, doubting, powerful man rises from the pages of history and imagination'

Douglas Dunn in the Glasgow Herald

'The most satisfactory novel yet from Scotland's most diversely talented writer'

The Listener

'All devotees of historical fiction will appreciate Massie's effort'

Martin Seymour-Smith in the Financial Times

'A rather finely energetic read. Massie celebrates the debaucheries and finaglings with apt cynicism'

Valentine Cunningham in the Observer

Allan Massie


A Novel

The extract from
Poets in a Landscape
by Gilbert Highet © 1957 is quoted by kind permission of Curtis Brown Ltd.

Copyright © Man Massie 1986

First published in Great Britain in 1989 by The Bodley Head

Sceptre edition 1987
Ninth impression 1993

Sceptre is an imprint of Hodder and Stoughton Paperbacks, a division of Hodder and Stoughton Ltd.

British Library CLP.

Massie, Allan Massie, Allan Augustus: a novel. I. Title

The characters and situations in this book are entirely imaginary and bear no relation to any real person or actual happenings.

The right of Allan Massie to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publishers' prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without either the prior permission in writing from the publisher or a licence, permitting restricted copying. In the United Kingdom such licences are issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1P 9HE.

Printed and bound in Great Britain for Hodder and Stoughton Paperbacks, a division of Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., Mill Road, Dunton Green, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 2YA. (Editorial Office: 47 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP) by Clay
s Ltd., St Ives pl

For Alison


born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, later
Julius Caesar Octavianus, later Augustus

his family and their relation to him

uncle and adoptive father


first wife

second wife

third wife


nephew, later son-in-law, Octavia's
son by
her marriage to Gaius


stepson, later adopted son

Tiberius' brother


grandsons whom he adopted; Julia's children by her marriage to Agrippa (q. v.)

grandson, brother to Gaius and Lucius

niece, daughter of Mark Antony (q. v.) and Octavia, married to Drusus


step-grandchildren, also great-nephews,
sons of Drusus and Antonia

his friends



63 Birth of Augustus.

44 Murder of Caesar (March).

43 Augustus consul (August).

Triumvirate established (November). Proscriptions.

42 Battle of Philippi.

41 Siege of Perusia (Perugia).

39 Mark Antony marries Octavia.

38 Augustus marries Livia.

36 Defeat and death of Pompey.

Demotion of Lepidus.

31 Battle of Actium.

30 Deaths of Antony and Cleopatra.

29 Augustus celebrates his Triumph.

27 Constitutional settlement, receives name of


23 Murena's Conspiracy. Constitutional settlement revised.

Death of Marcellus.

20 War in Armenia, Treaty with Parthian Empire. 19 Death of Virgil.

Ludi Saeculares
(Secular Games) celebrated. 12 Death of Agrippa. Tiberius compelled to divorce

Vipsania and marry Julia.

8 Death of Maecenas.

5 Tiberius retires to Rhodes.

2 Augustus named
'Pater Patriae'
('Father of his

Country') by the Senate.

Julia scandal breaks. Julia disgraced.


2 Death of Lucius. Tiberius allowed to return to Rome.

4 Death of Gaius. Augustus adopts Tiberius.

6/7/8 Pannonian Revolt, suppressed by Tiberius.

9 Three legions, under the command of P. Q
Varus, destroyed by
the Germans in the Teutoburger

14 Death of Augustus.



Nothing in recent years has aroused more intense speculation and interest than the discovery of the lost Autobiography of the Emperor Augustus in the Macedonian monastery of St Cyril Methodius in 1984, for this book, mentioned by Suetonius and other ancient writers, had been believed irretrievably lost for all eternity. The copy, found during restoration work being performed in the monastery, appears to have been made in the early thirteenth century, possibly for a Frankish lord during the brief and shameful Latin Empire which was established after the Fourth Crusade of 1204. Certainly the circumstances of its discovery substantiate this theory for the copy exists in the original Latin, not in the Greek into which one might have expected it to have been translated; moreover it was found in what has been construed as a prison cell, or even execution chamber (for there was also discovered there the skeleton of a man in early middle age) bricked up from the outer world. It has been suggested that the copy was made then to justify the Latin/ Frankish occupation, and that there was a malign humour, of the type we recognize as Byzantine, in the Greek decision to incarcerate, indeed immure, it with the lord who had procured it. All this cannot however be more than speculation such as is irrelevant both to my present purpose and to the content of the manuscript.

First, however, it was necessary to substantiate its authenticity. This was done by a team of international scholars with,

* For a thorough examination of the provenance and significance of the manuscript, see A. Fraser-Graham: 'Augustus: An Essay in Late Byzantine Detection' in
Journal of the Institute of Classical Strategies
Vol. VII.

remarkably, no dissentient voice. The British representative was the distinguished historian who is Master of Michaelhouse College, Cambridge. His assurance was categorical: 'Even the briefest examination of the photocopy of the manuscript must remove any doubts of its authenticity. It is assuredly the work of the Emperor Augustus and, as such, a unique contribution to our knowledge of the Ancient World.' The Master's international reputation is such that no one can dispute his authority. The reader may therefore rest assured. These are indeed the authentic memoirs of Augustus, now translated into English at the request of the Editorial Committee by the novelist and historian Allan Massie, author of a deft, if derivative, study of
The Caesars
(Seeker & Warburg, 1983).

Some questioned the choice of a novelist as translator, and with reason that fell only just short of cogency. The decision was however based on the nature of the Memoirs themselves which are full of dialogue, dramatic scenes and dramatic presentation of the characters. Some may also feel that Mr Massie's version is indeed, in the event, too racy, too full of contemporary slang (or perhaps the slang of two or three decades ago), and that it suffers from the novelistic determination to make the Emperor's language consistently lively. I am bound to confess that I am sympathetic to these strictures; in our translator's defence I can only say that Augustus's Latin is itself full of expressions never previously encountered in classical prose, and that the style of the Memoirs veers from the extremes of colloquiality to a serene and formal beauty.

Those wishing for a more sober, scholarly and (I fear) accurate rendering must abide the completion of the great annotated edition now being prepared, also under my direction, by the scholars of thirteen American universities, or th
e even more ambitious quadri
lingual edition (with annotations in the same four languages: Latin, Greek, German and English) being undertaken by the team under the di
rection of Professor Otto Fried
richstrasse, both of which editions, crowning peaks of contemporary scholarship, have been ambitiously and courageously scheduled for publication before the end of the century. Meanwhile the English-speak
ing reader unable to read Latin
(and, alas, how few can do so in these degenerate days!) must content himself with Mr Massie's version, whatever its deficiencies.

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