Barbara Levick's latest book is out. Augustus: image and substance attempts to show that "Augustus’ overriding purpose was always to keep himself and his dynasty in power". Well, of course it was, but that's mainly because Revered Caesar (the 'August One') genuinely believed his own person and legacy was the only way to keep Rome at peace. Honestly.
By the way, I can't help thinking I've known other men with and without that same title who believed similar things of themselves. Anyway...
Whether the Empire's Revered One was justified in his belief is debatable. What should be undisputed, however, is that once Augustus had justified that self-centric decision to himself, from that point onwards Reverend Caesar had to pull out all the stops to make sure everyone else believed it (and kept on believing it, even while things were crumbling around him) as well. And that's what Levick's book promises to be about - the difference between what Augustus was (or at least, what he became) and what he portrayed himself as.
From the cover, again: "This fascinating story of the realities of power in ancient Rome has inescapable contemporary resonance..." Indeed. The realities of power. Control begets wickedness. But I digress again.
One reason I wish seminaries focused more on First Century Events is because I often wish ministerial trainees would study more in the area of Imperial Politics. Dear reader, if YOU harbor such noble ambitions as to caretake for God's people, I daresay you could probably do a lot worse than to get a copy of Levick's Augustus, and keep it right next to your Bible... at least for a while. It might show you all the things you do not want to do. It might show you how power corrupts.
Godspeed, all you wanna be Reverends. Godspeed to learn History... and then, hopefully, to fall on your face before God once again.