Euergetism and Augustan spectacular space

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More theaters and amphitheaters were constructed during the Augustan era than in any other time period in Italian history. This thesis argues that these spectacular spaces displayed Augustan propaganda to help aid the longevity of the princeps’ new form of government. The principal evidence for this conclusion comes from the theaters and amphitheaters themselves, as well as the importance of these building types and the propaganda in Augustan Rome. In exploring primary and secondary sources in this thesis, it is evident that the theater and amphitheater were meaningful socially, culturally, religiously, and politically to the Italians. Similarly, in investigating sources that interpret art and urban planning, it is apparent that the manipulation of space was an important factor in displaying physical propaganda. Analyzing the theaters and amphitheaters themselves in tandem with this understanding provides a palpable reason why these building types, instead of others, were the ones that Augustus encouraged Italian magistrates to create. This thesis explores one of the many ways Augustus worked to maintain his power and government during a precarious political point in Rome’s history. In order to appear generous and giving, Augustus utilized euergetism to finance spectacular buildings and captivating performances. He also encouraged elites across Italy to fund projects and events via euergetism – especially projects involving the theater and amphitheater. This helped him appear not tyrannical, but instead as primus inter pares, while also allowing his propaganda to spread to the far reaches of Italy. By conjoining the study of spectacular spaces, propaganda, and euergetism, this thesis will offer a new insight into the importance theaters and amphitheaters had in cementing Augustus’ new form of government in history.

Euergetism, Augustus, Augustan, Spectacular space, Theaters, Amphitheaters