Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: Augustus and the City of Rome

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

Join us as we explore the Augustan city of Rome and the buildings that have survived in the densely packed sprawl of modern Rome. We will discuss how these buildings were constructed and their functions in everyday life. Finally, we will decode the propagandistic meanings of the buildings’ statuary and decorations.

Because Augustus built a house on the Palatine, that hill became the site of the imperial palace built by his successors. Likewise, it was in emulation of Augustus that later emperors undertook huge building projects in the city. In modern times, the memory of Augustus had a significant influence on fascist leader Mussolini whose plans for the redevelopment of the capital included the integration of Augustan monuments into the urban fabric.


The aim of this course is to provide you with a detailed presentation of the buildings constructed by Augustus during his reign, and their historical and architectural context.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • identify the administrative problems facing the city of Rome and the reforms introduced by Augustus
  • identify the key buildings and public spaces built by Augustus in Rome
  • demonstrate an awareness of the range of written sources that shed light on the motivations behind Augustus’ program of urban renewal
  • evaluate the usefulness of statuary, relief carvings and written inscriptions as keys to the iconography of Augustan political and social propaganda
  • interpret the meaning of the statuary program of the Forum of Augustus and the reliefs on the Ara Pacis
  • assess the influence and impact of Augustus’ building program on later rulers’ responses to the city and its populace.


  • The importance of the city of Rome in the political and military context of Augustus’ rise to power and then the consolidation of his rule
  • The development of the infrastructure of the city: markets, grain storage, roads, fountains and aqueducts
  • Augustus’ contribution to public utilities and services within the city of Rome: law and public order, flood mitigation, fire protection and refuse collection
  • The building projects of Augustus and members of his family on the Palatine Hill and in and near the Roman Forum, bath complexes, the theatre of Marcellus, temple building and repairs, and the Forum of Augustus
  • The propaganda messages embedded in Augustan buildings and their decoration: ‘reading’ the buildings
  • The Ara Pacis / Altar of Peace: art and propaganda in the Campus Martius area of Rome
  • The Mausoleum of Augustus and the horologium Augusti in the Campus Martius
  • The city of Rome and memory of the Augustan city

Intended audience

The course may be of interest to anyone wanting to:

  • explore Roman history at the end of the republic and into the early imperial period
  • learn more about Roman architecture and building decoration
  • explore the iconography of Augustan art
  • visit Rome and would like to gain practical information about the city and its archaeological sites from the Augustan period.



Delivery style

  • Sessions compromise a lecture segment and a group discussion segment
  • PowerPoint and video clips in the lecture segments
  • Discussion with interactive Q&A


Course materials including timelines, maps of the city and its areas, plans of buildings and excerpts from key primary source materials are provided electronically.

Recommended reading

These are the most useful introductory books:

Amanda Claridge, 1998, Rome An Oxford Archaeological Guide, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

A.H.M. Jones, 1970, Augustus, Chatto & Windus, London, UK.

A. Wallace-Hadrill, 2018, Augustan Rome, Bloomsbury Academic, London, UK.

Further reading after the course:

D. Favro, 1996, The Urban Image of Augustan Rome, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge-New York.

P. Zanker, 1988, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbour, USA.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

We acknowledge the tradition of custodianship and law of the Country on which the University of Sydney campuses stand. We pay our respects to those who have cared and continue to care for the Country.