Thanks to Augustus on his birthday and to the Cohors Italicus

Today is the birthday of Augustus Caesar, born in ancient Velitrae (Velletri) in 63 BC.

When I was living in Rome, on this day I was accustomed to stroll to the Ara Pacis and read some of the bronze lettered text embedded in the wall before the Mausoleum of Augustus, the text of the Res Gestae Divi Augustii.

The first panel:

Try reading part of it aloud:

Annos undeviginti natus exercitum privato consilio et privata impensa comparavi per quem rem publicam a dominatione factionis oppressam in liberatatem vindicavi.

One of my favorite parts is where Augustus boasts about the accomplishment of closing the doors of the Temple of Janus. These doors were closed only where there was a state of peace. This was probably the occasion of the fullness of time, when the Roman state, so important for the foundation and “culture” of the Catholic Church Christ founded, was at peace… and therefore ready for the birth of our Lord into this our vale of tears.

13 Ianum Quirinum, quem claussum esse maiores nostri voluerunt, cum per totum imperium populi Romani terra marique esset parta victoriis pax, cum prius, quam náscerer, a condita urbe bis omnino clausum fuisse prodátur memoriae, ter me principe senatus claudendum esse censuit.

Janus Quirinus, which our ancestors ordered to be closed whenever there was peace, secured by victory, throughout the whole domain of the Roman people on land and sea, and which, before my birth is recorded to have been closed but twice in all since the foundation of the city, the senate ordered to be closed thrice while I was princeps.

So, Augustus brought about the conditions of peace necessary for the Incarnation of the Lord and, moreover, His escape from Herod.   As The Great Roman texted me today:

“Travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have been impossible a few years earlier, without the Cohors Italica making sure no one would even dream of robbing/raping/hurting in any way those traveling that route.”

The same goes for traveling to escape the predations of Herod.

It is an interesting starting point for reflection on Church State relations.

Today, the remains of the Temple of Janus form a part of the Basilica of San Nicola in Carcere in the Forum Holitorium, in which I was ordained to the diaconate by the late great Card. Mayer in June 1990 for the place Augustus was born.

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5 Responses to Thanks to Augustus on his birthday and to the Cohors Italicus

  1. Malta says:

    I guess this is somewhat relevant: I’ve spent much time in Italy; my favorite though was a wine-tour through Florence. But I still have not found a pasta dish I found there in a basement restaurant–I guess a dive-bar you would call it here in the US–it was unreal; it makes my mouth water thinking of it to this day. 2,500 years of cooking the same dish makes a difference!

  2. Julia_Augusta says:

    Father Z., I wonder if the mausoleum of Augustus, which lies across Ara Pacis, has been restored or even cleaned up in any way. When I visited Ara Pacis 3 years ago, the mausoleum site was a neglected weedy lot. It had been partially destroyed and looted during the barbarian invasion of Rome.

  3. Nicholas says:

    Today is also my birthday.

    One day, in high school Latin class, I walked in and saw “happy birthday” written on the board. I was amazed that my teacher remembered my birthday. My mistake was corrected.

  4. FN says:

    Judging by his behavior Augustus was a complete rotter. A classic example of how the Lord can bring good out of the deeds of the worst men.

  5. Semper Gumby says:

    “So, Augustus brought about the conditions of peace necessary for the Incarnation of the Lord and, moreover, His escape from Herod. As The Great Roman texted me today:

    “Travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have been impossible a few years earlier, without the Cohors Italica making sure no one would even dream of robbing/raping/hurting in any way those traveling that route.”

    “The same goes for traveling to escape the predations of Herod.

    “It is an interesting starting point for reflection on Church State relations.”

    Indeed. One possibility is to explore Pope Gelasius’ “Two Swords” of Church and State authority.

    Or, if scotch and cigars are abundant, skip ahead a few centuries to 2005 and George Bush’s Second Inaugural Address. That speech provides interesting grist for the Church-State mill:

    “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

    “We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner “Freedom Now”—they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.”

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award