oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - Suetonius on the legislation of Augustus ( 34)

Volume 21, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



The Emperor Augustus' so-called social or moral legislation features prominently in legal and historical discussions of his principate. His biographer Suetonius concentrates into one chapter a discussion of Augustus' leges rogatae, which has never been analysed phrase by phrase by any scholar of Roman history or law since Paul Jörs in 1893. This article sets out to explain how Suetonius orders his discussion, chooses precise vocabulary, highlights key stages in the legislative programme, and does not conceal opposition to the legislation. The most controversial law, on which Suetonius centres his discussion, is the lex Iulia de maritandis ordinibus, key provisions of which were amended in the lex Papia Poppaea of AD 9. I argue that Suetonius comments not only on the lex Iulia de maritandis ordinibus, but also on later amendments, whether in the putative lex Aelia Sentia of AD 4 or the indisputable lex Papia Poppaea. There is, however, no reference to any abortive moral legislation of 27 BC. Suetonius presents an emperor concerned with major social issues, careful in the formulation of his laws, but also suitably responsive to societal pressure.

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