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Caesar's Dream

J. M. W. Turner, Dido Building Carthage, oil on canvas, 1815, Public Domain image.

It seems clear that Augustus was good at marketing: advertising himself as son of Caesar, painting Mark Antony as traitor under the influence of Cleopatra, and establishing a unifying story of all powerful Rome, even managing a transition to Empire while maintaining some illusion of Republic. The rebuilding of Carthage a monument to Rome's power. Appian reports that the rebuilding of Carthage began as a dream of Julius Caesar.

"Cæsar, who afterwards became dictator for life, when he had pursued Pompey to Egypt, and Pompey's friends from thence into Africa, and was encamped near the site of Carthage, was troubled by a dream in which he saw a whole army weeping, and that he immediately made a memorandum in writing that Carthage should be colonized." -Appian Punic Wars XX 20.136

Julius Caesar's assassination delayed the formation of this new colony, which was eventually built by Augustus with 3000 Roman settlers near the site of ancient Carthage. "Colonia Julia Concordia Carthago" a monument to Roman achievement.

As the city was being rebuilt, Virgil began to write the Aeneid, inventing the story of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and Aeneas, Trojan founder of Rome. In the first book of the Aeneid, Virgil describes the building of Carthage - echoing the rebuild happening under Augustus.

Aeneas marvels at the mighty mass,
Mere huts of yore, he marvels at the gates,
The busy din and paving of the ways.
The Tyrians in hot haste are building walls,
Rearing a citadel, and uprolling rocks
By toil of hand; some choose a dwelling site,
And with a trench surround it : they appoint
An awful senate, laws, and magistrates.
Here these are digging harbours, yonder those
Lay deep foundations for a theatre.
And hew gigantic columns from the rocks.
Lofty adornments of a stage to be.
-Virgil, Aeneid Book I, 421-433 , translation by James Rhoades, 1893

This coin is from the Roman colony of Carthage.

Africa Proconsularis, Carthage, Augustus (27 BC-14 AD), AE 22.3mm, 5.53g Obv: IMP C D F A P M P P, bare head right Rev: P I SP D V SP IIVIR C I C, PP / DD in two lines Ref: RPC I 745; SNG Copenhagen 419 Obverse Legend: Imp Caesar Divi Filius Augustus Pontifex Maximus Pater Patriae Reverse Legend: P. I. Sp. and D. V. Sp. DuoViri Colonia Iulia Carthago

Augustus didn't leave his legacy to chance. He had an autobiography ready to go on his death "Res Gestae Divi Augusti" or "Things Done by the Divine Augustus", which markets his many accomplishments. The text was displayed in front of his mausoleum in Rome and distributed in other locations in the Empire. A modern copy is in Rome today and a the most complete version is in Ankara, Türkiye, at the temple of Divine Avgustus and Rome (the Monumentum Ancyranum). More information and the full text is available on


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Alfred Kowsky
Alfred Kowsky
Sep 28, 2021

Sulla, Interesting article 😊. No doubt Augustus Caesar & Tiberius deserve credit for rebuilding the city of Carthage. The ancestors of Septimius Severus deserve credit for developing the area known as Tripolitania ("the Three Cities", Oea, Sabratha, & Leptis Magna). This area had more fertile ground & was closer to central Africa than the western area of Colonia Carthage. Under Septimius Severus, Leptis Magna was turned into a thriving metropolis, & it's ruins are the most beautiful & well preserved of any Roman provincial city.

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