Rome’s first emperor Augustus began life as Octavian, this magazine’s namesake. As ruler he played a carefully constructed role for the duration of his reign: a simple, humble citizen chosen to lead a great state. This belied, of course, the enormous power he accumulated. But as Roman historian Tom Holland notes, this thoroughgoing theatrical ability was precisely the source of Augustus’s tremendous success. Our modern politicians, with their constant bungling and vulgarity under our 24-hour-a-day scrutiny, would do well to take note.
It is telling that this magazine should have the title that it does. Octavian is the shorthand conventionally used by classicists to refer to the most successful political leader in Western history during the early years of his career, before he …
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Tom Holland is the best-selling author of Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic and Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar.