Caesar Augustus was arguably the most important Roman Emperor, restoring the empire and overseeing a period of relative peace, prosperity, and expansion. Historians have noted the apparent contradictions of August, who could be at once ruthless and forgiving, rash and calculating. In this lesson, students corroborate evidence and arguments from a set of primary and secondary sources as they investigate the question: What kind of leader was Augustus?

Image: Sculpture of Augustus as pontifex maximus created in 20 BCE. From the Wikimedia Commons.


I recently used this lesson with my 10th grade Honors World History class. I used it exactly as written and it worked better than I could have imagined. At every step students applied their document reading skills we have been working on. And at the very end, their comments turned into questions that were quite thoughtful. Not only did the students demonstrate that they are "getting it" when reading docs, but I was also able to relate the skills they are using to their History Day projects, such as what do you do when you encounter contradictory sources. This is a great lesson.
This was a great lesson to introduce my grade 7 students to using primary sources. My theme for my Ancient Rome unit is change, and students use these documents as a source to examine why the republic changed into an empire.
The Augustus lesson sparked some authentic conversations about sourcing in my 11th grade Global Studies class. This was a good introduction to sourcing analysis since some of the issues are quite obvious (e.g. Augustus writing about himself).
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