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Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome

Print Augustus Reading Comprehension

Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 11
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.11

     challenging words:    acta, coldheartedly, conceivable, fabula, proscription, venerable, following, relinquish, hairpin, pretense, exceedingly, assured, purge, consolidate, placate, listless
     content words:    Roman Republic, Roman Empire, Julius Caesar, Gaius Octavius, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, Mark Antony, When Augustus, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, Second Triumvirate, Aemilius Lepidus

By Vickie Chao

1     For ancient Rome, 27 B.C. was a defining moment. That year, the Roman Republic ceased to exist. In its place, the Roman Empire was born, and Augustus was its first emperor.
2     Augustus' rise to power was, in many ways, a stroke of luck, for he had a powerful great uncle. That great uncle of his was none other than Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar took Augustus (whose real name was Gaius Octavius) under his wing and gave the young lad plenty of opportunities to shine. On every occasion, Augustus always did exceedingly well. He never let his great uncle down. Impressed by the boy's potential, Julius Caesar secretly changed his will. In it, he adopted Augustus as his son and named him his successor. Not long afterwards, on March 15, 44 B.C., a group of senators conspired to assassinate Julius Caesar. They coldheartedly stabbed him to death and laid his listless body at the footsteps of Pompey's statue. Later, when this one-time dictator's will was revealed, everybody was caught by surprise. They had no idea that Julius Caesar had appointed Augustus, who was only about 18 years old then, as his heir apparent. Right away, the already chaotic Roman Republic became even more divided. Despite the mounting pressures, Augustus refused to back down and quickly gathered enough support from his great uncle's troops.
3     In the midst of this power struggle, Augustus, whose official name was now Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Octavian), was more or less considered a minor player. Nobody took him seriously because of his young age. At the time, Mark Antony and Cicero were both vying for the control of the Roman Republic. Cicero, an outstanding orator, befriended Augustus under a false pretense. On one hand, he bestowed flowery compliments to the young upstart. On the other hand, he ridiculed him behind his back. When Augustus learned of the man's true intention, he forged an alliance with Mark Antony, Julius Caesar's second-in-command. The two, together with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, reached a five-year agreement and formed the so-called Second Triumvirate in November 43 B.C. Immediately after the ink was dry, the trio unleashed a ruthless campaign of proscription. In all, there were some 300 senators and 2,000 noblemen proscribed or condemned as public enemies. By the time that this bloody, cruel purge ended, most of the dissidents were killed and their properties confiscated. Among the victims, Cicero fared the worst. He was caught and slain near Caieta on December 7, 43 B.C. Upon his death, his head and hands were brought back to Rome and displayed on the speaker's platform at the Forum. Mark Antony's new third wife, Fulvia, allegedly pulled out Cicero's tongue and jabbed it repeatedly with a hairpin, in final defiance against the man's power of speech.

Paragraphs 4 to 7:
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