From its founding in 753 B.C.E. until the end of the republic in the late first century B.C.E., Rome was constantly changing, growing, and developing. As Augustus led Rome through a transition from republic to principate in 27 BC.E., he turned the city into an empire. According to Syme, Augustus “built up, for Rome, Italy, and the Empire, a system of government so strong and a body of administrators so large and coherent that nothing should shatter this fabric.” Under the principate of Augustus, a more intricate political system arose which was able to handle the growing administrative needs of the Roman empire. This need was no longer able to be filled solely by the main political body at the time, the senatorial class. In order to fill the gaps in the empire's new political infrastructure, Augustus built up a preexisting social class into a new order that would be able to complete the new bureaucracy of the principate. This class was the equites, a modern translation of which could be “knights” or “cavalry.” Augustus transformed this archaic class into an integrated political group of the principate. This paper will determine the equites' role in the principate, concentrating on how the class changed as Rome transitioned from republic to principate. Examining this change will prove that Augustus provided the means and drove the development of the equites, which would then lead to a complex system of government more able to handle a larger empire. The development of this class created a recognizable middle class in Rome, unable to achieve the elite status of the senators but of formidable enough wealth, skill, and status to set these individuals apart from the plebians.



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