A 2,000-year-old legacy comes alive

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Shelter Island Public Library will be present a discussion on Emperor Augustus by historian Dryden G. Liddle, at  Friday Night Dialogue stomorrow.

Shelter Island Public Library will present a discussion on Emperor Augustus by historian Dryden G. Liddle, at Friday Night Dialogues tomorrow.

With more than a little — and much needed — perspective on today’s political sturm und drang, noted historian and Ram Island summer resident, Dryden G. Liddle, comes to Friday Night Dialogues at the Library on August 22 to discuss Emperor Augustus, whose legacy embraces the development of today’s political, social and economic institutions.

To mark the 2,000th anniversary of Augustus’ death on August 19, 14 AD, Dryden Liddle traces the power and the politics of “probably the most gifted, successful and talented political man in history.”

Augustus mastered the art of the state. He ruled as an autocrat but maintained the fiction that he was no more than the Republic’s “First Citizen,” the Princeps.

His long reign saw the transformation of Rome’s government and administration and the flourishing of art, architecture and literature — Augustus’ and Rome’s Golden Age. His vision and power expanded the Roman Empire to far more than a collection of countries, to a diverse society and enormous marketplace in which people across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East could trade and travel under Rome’s protection. His legacy was a new system of imperial government that would last for another 400 years in the West, and until 1453 in Constantinople in the East.

Augustus was 32 when he became Rome’s first emperor, and he reigned for 40 years. He seized power ruthlessly and founded a dynasty with as many villains as heroes, taking Rome on a roller-coaster ride into assassination, insanity and terror. He was declared the savior of the Roman Republic, but in the process, he abolished it.

Dryden G. Liddle is a recently qualified Ph.D. in history. He holds an M.A. degree in economics from Cambridge University with some 50 years between the two. His non-academic work includes a career in diplomacy with the British Foreign Office and a long tenure in banking and business, much of which was in London and Madrid. In 1965, he married Patricia Seward (daughter of George C. Seward of Ram Island) and has been coming to Shelter Island ever since. He lives in Mill Valley, Marin County, California and summers on Ram Island, as do his four grandchildren.

Friday Night Dialogues at the Library is held at 7 p.m. in the library’s Community Room; it is free with donations appreciated.

Coming up: “Red Hot Patriot,” a one-woman show with Jenifer Maxson on August 29, followed by Islander Jason Shields, author of “Louis’ Beach and Other Writings,” on September 5.