Do you not know, have you not heard? I am Emperor Augustus, founder of the Roman Empire . . . defeater of Antony and Cleopatra . . . Tribune . . . Supreme Military Commander . . . First Citizen of the State . . . architect of the Pax Romana, blood-stained though it was . . . bringer of the standing army . . . taker of land . . . killer of children . . . victorious warrior . . . Censor, in charge of supervising the morals of the State . . . keeper of the food supplies . . . bestower of gifts upon the poor . . . tax collector par excellence. . . bringer of the census . . . owner of Egypt . . . survivor of illness and shipwreck and slanders and commoner lineage and assassination attempts . . . upon my death, joiner of the company of the gods as a member of the Roman pantheon, my name is Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus – Emperor Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine, and I was the first Caesar, Kaiser, Tsar. . . and when I order something, it is done.
I am, after all, The Emperor, Son of the Divine.
And who would not call me a god when the food in their mouths drops from my hand? Who would not worship me when the land they call home is bestowed by me? Who would not tremble before me when the power of life and death lies in the bow of my head?
From a sincere desire to make the collection of taxes more fair and just (and not coincidentally, greater for my coffers, for the coffers of Rome are my coffers), did I institute the census, in order that taxes collected from the provinces be based on something other than the whims of the tax farmers (I spit at their memory).
And what I, what Rome, declares, is done.
How could I have known that a census, a bureaucratic measure at most, would be the agent of the change of the world? How could I have known that traveling to the birthplace to be registered would upset the order of things beyond all reckoning? How could I have known my own census would reduce my place in history to footnote, while a baby not even yet born would supplant me as The Son of the Divine?
And how could I have known that there – in the weeds of the outliers – lies the irony of my demise . . . can you see it? It is the people – people coming and going, traveling my roads and bringing with them the scourge of new ideas . . . ideas like love and mercy, joy and peace, a fellowship of equals existing in voluntary confraternity through the ages.
The fates (dare I call them gods any longer?) are indeed cruel in their jest.
“Have I played the part well? Then applaud as I exit.”