An Augustus for the rest of us

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By the time Augustus became the adopted son and heir of his great-uncle, Julias Caesar, in 46 BC, the Roman empire was in a state of decline and turmoil. Caesar’s assassination at the hands of his own advisors shortly after winning the civil war and being named dictator clearly evidenced this and left the 19-year-old Augustus to navigate the tumultuous and double-crossing world of Roman politics on his own.

Augustus quickly proved to be a formidable force. Striking strategic allegiances, he defeated his enemies in Rome within a few years and began an ambitious expansion of the empire. Over the next several years, he expanded the territory significantly to include Egypt, northern Spain, and much of central Europe. He would eventually be named Rome’s first emperor, and under his masterful hand, the essence of Roman life was restructured, ushering in a period of peace and stability. Communication blossomed, trade thrived, and the arts flourished with newfound vigor. Yet, despite having the month of August renamed after him, he still felt the need for something more, something that would etch his legacy into the very hearts of his people.

Hailing from a humble village, Augustus maintained his small-town values and an awareness of the desires and motivations of the public. In what turned out to be one of the greatest public relations moves humanity has ever witnessed, he declared a holiday of monumental proportions, the Feriae Augusti. This celebration would take place in mid-August and every person, from noble to servant, would be given a break from the summer’s swelter to revel in time unshackled and enjoy feasting on the empire’s bounties. In this moment, the untouchable cornerstones of Italian life – family, friends, and food – were fused into another “F,” the Ferragosto, as it is now known.

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While time marched on, centuries yielding to the tides of history and the eventual fall of the Roman empire, the tradition of the August holidays continued to endure. More than 2,000 years later, Ferragosto remains an anchor of shared cultural values. Though the sacred Catholic holiday of the Assumption of Mary is celebrated on the same day, Ferragosto ignites a camaraderie that transcends the boundaries of age, creed, and politics, uniting Italians with an unbreakable bond.

As the August sun casts its summer heat and glow, here at Fortuny, we remain in awe of the warm hues that color shadows and reflect off the facades and canals, the delicate caress of every breeze, and the flash of every lightning bolt. In turn, we honor this tradition of rest and recovery, extending a heartfelt invitation to our dedicated team to embrace a well-earned respite. May your August be filled with connection, reflection, and celebration, whether in the company of cherished kin or your own luminous solitude.

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