The See Saw

By , February 2, 2020 7:08 pm

                             a) Evidence               b) Argument

The analogy I use for balanced writing is the see saw. Both evidence and argument should be strong.

Evidence = historical details (proof)

Argument = explanations (reasons, persuasiveness)

If you don’t balance the see saw you can end up with writing that is:

a) Evidence-heavy: a list of information that doesn’t support anything.

b) Argument-heavy: a rant, an unsupported opinion.


Instead, what you want is information that is going somewhere: details that support a conclusion. Otherwise, what is the point of either?


Let’s Practice

See if you can identify my evidence and arguments in this (long) paragraph on why Augustus did not cause the decline of the Roman Empire. Note: This is called 3PEA format. It is the basic writing structure for all academic work as it is the basis of essay writing. Also notice that the evidence is footnoted in Chicago style. You cannot give evidence without citing the source (that would be plagiarism). 

Paragraph structure:

TS = topic sentence = the main argument you are trying to prove

point 1

example 1

argument 1

point 2

example 2

argument 2

point 3

example 3

argument 3

CS = concluding sentence

Augustus did not directly cause the decline of the Roman Empire though he did establish some precedents that later became causes for decline. First, Augustus’ treatment of the Senate was fair. He took away Julius Caesar’s old appointees, 300 people, making the patricians feel happier about being rid of those plebeian-friendly old pals of Caesar. While the Senate remained somewhat powerful, Augustus grew to hold just as much power as he shared power over the provinces with the Senate. He personally owned and controlled Egypt, one of the wealthiest provinces 1.  This shows that Augustus was smart enough to please the Senate yet still give himself a lot of power. One of the long-term political causes of the fall of the Roman Empire in the west was the corruption of rulers. Over time the Senate became less and less important and more power was concentrated in the hands of the emperor who could be unscrupulous and devious. Even though Augustus never called himself emperor he certainly demonstrated emperor-like power when he removed the Caesar-friendly Senators and single-handedly decided that Egypt would belong to him. He wasn’t corrupt or devious; he was just smart enough to make it work in his time. Next, Augustus was very interested in reviving and promoting the old/traditional values of the Republic related to religion and family. He did this by pleasing the priests in many ways related to morality: taxing childless couples to push them to have more children; making an example of his daughter Julia by forcing her to marry his friend Marcus Agrippa to provide him with an heir and eventually exiling her for her immoral behaviour with men; and building 82 temples in Rome 2. These examples demonstrate that Augustus did not contribute directly to the decline of Rome in the area of religion because he promoted the polytheistic state religion of Rome, not Christianity. Christianity hardly existed at the time of Augustus. Later in the empire when the new religion began to spread among Romans, it grew and grew in popularity with plebeians who were suffering both socially and economically in the empire. It grew to the point that it made the polytheistic (or pagan) emperors upset when Christians would not sacrifice to the emperor. Persecutions increased until Constantine converted and gave a voice to Christians. Later, as Christianity became the state religion, people became confused and there was uncertainty as to the status of the old Roman values. Augustus cannot be blamed for this.  Last, when it came to external and military affairs, Augustus can also not be seen as a direct cause of the fall of Rome. Though Augustus did spend money on troops and did send them to fight in many places, including against the Germanic tribes, he learned a lesson later in life that could have had a great effect on his successors: don’t expand. After losing legions (about 20 000 men) against the Germanic troops at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE, he wrote in his will that future emperors should not expand Rome because it was too dangerous 3. Once again one can argue  that Augustus’ actions did not directly lead to the fall of Rome. It was not Augustus’ fault that later emperors, including his own immediate dynastic successors in the Julio-Claudian dynasty, did not heed his warning about the dangers of expansion. What later happened in the empire is that emperors conquered more and more land, causing them to have more and more troops to defend the frontiers. These troops were expensive to maintain. When Rome began to stagnate and emperors invited in Germanic troops who were paid to be in the Roman army, they might have foreseen that these troops would not be loyal to the Roman Empire. Augustus once again showed his smart mind by warning about the risks of expansion and thus should not be blamed for future emperors not seeing the consequences. Overall, for the most part Augustus is innocent of causing the later decline of  Rome; the only thing he indirectly contributed to is gathering emperor-like power into his hands.


  1. PBS, “Augustus,” Roman Empire in the First Century, 2006,

2. Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, “Battle of the Teutoburg Forest,” Britannica, accessed Jan. 22, 2022,

3. Ibid. [Note: this means same as previous in Chicago style]

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