Freeing the slave was nice, but wouldn’t be that huge of a thing.
Smashing the cups, though? I’m just imagining that Augustus was just walking along one day and saw the slave-owner trying to kill his slave, so he just goes over, tells the slave ‘yo, you’re free’, and then, never breaking his gaze from the slaveowner, casually sweeps all the other cups off the shelf too.
It’s just such a wonderful little ‘fuck you’.
Think about it though…this is a man saying “see how much control I can do over the little things in your life.” It sounds kind of ridicculous until you picture him just breaking all the man’s cups or ordering it to be done. He never breaks eye contact with the man. As it goes on it becomes impeccably clear…smashing the cups is the only thing keeping the Caesar from breaking the man
Back in those days, glass cups were state of the art technology and costs what we would call “an arm and a leg.” By breaking them, Augustus cost the man a fortune and taught him a lesson in humility. Nice.