, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC
, and the Julian after 45 BC. Due to departures from Julius Caesar's intentions, Augustus restored the Julian calendar in 8 BC, and the correspondence between the proleptic Julian calendar
and the actual calendar observed in Rome is uncertain before 8 BC.(Blackburn & Holford-Strevens 2003: 670–1) Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, he was adopted
posthumously by his great-uncle Gaius Julius Caesar
in 44 BC via his last will and testament, and between then and 27 BC was officially named Gaius Julius Caesar.
If we could survive without a wife, citizens of Rome, all of us would do without that nuisance; but since nature has so decreed that we cannot manage comfortably with them, nor live in any way without them, we must plan for our lasting preservation rather than for our temporary pleasure.
If I have played my part well, clap your hands, and dismiss me with applause from the stage.
At the age of nineteen, on my own initiative and at my own expense, I raised an army by means of which I restored liberty to the republic, which had been oppressed by the tyranny of a faction. For which service the senate, with complimentary resolutions, enrolled me in its order...
Those who slew my father I drove into exile, punishing their deed by due process of law, and afterwards when they waged war upon the republic I twice defeated them in battle.
Wars, both civil and foreign, I undertook throughout the world, on sea and land, and when victorious I spared all citizens who sued for pardon. The foreign nations which could with safety be pardoned I preferred to save rather than to destroy.
I declined to be made Pontifex Maximus|Pontifex Maximus in succession to a colleague still living, when the people tendered me that priesthood which my father had held. Several years later I accepted that sacred office when he at last was dead who, taking advantage of a time of civil disturbance, had seized it for himself, such a multitude from all Italy assembling for my election, in the consulship of Publius Sulpicius and Gaius Valgius, as is never recorded to have been in Rome before.
, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC
, and the Julian after 45 BC. Due to departures from Julius Caesar's intentions, Augustus restored the Julian calendar in 8 BC, and the correspondence between the proleptic Julian calendar
and the actual calendar observed in Rome is uncertain before 8 BC.(Blackburn & Holford-Strevens 2003: 670–1) Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, he was adopted
posthumously by his great-uncle Gaius Julius Caesar
in 44 BC via his last will and testament, and between then and 27 BC was officially named Gaius Julius Caesar. In 27 BC the Senate awarded him the honorific Augustus
("the revered one"), and thus consequently he was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus.Formally Imperator
, Divi filius, Augustus
which means Imperator Caesar, Son of the Divus (Divus Julius
), Augustus. Because of the various names he bore, it is common to call him Octavius when referring to events between 63 and 44 BC, Octavian (or Octavianus) when referring to events between 44 and 27 BC, and Augustus when referring to events after 27 BC. In Greek sources, Augustus is known as (Octavius/Oktabios), (Caesar/Kaisar), (Augustus/Augustos), or Σεβαστός (Sebastos
), depending on context.
The young Octavius came into his inheritance after Caesar's assassination in 44 BC. In 43 BC, Octavian joined forces with Mark Antony
and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
in a military dictatorship
known as the Second Triumvirate
. As a triumvir, Octavian ruled Rome and many of its provinces.Some provinces were governed by the Senate
. The triumvirate was eventually torn apart under the competing ambitions of its rulers: Lepidus was driven into exile, and Antony committed suicide following his defeat at the Battle of Actium
by the fleet of Octavian commanded by Agrippa
in 31 BC.
After the demise of the Second Triumvirate, Octavian restored the outward facade of the Roman Republic
, with governmental power vested in the Roman Senate
, but in practice retained his autocratic power. It took several years to determine the exact framework by which a formally republican state could be led by a sole ruler; the result became known as the Roman Empire
. The emperorship was never an office like the Roman dictator
ship which Caesar and Sulla had held before him; indeed, he declined it when the Roman populace "entreated him to take on the dictatorship". By law, Augustus held a collection of powers granted to him for life by the Senate, including those of tribune
of the plebs and censor. He was consul
until 23 BC. His substantive power stemmed from financial success and resources gained in conquest, the building of patronage relationships throughout the Empire, the loyalty of many military soldiers and veterans, the authority of the many honors granted by the Senate, and the respect of the people. Augustus' control over the majority of Rome's legions
established an armed threat that could be used against the Senate, allowing him to coerce the Senate's decisions. With his ability to eliminate senatorial opposition by means of arms, the Senate became docile towards him. His rule through patronage, military power, and accumulation of the offices of the defunct Republic became the model for all later imperial governments.
The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana
, or Roman peace. Despite continuous wars on the frontiers, and one year-long civil war over the imperial succession, the Mediterranean world remained at peace for more than two centuries. Augustus enlarged the empire dramatically, annexing Egypt, Dalmatia
, and Raetia
, expanded possessions in Africa
, and completed the conquest of Hispania
. Beyond the frontiers, he secured the empire with client state
s, and made peace with Parthia
through diplomacy. He reformed the Roman system of taxation, developed networks of roads with an official courier
system, established a standing army, established the Praetorian Guard
, and created official police and fire-fighting services for Rome. Much of the city was rebuilt under Augustus; and he wrote a record of his own accomplishments, known as the Res Gestae Divi Augusti
, which has survived. Upon his death in AD 14, Augustus was declared a god by the Senate—to be worshipped by the Romans. His names Augustus and Caesar were adopted by every subsequent emperor; and the sixth month of the Roman calendar, previously named Sextilis
, was renamed Augustus (August in English) in his honour. He was succeeded by his adopted son (also stepson and former son-in-law), Tiberius
Early lifeWhile his paternal family was from the town of Velletri
, about 25 miles from Rome, Augustus was born in the city of Rome on 23 September 63 BC. He was born at Ox Head, a small property on the Palatine Hill
, very close to the Roman Forum
. He was given the name Gaius Octavius Thurinus, his cognomen
possibly commemorating his father's victory at Thurii
over a rebellious band of slaves. Due to the crowded nature of Rome at the time, Octavius was taken to his father's home village at Velletri
to be raised. Octavius only mentions his father's equestrian
family briefly in his memoirs. His paternal great-grandfather was a military tribune in Sicily
during the Second Punic War
. His grandfather had served in several local political offices. His father, also named Gaius Octavius
, had been governor of Macedonia
.Suetonius, Augustus The "Marcus Octavius" veto
ing the agrarian law
suggested by Tiberius Gracchus
in 133 BC was possibly his ancestor. 1–4. His mother Atia was the niece of Julius Caesar
In 59 BC, when he was four years old, his father died. His mother married a former governor of Syria, Lucius Marcius Philippus
. Philippus claimed descent from Alexander the Great, and was elected consul
in 56 BC. Philippus never had much of an interest in young Octavius. Because of this, Octavius was raised by his grandmother (and Julius Caesar's sister), Julia Caesaris
In 52 or 51 BC, Julia Caesaris died. Octavius delivered the funeral oration for his grandmother. From this point, his mother and stepfather took a more active role in raising him. He donned the toga virilis four years later, and was elected to the College of Pontiffs
in 47 BC. The following year he was put in charge of the Greek games that were staged in honor of the Temple of Venus Genetrix
, built by Julius Caesar. According to Nicolaus of Damascus
, Octavius wished to join Caesar's staff for his campaign in Africa but gave way when his mother protested. In 46 BC, she consented for him to join Caesar in Hispania
, where he planned to fight the forces of Pompey
, Caesar's late enemy, but Octavius fell ill and was unable to travel.
When he had recovered, he sailed to the front, but was shipwrecked; after coming ashore with a handful of companions, he crossed hostile territory to Caesar's camp, which impressed his great-uncle considerably. Velleius Paterculus
reports that Caesar afterwards allowed the young man to share his carriage. When back in Rome, Caesar deposited a new will with the Vestal Virgins, naming Octavius as the prime beneficiary.
Heir to Caesar
on the Ides of March
(the 15th) 44 BC, Octavius was studying and undergoing military training in Apollonia, Illyria
. Rejecting the advice of some army officers to take refuge with the troops in Macedonia
, he sailed to Italia
to ascertain if he had any potential political fortunes or security. After landing at Lupiae near Brundisium, he learned the contents of Caesar's will, and only then did he decide to become Caesar's political heir as well as heir to two-thirds of his estate. Having no living legitimate children, Caesar had adopted his great-nephew Octavius as his son and main heir. Upon his adoption, Octavius assumed his great-uncle's name, Gaius Julius Caesar. Although Romans who had been adopted into a new family usually retained their old nomen
form (e.g. Octavianus for one who had been an Octavius, Aemilianus for one who had been an Aemilius, etc.) there is no evidence that he ever bore the name Octavianus, as it would have made his modest origins too obvious. However, despite the fact that he never officially bore the name Octavianus, to save confusing the dead dictator with his heir, historians often refer to the new Caesar—between his adoption and his assumption, in 27 BC, of the name Augustus—as Octavian. Mark Antony
later charged that Octavian had earned his adoption by Caesar through sexual favours, though Suetonius
, in his work Lives of the Twelve Caesars
, describes Antony's accusation as political slander.
To make a successful entry into the upper echelons of the Roman political hierarchy, Octavian could not rely on his limited funds. After a warm welcome by Caesar's soldiers at Brundisium, Octavian demanded a portion of the funds that were allotted by Caesar for the intended war against Parthia
in the Middle East. This amounted to 700 million sesterces
stored at Brundisium, the staging ground in Italy for military operations in the east. A later senatorial investigation into the disappearance of the public funds made no action against Octavian, since he subsequently used that money to raise troops against the Senate's arch enemy, Mark Antony. Octavian made another bold move in 44 BC when without official permission he appropriated the annual tribute that had been sent from Rome's Near East
ern province to Italy. Octavian began to bolster his personal forces with Caesar's veteran legionaries and with troops designated for the Parthian war, gathering support by emphasizing his status as heir to Caesar. On his march to Rome through Italy, Octavian's presence and newly acquired funds attracted many, winning over Caesar's former veterans stationed in Campania
. By June he had gathered an army of 3,000 loyal veterans, paying each a salary of 500 denarii
, Caesar's former colleague, in an uneasy truce with the dictator's assassins; they had been granted a general amnesty on 17 March, yet Antony succeeded in driving most of them out of Rome. This was due to his "inflammatory" eulogy given at Caesar's funeral, mounting public opinion against the assassins. Although Mark Antony was amassing political support, Octavian still had opportunity to rival him as the leading member of the faction supporting Caesar. Mark Antony had lost the support of many Romans and supporters of Caesar when he at first opposed the motion to elevate Caesar to divine status. Octavian failed to persuade Antony to relinquish Caesar's money to him. However, during the summer he managed to win support from Caesarian sympathizers, who saw the younger heir as the lesser evil and hoped to manipulate him, or to bear with him during their efforts to get rid of Antonius. In September, the Optimate
orator Marcus Tullius Cicero
began to attack Antony in a series of speeches
portraying Antony as the greatest threat to the order of the Senate. With opinion in Rome turning against him and his year of consular power nearing its end, Antony attempted to pass laws which would lend him control over Cisalpine Gaul
, which had been assigned as part of his province, from Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus
, one of Caesar's assassins. Octavian meanwhile built up a private army in Italy by recruiting Caesarian veterans, and on 28 November won over two of Antony's legions with the enticing offer of monetary gain. In the face of Octavian's large and capable force, Antony saw the danger of staying in Rome, and to the relief of the Senate he fled to Cisalpine Gaul, which was to be handed to him on 1 January.
First conflict with AntonyAfter Decimus Brutus refused to give up Cisalpine Gaul
, Antony besieged him at Mutina. The resolutions passed by the Senate to stop the violence were rejected by Antony, as the Senate had no army of its own to challenge him; this provided an opportunity for Octavian, who was already known to have armed forces. Cicero also defended Octavian against Antony's taunts about Octavian's lack of noble lineage; he stated "we have no more brilliant example of traditional piety among our youth." This was in part a rebuttal to Antony's opinion of Octavian, as Cicero quoted Antony saying to Octavian, "You, boy, owe everything to your name." In this unlikely alliance orchestrated by the arch anti-Caesarian senator Cicero, the Senate inducted Octavian as senator on 1 January 43 BC, yet he was also given the power to vote alongside the former consuls. In addition, Octavian was granted imperium
(commanding power), which made his command of troops legal, sending him to relieve the siege along with Hirtius
(the consuls for 43 BC). In April of 43 BC, Antony's forces were defeated at the battles of Forum Gallorum
, forcing Antony to retreat to Transalpine Gaul. However, both consuls were killed, leaving Octavian in sole command of their armies.
After heaping many more rewards on Decimus Brutus than Octavian for defeating Antony, the Senate attempted to give command of the consular legions to Decimus Brutus, yet Octavian decided not to cooperate. Instead, Octavian stayed in the Po Valley
and refused to aid any further offensive against Antony. In July, an embassy of centurion
s sent by Octavian entered Rome and demanded that he receive the consulship left vacant by Hirtius and Pansa. Octavian also demanded that the decree declaring Antony a public enemy should be rescinded. When this was refused, he marched on the city with eight legions. He encountered no military opposition in Rome, and on 19 August 43 BC was elected consul with his relative Quintus Pedius
as co-consul. Meanwhile, Antony formed an alliance with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
, another leading Caesarian.
in October of 43 BC, Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus formed a junta
called the Second Triumvirate
. This explicit arrogation of special powers lasting five years was then supported by law passed by the plebs
, unlike the unofficial First Triumvirate
formed by Gnaeus Pompey Magnus, Julius Caesar
and Marcus Licinius Crassus
. The triumvirs then set in motion proscription
s in which allegedly 300 senators and 2,000 equites
were branded as outlaw
s and deprived of their property and, for those who failed to escape, their lives. The estimation that 300 senators were proscribed was presented by Appian
, although his earlier contemporary Livy
asserted that only 130 senators had been proscribed. This decree issued by the triumvirate was motivated in part by a need to raise money to pay their troops' salaries for the upcoming conflict against Caesar's assassins, Marcus Junius Brutus
and Gaius Cassius Longinus
. Rewards for their arrest gave incentive for Romans to capture those proscribed, while the assets and properties of those arrested were seized by the triumvirs.
Contemporary Roman historians provide conflicting reports as to which triumvir was more responsible for the proscriptions and killing. However, the sources agree that enacting the proscriptions was a means by all three factions to eliminate political enemies. Marcus Velleius Paterculus
asserted that Octavian tried to avoid proscribing officials whereas Lepidus and Antony were to blame for initiating them. Cassius Dio defended Augustus as trying to spare as many as possible, whereas Antony and Lepidus, being older and involved in politics longer, had many more enemies to deal with. This claim was rejected by Appian, who maintained that Octavian shared an equal interest with Lepidus and Antony in eradicating his enemies. Suetonius
presents the case that Octavian, although reluctant at first to proscribe officials, nonetheless pursued his enemies with more rigor than the other triumvirs. Plutarch
describes the proscriptions as a ruthless and cutthroat swapping of friends and family between Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian. For example, Octavian allowed the proscription of his ally Cicero
, Antony the proscription of his maternal uncle Lucius Julius Caesar IV
, and Lepidus his brother Paulus.
Battle of Philippi and division of territoryOn 1 January 42 BC, the Senate
posthumously recognized Julius Caesar as a divinity of the Roman state, Divus Iulius. Octavian was able to further his cause by emphasizing the fact that he was Divi filius
, "Son of God". Antony and Octavian then sent 28 legions by sea to face the armies of Brutus and Cassius, who had built their base of power in Greece. After two battles at Philippi
in October of 42, the Caesarian army was victorious and Brutus
. Mark Antony would later use the examples of these battles as a means to belittle Octavian, as both battles were decisively won with the use of Antony's forces. In addition to claiming responsibility for both victories, Antony also branded Octavian as a coward for handing over his direct military control to Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
After Philippi, a new territorial arrangement was made among the members of the Second Triumvirate. While Antony placed Gaul
, the provinces of Hispania
, and Italia
in the hands of Octavian, Antony traveled east to Egypt
where he allied himself with Queen Cleopatra VII
, the former lover of Julius Caesar and mother of Caesar's infant son, Caesarion
. Lepidus was left with the province of Africa
, stymied by Antony who conceded Hispania to Octavian instead. Octavian was left to decide where in Italy to settle the tens of thousands of veterans of the Macedonian campaign whom the triumvirs had promised to discharge. The tens of thousands who had fought on the republican side with Brutus and Cassius, who could easily ally with a political opponent of Octavian if not appeased, also required land. There was no more government-controlled land to allot as settlements for their soldiers, so Octavian had to choose one of two options: alienating many Roman citizens by confiscating their land, or alienating many Roman soldiers who could mount a considerable opposition against him in the Roman heartland; Octavian chose the former. There were as many as eighteen Roman towns affected by the new settlements, with entire populations driven out or at least given partial evictions.
Rebellion and marriage alliancesWidespread dissatisfaction with Octavian over his soldiers' settlements encouraged many to rally at the side of Lucius Antonius
, who was brother of Mark Antony and supported by a majority in the Senate. Meanwhile, Octavian asked for a divorce from Clodia Pulchra
, the daughter of Fulvia
and her first husband Publius Clodius Pulcher
. Claiming that his marriage with Clodia had never been consummated, he returned her to her mother, Mark Antony's wife. Fulvia decided to take action. Together with Lucius Antonius she raised an army in Italy to fight for Antony's rights against Octavian. However, Lucius and Fulvia took a political and martial gamble in opposing Octavian, since the Roman army still depended on the triumvirs for their salaries. Lucius and his allies ended up in a defensive siege at Perusia
), where Octavian forced them into surrender in early 40 BC. Lucius and his army were spared due to his kinship with Antony, the strongman of the East, while Fulvia was exiled to Sicyon
. However, Octavian showed no mercy for the mass of allies loyal to Lucius; on 15 March, the anniversary of Julius Caesar's assassination, he had 300 Roman senators and equestrians executed for allying with Lucius. Perusia was also pillaged and burned as a warning for others. This bloody event sullied Octavian's reputation and was criticized by many, such as the Augustan poet Sextus Propertius
, son of the First Triumvir Pompey
and still a renegade general following Julius Caesar's victory over his father, was established in Sicily
as part of an agreement reached with the Second Triumvirate in 39 BC. Both Antony and Octavian were vying for an alliance with Pompeius, who was ironically a member of the republican party, not the Caesarian faction. Octavian succeeded in a temporary alliance when in 40 BC he married Scribonia
, a daughter of Lucius Scribonius Libo
who was a follower of Pompeius as well as his father-in-law. Scribonia conceived Octavian's only natural child, Julia
, who was born the same day that he divorced Scribonia to marry Livia Drusilla
, little more than a year after his marriage.
While in Egypt, Antony had been engaged in an affair with Cleopatra and had fathered three children with her. Aware of his deteriorating relationship with Octavian, Antony left Cleopatra; he sailed to Italy in 40 BC with a large force to oppose Octavian, laying siege to Brundisium. However, this new conflict proved untenable for both Octavian and Antony. Their centurion
s, who had become important figures politically, refused to fight due to their Caesarian cause, while the legions under their command followed suit. Meanwhile in Sicyon, Antony's wife Fulvia died of a sudden illness while Antony was en route to meet her. Fulvia's death and the mutiny of their centurions allowed the two remaining triumvirs to effect a reconciliation. In the autumn of 40, Octavian and Antony approved the Treaty of Brundisium, by which Lepidus would remain in Africa, Antony in the East, Octavian in the West. The Italian peninsula was left open to all for the recruitment of soldiers, but in reality, this provision was useless for Antony in the East. To further cement relations of alliance with Mark Antony, Octavian gave his sister, Octavia Minor
, in marriage to Antony in late 40 BC. During their marriage, Octavia gave birth to two daughters (known as Antonia Major
and Antonia Minor
War with Pompeius
Sextus Pompeius threatened Octavian in Italy by denying to the peninsula shipments of grain through the Mediterranean; Pompeius' own son was put in charge as naval commander in the effort to cause widespread famine in Italy. Pompeius' control over the sea prompted him to take on the name Neptuni filius, "son of Neptune
". A temporary peace agreement was reached in 39 BC with the treaty of Misenum; the blockade on Italy was lifted once Octavian granted Pompeius Sardinia, Corsica
, Sicily, and the Peloponnese
, and ensured him a future position as consul for 35 BC. The territorial agreement amongst the triumvirs and Sextus Pompeius began to crumble once Octavian divorced Scribonia and married Livia on 17 January 38 BC. One of Pompeius' naval commanders betrayed him and handed over Corsica and Sardinia to Octavian. However Octavian needed Antony's additional support to attack Pompeius, so an agreement was reached with the Second Triumvirate's extension for another five-year period beginning in 37 BC. In supporting Octavian, Antony expected to gain support for his own campaign against Parthia, desiring to avenge Rome's defeat at Carrhae
in 53 BC. In an agreement reached at Tarentum
, Antony provided 120 ships for Octavian to use against Pompeius, while Octavian was to send 20,000 legionaries
to Antony for use against Parthia. However, Octavian sent only a tenth the number of those promised, which was viewed by Antony as an intentional provocation.
Octavian and Lepidus launched a joint operation against Sextus in Sicily in 36 BC. Despite setbacks for Octavian, the naval fleet of Sextus Pompeius was almost entirely destroyed on 3 September by general Agrippa at the naval battle of Naulochus
. Sextus fled with his remaining forces to the east, where he was captured and executed in Miletus
by one of Antony's generals the following year. Both Lepidus and Octavian gathered the surrendered troops of Pompeius, yet Lepidus felt empowered enough to claim Sicily for himself, ordering Octavian to leave. However, Lepidus' troops deserted him and defected to Octavian since they were weary of fighting and found Octavian's promises of money to be enticing. Lepidus surrendered to Octavian and was permitted to retain the office of pontifex maximus
(head of the college of priests), but was ejected from the Triumvirate, his public career at an end, and was effectively exiled to a villa
at Cape Circei in Italy. The Roman dominions were now divided between Octavian in the West and Antony in the East. To maintain peace and stability in his portion of the Empire, Octavian ensured Rome's citizens of their rights to property. This time he settled his discharged soldiers outside of Italy while returning 30,000 slaves to former Roman owners that had previously fled to Pompeius to join his army and navy. To ensure his own safety and that of Livia and Octavia once he returned to Rome, Octavian had the Senate grant him, his wife, and his sister tribunal
, or sacrosanctitas.
War with Antony
implying that Antony was becoming less than Roman because he rejected a legitimate Roman spouse for an "Oriental paramour
". In 36 BC, Octavian used a political ploy to make himself look less autocratic and Antony more the villain by proclaiming that the civil wars were coming to an end, and that he would step down as triumvir if only Antony would do the same; Antony refused.
After Roman troops captured the Kingdom of Armenia in 34 BC, Antony made his son Alexander Helios the ruler of Armenia; he also awarded the title "Queen of Kings" to Cleopatra, acts which Octavian used to convince the Roman Senate that Antony had ambitions to diminish the preeminence of Rome. When Octavian became consul once again on 1 January 33 BC, he opened the following session in the Senate with a vehement attack on Antony's grants of titles and territories to his relatives and to his queen. Defecting consuls and senators rushed over to the side of Antony in disbelief of the propaganda (which turned out to be true), yet so did able ministers desert Antony for Octavian in the autumn of 32 BC. These defectors, Munatius Plancus and Marcus Titius, gave Octavian the information he needed to confirm with the Senate all the accusations he made against Antony. By storming the sanctuary of the Vestal Virgins, Octavian forced their chief priestess to hand over Antony's secret will, which would have given away Roman-conquered territories as kingdoms for his sons to rule, alongside plans to build a tomb in Alexandria
for him and his queen to reside upon their deaths. In late 32 BC, the Senate officially revoked Antony's powers as consul and declared war on Cleopatra's regime in Egypt.
. While Agrippa cut off Antony and Cleopatra's main force from their supply routes at sea, Octavian landed on the mainland opposite the island of Corcyra (modern Corfu
) and marched south. Trapped on land and sea, deserters of Antony's army fled to Octavian's side daily while Octavian's forces were comfortable enough to make preparations. In a desperate attempt to break free of the naval blockade
, Antony's fleet sailed through the bay of Actium
on the western coast of Greece. It was there that Antony's fleet faced the much larger fleet of smaller, more maneuverable ships under commanders Agrippa and Gaius Sosius
in the battle of Actium
on 2 September 31 BC. Antony and his remaining forces were only spared due to a last-ditch effort by Cleopatra's fleet that had been waiting nearby. Octavian pursued them, and after another defeat in Alexandria on 1 August 30 BC, Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide; Antony fell on his own sword and into Cleopatra's arms, while she let a venomous snake bite her. Having exploited his position as Caesar's heir to further his own political career, Octavian was only too well aware of the dangers in allowing another to do so and, reportedly commenting that "two Caesars are one too many", he ordered Caesarion
—Julius Caesar's son by Cleopatra—to be killed, whilst sparing Cleopatra's children by Antony, with the exception of Antony's older son
Octavian had previously shown little mercy to military combatants and acted in ways that had proven unpopular with the Roman people, yet he was given credit for pardoning many of his opponents after the Battle of Actium.
Octavian becomes Augustus
, but would have to achieve this through incremental power gains, courting the Senate and the people, while upholding the republican traditions of Rome, to appear that he was not aspiring to dictatorship or monarchy. Marching into Rome, Octavian and Marcus Agrippa
were elected as dual consul
s by the Senate. Years of civil war had left Rome in a state of near lawlessness, but the Republic was not prepared to accept the control of Octavian as a despot. At the same time, Octavian could not simply give up his authority without risking further civil wars amongst the Roman generals, and even if he desired no position of authority whatsoever, his position demanded that he look to the well-being of the city of Rome and the Roman province
s. Octavian's aims from this point forward were to return Rome to a state of stability, traditional legality and civility by lifting the overt political pressure imposed on the courts of law and ensuring free elections in name at least.
, Octavian made a show of returning full power to the Roman Senate
and relinquishing his control of the Roman provinces and their armies. Under his consulship, however, the Senate had little power in initiating legislation by introducing bills
for senatorial debate. Although Octavian was no longer in direct control of the provinces and their armies, he retained the loyalty of active duty soldiers and veterans alike. The careers of many clients and adherents depended on his patronage, as his financial power in the Roman Republic was unrivaled. The historian Werner Eck states:
The sum of his power derived first of all from various powers of office delegated to him by the Senate and people, secondly from his immense private fortune, and thirdly from numerous patron-client relationships he established with individuals and groups throughout the Empire. All of them taken together formed the basis of his auctoritas, which he himself emphasized as the foundation of his political actions.
To a large extent the public was aware of the vast financial resources Augustus commanded. When he failed to encourage enough senators to finance the building and maintenance of networks of roads in Italy, he undertook direct responsibility for them in 20 BC
. This was publicized on the Roman currency issued in 16 BC
, after he donated vast amounts of money to the aerarium Saturni
, the public treasury.
According to H.H. Scullard, however, Augustus's power was based on the exercise of "a predominant military power and [...] the ultimate sanction of his authority was force, however much the fact was disguised."
The Senate proposed to Octavian, the victor of Rome's civil wars, that he once again assume command of the provinces. The Senate's proposal was a ratification of Octavian's extra-constitutional power. Through the Senate Octavian was able to continue the appearance of a still-functional constitution
. Feigning reluctance, he accepted a ten-year responsibility of overseeing provinces that were considered chaotic. The provinces ceded to him, that he might pacify them within the promised ten-year period, comprised much of the conquered Roman world, including all of Hispania
, and Egypt. Moreover, command of these provinces provided Octavian with control over the majority of Rome's legions.
While Octavian acted as consul in Rome, he dispatched senators to the provinces under his command as his representatives to manage provincial affairs and ensure his orders were carried out. On the other hand, the provinces not under Octavian's control were overseen by governors chosen by the Roman Senate. Octavian became the most powerful political figure in the city of Rome and in most of its provinces, but did not have sole monopoly on political and martial power. The Senate still controlled North Africa, an important regional producer of grain
, as well as Illyria
and Macedonia, two martially strategic regions with several legions. However, with control of only five or six legions distributed amongst three senatorial proconsuls, compared to the twenty legions under the control of Augustus, the Senate's control of these regions did not amount to any political or martial challenge to Octavian. The Senate's control over some of the Roman provinces helped maintain a republican façade for the autocratic Principate. Also, Octavian's control of entire provinces for the objective of securing peace and creating stability followed Republican-era precedents, in which such prominent Romans as Pompey
had been granted similar military powers in times of crisis and instability.
. Augustus, from the Latin word Augere (meaning to increase), can be translated as "the illustrious one". It was a title of religious rather than political authority. According to Roman religious beliefs, the title symbolized a stamp of authority over humanity—and in fact nature—that went beyond any constitutional definition of his status. After the harsh methods employed in consolidating his control, the change in name would also serve to demarcate his benign reign as Augustus from his reign of terror as Octavian. His new title of Augustus was also more favorable than Romulus, the previous one he styled for himself in reference to the story of Romulus and Remus
(founders of Rome), which would symbolize a second founding of Rome. However, the title of Romulus was associated too strongly with notions of monarchy and kingship, an image Octavian tried to avoid. Princeps, comes from the Latin phrase primum caput, "the first head", originally meaning the oldest or most distinguished senator whose name would appear first on the senatorial roster
; in the case of Augustus it became an almost regnal title for a leader who was first in charge. Princeps had also been a title under the Republic for those who had served the state well; for example, Pompey
had held the title. Augustus also styled himself as Imperator Caesar divi filius, "Commander Caesar son of the deified one". With this title he not only boasted his familial link to deified Julius Caesar, but the use of Imperator
signified a permanent link to the Roman tradition of victory. The word Caesar was merely a cognomen
for one branch of the Julian family
, yet Augustus transformed Caesar into a new family line that began with him.
Augustus was granted the right to hang the corona civica, the "civic crown" made from oak, above his door and have laurels drape his doorposts. This crown was usually held above the head of a Roman general during a triumph
, with the individual holding the crown charged to continually repeat "memento mori
", or, "Remember, you are mortal", to the triumphant general. Additionally, laurel wreaths were important in several state ceremonies, and crowns of laurel were rewarded to champions of athletic, racing, and dramatic contests. Thus, both the laurel and the oak were integral symbols of Roman religion and statecraft; placing them on Augustus' doorposts was tantamount to declaring his home the capital. However, Augustus renounced flaunting insignia of power such as holding a scepter, wearing a diadem
, or wearing the golden crown and purple toga
of his predecessor Julius Caesar. If he refused to symbolize his power by donning and bearing these items on his person, the Senate nonetheless awarded him with a golden shield displayed in the meeting hall of the Curia
, bearing the inscription virtus, pietas, clementia, iustitia—"valor, piety, clemency, and justice."
Second settlementBy 23 BC, some of the implications of the settlement of 27 BC were becoming apparent. Augustus' holding of an annual consulate made his dominance over the Roman political system too obvious, whilst at the same time halving the opportunities for others to achieve what was still purported to be the head of the Roman state. Further, his desire to have his nephew Marcus Claudius Marcellus
follow in his footsteps and eventually assume the Principate in his turn was causing political problemsIf the testimony of Marcus Primus can be believed, where during his trial for illegally launching a war in Thrace, he asserted that he acted on the orders of Marcellus and Augustus – see Southern, pg. 108 and Eck (2003), pg. 55 and alienating his three biggest supporters – Agrippa, Maecenas and Livia. Feeling pressure from his own core group of adherents, Augustus turned to the Senate in an attempt to bolster his support there, especially with the Republicans; after his choice for co-consul in 23 BC, Aulus Terentius Varro Murena
died before taking office he appointed the noted Republican Calpurnius Piso, who had fought against Julius Caesar and supported Cassius and Brutus.
In the late spring Augustus suffered a severe illness, and on his supposed deathbed made arrangements that would ensure the continuation of the Principate in some form, whilst at the same time put in doubt the senators' suspicions of his anti-republicanism. Augustus prepared to hand down his signet ring to his favored general Agrippa. However, Augustus handed over to his co-consul Piso all of his official documents, an account of public finances, and authority over listed troops in the provinces while Augustus' supposedly favored nephew Marcellus came away empty-handed. This was a surprise to many who believed Augustus would have named an heir to his position as an unofficial emperor. Augustus bestowed only properties and possessions to his designated heirs, as an obvious system of institutionalized imperial inheritance would have provoked resistance and hostility amongst the republican-minded Romans fearful of monarchy. With regards to the Principate, it was obvious to Augustus that Marcellus was not ready to take on his position; nonetheless, by giving his signet ring to Agrippa, it was Augustus’ intent to signal to the legions that Agrippa was to be his successor, and that no matter what the constitutional rules were, they would continue to obey Agrippa.
, leading to a second compromise between him and the Senate known as the Second Settlement. This was a clever ploy by Augustus; by stepping down as one of two consuls, this allowed aspiring senators a better chance to fill that position, while at the same time Augustus could "exercise wider patronage within the senatorial class." Augustus was no longer in an official position to rule the state, yet his dominant position over the Roman provinces remained unchanged as he became a proconsul
. Earlier as a consul he had the power to intervene, when he deemed necessary, with the affairs of provincial proconsuls appointed by the Senate. As a proconsul Augustus did not want this authority of overriding provincial governors to be stripped from him, so imperium proconsulare maius, or "power over all the proconsuls" was granted to Augustus by the Senate. The existence of imperium maius is debated by scholars, and it is also argued that he was only granted imperium aequum, or power equal to that of the governors, but his supreme influence allowed him to control the affairs of the provinces.
Augustus was also granted the power of a tribune
(tribunicia potestas) for life, though not the official title of tribune. Legally it was closed to patricians, a status that Augustus had acquired years ago when adopted by Julius Caesar. This allowed him to convene the Senate and people at will and lay business before it, veto the actions of either the Assembly or the Senate, preside over elections, and the right to speak first at any meeting. Also included in Augustus' tribunician authority were powers usually reserved for the Roman censor; these included the right to supervise public morals and scrutinize laws to ensure they were in the public interest, as well as the ability to hold a census
and determine the membership of the Senate. With the powers of a censor, Augustus appealed to virtues of Roman patriotism by banning all other attire besides the classic toga
while entering the Forum. There was no precedent within the Roman system for combining the powers of the tribune and the censor into a single position, nor was Augustus ever elected to the office of censor. Julius Caesar
had been granted similar powers, wherein he was charged with supervising the morals of the state, however this position did not extend to the censor's ability to hold a census and determine the Senate's roster. The office of the tribune plebis began to lose its prestige due to Augustus' amassing of tribunal powers, so he revived its importance by making it a mandatory appointment for any plebeian desiring the praetor
s and consuls, were now under the sole authority of Augustus. With maius imperium proconsulare, Augustus was the only individual able to receive a triumph
as he was ostensibly the head of every Roman army. In 19 BC, Lucius Cornelius Balbus, governor of Africa and conqueror of the Garamantes
, was the first man of provincial origin to receive this award, as well as the last. For every following Roman victory the credit was given to Augustus, because Rome's armies were commanded by the legatus
, who were deputies of the princeps in the provinces. Augustus' eldest son by marriage to Livia, Tiberius
, was the only exception to this rule when he received a triumph for victories in Germania
in 7 BC. Ensuring that his status of maius imperium proconsulare was renewed in 13 BC, Augustus stayed in Rome during the renewal process and provided veterans with lavish donations to gain their support.
Many of the political subtleties of the Second Settlement seem to have evaded the comprehension of the Plebeian class. When Augustus failed to stand for election as consul in 22 BC, fears arose once again that Augustus was being forced from power by the aristocratic Senate. In 22, 21, and 19 BC, the people rioted in response, and only allowed a single consul to be elected for each of those years, ostensibly to leave the other position open for Augustus. In 22 BC there was a food shortage in Rome which sparked panic, while many urban plebs called for Augustus to take on dictatorial powers to personally oversee the crisis. After a theatrical display of refusal before the Senate, Augustus finally accepted authority over Rome's grain supply "by virtue of his proconsular imperium", and ended the crisis almost immediately. It was not until AD 8 that a food crisis of this sort prompted Augustus to establish a praefectus annonae, a permanent prefect who was in charge of procuring food supplies for Rome.
Nevertheless, the were some who were concerned by the expansion of powers granted to Augustus by the Second Settlement, and this came to a head with the apparent conspiracy of Fannius Caepio and Lucius Lucinius Varro Murena
. In early 22 BC, charges were brought against Marcus Primus, the former proconsul
(governor) of Macedonia
, of waging a war on the Odrysian kingdom of Thrace
, whose king was a Roman ally, without prior approval of the Senate
. He was defended by Murena, who told the trial that his client had received specific instructions from Augustus, ordering him to attack the client state. Later, Primus testified that the orders came from the recently deceased Marcellus. Under the Constitutional settlement of 27 BC such orders, had they been given, would have been considered a breach of the Senate’s prerogative, as Macedonia was under the Senate’s jurisdiction, not the Princep’s. Such an action would have ripped away the veneer of Republican restoration as promoted by Augustus, and exposed his fraud of merely being the first citizen, a first among equals. Even worse, the involvement of Marcellus provided some measure of proof that Augustus’s policy was to have the youth take his place as Princeps, instituting a form of monarchy – accusations that had already played out during the crisis of 23 BC.
The situation was so serious, that Augustus himself appeared at the trial, even though he had not been called as a witness. Under oath, Augustus declared that he gave no such order. Murena, disbelieving Augustus’s testimony and resentful of his attempt to subvert the trial by using his auctoritas
, rudely demanded to know why Augustus had turned up to a trial to which he had not been called; Augustus replied that he came in the public interest. Although Primus was found guilty, some jurors voted to acquit, meaning that not everybody believed Augustus’s testimony. Then, sometime prior to September 1, 22 BC a certain Castricius provided Augustus with information about a conspiracy led by Fannius Caepio against the Princeps. Murena was named among the conspirators. Tried in absentia, with Tiberius
acting as prosecutor, the jury found the conspirators guilty, but it was not a unanimous verdict. Sentenced to death for treason, all the accused were executed as soon as they were captured without ever giving testimony in their defence. Augustus ensured that the facade of Republican government continued with an effective cover-up of the events.
In 19 BC, the Senate voted to allow Augustus to wear the consul's insignia in public and before the Senate, as well as sit in the symbolic chair between the two consuls and hold the fasces
, an emblem of consular authority. Like his tribune authority, the granting of consular powers to him was another instance of holding power of offices he did not actually hold. This seems to have assuaged the populace; regardless of whether or not Augustus was actually a consul, the importance was that he appeared as one before the people. On 6 March 12 BC, after the death of Lepidus
, he additionally took up the position of pontifex maximus
, the high priest of the collegium of the Pontifices, the most important position in Roman religion. On 5 February 2 BC, Augustus was also given the title pater patriae
, or "father of the country".
Later Roman Emperors would generally be limited to the powers and titles originally granted to Augustus, though often, to display humility, newly appointed Emperors would decline one or more of the honorifics given to Augustus. Just as often, as their reign progressed, Emperors would appropriate all of the titles, regardless of whether they had actually been granted them by the Senate. The civic crown, which later Emperors took to actually wearing, consular insignia, and later the purple robes of a Triumphant general (toga picta) became the imperial insignia well into the Byzantine
War and expansionImperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus chose Imperator, "victorious commander" to be his first name, since he wanted to make the notion of victory associated with him emphatically clear. By the year 13, Augustus boasted 21 occasions where his troops proclaimed "imperator" as his title after a successful battle. Almost the entire fourth chapter in his publicly released memoirs of achievements known as the Res Gestae
was devoted to his military victories and honors. Augustus also promoted the ideal of a superior Roman civilization with a task of ruling the world (the extent to which the Romans knew it), a sentiment embodied in words that the contemporary poet Virgil
attributes to a legendary ancestor of Augustus: tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento—"Roman, remember by your strength to rule the Earth's peoples!" The impulse for expansionism
, apparently prominent among all classes at Rome, is accorded divine sanction by Virgil's Jupiter, who in Book 1 of the Aeneid
promises Rome imperium sine fine, "sovereignty without limit".
), the Alpine
regions of Raetia
(modern Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria, Slovenia), Illyricum
(modern Albania, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, etc.), and extended the borders of the Africa Province
to the east and south. After the reign of the client king
Herod the Great
(73–4 BC), Judea
was added to the province of Syria
when Augustus deposed his successor Herod Archelaus
. Like Egypt which had been conquered after the defeat of Antony in 30 BC, Syria was governed not by a proconsul or legate of Augustus, but a high prefect of the equestrian class. Again, no military effort was needed in 25 BC when Galatia
(modern Turkey) was converted to a Roman province shortly after Amyntas of Galatia
was killed by an avenging widow of a slain prince from Homonada. When the rebellious tribes of Cantabria
in modern-day Spain were finally quelled in 19 BC, the territory fell under the provinces of Hispania and Lusitania
. This region proved to be a major asset in funding Augustus' future military campaigns, as it was rich in mineral deposits that could be fostered in Roman mining
projects, especially the very rich gold
deposits at Las Medulas
Conquering the peoples of the Alps in 16 BC was another important victory for Rome since it provided a large territorial buffer between the Roman citizens of Italy and Rome's enemies in Germania
to the north. The poet Horace
dedicated an ode to the victory, while the monument Trophy of Augustus
was built to honor the occasion. The capture of the Alpine region also served the next offensive in 12 BC, when Tiberius
began the offensive against the Pannonian tribes of Illyricum and his brother Nero Claudius Drusus
against the Germanic tribes of the eastern Rhineland
. Both campaigns were successful, as Drusus' forces reached the Elbe
River by 9 BC, yet he died shortly after by falling off his horse. It was recorded that the pious Tiberius walked in front of his brother's body all the way back to Rome.
, Augustus relied on the client state
s of the east to act as territorial buffers
and areas which could raise their own troops for defense. To ensure security of the Empire's eastern flank, Augustus stationed a Roman army in Syria, while his skilled stepson Tiberius negotiated with the Parthians as Rome's diplomat to the East. Tiberius was responsible for restoring Tigranes V
to the throne of the Kingdom of Armenia. Yet arguably his greatest diplomatic achievement was negotiating with Phraates IV of Parthia
(37–2 BC) in 20 BC for the return of the battle standards
lost by Crassus in the Battle of Carrhae
, a symbolic victory and great boost of morale for Rome. Werner Eck claims that this was a great disappointment for Romans seeking to avenge Crassus' defeat by military means. However, Maria Brosius explains that Augustus used the return of the standards as propaganda
symbolizing the submission of Parthia to Rome. The event was celebrated in art such as the breastplate design on the statue Augustus of Prima Porta
and in monuments such as the Temple of Mars Ultor
('Mars the Avenger
') built to house the standards.
Although Parthia always posed a threat to Rome in the east, the real battlefront was along the Rhine and Danube
rivers. Before the final fight with Antony, Octavian's campaigns against the tribes in Dalmatia
was the first step in expanding Roman dominions to the Danube. Victory in battle was not always a permanent success, as newly conquered territories were constantly retaken by Rome's enemies in Germania. A prime example of Roman loss in battle was the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in AD 9, where three entire legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus
were destroyed with few survivors by Arminius
, leader of the Cherusci
, an apparent Roman ally. Augustus retaliated by dispatching Tiberius and Drusus to the Rhineland to pacify it, which had some success although the battle of AD 9 brought the end to Roman expansion into Germany. The Roman general Germanicus
took advantage of a Cherusci civil war between Arminius and Segestes
; they defeated Arminius, who fled that battle but was killed later in 21 due to treachery.
Death and succession
, who had been quickly married to Augustus' daughter Julia the Elder
. Other historians dispute this due to Augustus' will read aloud to the Senate while he was seriously ill in 23 BC, instead indicating a preference for Marcus Agrippa, who was Augustus' second in charge and arguably the only one of his associates who could have controlled the legions and held the Empire together. After the death of Marcellus in 23 BC, Augustus married his daughter to Agrippa. This union produced five children, three sons and two daughters: Gaius Caesar
, Lucius Caesar
, Vipsania Julia, Agrippina the Elder
, and Postumus Agrippa
, so named because he was born after Marcus Agrippa died. Shortly after the Second Settlement, Agrippa was granted a five-year term of administering the eastern half of the Empire with the imperium of a proconsul and the same tribunicia potestas granted to Augustus (although not trumping Augustus' authority), his seat of governance stationed at Samos
in the eastern Aegean
. Although this granting of power would have shown Augustus' favor for Agrippa, it was also a measure to please members of his Caesarian party by allowing one of their members to share a considerable amount of power with him.
Augustus' intent to make Gaius and Lucius Caesar his heirs was apparent when he adopted them as his own children. He took the consulship in 5 and 2 BC so he could personally usher them into their political careers, and they were nominated for the consulships of AD 1 and 4. Augustus also showed favor to his stepsons, Livia's children from her first marriage, Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus and Tiberius Claudius
, granting them military commands and public office, and seeming to favor Drusus. However, Drusus' marriage to Antonia, Augustus' niece, was a relationship far too embedded within the family to disturb over succession issues. After Agrippa died in 12 BC, Livia's son Tiberius was ordered to divorce his own wife Vipsania and marry Agrippa's widow, Augustus' daughter Julia—as soon as a period of mourning for Agrippa had ended. While Drusus' marriage to Antonia was considered an unbreakable affair, Vipsania was "only" the daughter of the late Agrippa from his first marriage.
. Although no specific reason is known for his departure, it could have been a combination of reasons, including a failing marriage with Julia. It could very well have been from feelings of jealousy and being left out since Augustus' young grandchildren-turned-sons, Gaius and Lucius, joined the college of priests at an early age, were presented to spectators in a more favorable light, and were introduced to the army in Gaul. After the early deaths of both Lucius and Gaius in AD 2 and 4 respectively, and the earlier death of his brother Drusus (9 BC), Tiberius was recalled to Rome in June AD 4, where he was adopted by Augustus on the condition that he, in turn, adopt his nephew Germanicus
. This continued the tradition of presenting at least two generations of heirs. In that year, Tiberius was also granted the powers of a tribune and proconsul, emissaries from foreign kings had to pay their respects to him, and by 13 was awarded with his second triumph and equal level of imperium with that of Augustus. The only other possible claimant as heir was Postumus Agrippa
, who had been exiled by Augustus in AD 7, his banishment made permanent by senatorial decree, and Augustus officially disowned him. He certainly fell out of Augustus' favor as an heir; the historian Erich S. Gruen notes various contemporary sources that state Postumus Agrippa was a "vulgar young man, brutal and brutish, and of depraved character." Postumus Agrippa was murdered at his place of exile either shortly before or after the death of Augustus.
On 19 August AD 14, Augustus died while visiting the place of his father's death at Nola
, and Tiberius—who was present alongside Livia at Augustus' deathbed—was named his heir. Augustus' famous last words were, "Have I played the part well? Then applaud as I exit"—referring to the play-acting and regal authority that he had put on as emperor. Publicly, though, his last words were, "Behold, I found Rome of clay, and leave her to you of marble." An enormous funerary procession of mourners traveled with Augustus' body from Nola to Rome, and on the day of his burial all public and private businesses closed for the day. Tiberius and his son Drusus delivered the eulogy while standing atop two rostra
. Coffin-bound, Augustus' body was cremated on a pyre close to his mausoleum
. It was proclaimed that Augustus joined the company of the gods as a member of the Roman pantheon
. In 410, during the Sack of Rome
, the mausoleum was despoiled by the Goths and his ashes scattered.
The historian D.C.A. Shotter states that Augustus' policy of favoring the Julian family line over the Claudian might have afforded Tiberius sufficient cause to show open disdain for Augustus after the latter's death; instead, Tiberius was always quick to rebuke those who criticized Augustus. Shotter suggests that Augustus' deification, coupled with Tiberius' "extremely conservative" attitude towards religion, obliged Tiberius to suppress any open resentment he might have harbored. Also, the historian R. Shaw-Smith points to letters of Augustus to Tiberius which display affection towards Tiberius and high regard for his military merits. Shotter states that Tiberius focused his anger and criticism on Gaius Asinius Gallus
(for marrying Vipsania after Augustus forced Tiberius to divorce her) as well as the two young Caesars Gaius and Lucius, instead of Augustus, the real architect of his divorce and imperial demotion.
and until the Fall of Constantinople
in 1453. Both his adoptive surname, Caesar, and his title Augustus became the permanent titles of the rulers of Roman Empire
for fourteen centuries after his death, in use both at Old Rome
and at New Rome
. In many languages, Caesar became the word for Emperor, as in the German Kaiser
and in the Bulgarian and subsequently Russian Tsar
. The cult of Divus Augustus continued until the state religion of the Empire was changed to Christianity
in 391 by Theodosius I
. Consequently, there are many excellent statues and busts of the first emperor. He had composed an account of his achievements, the Res Gestae Divi Augusti
, to be inscribed in bronze in front of his mausoleum
. Copies of the text were inscribed throughout the Empire upon his death. The inscriptions in Latin featured translations in Greek beside it, and were inscribed on many public edifices, such as the temple in Ankara
dubbed the Monumentum Ancyranum, called the "queen of inscriptions" by historian Theodor Mommsen
. There are a few known written works by Augustus that have survived. This includes his poems Sicily, Epiphanus, and Ajax, an autobiography of 13 books, a philosophical treatise, and his written rebuttal to Brutus' Eulogy of Cato. However, historians are able to analyze existing letters penned by Augustus to others for additional facts or clues about his personal life.
Many consider Augustus to be Rome's greatest emperor; his policies certainly extended the Empire's life span and initiated the celebrated Pax Romana or Pax Augusta. He was intelligent, decisive, and a shrewd politician, but he was not perhaps as charismatic as Julius Caesar
, and was influenced on occasion by his third wife, Livia (sometimes for the worse). Nevertheless, his legacy proved more enduring. The city of Rome was utterly transformed under Augustus, with Rome's first institutionalized police force
, fire fighting
force, and the establishment of the municipal prefect
as a permanent office. The police force was divided into cohorts of 500 men each, while the units of firemen ranged from 500 to 1,000 men each, with 7 units assigned to 14 divided city sectors. A praefectus vigilum, or "Prefect of the Watch" was put in charge of the vigiles
, Rome's fire brigade and police. With Rome's civil wars at an end, Augustus was also able to create a standing army
for the Roman Empire, fixed at a size of 28 legions of about 170,000 soldiers. This was supported by numerous auxiliary
units of 500 soldiers each, often recruited from recently conquered areas. With his finances securing the maintenance of roads throughout Italy, Augustus also installed an official courier
system of relay stations overseen by a military officer known as the praefectus vehiculorum. Besides the advent of swifter communication amongst Italian polities, his extensive building of roads throughout Italy also allowed Rome's armies to march swiftly and at an unprecedented pace across the country. In the year 6 Augustus established the aerarium militare, donating 170 million sesterces to the new military treasury that provided for both active and retired soldiers. One of the most lasting institutions of Augustus was the establishment of the Praetorian Guard
in 27 BC, originally a personal bodyguard unit on the battlefield that evolved into an imperial guard as well as an important political force in Rome. They had the power to intimidate the Senate, install new emperors, and depose ones they disliked; the last emperor they served was Maxentius
, as it was Constantine I
who disbanded them in the early 4th century and destroyed their barracks, the Castra Praetoria
each to 250,000 citizens, 1,000 sesterces each to 120,000 veterans in the colonies, and spent 700 million sesterces in purchasing land for his soldiers to settle upon. He also restored 82 different temples to display his care for the Roman pantheon
of deities. In 28 BC, he melted down 80 silver statues erected in his likeness and in honor of him, an attempt of his to appear frugal and modest.
The longevity of Augustus' reign and its legacy to the Roman world should not be overlooked as a key factor in its success. As Tacitus
wrote, the younger generations alive in AD 14 had never known any form of government other than the Principate. Had Augustus died earlier (in 23 BC, for instance), matters might have turned out differently. The attrition of the civil wars on the old Republican oligarchy and the longevity of Augustus, therefore, must be seen as major contributing factors in the transformation of the Roman state into a de facto
monarchy in these years. Augustus' own experience, his patience, his tact, and his political acumen also played their parts. He directed the future of the Empire down many lasting paths, from the existence of a standing professional army stationed at or near the frontiers, to the dynastic principle so often employed in the imperial succession, to the embellishment of the capital at the emperor's expense. Augustus' ultimate legacy was the peace and prosperity the Empire enjoyed for the next two centuries under the system he initiated. His memory was enshrined in the political ethos of the Imperial age as a paradigm of the good emperor. Every Emperor of Rome adopted his name, Caesar Augustus, which gradually lost its character as a name and eventually became a title. The Augustan era poets Virgil and Horace praised Augustus as a defender of Rome, an upholder of moral justice, and an individual who bore the brunt of responsibility in maintaining the empire. However, for his rule of Rome and establishing the principate, Augustus has also been subjected to criticism throughout the ages. The contemporary Roman jurist Marcus Antistius Labeo
(d. AD 10/11), fond of the days of pre-Augustan republican liberty
in which he had been born, openly criticized the Augustan regime. In the beginning of his Annals
, the Roman historian Tacitus
(c. 56–c.117) wrote that Augustus had cunningly subverted Republican Rome into a position of slavery. He continued to say that, with Augustus' death and swearing of loyalty to Tiberius, the people of Rome simply traded one slaveholder for another. Tacitus, however, records two contradictory but common views of Augustus:
In a recent biography on Augustus, Anthony Everitt asserts that through the centuries, judgments on Augustus' reign have oscillated between these two extremes but stresses that:
Tacitus was of the belief that Nerva
(r. 96–98) successfully "mingled two formerly alien ideas, principate and liberty." The 3rd century historian Cassius Dio acknowledged Augustus as a benign, moderate ruler, yet like most other historians after the death of Augustus, Dio viewed Augustus as an autocrat. The poet Marcus Annaeus Lucanus
(AD 39–65) was of the opinion that Caesar's victory over Pompey and the fall of Cato the Younger
(95 BC–46 BC) marked the end of traditional liberty in Rome; historian Chester G. Starr, Jr. writes of his avoidance of criticizing Augustus, "perhaps Augustus was too sacred a figure to accuse directly."
writer Jonathan Swift
(1667–1745), in his Discourse on the Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome, criticized Augustus for installing tyranny over Rome, and likened what he believed Great Britain
's virtuous constitutional monarchy
to Rome's moral Republic of the 2nd century BC. In his criticism of Augustus, the admiral and historian Thomas Gordon (1658–1741) compared Augustus to the puritanical tyrant Oliver Cromwell
(1599–1658). Thomas Gordon and the French
political philosopher Montesquieu
(1689–1755) both remarked that Augustus was a coward in battle. In his Memoirs of the Court of Augustus, the Scottish
scholar Thomas Blackwell (1701–1757) deemed Augustus a Machiavellian ruler
, "a bloodthirsty vindicative usurper", "wicked and worthless", "a mean spirit", and a "tyrant".
reforms had a great impact on the subsequent success of the Empire. Augustus brought a far greater portion of the Empire's expanded land base under consistent, direct taxation from Rome, instead of exacting varying, intermittent, and somewhat arbitrary tributes from each local province as Augustus' predecessors had done. This reform greatly increased Rome's net revenue from its territorial acquisitions, stabilized its flow, and regularized the financial relationship between Rome and the provinces, rather than provoking fresh resentments with each new arbitrary exaction of tribute. The measures of taxation in the reign of Augustus were determined by population census
, with fixed quotas for each province. Citizens of Rome and Italy paid indirect taxes, while direct taxes were exacted from the provinces. Indirect taxes included a 4% tax on the price of slaves, a 1% tax on goods sold at auction, and a 5% tax on the inheritance of estates valued at over 100,000 sesterces by persons other than the next of kin
, which was replaced by salaried civil service tax collectors. Private contractors that raised taxes had been the norm in the Republican era, and some had grown powerful enough to influence the amount of votes for politicians in Rome. The tax farmers had gained great infamy for their depredations, as well as great private wealth, by winning the right to tax local areas. Rome's revenue was the amount of the successful bids, and the tax farmers' profits consisted of any additional amounts they could forcibly wring from the populace with Rome's blessing. Lack of effective supervision, combined with tax farmers' desire to maximize their profits, had produced a system of arbitrary exactions that was often barbarously cruel to taxpayers, widely (and accurately) perceived as unfair, and very harmful to investment and the economy.
. The highly productive agricultural land of Egypt yielded enormous revenues that were available to Augustus and his successors to pay for public works and military expeditions, as well as bread and circuses for the population of Rome.
Month of AugustThe month of August
(Latin: Augustus) is named after Augustus; until his time it was called Sextilis
(named so because it had been the sixth month of the original Roman calendar
and the Latin word for six is sex). Commonly repeated lore has it that August has 31 days because Augustus wanted his month to match the length of Julius Caesar
's July, but this is an invention of the 13th century scholar Johannes de Sacrobosco
. Sextilis in fact had 31 days before it was renamed, and it was not chosen for its length (see Julian calendar
). According to a senatus consultum quoted by Macrobius, Sextilis was renamed to honor Augustus because several of the most significant events in his rise to power, culminating in the fall of Alexandria
, fell in that month.
could be found in buildings of Rome before Augustus, but it was not extensively used as a building material until the reign of Augustus. Although this did not apply to the Subura slums, which were still as rickety and fire-prone as ever, he did leave a mark on the monumental topography of the centre and of the Campus Martius
, with the Ara Pacis
(Altar of Peace) and monumental sundial, whose central gnomon
was an obelisk taken from Egypt. The relief
sculptures decorating the Ara Pacis visually augmented the written record of Augustus' triumphs in the Res Gestae
. Its reliefs depicted the imperial pageants of the praetor
ians, the Vestals, and the citizenry of Rome. He also built the Temple of Caesar
, the Baths of Agrippa
, and the Forum of Augustus
with its Temple of Mars Ultor. Other projects were either encouraged by him, such as the Theatre of Balbus
, and Agrippa's construction of the Pantheon
, or funded by him in the name of others, often relations (e.g. Portico of Octavia
, Theatre of Marcellus
). Even his Mausoleum of Augustus
was built before his death to house members of his family. To celebrate his victory at the Battle of Actium, the Arch of Augustus
was built in 29 BC near the entrance of the Temple of Castor and Pollux
, and widened in 19 BC to include a triple-arch design. There are also many buildings outside of the city of Rome that bear Augustus' name and legacy, such as the Theatre of Merida
in modern Spain, the Maison Carrée
built at Nîmes
in today's southern France, as well as the Trophy of Augustus
at La Turbie
, located near Monaco
The Corinthian order
of architectural style originating from ancient Greece was the dominant architectural style in the age of Augustus and the imperial phase of Rome. Suetonius
once commented that Rome was unworthy of its status as an imperial capital, yet Augustus and Agrippa set out to dismantle this sentiment by transforming the appearance of Rome upon the classical Greek model.
Physical appearanceThe biographer Suetonius
describes Augustus' outward appearance as follows: "He was unusually handsome ... He had clear, bright eyes ... His teeth were wide apart, small, and ill-kept; his hair was slightly curly and inclining to golden
; his eyebrows met. His ears were of moderate size, and his nose projected a little at the top and then bent ever so slightly inward. His complexion was between dark and fair. He was short of stature ..."
DescendantsAugustus' only child was his daughter.
- 1. Julia CaesarisJulia the ElderJulia the Elder , known to her contemporaries as Julia Caesaris filia or Julia Augusti filia was the daughter and only biological child of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Augustus subsequently adopted several male members of his close family as sons...
, 39 BC – AD 14, had five children;
- A. Gaius Julius CaesarGaius CaesarGaius Julius Caesar , most commonly known as Gaius Caesar or Caius Caesar, was the oldest son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder...
, 20 BC – AD 4, died without issue
- B. Vipsania Julia (Julia the Younger)Julia the YoungerJulia the Younger or Julilla , Vipsania Julia Agrippina, Iulilla, Julia, Augustus' granddaughter, or Julia Caesaris Minor, was a Roman noblewoman of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. She was the first daughter and second child of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder...
, 19 BC – AD 28, had two children;
- I. Aemilia Lepida (fiancee of Claudius)Aemilia Lepida (fiancee of Claudius)For other women with this name, see Aemilia Lepida.Aemilia Lepida was a noble Roman woman and matron. She was the eldest daughter and first born child of Julia the Younger and consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus. Her father was of a distinguished and ancient patrician family...
, 4 BC – AD 53, had five children;
- a. Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus, 14 – 54, had one child;
- i. Lucius Junius Silanus TorquatusLucius Junius Silanus TorquatusIn the 1st century, lived two noblemen uncle and nephew, that shared the name Lucius Junius Silanus Torquatus who were two descendants of Roman Emperor Augustus....
the younger, 50–66, died young
- i. Lucius Junius Silanus Torquatus
- b. Junia CalvinaJunia CalvinaJunia Calvina was a noble Roman woman. She was the first born daughter and among the children of Aemilia Lepida and Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus, a member of the Junii Silani, a family of Ancient Rome. Her maternal grandparents were the princess Julia the Younger and consul Lucius Aemilius...
, 15–79, died without issue
- c. Decimus Junius Silanus TorquatusDecimus Junius Silanus TorquatusDecimus Junius Silanus Torquatus was a Roman noble who lived in the Roman Empire during the 1st century. He served as a consul in 53...
, d. 64 without issue
- d. Lucius Junius Silanus TorquatusLucius Junius Silanus Torquatus
the elder, d. 49 without issue
- e. Junia LepidaJunia LepidaJunia Lepida was a Roman noble woman that lived during the Roman Empire in the 1st century. Lepida was the second born daughter and was among the children born of Aemilia Lepida and Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus, a member of the Junii Silani, a family of Ancient Rome...
, ca 18–65, issue unknown
- a. Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus, 14 – 54, had one child;
- II. Unnamed illegitimate son (by Decimus Junius Silanus), d. AD 8 (ordered to be exposed by Augustus)
- I. Aemilia Lepida (fiancee of Claudius)
- C. Lucius Julius CaesarLucius CaesarLucius Julius Caesar , most commonly known as Lucius Caesar, was the second son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder. He was born between 14 of June and 15 July 17 BC with the name Lucius Vipsanius Agrippa, but when he was adopted by his maternal grandfather Roman Emperor Caesar...
, 17 BC – AD 2, died without issue
- D. Vipsania Agrippina II (Agrippina the Elder)Agrippina the elderVipsania Agrippina or most commonly known as Agrippina Major or Agrippina the Elder was a distinguished and prominent granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus. Agrippina was the wife of the general, statesman Germanicus and a relative to the first Roman Emperors...
, 14 BC – AD 33, had six children;
- I. Nero Julius Caesar, 6–30, died without issue
- II. Drusus Julius Caesar, 7–33, died without issue
- III. Gaius Julius Caesar, bef. AD 12 - bef. AD 12
- IV. Gaius Julius Caesar (Caligula)CaligulaCaligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...
, 12–41, had one child;
- a. Julia DrusillaJulia DrusillaJulia Drusilla was the only child and daughter of Roman Emperor Gaius and of his fourth and last wife Milonia Caesonia....
, 39–41, died young
- a. Julia Drusilla
- V. Julia AgrippinaAgrippina the YoungerJulia Agrippina, most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, and after 50 known as Julia Augusta Agrippina was a Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty...
, 15–59, had one child;
- a. Nero Claudius Caesar (Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus)NeroNero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....
, 37–68, had one child;
- i. Claudia AugustaClaudia AugustaClaudia Augusta was the only daughter of the Roman Emperor Nero by his second wife Roman Empress Poppaea Sabina. She was born in Antium on 21 January 63....
, Jan. 63 – April 63; died young
- i. Claudia Augusta
- a. Nero Claudius Caesar (Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus)
- VI. Julia Drusilla, 16–38, died without issue
- VII. Julia LivillaJulia LivillaJulia Livilla was the youngest child of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder and the youngest sister of the Emperor Caligula.-Life:Livilla was the youngest great granddaughter of Emperor Augustus, great-niece and adoptive granddaughter...
, 18–42, died without issue
- VIII. Tiberius Julius Caesar, ? - ? (either born before Nero CaesarNero CaesarNero Julius Caesar Germanicus was a close relative of the Roman Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.Nero was born around AD 6, to Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder. His paternal grandparents were Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia Minor, daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor...
, between Drusus Caesar and Gaius Caesar (Caligula)CaligulaCaligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...
or between Gaius Caesar (Caligula)CaligulaCaligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...
and Julia Agrippina)
- ?IX. Son (name unknown), ? - ?
- E. Agrippa PostumusAgrippa PostumusMarcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus , also known as Agrippa Postumus or Postumus Agrippa, was a son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder. His maternal grandparents were Roman Emperor Augustus and his second wife Scribonia.Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus was born on June 26, 12 BC, the...
, 12 BC – AD 14, died without issue
- A. Gaius Julius Caesar
- Augustan literature (ancient Rome)Augustan literature (ancient Rome)Augustan literature is the period of Latin literature written during the reign of Augustus , the first Roman emperor. In literary histories of the first part of the 20th century and earlier, Augustan literature was regarded along with that of the Late Republic as constituting the Golden Age of...
- Augustan poetryAugustan poetryIn Latin literature, Augustan poetry is the poetry that flourished during the reign of Caesar Augustus as Emperor of Rome, most notably including the works of Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. In English literature, Augustan poetry is a branch of Augustan literature, and refers to the poetry of the...
- Bierzo EdictBierzo EdictThe Bierzo Edict, also referred to as the Edict of Augustus from El Bierzo and the Bembibre Bronze is a controversial document dated to 15 BCE found in El Bierzo in Spain in 1000. The document is a bronze tablet measuring 24.15 cm x 15.6 cm...
- Caesar's CometCaesar's CometCaesar's Comet – also known as Comet Caesar and the Great Comet of 44 BC – was perhaps the most famous comet of antiquity...
- Gaius MaecenasGaius MaecenasGaius Cilnius Maecenas was a confidant and political advisor to Octavian as well as an important patron for the new generation of Augustan poets...
- Gaius Octavian (Rome character)
- Indo-Roman trade and relations
- Julio-Claudian family treeJulio-Claudian family treeThe Julio-Claudian dynasty of the early Roman Empire has a family tree complicated by multiple marriages between the members of the gens Julia and the gens Claudia.-Family tree:...
- Octavia (gens)
- Temple of AugustusTemple of AugustusNumerous temples of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, were built in the territories of the Roman Empire; sixteen are known in Italia alone. They included the following:* Temple of Divus Augustus, Rome - the principal temple of the Augustan imperial cult...
- Bleicken, Jochen. (1998). Augustus. Eine Biographie. Berlin.
- Galinsky, Karl. Augustan Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998 (paperback, ISBN 978-0-691-05890-0).
- Lewis, P. R. and G. D. B. Jones, Roman gold-mining in north-west Spain, Journal of Roman Studies 60 (1970): 169–85
- Jones, R. F. J. and Bird, D. G., Roman gold-mining in north-west Spain, II: Workings on the Rio Duerna, Journal of Roman Studies 62 (1972): 59–74.
- Jones, A.H.M. "The Imperium of Augustus", The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 41, Parts 1 and 2. (1951), pp. 112–119.
- Jones, A.H.M. Augustus. London: Chatto & Windus, 1970 (paperback, ISBN 978-0-7011-1626-2).
- Osgood, Josiah. Caesar's Legacy: Civil War and the Emergence of the Roman Empire. New York: Cambridge University Press (USA), 2006 (hardback, ISBN 978-0-521-85582-2; paperback, ISBN 978-0-521-67177-4).
- Raaflaub, Kurt A. and Toher, Mark (eds.). Between Republic and Empire: Interpretations of Augustus and His Principate. Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993 (paperback, ISBN 978-0-520-08447-6).
- Reinhold, Meyer. The Golden Age of Augustus (Aspects of Antiquity). Toronto, ON: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1978 (hardcover, ISBN 978-0-89522-007-3; paperback, ISBN 978-0-89522-008-0).
- Roebuck, C. (1966). The World of Ancient Times. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
- Southern, Pat. Augustus (Roman Imperial Biographies). New York: Routledge, 1998 (hardcover, ISBN 978-0-415-16631-7); 2001 (paperback, ISBN 978-0-415-25855-5).
- Zanker, Paul. The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Thomas Spencer Jerome Lectures). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1989 (hardcover, ISBN 978-0-472-10101-6); 1990 (paperback, ISBN 978-0-472-08124-0).
External linksPrimary sources
- Cassius Dio's Roman History: Books 45–56, English translation
- Gallery of the Ancient Art: August
- Humor of Augustus
- Life of Augustus by Nicolaus of DamascusNicolaus of DamascusNicolaus of Damascus was a Greek historian and philosopher who lived during the Augustan age of the Roman Empire. His name is derived from that of his birthplace, Damascus. He was born around 64 BC....
, English translation
- Suetonius' biography of Augustus, Latin text with English translation
- The Res Gestae Divi Augusti (The Deeds of Augustus, his own account: complete Latin and Greek texts with facing English translation)
- The Via Iulia Augusta: road built by the Romans; constructed on the orders of Augustus between the 13–12 B.C.
Secondary source material
- Augustus—short biography at the BBC
- Brown, F. The Achievements of Augustus Caesar, Clio History Journal, 2009.
- "Augustus Caesar and the Pax Romana"—essay by Steven Kreis about Augustus's legacy
- "De Imperatoribus Romanis"—article about Augustus at Garrett G. Fagan's online encyclopedia of Roman Emperors
- Octavian / Augustus—pages by Yong-Ling Ow