A1 Augustus Denarius. Lyons mint, 2 BC - ca 13 AD
CAESAR AVGVSTVS DIVI F PATER PATRIAE. laureate head
AVGVSTI F COS DESIG PRINC IVVENT, C L CAESARES below,
Gaius & Lucius standing front, each with a hand
resting on a round shield,
a spear, & in field above, a lituus right &
simpulum left (in "b9"-like formation)
BMC 533, RSC 43
A2 Augustus AE Quadrans. Struck 5 BC
Moneyers Apronius, Galus, Messalla, and Sisena.
APRONIVS MESSALLA III VIR, altar
GALVS SISENNA A A A F F, legend around large S C
Augustus AE Dupondius. Rome mint.
Struck 16 BC. by C. Cassius Celer, moneyer.
Obverse: AVGVSTVS TRIBVNIC POTEST, three lines in
wreath of oak leaves
Reverse: C CASSIVS CELER IIIVIR AAAFF around large
RIC 375, Cohen 408, BMC 166
AUGUSTUS. 27 BC-14 AD Æ As Rome mint Struck
Obv. IMP CAESAR DIVI F AVGVSTVS IMP XX, bare head
of Augustus left
Rev: PONTIF MAXIM TRIBVN POT XXXIIII around SC
RIC 471; Sear 1689
AUGUSTUS. 27 BC- 14 AD As M. Maecilius Tullus, moneyer
in 7 BC
CAESAR AVGVST PONT MAX TRIBVNIC POT, bare head right
M MAECILIVS TVLLVS IIIVIR A A A F F around large
SC. RIC I 435; BMCRE 221
AUGUSTUS. 27 BC- 14 AD. Æ As
M. Maecilius Tullus, moneyer in 7 BC
Obverse: CAESAR AVGVST PONT MAX TRIBVNIC POT, bare
Reverse: M MAECILIVS TVLLVS IIIVIR A A A FF around
RIC I 435; BMCRE 221
Augustus and Rhoemetalkes I, 11 B.C.-12 A.D. AE (RARE
Obverse: Bare bust of Augustus. Legend in Greek
Reverse: Bust of Rhoemetalkes I. Legend in Greek
Rhoemetalkes I is the only non-roman to appear on a
coin with Augustus.
Macedon, Philippi. Time of Augustus. Circa 31 BC-14
Obverse: VIC AVG, Nike standing left on globe, holding
wreath and palm
Reverse: COHOR PRAE PHIL, three
RPC I 1651; SNG ANS 677; SNG Copenhagen 305
This coin, and a couple others with different depictions
and of different alloys,
were minted to celebrate the victory over Brutus and
Cassius at Philippi in Macedonia.
Most of these coins are in poor condition. An
image of a better example can be seen
at this URL: http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/ric/augustus/RPC_1651.2.jpg
Augustus (September 23, 63 BC – August 19, 14 AD) was the founder of the
Roman Principate and considered the first Roman emperor, controlling the
Roman Empire from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.
He was born Gaius Octavius into an old and wealthy equestrian branch of
the plebeian gens Octavia. His maternal great-uncle Julius Caesar
was assassinated in 44 BC, and Octavius was named in Caesar's will as his
adopted son and heir, then known as Octavianus (Anglicized as Octavian).
He, Mark Antony, and Marcus Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate to defeat
the assassins of Caesar. Following their victory at the Battle of
Philippi, the Triumvirate divided the Roman Republic among themselves and
ruled as military dictators. The Triumvate was eventually torn apart
by the competing ambitions of its members. Lepidus was driven into
exile and stripped of his position, and Antony committed suicide following
his defeat at the Battle of Actium by Octavian in 31 BC.
After the demise of the Second Triumvirate, Augustus restored the outward
façade of the free Republic, with governmental power vested in the
Roman Senate, the executive magistrates, and the legislative assemblies.
In reality, however, he retained his autocratic power over the Republic
as a military dictator. By law, Augustus held a collection of powers
granted to him for life by the Senate, including supreme military command,
and those of tribune and censor. It took several years for Augustus
to develop the framework within which a formally republican state could
be led under his sole rule. He rejected monarchical titles, and instead
called himself Princeps Civitatis ("First Citizen of the State").
The resulting constitutional framework became known as the Principate,
the first phase of the Roman Empire.
The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax
Romana (The Roman Peace). The Roman world was largely free from large-scale
conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial
expansion on the Empire's frontiers and the year-long civil war known as
the "Year of the Four Emperors" over the imperial succession. Augustus
dramatically enlarged the Empire, annexing Egypt, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Noricum,
and Raetia; expanding possessions in Africa; expanding into Germania; and
completing the conquest of Hispania.
Beyond the frontiers, he secured the Empire with a buffer region of client
states and made peace with the Parthian Empire 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, created official police and fire-fighting services for
Rome, and rebuilt much of the city during his reign.
Augustus died in AD 14 at the age of 75. He probably died from natural
causes, although there were unconfirmed rumors that his wife Livia poisoned
him. He was succeeded as Emperor by his adopted son (also stepson
and former son-in-law) Tiberius.
Augustus was known by many names throughout his life:
* At birth, he was named Gaius Octavius after his
biological father. Historians typically refer to him simply as Octavius
(or Octavian) between his birth in 63 until his adoption by Julius Caesar
in 44 BC (after Julius Caesar's death).
* Upon his adoption, he took Caesar's name and
became Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus in accordance with Roman adoption
naming standards. He quickly dropped "Octavianus" from his name,
and his contemporaries typically referred to him as "Caesar" during this
period; historians, however, refer to him as Octavian between 44 BC and
* In 42 BC, Octavian began the Temple of Divus
Iulius or Temple of the Comet Star and added Divi Filius (Son of the Divine)
to his name in order to strengthen his political ties to Caesar's former
soldiers by following the deification of Caesar, becoming Gaius Julius
Caesar Divi Filius.
* In 38 BC, Octavian replaced his praenomen "Gaius"
and nomen "Julius" with Imperator, the title by which troops hailed their
leader after military success, officially becoming Imperator Caesar Divi
* In 27 BC, following his defeat of Mark Antony
and Cleopatra, the Roman Senate voted new titles for him, officially becoming
Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus. It is the events of 27 BC
from which he obtained his traditional name of Augustus, which historians
use in reference to him from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.
While his paternal family was from the town of Velletri, approximately
40 kilometres (25 mi) 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 Gaius Octavius 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. His mother, Atia, was the niece of Julius
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
Julia died in 52 or 51 BC, and 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 after that time, Caesar 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.
Rise to power
Heir to Caesar:
Octavius was studying and undergoing military training in Apollonia, Illyria,
when Julius Caesar was killed on the Ides of March (15 March) 44 BC.
He rejected the advice of some army officers to take refuge with the troops
in Macedonia and sailed to Italy to ascertain whether he had any potential
political fortunes or security. Caesar had no living legitimate children
under Roman law, and so had adopted Octavius, his grand-nephew, making
him his primary heir. Mark Antony later charged that Octavian had
earned his adoption by Caesar through sexual favours, though Suetonius
describes Antony's accusation as political slander. After landing
at Lupiae near Brundisium, Octavius 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.
Upon his adoption, Octavius assumed his great-uncle's name Gaius Julius
Caesar. Roman citizens adopted into a new family usually retained
their old nomen in cognomen form (e.g., Octavianus for one who had been
an Octavius, Aemilianus for one who had been an Aemilius, etc.).
However, though some of his contemporaries did, there is no evidence that
Octavius ever himself officially used the name Octavianus, as it would
have made his modest origins too obvious. Historians usually refer
to the new Caesar as Octavian during the time between his adoption and
his assumption of the name Augustus in 27 BC in order to avoid confusing
the dead dictator with his heir.
Octavian could not rely on his limited funds to make a successful entry
into the upper echelons of the Roman political hierarchy. 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
took 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 Eastern province
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.
Arriving in Rome on 6 May 44 BC, Octavian found consul Mark Antony, 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.
Mark Antony was amassing political support, but 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 initially opposed the motion to elevate Caesar to divine status.
Octavian failed to persuade Antony to relinquish Caesar's money to him.
During the summer, he managed to win support from Caesarian sympathizers,
however, 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 Antony.
Octavian began to make common cause with the Optimates, the former enemies
of Caesar. In September, the leading Optimate orator Marcus Tullius
Cicero began to attack Antony in a series of speeches portraying him as
a threat to the Republican order. With opinion in Rome turning against
him and his year of consular power nearing its end, Antony attempted to
pass laws that 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, he 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 Antony:
Decimus Brutus refused to give up Cisalpine Gaul, so Antony besieged him
at Mutina. Antony rejected the resolutions passed by the Senate to
stop the violence, as the Senate had no army of its own to challenge him.
This provided an opportunity for Octavian, who already was known to have
armed forces. Cicero also defended Octavian against Antony's taunts
about Octavian's lack of noble lineage and aping of Julius Caesar's name,
stating "we have no more brilliant example of traditional piety among our
At the urging of Cicero, the Senate inducted Octavian as senator on 1 January
43 BC, yet he also was given the power to vote alongside the former consuls.
In addition, Octavian was granted propraetor imperium (commanding power)
which legalized his command of troops, sending him to relieve the siege
along with Hirtius and Pansa (the consuls for 43 BC). In April 43
BC, Antony's forces were defeated at the battles of Forum Gallorum and
Mutina, forcing Antony to retreat to Transalpine Gaul. Both consuls
were killed, however, leaving Octavian in sole command of their armies.
The senate heaped many more rewards on Decimus Brutus than on Octavian
for defeating Antony, then 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 centurions sent by Octavian
entered Rome and demanded that he receive the consulship left vacant by
Hirtius and Pansa.
Octavian also demanded that the decree should be rescinded which declared
Antony a public enemy. 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.
Roman aureus bearing the portraits of Mark Antony (left) and Octavian (right),
issued in 41 BC to celebrate the establishment of the Second Triumvirate
by Octavian, Antony and Marcus Lepidus in 43 BC. Both sides bear
the inscription "III VIR R P C", meaning "One of Three Men for the Regulation
of the Republic".
In a meeting near Bologna in October 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 Pompey, Julius
Caesar, and Marcus Licinius Crassus. The triumvirs then set in motion
proscriptions in which 300 senators and 2,000 equites allegedly were branded
as outlaws 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 the salaries of their troops 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
Octavian 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
This claim was rejected by Appian, who maintained that Octavian shared
an equal interest with Lepidus and Antony in eradicating his enemies.
Suetonius presented the case that Octavian, although reluctant at first
to proscribe officials, nonetheless pursued his enemies with more rigor
than the other triumvirs. Plutarch described the proscriptions as
a ruthless and cutthroat swapping of friends and family among Antony, Lepidus,
and Octavian. For example, Octavian allowed the proscription of his
ally Cicero, Antony the proscription of his maternal uncle Lucius Julius
Caesar (the consul of 64 BC), and Lepidus his brother Paullus.
Battle of Philippi and division of territory:
On 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 Macedonia in October 42,
the Caesarian army was victorious and Brutus and Cassius committed suicide.
Mark Antony later used 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 instead.
After Philippi, a new territorial arrangement was made among the members
of the Second Triumvirate. Gaul and the provinces of Hispania and
Italia were placed 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 could easily ally with a political opponent
of Octavian if not appeased, and they 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 alliances:
There was widespread dissatisfaction with Octavian over these settlements
of his soldiers, and this 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 (Mark Antony's wife) and her first husband Publius
Clodius Pulcher. He returned Clodia to her mother, claiming that
their marriage had never been consummated. Fulvia decided to take
action. Together with Lucius Antonius, she raised an army in Italy
to fight for Antony's rights against Octavian. Lucius and Fulvia
took a political and martial gamble in opposing Octavian, however, since
the Roman army still depended on the triumvirs for their salaries.
Lucius and his allies ended up in a defensive siege at Perusia (modern
Perugia), 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. Octavian showed no
mercy, however, 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 also was
pillaged and burned as a warning for others. This bloody event sullied
Octavian's reputation and was criticized by many, such as Augustan poet
Sextus Pompeius was the son of First Triumvir Pompey and still a renegade
general following Julius Caesar's victory over his father. He was
established in Sicily and Sardinia 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 a member of the republican party,
ironically, not the Caesarian faction. Octavian succeeded in a temporary
alliance in 40 BC when he married Scribonia, a daughter of Lucius Scribonius
Libo who was a follower of Sextus Pompeius as well as his father-in-law.
Scribonia gave birth to Octavian's only natural child, Julia, who was born
the same day that he divorced her to marry Livia Drusilla, little more
than a year after their 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.
This new conflict proved untenable for both Octavian and Antony, however.
Their centurions, 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 shipments of grain
through the Mediterranean to the peninsula. 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 between the triumvirate 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. Octavian lacked the resources
to confront Pompeius alone, however, so an agreement was reached with the
Second Triumvirate's extension for another five-year period beginning in
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. Octavian sent only a tenth of
those promised, however, which Antony viewed 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 to the east with his
remaining forces, where he was captured and executed in Miletus by one
of Antony's generals the following year. As Lepidus and Octavian
accepted the surrender of Pompeius' troops, Lepidus attempted to claim
Sicily for himself, ordering Octavian to leave. Lepidus' troops deserted
him, however, and defected to Octavian since they were weary of fighting
and were enticed by Octavian's promises of money.
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 effectively was 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. Octavian
ensured Rome's citizens of their rights to property in order to maintain
peace and stability in his portion of the Empire. This time, he settled
his discharged soldiers outside of Italy, while also returning 30,000 slaves
to their former Roman owners—slaves who had fled to join Pompeius' army
and navy. Octavian had the Senate grant him, his wife, and his sister
tribunal immunity, or sacrosanctitas, in order to ensure his own safety
and that of Livia and Octavia once he returned to Rome.
War with Antony:
Meanwhile, Antony's campaign turned disastrous against Parthia, tarnishing
his image as a leader, and the mere 2,000 legionaries sent by Octavian
to Antony were hardly enough to replenish his forces. On the other
hand, Cleopatra could restore his army to full strength; he already was
engaged in a romantic affair with her, so he decided to send Octavia back
to Rome. Octavian used this to spread propaganda 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.
Roman troops captured the Kingdom of Armenia in 34 BC, and Antony made
his son Alexander Helios the ruler of Armenia. He also awarded the
title "Queen of Kings" to Cleopatra, acts that Octavian used to convince
the Roman Senate that Antony had ambitions to diminish the preeminence
of Rome. Octavian became consul once again on 1 January 33 BC, and
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.
The breach between Antony and Octavian prompted a large portion of the
Senators, as well as both of that year's consuls, to leave Rome and defect
to Antony. However, Octavian received two key deserters from Antony
in the autumn of 32 BC: Munatius Plancus and Marcus Titius. These
defectors gave Octavian the information that he needed to confirm with
the Senate all the accusations that he made against Antony.
Octavian forcibly entered the temple of the Vestal Virgins and seized Antony's
secret will, which he promptly publicized. The will would have given
away Roman-conquered territories as kingdoms for his sons to rule, and
designated Alexandria as the site for a tomb for him and his queen.
In late 32 BC, the Senate officially revoked Antony's powers as consul
and declared war on Cleopatra's regime in Egypt.
In early 31 BC, Antony and Cleopatra were temporarily stationed in Greece
when Octavian gained a preliminary victory: the navy successfully ferried
troops across the Adriatic Sea under the command of Agrippa. Agrippa
cut off Antony and Cleopatra's main force from their supply routes at sea,
while 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.
Antony's fleet sailed through the bay of Actium on the western coast of
Greece in a desperate attempt to break free of the naval blockade.
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 spared only due to a last-ditch effort by Cleopatra's fleet that had
been waiting nearby.
Octavian pursued them and defeated their forces in Alexandria on 1 August
30 BC—after which Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide. Antony
fell on his own sword and was taken by his soldiers back to Alexandria
where he died in Cleopatra's arms. Cleopatra died soon after, reputedly
by the venomous bite of an asp or by poison. Octavian had exploited
his position as Caesar's heir to further his own political career, and
he was well aware of the dangers in allowing another person to do so the
same. He, therefore, followed the advice of Arius Didymus that "two
Caesars are one too many", ordering Caesarion to be killed (Julius Caesar's
son by Cleopatra), while sparing Cleopatra's children by Antony, with the
exception of Antony's older son.
Octavian had previously shown little mercy to surrendered enemies 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.
Change to Augustus:
After Actium and the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra, Octavian was in a
position to rule the entire Republic under an unofficial principate — but
he had to achieve this through incremental power gains. He did so
by courting the Senate and the people while upholding the republican traditions
of Rome, appearing that he was not aspiring to dictatorship or monarchy.
Marching into Rome, Octavian and Marcus Agrippa were elected as dual consuls
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 among 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 provinces. 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.
In 27 BC, 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. Octavian
was no longer in direct control of the provinces and their armies, but
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 was unrivaled in the Roman Republic.
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 were aware of the vast financial resources
that Augustus commanded. He failed to encourage enough senators to
finance the building and maintenance of networks of roads in Italy in 20
BC, but he undertook direct responsibility for them. 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 for that ten-year period comprised much of the
conquered Roman world, including all of Hispania and Gaul, Syria, Cilicia,
Cyprus, 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 that his orders were carried out. 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 he 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, the Senate had control of only five
or six legions distributed among three senatorial proconsuls, compared
to the twenty legions under the control of Augustus, and their control
of these regions did not amount to any political or military challenge
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 followed Republican-era precedents for the
objective of securing peace and creating stability, in which such prominent
Romans as Pompey had been granted similar military powers in times of crisis
and instability. Bust of Augustus, wearing the Civic Crown. Glyptothek,
On 16 January 27 BC the Senate gave Octavian the new titles of Augustus
and Princeps. Augustus is from the Latin word Augere (meaning to
increase) and can be translated as "the illustrious one". It was
a title of religious authority 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 served 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 which he styled for himself in reference to the story of the legendary
founder of Rome, which symbolized a second founding of Rome. The
title of Romulus was associated too strongly with notions of monarchy and
kingship, an image that 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, however, 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 boasted his familial
link to deified Julius Caesar, and 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 above his door,
the "civic crown" made from oak, and to 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
to the general "memento mori", or "Remember that you are mortal".
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."
By 23 BC, some of the un-Republican implications were becoming apparent
concerning the settlement of 27 BC. Augustus' retention of an annual
consulate drew attention to his de facto dominance over the Roman political
system, and cut in half the opportunities for others to achieve what was
still nominally the preeminent position in the Roman state. Further,
he was causing political problems by desiring to have his nephew Marcus
Marcellus follow in his footsteps and eventually assume the Principate
in his turn, alienating his three greatest supporters – Agrippa, Maecenas,
and Livia. Feeling pressure from his core group of adherents, Augustus
turned to the Senate for help.
He appointed noted Republican Calpurnius Piso as co-consul in 23 BC, after
his choice Aulus Terentius Varro Murena (who had fought against Julius
Caesar and supported Cassius and Brutus) was executed in consequence of
his involvement in the Marcus Primus affair, with an eye to bolstering
his support among the Republicans.
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, while allaying 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 among 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, Augustus intended to signal to the legions
that Agrippa was to be his successor, and that constitutional procedure
notwithstanding, they should continue to obey Agrippa.
Soon after his bout of illness subsided, Augustus gave up his consulship.
The only other times Augustus would serve as consul would be in the years
5 and 2 BC, both times to introduce his grandsons into public life.
This was a clever ploy by Augustus; ceasing to serve as one of two annually
elected consuls allowed aspiring senators a better chance to attain the
consular position, while allowing Augustus to exercise wider patronage
within the senatorial class. Although Augustus had resigned as consul,
he desired to retain his consular imperium not just in his provinces but
throughout the empire. This desire, as well as the Marcus Primus
Affair, led to a second compromise between him and the Senate known as
the Second Settlement.
Primary reasons for the Second settlement:
The primary reasons for the Second Settlement were as follows. First,
after Augustus relinquished the annual consulship, he was no longer in
an official position to rule the state, yet his dominant position remained
unchanged over his Roman, 'imperial' provinces where he was still a proconsul.
When he annually held the office of consul, he had the power to intervene
with the affairs of the other provincial proconsuls appointed by the Senate
throughout the empire, when he deemed necessary. When he relinquished
his annual consulship, he legally lost this power because his proconsular
powers applied only to his imperial provinces. Augustus wanted to keep
A second problem later arose showing the need for the Second Settlement
in what became known as the "Marcus Primus Affair". In late 24 or
early 23 BC, charges were brought against Marcus Primus, the former proconsul
(governor) of Macedonia, for waging a war without prior approval of the
Senate on the Odrysian kingdom of Thrace, whose king was a Roman ally.
He was defended by Lucius Lucinius Varro 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. Such orders, had they
been given, would have been considered a breach of the Senate's prerogative
under the Constitutional settlement of 27 BC and its aftermath — i.e.,
before Augustus was granted imperium proconsulare maius — as Macedonia
was a Senatorial province under the Senate's jurisdiction, not an imperial
province under the authority of Augustus. 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.
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 disbelieved Augustus's testimony
and resented his attempt to subvert the trial by using his auctoritas.
He 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, an insult to the 'August
The Second Constitutional Settlement was completed in part to allay confusion
and formalize Augustus' legal authority to intervene in Senatorial provinces.
The Senate granted Augustus a form of general imperium proconsulare, or
proconsular imperium (power) that applied throughout the empire, not solely
to his provinces. Moreover, the Senate augmented Augustus' proconsular
imperium into imperium proconsulare maius, or proconsular imperium applicable
throughout the empire that was more (maius) or greater than that held by
the other proconsuls. This in effect gave Augustus constitutional
power superior to all other proconsuls in the empire. Augustus stayed
in Rome during the renewal process and provided veterans with lavish donations
to gain their support, thereby ensuring that his status of proconsular
imperium maius was renewed in 13 BC.
During the second settlement, Augustus was also granted the power of a
tribune (tribunicia potestas) for life, though not the official title of
tribune. For some years, Augustus had been awarded tribunicia sacrosanctitas,
the immunity given to a Tribune of the Plebeians. Now he decided
to assume the full powers of the magistracy, renewed annually, in perpetuity.
Legally, it was closed to patricians, a status that Augustus had acquired
some years earlier when adopted by Julius Caesar. This power allowed
him to convene the Senate and people at will and lay business before them,
to veto the actions of either the Assembly or the Senate, to preside over
elections, and 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 that 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 attire but 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 tribunus 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 praetorship.
Augustus was granted sole imperium within the city of Rome itself, in addition
to being granted proconsular imperium maius and tribunician authority for
life. Traditionally, proconsuls (Roman province governors) lost their proconsular
"imperium" when they crossed the Pomerium – the sacred boundary of Rome
– and entered the city. In these situations, Augustus would have
power as part of his tribunician authority but his constitutional imperium
within the Pomerium would be less than that of a serving consul.
That would mean that, when he was in the city, he might not be the constitutional
magistrate with the most authority. Thanks to his prestige or auctoritas,
his wishes would usually be obeyed, but there might be some difficulty.
To fill this power vacuum, the Senate voted that Augustus's imperium proconsulare
maius (superior proconsular power) should not lapse when he was inside
the city walls. All armed forces in the city had formerly been under
the control of the urban praetors and consuls, but this situation now placed
them under the sole authority of Augustus.
In addition, the credit was given to Augustus for each subsequent Roman
military victory after this time, because the majority of Rome's armies
were stationed in imperial provinces commanded by Augustus through the
legatus who were deputies of the princeps in the provinces. Moreover,
if a battle was fought in a Senatorial province, Augustus' proconsular
imperium maius allowed him to take command of (or credit for) any major
military victory. This meant that Augustus was the only individual
able to receive a triumph, a tradition that began with Romulus, Rome's
first King and first triumphant general. Lucius Cornelius Balbus
was the last man outside Augustus' family to receive this award in 19 BC.
(Balbus was the nephew of Julius Caesar's great agent, who was governor
of Africa and conqueror of the Garamantes.) Tiberius, Augustus' eldest
son by marriage to Livia, was the only other general to receive a triumph
— for victories in Germania in 7 BC.
Many of the political subtleties of the Second Settlement seem to have
evaded the comprehension of the Plebeian class, who were Augustus' greatest
supporters and clientele. This caused them to insist upon Augustus' participation
in imperial affairs from time to time. Augustus failed to stand for
election as consul in 22 BC, and fears arose once again that he 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. Likewise, there was a food shortage in Rome in 22 BC 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, there 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. Some time prior to 1 September
22 BC, a certain Castricius provided Augustus with information about a
conspiracy led by Fannius Caepio. Murena was named among the conspirators,
the outspoken Consul who defended Primus in the Marcus Primus Affair. The
conspirators were tried in absentia with Tiberius acting as prosecutor;
the jury found them guilty, but it was not a unanimous verdict. All
the accused were sentenced to death for treason and 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 granted Augustus a form of 'general consular imperium',
which was probably 'imperium consulare maius', like the proconsular powers
that he received in 23 BC. Like his tribune authority, the consular
powers were another instance of gaining power from offices that he did
not actually hold. In addition, Augustus was allowed to wear the
consul's insignia in public and before the Senate, as well as to sit in
the symbolic chair between the two consuls and hold the fasces, an emblem
of consular authority. This seems to have assuaged the populace;
regardless of whether or not Augustus was a consul, the importance was
that he both appeared as one before the people and could exercise consular
power if necessary. On 6 March 12 BC, after the death of Lepidus,
he additionally took up the position of pontifex maximus, the high priest
of the college of the Pontiffs, 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".
Stability and staying power:
A final reason for the Second Settlement was to give the Principate constitutional
stability and staying power in case something happened to Princeps Augustus.
His illness of early 23 BC and the Caepio conspiracy showed that the regime's
existence hung by the thin thread of the life of one man, Augustus himself,
who suffered from several severe and dangerous illnesses throughout his
life. If he were to die from natural causes or fall victim to assassination,
Rome could be subjected to another round of civil war. The memories
of Pharsalus, the Ides of March, the proscriptions, Philippi, and Actium,
barely twenty-five years distant, were still vivid in the minds of many
citizens. Proconsular imperium was conferred upon Agrippa for five
years, similar to Augustus' power, in order to accomplish this constitutional
stability. The exact nature of the grant is uncertain but it probably
covered Augustus' imperial provinces, east and west, perhaps lacking authority
over the provinces of the Senate. That came later, as did the jealously
guarded tribunicia potestas.
Augustus' powers were now complete. In fact, he dated his 'reign'
from the completion of the Second Settlement, July 1, 23 BC. Almost
as importantly, the Principate now had constitutional stability.
Later Roman Emperors were generally limited to the powers and titles originally
granted to Augustus, though often newly appointed Emperors would decline
one or more of the honorifics given to Augustus in order to display humility.
Just as often, as their reign progressed, Emperors would appropriate all
of the titles, regardless of whether they had been granted them by the
Senate. Later Emperors took to wearing the civic crown, consular
insignia, and the purple robes of a Triumphant general (toga picta), which
became the imperial insignia well into the Byzantine era.
War and expansion:s
Extent of the Roman Empire under Augustus. The yellow legend represents
the extent of the Republic in 31 BC, the shades of green represent gradually
conquered territories under the reign of Augustus, and pink areas on the
map represent client states; however, areas under Roman control shown here
were subject to change even during Augustus' reign, especially in Germania.
Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus chose Imperator ("victorious commander")
to be his first name, since he wanted to make an emphatically clear connection
between himself and the notion of victory. 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 (to 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 was prominent among all classes
at Rome, and it is accorded divine sanction by Virgil's Jupiter in Book
1 of the Aeneid, where Jupiter promises Rome imperium sine fine, "sovereignty
By the end of his reign, the armies of Augustus had conquered northern
Hispania (modern Spain and Portugal) and the Alpine regions of Raetia and
Noricum (modern Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria, Slovenia), Illyricum and
Pannonia (modern Albania, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, etc.), and had extended
the borders of the Africa Province to the east and south.
Judea was added to the province of Syria when Augustus deposed Herod Archelaus,
successor to client king Herod the Great (73–4 BC). Syria (like Egypt
after Antony) was governed by a high prefect of the equestrian class rather
than by a proconsul or legate of Augustus.
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. The
rebellious tribes of Asturias and Cantabria in modern-day Spain were finally
quelled in 19 BC, and 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. Horace
dedicated an ode to the victory, while the monument Trophy of Augustus
near Monaco 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 moved against the Germanic tribes of the eastern Rhineland.
Both campaigns were successful, as Drusus' forces reached the Elbe River
by 9 BC—though 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.
Muziris in the Chera Kingdom of Southern India, as
shown in the Tabula Peutingeriana, with depiction of a "Temple of Augustus"
("Templum Augusti"), an illustration of Indo-Roman relations in the period.
To protect Rome's eastern territories from the Parthian Empire, Augustus
relied on the client states of the east to act as territorial buffers and
areas that 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.
Parthia had always posed a threat to Rome in the east, but the real battlefront
was along the Rhine and Danube rivers. Before the final fight with
Antony, Octavian's campaigns against the tribes in Dalmatia were 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 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. 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
Death and succession:
The illness of Augustus in 23 BC brought the problem of succession to the
forefront of political issues and the public. To ensure stability,
he needed to designate an heir to his unique position in Roman society
and government. This was to be achieved in small, undramatic, and
incremental ways that did not stir senatorial fears of monarchy.
If someone was to succeed Augustus' unofficial position of power, he would
have to earn it through his own publicly proven merits.
Some Augustan historians argue that indications pointed toward his sister's
son Marcellus, 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. This granting of power showed Augustus'
favor for Agrippa, but 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 became apparent to make Gaius and Lucius Caesar his heirs
when he adopted them as his own children. He took the consulship
in 5 and 2 BC so that 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 (henceforth referred to as Drusus)
and Tiberius Claudius (henceforth Tiberius), granting them military commands
and public office, though seeming to favor Drusus. After Agrippa died in
12 BC, 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. Drusus' marriage to Antonia was considered
an unbreakable affair, whereas Vipsania was "only" the daughter of the
late Agrippa from his first marriage.
Tiberius shared in Augustus' tribune powers as of 6 BC, but shortly thereafter
went into retirement, reportedly wanting no further role in politics while
he exiled himself to Rhodes. No specific reason is known for his
departure, though it could have been a combination of reasons, including
a failing marriage with Julia, as well as a sense of envy and exclusion
over Augustus' apparent favouring of his young grandchildren-turned-sons
Gaius and Lucius. (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
AD 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
On 19 August AD 14, Augustus died while visiting Nola where his father
had died. Both Tacitus and Cassius Dio wrote that Livia was rumored to
have brought about Augustus' death by poisoning fresh figs. This
element features in many modern works of historical fiction pertaining
to Augustus' life, but some historians view it as likely to have been a
salacious fabrication made by those who had favoured Postumus as heir,
or other of Tiberius' political enemies. Livia had long been the
target of similar rumors of poisoning on the behalf of her son, most or
all of which are unlikely to have been true.
Alternatively, it is possible that Livia did supply a poisoned fig (she
did cultivate a variety of fig named for her that Augustus is said to have
enjoyed), but did so as a means of assisted suicide rather than murder.
Augustus' health had been in decline in the months immediately before his
death, and he had made significant preparations for a smooth transition
in power, having at last reluctantly settled on Tiberius as his choice
of heir. It is likely that Augustus was not expected to return alive
from Nola, but it seems that his health improved once there; it has therefore
been speculated that Augustus and Livia conspired to end his life at the
anticipated time, having committed all political process to accepting Tiberius,
in order to not endanger that transition.
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. Augustus' body was coffin-bound and
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.
The mausoleum was despoiled by the Goths in 410 during the Sack of Rome,
and his ashes were scattered.
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 obliged Tiberius to suppress
any open resentment that he might have harbored, coupled with Tiberius'
"extremely conservative" attitude towards religion.
Also, 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 toward the two young Caesars, Gaius and Lucius—instead
of Augustus, the real architect of his divorce and imperial demotion.
Augustus' reign laid the foundations of a regime that lasted, in one form
or another, for nearly fifteen hundred years through the ultimate decline
of the Western Roman Empire 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 the 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 such
as his poems Sicily, Epiphanus, and Ajax, an autobiography of 13 books,
a philosophical treatise, and his written rebuttal to Brutus' Eulogy of
Cato. 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. The Roman Senate wished subsequent emperors to "be
more fortunate than Augustus and better than Trajan". Augustus 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 among Italian polities, his extensive building
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 enduring 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.
Although the most powerful individual in the Roman Empire, Augustus wished
to embody the spirit of Republican virtue and norms. He also wanted
to relate to and connect with the concerns of the plebs and lay people.
He achieved this through various means of generosity and a cutting back
of lavish excess. In the year 29 BC, Augustus paid 400 sesterces
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
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: Intelligent people praised or criticized
him in varying ways. One opinion was as follows. Filial duty and a national
emergency, in which there was no place for law-abiding conduct, had driven
him to civil war—and this can neither be initiated nor maintained by decent
methods. He had made many concessions to Anthony and to Lepidus for the
sake of vengeance on his father's murderers. When Lepidus grew old and
lazy, and Anthony's self-indulgence got the better of him, the only possible
cure for the distracted country had been government by one man. However,
Augustus had put the state in order not by making himself king or dictator,
but by creating the Principate. The Empire's frontiers were on the ocean,
or distant rivers. Armies, provinces, fleets, the whole system was interrelated.
Roman citizens were protected by the law. Provincials were decently treated.
Rome itself had been lavishly beautified. Force had been sparingly used—merely
to preserve peace for the majority.
According to the second opposing opinion: filial duty and national crisis
had been merely pretexts. In actual fact, the motive of Octavian, the future
Augustus, was lust for power ... There had certainly been peace,
but it was a blood-stained peace of disasters and assassinations.
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: "Opposites do not have
to be mutually exclusive, and we are not obliged to choose one or the other.
The story of his career shows that Augustus was indeed ruthless, cruel,
and ambitious for himself. This was only in part a personal trait,
for upper-class Romans were educated to compete with one another and to
excel. However, he combined an overriding concern for his personal
interests with a deep-seated patriotism, based on a nostalgia of Rome's
antique virtues. In his capacity as princeps, selfishness and selflessness
coexisted in his mind. While fighting for dominance, he paid little attention
to legality or to the normal civilities of political life. He was
devious, untrustworthy, and bloodthirsty. But once he had established
his authority, he governed efficiently and justly, generally allowed freedom
of speech, and promoted the rule of law. He was immensely hardworking
and tried as hard as any democratic parliamentarian to treat his senatorial
colleagues with respect and sensitivity. He suffered from no delusions
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."
The Anglo-Irish 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".
Augustus' public revenue 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.
An equally important reform was the abolition of private tax farming, 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 use of Egypt's immense land rents to finance the Empire's operations
resulted from Augustus' conquest of Egypt and the shift to a Roman form
of government. As it was effectively considered Augustus' private
property rather than a province of the Empire, it became part of each succeeding
emperor's patrimonium. Instead of a legate or proconsul, Augustus
installed a prefect from the equestrian class to administer Egypt and maintain
its lucrative seaports; this position became the highest political achievement
for any equestrian besides becoming Prefect of the Praetorian Guard.
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
During his reign the circus games resulted in the killing of 3,500 elephants.
Month of August:
The 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.
On his deathbed, Augustus boasted "I found a Rome of bricks; I leave to
you one of marble." Although there is some truth in the literal meaning
of this, Cassius Dio asserts that it was a metaphor for the Empire's strength.
Marble 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 praetorians, 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 Mérida 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.
After the death of Agrippa in 12 BC, a solution had to be found in maintaining
Rome's water supply system. This came about because it was overseen
by Agrippa when he served as aedile, and was even funded by him afterwards
when he was a private citizen paying at his own expense. In that
year, Augustus arranged a system where the Senate designated three of its
members as prime commissioners in charge of the water supply and to ensure
that Rome's aqueducts did not fall into disrepair.
In the late Augustan era, the commission of five senators called the curatores
locorum publicorum iudicandorum (translated as "Supervisors of Public Property")
was put in charge of maintaining public buildings and temples of the state
cult. Augustus created the senatorial group of the curatores viarum
(translated as "Supervisors for Roads") for the upkeep of roads; this senatorial
commission worked with local officials and contractors to organize regular
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 appearance and official images:
His biographer Suetonius, writing about a century after Augustus' death,
described his appearance as: "... unusually handsome and exceedingly graceful
at all periods of his life, though he cared nothing for personal adornment.
He was so far from being particular about the dressing of his hair, that
he would have several barbers working in a hurry at the same time, and
as for his beard he now had it clipped and now shaved, while at the very
same time he would either be reading or writing something ... 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 (although Julius
Marathus, his freedman and keeper of his records, says that he was five
feet and nine inches, more or less 1.75 meter, in height), but this was
concealed by the fine proportion and symmetry of his figure, and was noticeable
only by comparison with some taller person standing beside him. ... "
His official images were very tightly controlled and idealized, drawing
from a tradition of Hellenistic royal portraiture rather than the tradition
of realism in Roman portraiture. He first appeared on coins at the
age of 19, and from about 29 BC "the explosion in the number of Augustan
portraits attests a concerted propaganda campaign aimed at dominating all
aspects of civil, religious, economic and military life with Augustus'
person." The early images did indeed depict a young man, but although
there were gradual changes his images remained youthful until he died in
his seventies, by which time they had "a distanced air of ageless majesty".
Among the best known of many surviving portraits are the Augustus of Prima
Porta, the image on the Ara Pacis, and the Via Labicana Augustus, which
shows him as a priest. Several cameo portraits include the Blacas
Cameo and Gemma Augustea.
Information was taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
at this URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustus