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Augustus Caesar, 68 B.C. - A.D. 14

augustus.jpg (5050 bytes)The first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar (born Gaius Octavius), was the son of Gaius Octavius, senator and praetor, and Atia, Julius Caesar's niece. His grand-uncle adopted him as his son and heir. When Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C., Octavian, was a student under the orator Apollodorus of Pergamum in Illyricum, but returned to Rome immediately. Marc Antony refused to surrender Caesar's property but after some fighting Octavian became consul and carried out Caesar's will. When Antony returned from Gaul with Lepidus, Octavian joined them in establishing the Second Triumvirate. Octavian obtained Africa, Sardinia and Sicily; Antony, Gaul; and Lepidus, Spain. The three soon consolidated their power by anyone unfriendly to them in Italy, and by their victory at Philippi over the republicans under Brutus and Cassius (Caesar's conspirators). The relationship between Octavian and Antony was a strained one at best -- the situation improved when Antony's wife Fulvia died, and he married Octavia, the sister of Octavian. The Roman world was then divided with Octavian taking the western half, and Antony the eastern. Lepidus controlled Africa. Octavian made great efforts to obtain the support of the Roman people. Meanwhile, Antony (c.83-c.30 B.C.) was passing the time at Cleopatra's court. War was declared against Cleopatra (69-30 B.C.), whom the Romans hated and mistrusted, and in the naval battle at Actium off the west coast of Greece, Octavian became the sole ruler of the Roman world.

Antony's son by Fulvia, and Caesarion, son of Caesar and Cleopatra, were killed and in 29 B.C., Octavian returned to Rome in triumph and proclaimed universal peace throughout the Roman world.

Although Octavian claimed to represent the best of republican Rome, the fact remains that whatever remained of the Republic was a mere shadow. Octavian, now known as Augustus Caesar ("sacred leader"), held absolute power. After a number of victories, he suffered one defeat in 9 B.C. when the Roman army was annihilated by Germanic tribes under Arminius (18 B.C.-A.D. 19). Following this defeat, Augustus maintained a policy of domestic improvement and reform so sweeping that the the period of his rule and for almost two centuries after his death, was called the Augustan Age.

Augustus died at Nola in A.D. 14 and was succeeded by his stepson, Tiberius (42 B.C.-A.D. 37)

I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.

More Information
Read Garrett G. Fagan's (Penn State) outstanding essay on Augustus. Augustus was keenly aware of his own importance -- in fact, in A.D. 14 he wrote his own Deeds of the Divine Augustus (from MIT). If you care for the Latin version, see the Res Gestae Divi Augusti. See also Richard Hooker's Rome: The Age of Augustus.

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