Caesar Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE) was the first emperor of the Roman Empire. He was born with the name Gaius Octavius Thurinus on 23 September 63 BCE and adopted by his great-uncle Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. Consequently, he took the name Gaius Julius Caesar. Later on, in 27 BCE, the Senate proclaimed him the honorific Augustus, which means “the illustrious one,” so he became known as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus.
Despite the fact of owing many names, he is commonly known as Octavius in the period of events between 63 and 44 BCE, Octavian between 44 and 27 BCE and Augustus between 27 BCE until his death in 14 CE
After the assassination of step father of Augustus, Julius Caesar, in March of 44 BCE, the first emperor created an alliance with Caesar’s close friend and relative, Mark Antony. Also, another supporter of Caesar, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, joined them and it became the reason of formation of the Second Triumvirate in October of 43 BCE. The first objective of the new alliance was to kill all the political rivals and supporters of Caesar’s assassins. It is not clear who was the main responsible among them three for the killings, where some writers and historians call Augustus innocent, while others consider him the most bloodshed. After completion of their first aim, the Triumvirate focused on Caesar’s assassins. At the battle of Phillipi in 42 BCE, the army of Brutus and Cassius was attacked by the forces of the Triumvirate, which forced both assassins to make a suicide.
Octavian and Lepidus attacked Sextus Pompeius (son of Pompey, main rival of Caesar) for the leadership of Rome with the help of Antony from Egypt
Undoubtedly, the Second Trumvirate was successful in battle over Pompeius, so Lepidus pushed Octavian to leave Sicily, the theatre of operations, with his army. However, Octavian proposed a huge amount of money to the troops of Lepidus, so they defected to him. Consequently, Lepidus lost all his titles, except of Pontifex Maximus, and the Second Triumvirate came to an end.
Relationships with Antony and Cleopatra
When the Second Triumvirate came to an end, relations between Octavian and Mark Antony became much worse. Later, in 40 BCE, Octavian tried to save their alliance and gave his sister, Octavia Minor, in marriage to Antony. However, Antony acquired strong relationships with Cleopatra VII of Egypt, who was the former lover of Caesar and mother of his son Caesarion, but with time became a lover of Antony. This romance led to the conflict between Octavian and Antony, where Octavian accused him in use of his sister. Octavia and Antony became divorced.
Octavian started to consider Antony inappropriate leader in political, private and military spheres
The adopted son of Caesar made the priestesses of the temple of Vesta to surrender the will of Antony, which was read by him in the Senate. Consequently, the will passed Roman territories to sons of Antony and included instructions for a great mausoleum to be constructed in Alexandria for Antony and his love Cleopatra. Octavian called his ex-supporter a renegade. At the same time, the worst declaration of Antony was about Caesarion’s true heir of Julius Caesar. However, the Senate rejected Antony’s consulship and started the was on Cleopatra VII. Later on, at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, the army of Octavian with the General Agrippa destructed forces of Antony and Cleopatra and pursued them until 30 BCE. Consequently, Antony and Cleopatra lost Alexandria and made a suicide. Moreover, Octavian strangled Caesarion claiming that “two Caesars are one too many”, while Antony’s eldest son was killed because Octavian considered him as a threat to Rome.
These events led Octavian to the absolute leadership over Rome
Octavian decided to get rid of the same situation as his father had and immediately after coming to power he characterized his political strategies to the population, thus, making people believe that he wants to make Rome better. In 27 BCE, Octavian denied from his powers knowing that he will receive them back from the Senate, who also gave him the title “Augustus.” He preferred to call himself in public as “Princeps” or the “First Citizen.” People trusted him and Augustus managed to gain an absolute control over Rome and its colonies.
Being already known as Augustus, the month of August was named in honor of the first Emperor. In 19 BC, Augustus received the supreme power over each province of the Roman Empire and started to rule supremely.
By 2 BCE Augustus was proclaimed Pater Patriae, the father of the country
Undoubtedly, the period of his reign was positive for the Empire since he managed to support peace among citizens and to raise the economy, arts and agriculture. In addition, during the leadership of the first emperor, many new buildings were created, where Augustus realized the plans made by Caesar and developed many of his own designs. For instance, he restored 82 buildings in one year, including public baths of Rome with his main supporter Agrippa. Moreover, Augustus was arts lover and inspired many artists, who composed poems about him. For example, poet Virgil composed the Aeneid. Many reforms and new laws were created during the reign of Augustus. His aim was to support stability in marriages and to increase the birth rate. Thus, there were penalties for childless marriages and reduced taxes for families with more than three children.
Augustus died in 14 CE. His last words became famous: “I found Rome a city of clay, but left it a city of marble.” However, his wife Livia and adopted son Tiberius, who became the second emperor in the history of Roman Empire, his last words were: “Have I played the part well? The applaud as I exit.” The body of emperor was buried in Rome.
During his reign, the emperor expanded Roman Forum and today, you can visit remainings of Forum of Augustus in the center of Rome
- Today, you can visit ruins of the Forum of Augustus in Rome near the Colosseum
- Caesar Augustus was the first emperor of ancient Roman Empire
- The month of August was named after Augustus Caesar
- The next five emperors were all relatives of Augustus
- He was buried in the Mausoleum of Augustus
- Julius Caesar was his great uncle
- Augustus was never officially declared emperor of Rome by the Senate. He automatically prolonged the position, proclaiming himself the sole ruler after defeating Mark Antony
- He had proconsular power, which meant that he is the ruler of not only Rome, but the whole empire
- Augustus was 76 years old when he died
- He banned the cult, Druids, because of the practice of human sacrifice