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AH1011: AUGUSTUS: THE FIRST EMPEROR Main characters C. Octavius = C. Iulius Caesar Octavianus M. Tullius Cicero C. Cassius Longinus M. Iunius Brutus Marcus Antonius M. Aemilius Lepidus Cleopatra VII Sextus Pompeius M. Vipsanius Agrippa Chronology of the events 44 BC: Caesar´s heir

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main characters
Main characters

C. Octavius = C. Iulius Caesar Octavianus

M. Tullius Cicero

C. Cassius Longinus

M. Iunius Brutus

Marcus Antonius

M. Aemilius Lepidus

Cleopatra VII

Sextus Pompeius

M. Vipsanius Agrippa

chronology of the events
Chronology of the events

44 BC: Caesar´s heir

43 BC: The Second triumvirate (43 BC): Octavius-Antony-Lepidus. Proscriptions. Death of Cicero

42 BC: The Civil Wars (battle of Philippi)

40 BC: Treaty of Brundisium between the Triumvirs: Octavian gets the West, Antony the East, Lepidus Africa.

38 BC: Octavian fights with Sextus Pompey and loses his fleets in storms; divorces Scribonia upon the birth of Julia and marries Livia. The Triumvirate's mandate runs out.

chronology of the events4
Chronology of the events

37 BC: Triumvirate renewed (5 years). Agrippa trains a new fleet. Antony marries Cleopatra and starts his disastrous Parthian Campaign.

36 BC: Octavian defeats Sextus Pompey at Naulochus in Sicily; Lepidus attempts to take over Sicily but loses his army and is sent into exile. East and West are now in complete control of two men.

34 BC: Antony breaks with Rome and Octavian. He divorces Octavia. Antony divides Rome's eastern empire among Cleopatra's children and declares Caesarion Caesar’s rightful heir.

chronology of the events5
Chronology of the events

32 BC: Octavian reads Antony's will in the Senate. The sentate declares war on Egypt and Cleopatra.

31 BC: Octavian and Agrippa victorious over antony and Cleopatra at Actium.

30 BC: battle of Alexandria. Death of Antony and Cleopatra.

29 BC: Octavian celebrates triumph in Rome

27 BC: Octavian "hands the Republic back to the people" and in return receives the title Augustus and an enormous proconsular province including Spain, Gaul, Syria and Egypt.

chronology of the events6
Chronology of the events

23 BC, June: Augustus receives the imperium maius, and tribunicia potestas which gives him broad

20 BC: Augustus recovers standards captured by the Parthians in three wars against Rome.

12 BC: death of Agrippa. Augustus pontifex maximus

AD 4: Tiberius adopted by Augustus; Germanicus adopted by Tiberius

AD 9, Summer: P. Quinctilius Varus and his three legions are massacred by the Germans in the Teutoburger Wald.

AD 13, April 3: Augustus writes his will.

AD 14: Augustus dies.

caesar s heir
Caesar´s heir

Octavian: C. Octavius, divi filius, Augustus

Son of a novus homo

Adopted nephew of Julius Caesar


Served with Caesar in Spain in 45 B.C.

res gestae 1 2 1 octavian s rising
Res Gestae 1, 2, 1: Octavian’s rising

“At the age of nineteen, on my own initiative and at my own

expense, I raised an army by means of which I

liberated the Republic, which was oppressed by the

tyranny of a faction. For which reason the senate, with

honorific decrees, made me a member of its order in the

consulship of Gaius Pansa and Aulus Hirtius (43 BC), giving

me at the same time consular rank in voting, and granted

me the imperium. It ordered me as propraetor, together

with the consuls, to see to it that the state suffered no harm.

Moreover, in the same year, when both consuls had fallen in

the war, the people elected me consul and a triumvir for

the settlement of the Common wealth. Those who

assassinated my father I drove into exile, avenging their

crime by due process of law; and afterwards when they

waged war against the state, I conquered them twice on the

battlefield. I waged many wars throughout the whole world by land and by sea, both civil and foreign.”

cicero philippicae 5 17 46
Cicero, Philippicae 5, 17, 46

“Whereas Gaius Caesar son of Gaius, pontifex, propraetor, at

a serious crisis of the state has exhorted the veteran soldiers

to defend the liberty of the Roman people, and has

enrolled them; and whereas the Martian and Fourth Legions,

with the utmost zeal and the most admirable unanimity in

serving the state, under the instigation and leadership of

Gaius Caesar, are defending and have defended the state

and the liberty of the Roman people; and whereas Gaius

Caesar, propraetor, has with an army set out for the relief of

the province of Gaul, has brought under his own obedience

and that of the Roman people cavalry, archers, and elephants,

and has at a most difficult crisis of the state come to the

assistance of the safety and dignity of the Roman people,

therefore for these reasons it is the pleasure of the senate

that Gaius Caesar son of Gaius, pontifex, proprietor, shall be

a senator and shall express his opinion on the praetorian


cicero letters between 44 and 43
Cicero, Letters (between 44 and 43 )

Cicero to Atticus (Ad Att. 14.10) Apr. 19, 44 B.C.

....Octavius came to Naples on April 18...[and it is

reported that] he will accept his inheritance. But, as you

write, that will be a great quarrel with Antony!...

Cicero to Atticus (Ad Att. 15.2) Jun. 9/10, 44 B.C.

....In Octavian, as I have seen clearly, there is enough

innate [ability], enough spirit; and he seems, towards

our "heroes" to be as favourable as we would wish. But

how much we must trust his age, his name, his heritage,

his bringing up—this is a great subject for planning.

His father-in-law thinks [that Octavian is to be trusted]

not at all....But nevertheless, he must be nourished, and,

if nothing else, from Antony disengaged....

brutus to atticus ad brut 17 early june 43 b c
Brutus to Atticus (Ad Brut. 17) early June, 43 B.C.

“You write to me that Cicero marvels, because I do not ever

indicate approval of his deeds: since you demand it of me,

Under your compulsion I shall write what I feel…I don't

know what to write to you except this one thing: the boy's

greediness and Lawlessness have rather been excited

than repressed by Cicero, and he has handed over to him

such a great amount of indulgence, that he cannot restrain

himself from malicious remarks.... He boasts to me that he

has sustained war against Antony while he himself was

in civilian clothing, our Cicero does: but what good is

this to me, if the reward demanded for Antony's

Suppression is someone's succession to Antony's

place, and if the avenger of that evil stands forth the

instigator of another having a foundation”

brutus to atticus ad brut 17 early june 43 b c16
Brutus to Atticus (Ad Brut. 17) early June, 43 B.C.

and roots which are deeper? Are we so to suffer it, because these

things which he now does are in fear of domination or [because

they are in fear] of a dominator or [because they are in fear] of

Antony? I myself however have no gratitude for a man who, while

not serve an angered [dominator], does not deprecate the matter

[of domination] itself....Let Octavius therefore call Cicero "father,“

refer all things to him, thank him; nevertheless this will become

apparent: his words are contrary to what he is really doing....For

what is it to our cause that Antony is conquered, if he has been

conquered so that which he held lies open for another?....I

Myself certainly...will wage war against the thing itself,

that is against kingship and extraordinary supreme

commands and domination and power which would wish

itself to be above the laws....

actium suetonius life of augustus 17
Actium: Suetonius’ Life of Augustus, 17

At last he broke off his alliance with Marcus Antonius,

which was always doubtful and uncertain, and with

difficulty kept alive by various reconciliations; and the

better to show that his rival had fallen away from conduct

becoming a citizen, he had the will which Antonius had left

in Rome, naming his children by Cleopatra among his heirs,

opened and read before the people. But when Antonius

was declared a public enemy… Not long afterwards [31

B.C.] he won the sea-fight at Actium, where the contest

continued to so late an hour that the victor passed the

night on board. --and then went to Egypt by a roundabout

way through Asia and Syria,…

actium suetonius life of augustus 1719
Actium: Suetonius’ Life of Augustus, 17

laid siege to Alexandria, where Antonius had taken refuge with

Cleopatra, and soon took the city. Although Antonius tried to

make terms at the eleventh hour, Augustus forced him to

commit suicide, and viewed his corpse. He greatly desired to

save Cleopatra alive for his triumph, and even had Psylli

brought to her, to suck the poison from her wound, since

it was thought that she died from the bite of an asp.He allowed

them both the honour of burial, and in the same tomb, giving

orders that the mausoleum which they had begun should be

finished. The young Antonius, the elder of Fulvia's two sons, he

dragged from the image of the Deified Julius, to which he had

fled after many vain entreaties, and slew him. Caesarion, too,

whom Cleopatra fathered on Caesar, he overtook in his flight,

brought back, and put to death. But he spared the rest of the

offspring of Antonius and Cleopatra, and afterwards maintained and

reared them according to their several positions, as carefully as if they

were his own kin.

tacitus annals 1 9 on augustus deeds and honours
Tacitus, Annals 1, 9, On Augustus’ deeds and honours

Then followed much talk about Augustus himself, and many expressed an

Idle wonder that the same day marked the beginning of his assumption of

empire and the close of his life, and, again, that he had ended his days at

Nola in the same house and room as his father Octavius. People extolled

too the number of his consulships, …the continuance for thirty-seven years

of the tribunitian power, the title of Imperator twenty-one times earned,

and his other honours which had either frequently repeated or were wholly

new. Sensible men, however, spoke variously of his life with praise and

censure. Some said "that dutiful feeling towards a father, and the

necessities of the State in which laws had then no Place, drove

him into civil war, which can neither be planned nor conducted on

any Right principles. He had often yielded to Antonius, while he was taking

vengeance on his father's murderers, often also to Lepidus. When the

latter sank into feeble dotage and the former had been ruined by his

profligacy, the only remedy for his distracted country was the rule

of a single man. Yet the State had been organized under the

name neither of a kingdom nor a dictatorship, But under that of a

The empire; the legions, provinces, fleets, all things were linked together;

there was Law for the citizens; There was respect shown to the allies. The

capital had been embellished on a grand scale; only in a few instances had

he resorted to force, simply to secure general tranquillity."


“Yet the State had been organized under the name neither of a kingdom nor a dictatorship, But under that of a prince.”

Think about the differences between a principate, a kingdom and a dictatorship?

tacitus and the augustean principate annales 1 9
Tacitus and the Augustean Principate, Annales 1, 9
  • Positive aspects:

-Assumption and continuity of Republican honours and traditions.


-Extension of the geographical boundaries of the Empire. Empire as harmonised entity

-Creation of laws for all the citizens and provinces

-Building activity over the Empire

tacitus annals 1 10 on augustus deeds and honours
Tacitus, Annals 1, 10, On Augustus’ deeds and honours

It was said, on the other hand, "that filial duty and State necessity

Were merely assumed as a mask. It was really from a lust of

sovereignty that he had excited the veterans by bribery, had, when a

young man and a subject, raised an army, tampered with the Consul's

legions, and feigned an attachment to the faction of Pompeius…

wrested the consulate from a reluctant Senate, and turned against

the State the arms with which he had been intrusted against

Antonius. Citizens were proscribed, lands divided, without

so much as the approval of those who executed these deeds. Even

Granting that the deaths of Cassius and of the Bruti were sacrifices to

a hereditary enmity (though duty requires us to waive private feuds

for the sake of the public welfare), still Pompeius had been deluded by

the phantom of peace, and Lepidus by the mask of friendship.

Subsequently, Antonius had been lured on by the treaties of Tarentum

and Brundisium, and by his marriage with the sister, and paid by his

death the penalty of a treacherous alliance. No doubt, there was

peace after all this, but it was a peace stained with blood; there

were the disasters of Lollius and Varus, the murders at Rome of the

Varros,Egnatii, and Juli."

tacitus and the augustean principate annales 1 10
Tacitus and the Augustean Principate, Annales 1, 10
  • Negative aspects:

-Respect for the State and its institutions more symbolic than real

-Ambition of power

-Illicit use of the army

-Proscriptions agains Roman citizens and senators

-Peace as a fictive reality: “stained with blood”

augustus after actium cassius dio book 53 12 trans e cary
Augustus after ActiumCassius Dio, Book 53, 12 (trans. E. Cary)

12 In this way he had his supremacy ratified by the senate and by the people as well. But as he wished even so to be thought democratic, while he accepted all the care and oversight of the public business, on the ground that it required some attention on his part, 1 yet he declared he would not personally govern all the provinces, and that in the case of such provinces as he should govern he would not do so indefinitely; and he did, in fact, restore to the senate the weaker provinces, on the ground that they were peaceful and free from war, while he retained the more powerful, alleging that they were insecure and precarious and either had enemies on their borders or were able on their own account to begin a serious revolt. 3 His professed motive in this was that the senate might fearlessly enjoy the finest portion of the empire, while he himself had the hardships and the dangers; but his real purpose was that by this arrangement the senators will be unarmed and unprepared for battle, while he alone had arms and maintained soldiers.

“The Roman, with his native theory of unrestricted imperium, was familiar with the notion of absolute power. The principate, though absolute, was not arbitrary. It derived from consent and delegation; it was founded upon the laws. This was something diferent from the monarchies of the East. The Romans had not sunk as low as that. Complete freedom might be unworkable, but complete enslavement was intolerable. The Principate provided the middle way between these extremes. It was not long before the Principate gave birth to its own theory, and so became vulnerable to propaganda. Augustus claimed to have restored Libertas and the Republic, a necessary and salutary fraud: his successors paid for it.”

Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution, 1939, chap. 33

inscription from pompeii cil x 931 12 v chr




actium and the conquest of egypt
Actium and the conquest of Egypt

The statues of myself in the city, whether standing or on horseback or in a quadriga, numbering eighty in all and all of silver, I had removed, and from this money I dedicated golden offerings in the Temple of Apollo, in my own name and in the names of those who had honoured me with these statues. (Res Gestae 24)

augustan propaganda literary examples
Augustan Propaganda. Literary Examples

Vergil’s Aeneid. Written between 29 and 19 BC. Legend or the founding of Rome connected to the Trojan Aeneas. Book VI: Aeneas in the underworld seeing the parade of future Roman heroes performing the glorious destiny of Rome.

Livy’s Ab urbe Condita. The history of Rome from its beginnings. Reconstruction of the mythical Rome.

augustus and the literary propaganda
Augustus and the Literary Propaganda

Strabo’s Geography: connections between the description of the inhabited world and its conquest by the Romans. Celebration of Augustus as ideal ruler of a peaceful and prosperous world.

augustus and the propaganda publica magnificentia versus privata luxuria
Augustus and the propaganda. Publica magnificentia versus privata luxuria

“…You cared not only about the common life of all men, and the constitution of the state, but also about the provision of suitable public buildings; so that the state was not only made greater through you by its new provinces, but the majesty of the empire also was expressed through the eminent dignity of its public buildings…For I perceive that you have built, and are now building, on a large scale. Furthermore, with respect to the future, you have such regard to public and private buildings, that they will correspond to the grandeur of our history, and will be a memorial for future ages”

Vitruvius, On architecture

augustean rome
Augustean Rome

“Augustus beautified the city, whose appearance had in no way reflected its greatness and glory and was besides constantly plagued by floods and fires, and so utterly remade it, that he could justly boast that he found Rome a city of brick and left a city of marble” (Suetonius, Augustus 28)

augustus and the propaganda
Augustus and the Propaganda
  • “After Augustus had attained sole power in Rome (31 B.C.), he systematically sought to redress the situation. The goal of his “cultural program,” pursued with far-reaching and concentrated effort over the next twenty years, was nothing less than a complete moral revival. And it did in fact achieve a turnaround in public thinking. The self-aggrandizement of rival generals was replaced by veneration of a ruler chosen by the gods, invidious private ostentation by a program of publica magnificentia (splendid public festivals and games), and immortality and neglect of the gods by a religious and spiritual renewal. Such a program required a new visual language.”

Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, 1990, introduction.