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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C. Octavius = C. Iulius Caesar Octavianus
M. Tullius Cicero
C. Cassius Longinus
M. Iunius Brutus
M. Aemilius Lepidus
M. Vipsanius Agrippa
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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 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....
“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”
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....
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,…
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.
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?
-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
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."
-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”
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.
Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution, 1939, chap. 33
IMP CAESARI DIVI FIL AVGVSTO
IMPERATORI XIII TRIB POTESTATE XV PATRI PATRIAE COS XI
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)
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.
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.
“…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
“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)
Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, 1990, introduction.