How Did Augustus Become Roman Emperor – Augustus was the first and most famous Roman emperor. He put an end to bloody civil wars and ushered his kingdom into an era of peace and prosperity.
Dec 28, 2021 • By Vedran Bileta, MA in Late Antiquity, Byzantine and Early Modern History, BA in History
How Did Augustus Become Roman Emperor
Octavian, better known as Augustus, is one of the most important people in world history. His fame is well deserved. Octavian ended decades of bloody war that divided the Roman Republic.
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Octavian became Augustus, the first Roman emperor. As Augustus, he led many reforms, from the military to the economy, which increased the power and influence of Rome and nearly doubled the empire’s territory. This new frontier was protected by elite soldiers who were loyal only to the emperor, while the Imperial Guard, Augustus’ own unit, protected the ruler and the emperor’s family. The great building program of Augustus changed the shape of the Roman country as well as the provinces. Thanks to the emperor’s efforts, Rome was able to enjoy almost two hundred years of relative peace and stability, allowing it to become the greatest empire of the ancient world. His achievements are too numerous to list. Instead, here are five little-known facts about the most famous Roman.
After Julius Caesar’s only legitimate daughter, Julia, died in childbirth, the great commander of the army and the government had to look elsewhere for the heir he wanted. His great-uncle was the perfect candidate. Gaius Octavius, born in 63 BC, spent most of his life away from his famous relative, while Caesar was busy conquering Gaul. The mother who had protected this boy did not allow him to accompany Caesar on the campaign. He finally surrendered in 46 BC. Octavius finally left Italy to meet his famous relative. At that time Caesar was in Spain fighting Pompey the Great.
However, on his way to Spain, Octavius was shipwrecked in hostile territory. However, this young man (he was 17 years old) crossed the dangerous area and arrived at Caesar’s camp. This act greatly impressed his uncle, who began training Octavius for a political career. Then, in 44 BC, news of Caesar’s assassination reached Octavius, while he was undergoing military training in Apollonia (modern Albania). Worried about his safety and his future, he hastened to Rome. One could imagine how surprised Octavius was when he realized that Caesar had accepted him and named him his sole heir. When he was adopted, Octavius was given the name Gaius Julius Caesar, but we know him as Octavianus.
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Octavian’s accession provoked an intense power struggle. What began as a campaign of revenge against Caesar’s assassins turned into a bloody civil war between Octavian and Mark Antony. Conquest of Actium in 31 BC. it happened after Octavian became dictator of the Roman world. Soon the republic was no more, its place taken by a new regime; Roman Empire. In 27 AD the Senate gave Octavian the titles Princeps (“first citizen”) and Augustus (“famous”). However, even though Augustus became the first emperor of Rome, he was careful not to show himself.
Ever since their last king was deposed, the Romans hated tyranny. Augustus knew that very well. So he did everything in his power to show himself as a ruler who did not intend to stand up for himself, someone who did not seek power for his own sake. Augustus did not call himself a king and he lived in relatively sparsely populated areas (a big difference from his successors). However he had full power in the government. The title of emperor (imperator) comes from imperium, a state that gave its owner control over an army (or several) during the republic. With the republic gone, Augustus was the only one holding the council of imperium maius, which made the emperor control the entire imperial army. He who controlled the army, controlled the government. From Augustus onward, emperor became the title of Roman kings, given their ascension to heaven.
Augustus was the first ruler of Rome, but his kingdom could not exist without another important person. Marcus Agrippa was a close friend of Augustus and later became a member of the royal family. He was also a general, diplomat, politician, engineer and architect. Most importantly, Agrippa was faithful to a fault during the turmoil following Caesar’s assassination. In short, Agrippa was the person Augustus needed to help build the kingdom. Agrippa was instrumental in gaining military support and was instrumental in winning the civil war for Octavian. He also convinced the Senate to give Octavian the imperial title of Augustus. He then persuaded the senate to give Augustus command of the bordering provinces, and more importantly, command of the troops in the region. Marcus Agrippa also oversaw the emperor’s vigorous building program, transforming Rome, the “city of bricks” into the “city of marble.”
Colossal Marble Head Of The Emperor Augustus
Agrippa did all this and never sought prominence, power or wealth. It is not surprising that when Augustus assumed the highest power, he rewarded his friend. Marcus Agrippa became the second most powerful man in Rome after the emperor. He was again introduced to the royal family when Agrippa married Julia, the only daughter of Augustus. Since the emperor had no other children, Agrippa’s three sons were considered heirs, but their early deaths forced Augustus to change his plan. Agrippa’s youngest daughter – Agrippina – would play an important role in the establishment of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and his son Caligula and his grandson Nero became emperors of Rome. After Agrippa’s death, Augustus paid his last respects to his best friend and placed Agrippa’s body in his tomb.
Although Emperor Augustus was married three times, he had only one biological child, his daughter Julia. From the moment she was born, Julia’s life was complicated. He was taken from his mother in Scribonia and taken to live with Octavian’s third wife, Livia. Under Livia’s leadership, Julia’s social life was tightly controlled. He could only talk to people his father had examined. Contrary to appearances, Octavian loved his daughter and the harsh measures may have been the result of his personality. Because Julia was the only child of one of the people who had a great influence in Rome, she was strongly criticized. In fact, he was the only person who could give Augustus a legal heir, a fact that became even more important when he became the first Roman emperor.
Thus, Julia was a powerful alliance-building tool. Her first husband was none other than Augustus’ close friend, Agrippa. Julia was 25 years younger than her husband, but it seems that the marriage was successful. This union produced five children. Unfortunately, all three sons died very young. After the sudden death of Agrippa in 12 BC. she married Augustus Julia Tiberius, his second son and heir-apparent. Julia was caught in an unhappy marriage and engaged in relationships with other men.
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His scandal put Augustus in a difficult position. An emperor who actively advocated family values could not afford to have a promiscuous daughter. Instead of being killed (one of the punishments for adultery), Julia was imprisoned on a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Augustus later commuted his sentence and moved Julia to the mainland. However, she never forgave her daughter for her transgression. Abandoned and banned from the capital, Julia stayed in her house until her death. According to the special orders of Augustus, his only daughter was denied burial in the family tomb.
Like his adoptive father, Julius Caesar, Augustus had no son of his own. In Roman society, only men could inherit the family wealth. Since he only had a daughter (problem!), the Emperor spent a lot of time and energy to find a successor. Augustus’ first choice was his cousin Marcellus, whom he married to Julia in 25 BC. However, after a while Marcellus fell ill and died a few years later, aged only 21. Finally, Julia’s affair with Augustus’ friend Marcus Agrippa (25 years his wife’s senior) produced a much-needed heir. Unfortunately for Augustus, he could only stand by and watch as his adopted sons died one by one. Gaius, aged 23, died first while campaigning in Armenia, followed by Lucius aged 19, who contracted an illness while in Gaul. The last possible accuser was Agrippa’s third son, Postumus Agrippa. However, the boy’s aggressive nature forced the emperor to send the last blood group emperor into exile.
Great Cameo of France or Gemma Tiberiana, depicting the Julio-Claudian dynasty, 23 CE, or 50-54 CE, via Wikimedia Commons.
Augustus Of Prima Porta
Augustus found himself in a difficult situation. Towards the end of his life, the 71-year-old emperor really needed a successor. If he failed, his fledgling empire could fall and plunge Rome into another civil war. Although he was far from the first choice, Tiberius Claudius was Augustus’ last hope. Livia’s son from her first marriage, Tiberius was a successful general. Together with his equally successful (but prematurely dead) brother Drusus, he won a series of military victories along the Rhine and Danube. Yet the aloof Tiberius was unwilling to take the purple. Unfortunately, he had no choice. Before naming his heir, Augustus forced Tiberius to divorce his beloved wife and marry Julia instead. Those who need love
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