Augustus

Augustus Augustus Gaius Julius Octavius Augustus was born plain Gaius Octavius at Rome on September 23rd. His father was the first in the family to become senator, but died when Octavian was only four years old. It was his mother who had the more distinguished connection. She was the daughter of Julia, sister to Julius Caesar. He was short in Stature, and well proportioned.

His body however was covered in spots and he had many birthmarks scattered over his chest and belly. As for character it is said that he was cruel when he was young, but became better when he good older. He was tolerant of criticism and possessed a good sense of humor. Although unfaithful to his wife Livia Drusilla, he remained deeply devoted to her. His public moral attitudes were strict. Octavian served under Julius Caesar in the Spanish expedition of 46 BC.

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It was possible that he designated to take a senior military command in Caesar’s projected Parthian expedition of 44 BC, although at the time he was only 18 years old. But Octavian was with his friends Marcus Agrippa and Marcus Salvidienus Rufus in Appollonia in Epirus completing his academic and military studies, when news reached him of Caesar’s assassination. He at once returned to Rome. He learned on the way that Caesar had adopted him in his will. The news sharpened his resolve to avenge Caesar’s murder. When he arrived he found power in the hands of Marc Antony and Aemilius Lepidus, who were urging compromise and amnesty.

Octavian refused to accept this, and succeeded in undermining Antony’s position by winning over many of Caesar’s supporters, including some of the legions. He was failed to persuade Marc Antony to hand over Caesar’s assets and documents. Octavian was compelled to distribute Caesar’s legacies to the Roman public from whatever funds he was able to raise from other sources. This no doubt raised his standing with the Roman’s considerably. Octavian’s own standing had been heightened by the deification of Julius Caesar.

No longer addressed as Octavian but as Caesar he would now also style himself as son of god. Augustus was one of the most talented, energetic and skillful administrators that the world has ever known. The work of reorganization and rehabilitation which he undertook in every branch of his vast empire created a new Roman peace. He won genuine popular support by hosting games, erecting new buildings, and by other measures to the general good. He understood that his personal standing and security would be strengthened by governing in the public interest.

Augustus was no great military leader, but had the good sense to recognize the fact. Mainly he relied on his faithful friend Agrippa to do the fighting for him. Agter Actium, Augustus took personal lead in only one campaign, the Cantabrian War of 26-25 BC in Spain. Even there it was one of his generals who brought the war to a successful conclusion. Augustus’ reign was more successful that he ever could of imagined. He lived long enough to make his family seem the natural rulers in the eyes of the Roman’s.

Though to insure that the power should pass down to an heir of his proved difficult. Save for a premature baby his marriage to Livia produced no children. Augustus did have a daughter, Julia, from a previous marriage to Scribonia. His plans focused on Julia’s husband and children. In 25 BC Augustus married Julia to Marcellus, the son of his sister Ovtavia, but when Augustus believed himself dying in 23 BC he passed his signet rings not to Marcellus, but to Agrippa. On Augustus’ recovery there were all the signs of an impending power to struggle between Marcellus and Agrippa.

Marcellus soon fell ill and died. This left Agrippa the obvious candidate to be teh emperor’s heir. In 21 BC had him divorced his existing wife and marry the widowed Julia. Agrippa was 25 years her senior, but the marriage produced three sons and twon daughters. Augustus adopted the sons Gaius and Lucius of the Marriage as his own.

Agrippa died in 12 BC, leaving Julia widowed once again. Augustus without a guardian. Augustus considered his wife Livia’s two adult sons from her previous marriage. Augustus obliged Tiberius, the elder of the two, to divorce his wife Vipsania and marry Julia, and become protector to the young princes. Tiberius was deeply attached to his wife Vipsania and strongly resented the move, but the marriage went ahead on February 12th 11 BC. Both Gaius and Lucius died early in their lives. It left Augustus only with one choice of successor – Tiberius, son of Livia.

At last, on June 26th he adopted the 44 year old Tiberius along with the 15 year old Agrippa Postumus, the youngest son of Agrippa and Julia. During his final years Augustus withdrew more and more from public life, excusing himself from banquets and senatorial meetings on the grounds of old age. He left Rome for the last time in 14 AD, planning to travel with Tiberius to Capri, and then on to Beneventum. He got ill on the way to Capri. After four days resting on Capri, when they crossed back to the mainland Augustus passed away.

He died at Nola on August 19th 14 AD, only one month away from his 76th birthday. The body was carried to Rome and given a grand funeral and his ashes were placed in his Mausoleum nearby. Bibliography not needed.