From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire
, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.[note 1]
Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, he was adopted posthumously
by his great-uncle Gaius Julius Caesar
in 44 BC via his last will and testament, and between then and 27 BC was officially named Gaius Julius Caesar. In 27 BC the Senate awarded him the honorific Augustus
(“the revered one”), and thus consequently he was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus.[note 2]
Because of the various names he bore, it is common to call him Octavius when referring to events between 63 and 44 BC, Octavian (or Octavianus) when referring to events between 44 and 27 BC, and Augustus when referring to events after 27 BC. In Greek sources, Augustus is known as Ὀκτάβιος (Octavius), Καῖσαρ (Caesar), Αὔγουστος (Augustus), or Σεβαστός (Sebastos
), depending on context.
The young Octavius came into his inheritance after Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC. In 43 BC, Octavian joined forces with Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus in a military dictatorship known as the Second Triumvirate. As a triumvir, Octavian ruled Rome and many of its provinces.[note 3] The triumvirate was eventually torn apart under the competing ambitions of its rulers: Lepidus was driven into exile, and Antony committed suicide following his defeat at the Battle of Actium by the fleet of Octavian commanded by Agrippa in 31 BC.
After the demise of the Second Triumvirate, Octavian restored the outward facade of the Roman Republic
, with governmental power vested in the Roman Senate
, but in practice retained his autocratic power. It took several years to determine the exact framework by which a formally republican state could be led by a sole ruler; the result became known as the Roman Empire
. The emperorship was never an office like the Roman dictatorship
which Caesar and Sulla
had held before him; indeed, he declined it when the Roman populace “entreated him to take on the dictatorship”.
By law, Augustus held a collection of powers granted to him for life by the Senate, including those of tribune
of the plebs and censor
. He was consul
until 23 BC.
His substantive power stemmed from financial success and resources gained in conquest, the building of patronage relationships throughout the Empire, the loyalty of many military soldiers and veterans, the authority of the many honors granted by the Senate,
and the respect of the people. Augustus’ control over the majority of Rome’s legions
established an armed threat that could be used against the Senate, allowing him to coerce the Senate’s decisions. With his ability to eliminate senatorial opposition by means of arms, the Senate became docile towards him. His rule through patronage, military power, and accumulation of the offices of the defunct Republic became the model for all later imperial governments.