Augustus Caesar

(Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus)


Caius Octavius, better known as Augustus Caesar, was the first and one of the greatest Roman emperors. He completed the conversion of the Roman government from a fractious republic to an orderly and centralized empire, which was started by his uncle Julius Caesar. Although the first ten years of his reign were marked by civil wars, the following forty years was the longest peaceful period in Roman history, and was an era of great prosperity and the flowering of arts and literature.


Octavius was only nineteen when his uncle Julius Caesar was killed. He immediately set forth to Rome, in order to assert his rights as Caesar's heir. Antony was his rival for power in Rome, and the two feuded for about a year, before forming the second triumvirate (with Lepidus) and joining forces against Cassius and Brutus, the murderers of Caesar. Octavius and Antony prevailed at the battle of Philippi, and then divided the empire between them, Antony controlling the eastern provinces and Octavius controlling the west. It was arranged that the sister of Octavius should marry Antony in order to secure the alliance. For the next few years Antony and Octavius worked together to put down rebellions, but eventually Antony deserted his wife and went to live with Cleopatra in Egypt. This opened a rift between the two leaders which was finally resolved at the battle of Actium in 31 B.C. when Octavius defeated the armies of Antony.

After the battle of Actium, Octavius officially closed the doors of the temple of Janus, indicating that Rome was at peace for the first time in many years. The peace continued for much of his subsequent reign, allowing him to focus on administrative reforms, which were crucial to establishing a permanently stable government. Many of his reforms were based on the written plans of Julius Caesar. Some of these reforms included regular censuses and more equitable taxation, which encouraged business and industry. He also spent much energy in building up infrastructure, especially roads, and improving the condition of the plebeians. Other reforms had to do with the administration of the provinces and the army. He left some provinces under the control of the senate, but put many more under direct control of the emperor. He stationed permanent legions throughout the empire, and encouraged local autonomy in administration of the provinces. Finally, he was known, along with Maecenas, as a generous patron of the arts and literature.

Octavius married Livia in 39 B.C. and the marriage lasted over 53 years. They had no biological children together, but they raised Julia, the daughter of Octavius from a previous marriage, and Tiberius and Drusus, sons of Livia from a previous marriage. Julia did produce two grandsons for Octavius that were heirs to the imperial throne, but he outlived both of them, as well as his nephew Marcellus and stepson Drusus. The only remaining male relative at the death of Augustus was Tiberius, who inherited the imperial crown.

Key events during the life of Caesar Augustus:

44 BC
Julius Caesar is assassinated. Octavius immediately travels to Rome.
43 BC
After several months of power struggles with Antony, the First Triumvirate is formed.
42 BC
At Philippi, Antony and Octavius defeated the republican armies of Brutus and Cassius.
40 BC
Empire is divided between Antony and Octavius; Antony married sister of Octavius.
39 BC
Julia is born. Octavius divorces Sribonia and marries Livia.
36 BC
Octavius' general Agrippa defeated the son of Pompey in a naval battle near Sicily.
  Consolidated power in Rome without alarming the Senate.
31 BC
Leads army against Antony at Actium. Pursued Antony to Egypt.
30 BC
Followed Antony and Cleopatra and conquered Egypt. Put Caesarion (son of Caesar) to death.
29 BC
Declared Imperator, or permanent commander of the armed forces.
28 BC
Declared Princeps.
27 BC
Declared Augustus (meaning reverend).
21 BC
Daughter Julia marries Agrippa. Marriage produces five children.
Stepson Drusus died on a campaign in Germany, leaving Tiberius as heir to throne.
12 BC
Named Pontifex Maximus. The month of Sextilis was renamed August in his honor.
11 BC
Daughter Julia is forced to marry Tiberius on the death of Agrippa.
Daughter Julia is disowned and banished from Italy, due to scandals.
Rebellion in Germany leads to death of Varus and his legion.
Death of Augustus.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Antony and Augustus  in  Roman Life in the Days of Cicero  by  Alfred J. Church
Child of Fortune  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Death of Augustus  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Augustan Age  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Augustus  in  Famous Men of Rome  by  John H. Haaren & A. B. Poland
Augustus Caesar  in  Back Matter  by  books/horne/statesmen/_back.html
Second Triumvirate  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Battle of Actium  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Emperor Augustus  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Empire of Rome  in  On the Shores of the Great Sea  by  M. B. Synge
Augustus and the Augustan Age  in  Old World Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

Octavius Caesar Augustus
 in Roman Life in the Days of Cicero

 in Pictures from Roman Life and Story

Augustus burning the proscription lists
 in  Augustus—His Life and Work

The Saving of the Capitol
 in  Augustus—His Life and Work

Augustus wearing the citizen's crown of oak-leaves
 in  Augustus—His Life and Work

Augustus addressing his troops
 in  Augustus—His Life and Work

Virgil reading to Maecenas, Horace, and Varius
 in  Augustus—His Life and Work

In the time of Augustus
 in  Augustus—His Life and Work

Caesar Augustus
 in Back Matter

Augustus Caesar and Cleopatra
 in Back Matter

Short Biography
Antony With Octavius, led empire after Caesar's death. Liaison with Cleopatra caused downfall.
Agrippa Most trusted general and advisor of Augustus Caesar. Married Augustus's daughter Julia.
Maecenas Advisor and ambassador of Augustus. Patron of art and literature.
Livia Wife of Augustus Caesar. Empress of Rome for over fifty years.
Tiberius Second emperor. Stepson of Augustus. Retired to Capri.
Octavia Sister of Augustus, and close supporter.
Julia Caesara Profligate daughter of Augustus Caesar. Fell from grace and was banished from Rome.