Augustus was the first Roman Emperor and established the Roman Empire after the fall of the Republic.
He was born on 23 September 63 BC in Rome as Gaius Octavius Thurinus and was known as Octavian until he became Emperor.
He was adopted by Julius Caesar aged four, after his father died, as his mother was Caesar’s niece.
Caesar had no children so he took Octavian as his heir. Octavian joined Caesar in his battles in Spain to gain political influence in the senate.
Unlike many before and after him, he did not slowly climb the political ladder.
After Caesar became dictator and was assassinated in 44 BC, Octavian quickly earned a lot of political and military support in Rome.
He was soon elected as consul.While he was gaining power, other people were trying to grab power for themselves.
General Marc Antony
The famous general Marc Antony and senator Lepidus both thought they should be dictator.
Octavian formed a truce and alliance with them called the Second Triumvirate, where all three shared power in Rome equally. However, each one wanted to be the only person ruling Rome.After a little while, Antony, Lepidus and Octavian began plotting and fighting to each get more power.
Their private armies fought each other on the battlefield. Octavian defeated Lepidus first and then defeated Antony, after Antony had allied himself with the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra.
Antony committed suicide so that he was not captured by Octavian. After hearing of Antony’s death, Cleopatra killed herself by getting a poisonous snake to bite her.
Octavian was now the most powerful man in Rome and was given the title Augustus by the senate in 27 BC.
Roman citizens did not want a king and so the now-named Augustus called himself emperor.
He kept the senate in place so that Rome still looked like a republic and so that the people would not rebel, even though the senate had little real power.
During his reign, there were no major wars or economic problems. This led his reign to be called the Pax Romana (Roman Peace).
He built an army which remained in Rome to protect it from invasion, called a standing army.
The soldiers were volunteers who served for 20 years, unlike other armies which were made up of land owning citizens who served for only as long as the battle lasted.
Augustus also spent lots of money on the Roman gods and on entertainment, to keep the people happy.
He used his power mostly by counselling other people rather than issuing direct orders and this way got through tax reforms which would otherwise create enemies.
His reign lasted for 40 years and he was considered one of the best Emperors of Rome.
Facts about Augustus
- Augustus was born as Gaius Octavius Thurinus.
- He was the first Roman Emperor and created the Roman Empire.
- His adoptive father was Julius Caesar, Roman dictator.
- The Second Triumvirate shared power between three leaders – Antony, Lepidus and Augustus
- The Second Triumvirate broke apart when each man tried to gain more power for himself.
- Augustus killed Antony and Lepidus, proclaiming himself Emperor.
- Augustus reigned as Emperor from 27 BC for 40 years.
- Augustus’s rule was called Pax Romana because there were no wars or economic problems.
- Augustus spent a lot of time and money building up the Roman army.
- What was Augustus called before having the title ‘Augustus’?
His name was Gaius Octavius Thurinus and he was known as Octavian.
- What was the Second Triumvirate?
An alliance between three powerful politicians – Antony, Lepidus and Octavian.
- What major problems occurred with Augustus as Emperor?
None – it was a rule of peace and prosperity.
- What were Augustus’s major accomplishments?
He built an army which stayed in Rome and let citizens who did not own their own land join up for 20 years.
- Back to – Ancient Rome