celebrated in history on account of the emperor Augustus belonging to it.
It was a plebeian gens, and is not mentioed till the year B. C. 230), when Cn. Octavius Rufus obtained the quaestorship. This Cn. Octavius left two sons, Cneius and Caius.
The descendants of Cneius held many of the higher magistracies, and his son obtained the consulship in B. C. 165; but the descendants of Caius, from whom the emperor Augustus sprang, did not rise to any importance, but continued simple equites, and the first of them, who was enrolled among the senators, was the father of Augustus.
The gens originally came from the Volscian town of Velitrae, where there was a street in the most frequented part of the town, and likewise an altar, both bearing the name of Octavius (Suet. Aug. 1
; Vell. 2.59
; D. C. 45.1
This is all that can be related with certainty respecting the history of this gens; but as it became the fashion towards the end of the republic for the Roman nobles to trace their origin to the gods and to the heroes of olden time, it was natural that a family, which became connected with the Julia gens, and from which the emperor Augustus sprang, should have an ancient and noble origin assigned to it. Accordingly, we read in Suetonius (Suet. Aug. 2
) that the members of this gens received the Roman franchise from Tarquinius Priscus, and were enrolled among the patricians by his successor Servius Tullius ; that they afterwards passed over to the plebeians, and that Julius Caesar a long while afterwards conferred the patrician rank upon them again.
There is nothing improbable in this statement by itself ; but since neither Livy nor Dionysius make any mention of the Octavii, when they speak of Velitrae, it is evident that they did not believe the tale; and since, moreover, the Octavii are nowhere mentioned in history till the latter half of the third century before the Christian aera, we may safely reject the early origin of the gens.
The name of Octavius, however, was widely spread in Latium, and is found at a very early time, of which we have an example in the case of Octavius Mamilius, to whom Tarquinius Superbus gave his daughter in marriage.
The name was evidently derived from the praenomen Octavus, just as from Quintus, Sextus, and Septimus, came the gentile names of Quintius, Sextius, and Septimius.
In the times of the republic none of the Octavii, who were descended from Cn. Octavius Rufus, bore any cognomen with the exception of Rufus, and even this surname is rarely mentioned.
The stemma on page 7. exhibits all the descendants of Cn. Octavius Rufus.
The descendants of the emperor Augustus by his daughter Julia are given in Vol. I. p. 430, and a list of the descendants of his sister Octavia is annexed here; so that the two together present a complete view of the imperial family.
In consequence of the intermarriages in this family, part of this stemma repeats a portion of the stemma in Vol. I. p. 430, and also of the stemma of the Drusi given in Vol. I. p. 1076 ; but it is thought better for the sake of clearness to make this repetition.
There are a few other persons of the name of Octavii, who were not descended from Cn. Octavius Rufus, or whose descent cannot be traced. Most of them bore cognomens under which they are given, namely, BALBUS, LIGUR, MIARSUS, NASO : those who have no cognomens are given under Octavius after the descendants of Cn. Octavius Rufus.