the first emperor of the Roman empire, was born on the 23rd of September of the year B. C. 63, in the consulship of M. Tullius Cicero and C. Antonius.
He was the son of C. Octavius by Atia, a daughter of Julia, the sister of C. Julius Caesar, who is said to have been descended from the ancient Latin hero Atys. His real name was, like that of his father, C. Octavius, but for the sake of brevity, and in order to avoid confusion, we shall call him Augustus, though this was only an hereditary surname which was given him afterwards by the senate and the people to express their veneration for him, whence the Greek writers translate it by *sebasto/s. Various wonderful signs, announcing his future greatness, were subsequently believed to have preceded or accompanied his birth. (Suet. Aug. 94
; Dio Cass. xlv. l, &c.)
Augustus lost his father at the age of four years, whereupon his mother married L. Marcius Philippus, and at the age of twelve (according to Nicolaus Damascenus, De Vit. Aug.
3, three years earlier) he delivered the funeral eulogium on his grandmother, Julia.
After the death of his father his education was conducted with great care in the house of his grandmother, Julia, and at her death he returned to his mother, who, as well as his step-father, henceforth watched over his education with the utmost vigilance. His talents and beauty, and above all his relationship to C. Julius Caesar, drew upon him the attention of the most distinguished Romans of the time, and it seems that J. Caesar himself, who had no male issue, watched over the education of the promising youth with no less interest than his parents.
In his sixteenth year (N. Damascenus erroneously says in his fifteenth) he received the toga virilis, and in the same year was made a member of the college of pontiffs, in the place of L. Domitius, who had been killed after the battle of Pharsalia. (N. Damasc. l c.
4; Vell. 2.59
; Suet. Aug. 94
; D. C. 45.2
.) From this time his uncle, C. Julius Caesar, devoted as much of his time as his own busy life allowed him to the practical education of his nephew, and trained him for the duties of the public career he was soon to enter upon. Dio Cassius relates that at this time Caesar also brought about his elevation to the rank of a patrician, but it is a well attested fact that this did not take place till three years later. In B. C. 47, when Caesar went to Africa to put down the Pompeian party in that country, Augustus wished to accompany him but was kept back, because his mother thought that his delicate constitution would be unable to bear the fatigues connected with such an expedition. On his return Caesar distinguished him, nevertheless, with military honours, and in his triumph allowed Augustus to ride on horseback behind his triumphal car.
In the year following (B. C. 45), when Caesar went to Spain against the sons of Pompey, Augustus, who had then completed his seventeenth year, was to have accompanied his uncle, but was obliged to remain behind on account of illness, but soon joined him with a few companions. During his whole life-time Augustus, with one exception, was unfortunate at sea, and this his first attempt nearly cost him his life, for the vessel in which he sailed was wrecked on the coast of Spain. Whether he arrived in Caesar's camp in time to take part in the battle of Munda or not is a disputed point, though the former seems to be more probable. (Suet. Aug. 94
; D. C. 43.41
.) Caesar became more and more attached to his nephew, for he seems to have perceived in him the elements of everything that would render him a worthy successor to himself : he constantly kept him about his person, and while he was yet in Spain he is said to have made his will and to have adopted Augustus as his son, though without informing him of it.
In the autumn of B. C. 45, Caesar returned to Rome with his nephew; and soon afterwards, in accordance with the wish of his uncle, the senate raised the gens Octavia, to which Augustus belonged, to the rank of a patrician gens. About the same time Augustus was betrothed to Servilia, the daughter of P. Servilius Isauricus, but the engagement appears afterwards to have been broken off.
The extraordinary distinctions and favours which had thus been conferred upon Augustus at such an early age, must have excited his pride and ambition, of which one remarkable example is recorded.
In the very year of his return from Spain he was presumptuous enough to ask for the office of magister equitum to the dictator, his uncle. Caesar, however, refused to grant it, and gave it to M. Lepidus instead, probably because he thought his nephew not yet fit for such an office.
He wished that Augustus should accompany him on the expedition which he contemplated against the Getae and Parthians; and, in order that the young man might acquire a more thorough practical training in military affairs, he sent him to Apollonia in Illyricum, where some legions were stationed, and whither Caesar himself intended to follow him.
It has often been supposed that Caesar sent his nephew to Apollonia for the purpose of finishing his intellectual education; but although this was not neglected during his stay in that city, yet it was not the object for which he was sent thither, for Apollonia offered no advantages for the purpose, as may be inferred from the fact, that Augustus took his instructors--the rhetorician Apollodorus of Pergamus and the mathematician Theogenes, with him from Rome. When Caesar had again to appoint the magistrates in B. C. 44, he remembered the desire of his nephew, and conferred upon him, while he was at Apolionia, the office of magister equitum, on which he was to enter in the autumn of B. C. 43.
But things turned out far differently. Augustus had scarcely been at Apollonia six months, when he was surprised by the news of his uncle's murder, in March, B. C. 44. Short as his residence at this place had been, it was yet of great influence upon his future life : his military exercises seem to have strengthened his naturally delicate constitution, and the attentions and flatteries which were paid to the nephew of Caesar by the most distinguished persons connected with the legions in Illyricum, stimulated his ambition and love of dominion, and thus explain as well as excuse many of the acts of which he was afterwards guilty.
It was at Apollonia, also, that Augustus formed his intimate friendship with Q. Saividienus Rufus and M. Vipsanius Agrippa.
When the news of Caesar's murder reached the troops in Illyricum, they immediately offered to follow Augustus to Italy and avenge his uncle's death; but fear and ignorance of the real state of affairs at Rome made him hesitate for a while.
At last he resolved to go to Italy as a private person, accompanied only by Agrippa and a few other friends.
In the beginning of April he landed at Lupiae, near Brundusium, and here he heard of his adoption into the gens Julia and of his being the heir of Caesar. At Brundusium, whither he next proceeded, he was saluted by the soldiers as Caesar, which name he henceforth assumed, for his legitimate name now was C. Julius Caesar Octavianus.
After having visited his stepfather in the neighbourhood of Naples, he arrived at Rome, apparently about the beginning of May. Here he demanded nothing but the private property which Caesar had left him, but declared that he was resolved to avenge the murder of his benefactor.
The state of parties at Rome was most perplexing ; and one cannot but admire the extraordinary tact and prudence which Augustus displayed, and the skill with which a youth of barely twenty contrived to blind the most experienced statesmen in Rome, and eventually to carry all his designs into effect.
It was not the faction of the conspirators that placed difficulties in his way, but one of Caesar's own party, M. Antony, who had in his possession the money and papers of Caesar, and refused to give them up. Augustus declared before the praetor, in the usual manner, that he accepted of the inheritance, and promised to give to the people the portion of his uncle's property which he had bequeathed them in his will. Antony endeavoured by all means to prevent Augustus from obtaining his objects; but the conduct of Augustus gained the favour of both the senate and the people. [ANTONIUS, p. 215b.] Augustus had to contend against Dec. Brutus, who was in possession of Cisalpine Gaul, as well as against Antony; but to get rid of one enemy at least, the sword was drawn against the latter, the more dangerous of the two. While Antony was collecting troops for the war against D. Brutus, two of the legions which came from Macedonia, the legio Martia and the fifth, went over to Augustus; and to prevent the remaining troops following the example, Antony hastened with them to the north of Italy. Cicero, who had at first looked upon Augustus with contempt, now began to regard him as the only man capable of delivering the republic from its troubles; and Augustus in rettrn courted Cicero. On the 10th of December, Cicero, in his third Philippic, proposed that Augustus should be entrusted with the command of the army against Antony, and on the first of January, B. C. 43, he repeated the same proposal in his fifth Philippic.
The senate now granted more than had been asked : Augustus obtained the command of the army with the title and insignia of a pretor, the right of voting in the senate with the consulars, and of holding the consulship ten years before he attained the legitimate age.
He was accordingly sent by the senate, with the two consuls of the year, C. Vibius Pansa and A. Hirtius, to compel Antony to raise the siege of Mutina. Augustus distinguished himself by his defence of the camp near Mutina, for which the soldiers saluted him as imperator.
The fall of the two consuls threw the command of their armies into his hands. Antony was humbled and obliged to flee across the Alps. Various reports were spread in the meantime of disputes between D. Brutus and Augustus, and it was even said that the death of the two consuls was the work of the latter. The Roman aristocracy, on whose behalf Augustus had acted, now determined to prevent him from acquiring all further power. They entrusted D. Brutus with the command of the consular armies to prosecute the war against Antony, and made other regulations which were intended to prevent Augustus gaining any further popularity with the soldiers.
He remained inactive, and seemed ready to obey the commands of the senate. Antony had in the meantime become reconciled with the governors in Gaul and Spain through the mediation of Lepidus, and was now at the head of a powerful army.
In these circumstances Augustus resolved to seek a power which might assist him in gaining over Antony, or enable him to oppose him more effectually if necessary.
This power was the consulship.
He was very popular with the soldiers, and they were by promises of various kinds induced to demand the consulship for him.
The senate was terrified, and granted the request, though, soon after, the arrival of troops from Africa emboldened them again to declare against him. But Augustus had won the favour of these troops : he encamped on the campus Martius, and in the month of August the people elected him consul together with Q. Pedius. His adoption into the gens Julia was now sanctioned by the curies; the sums due to the people, according to the will of Julius Caesar, were paid, the murderers of the dictator outlawed, and Augustus appointed to carry the sentence into effect.
He first marched into the north, professedly against Antony, but had scarcely entered Etruria, when the senate, on the proposal of Q. Pedius, repealed the sentence of outlawry against Antony and Lepidus, who were just descending from the Alps with an army of 17 legions. D. Brutus took to flight, and was afterwards murdered at Aquileia at the command of Antony. On their arrival at Bononia, Antony and Lepidus were met by Augustus, who became reconciled with them.
It was agreed by the three, that Augustus should lay down his consulship, and that the empire should be divided among them under the title of triumviri rei publicae constituendae,
and that this arrangement should last for the next five years. Lepidus obtained Spain, Antony Gaul, and Augustus Africa, Sardinia, and Sicily. Antony and Augustus were to prosecute the war against the murderers of Caesar.
The first objects of the triumvirs were to destroy their enemies and the republican party ; they began their proscriptions even before they arrived at Rome; their enemies were murdered and their property confiscated, and Augustus was no less cruel than Antony. Two thousand equites and three hundred senators are said to have been put to death during this proscription : the lands of whole townships were taken from their owners and distributed among the veteran soldiers. Numbers of Roman citizens took to flight, and found a refuge with Sex. Pompeius in Sicily. Augustus first directed his arms against the latter, because Pompeius had it in his power to cut off all provisions from Rome The army assembled at Rhegium ; but an attempt to cross over to Sicily was thwarted by a naval victory which Pompeius gained over Q. Salvidienus Rufus in the very sight of Augustus. Soon after this, Augustus and Antony sailed across the Ionian sea to Greece, as Brutus and Cassius were leaving Asia for the west. Augustus was obliged to remain at Dyrrhachium on account of illness, but as soon as he had recovered a little, he hastened to Philippi in the autumn of B. C. 42.
The battle of Philippi was gained by the two triumvirs : Brutus and Cassius in despair put an end to their lives, and their followers surrendered to the conquerors, with the exception of those who placed their hopes in Sext. Pompeius.
After this successful war, in which the victory was mainly owing to Antony, though subsequently Augustus claimed all the merit for himself, the triumvirs made a new division of the provinces. Lepidus obtained Africa, and Augustus returned to Italy to reward his veterans with the lands he had promised them. All Italy was in fear and trembling, as every one anticipated the repetition of the horrors of a proscription. His enemies, especially Fulvia, the wife of Antony, and sonic other of the friends of the latter, increased these apprehensions by false reports in order to excite the people against him; for Augustus was detained for some time at Brundusium by a fresh attack of illness.
But he pacified the minds of the people by a letter which he wrote to the senate.
These circumstances not only prevented for the present his undertaking anything fresh against Sext. Pompeius, but occasioned a new and unexpected war. On his arrival at Rome, Augustus found that Fulvia had been spreading these rumours with the view of drawing away her husband from the arms of Cleopatra, and that L. Antonius, the brother of the triumvir, was used by her as an instrument to gain her objects. Augustus did all he could to avoid a rupture, but in vain. L. Antonius assembled an army at Praeneste, with which he threw himself into the fortified town of Perusia, where he was blockaded by Augustus with three armies, so that a fearful famine arose in the place.
This happened towards the end of B. C. 41.
After several attempts to break through the blockading armies, L. Antonius was obliged to surrender.
The citizens of Perusia obtained pardon from Augustus, but the senators were put to death, and from three to four hundred noble Perusines were butchered on the 15th of March, B. C. 40, at the altar of Caesar. Fulvia fled to Greece, and Tiberius Nero, with his wife Livia, to Pompeius in Sicily and thence to Antony, who blamed the authors of the war, probably for no other reason but because it had been unsuccessful. Antony, however, sailed with his fleet to Brundusium, and preparations for war were made on both sides, but the news of the death of Fulvia in Greece accelerated a peace, which was concluded at Brundusium, between the two triumvirs.
A new division of the provinces was again made : Augustus obtained all the parts of the empire west of the town of Scodra in Illyricum, and Antony the eastern provinces, while Italy was to belong to them in common. Antony also formed an engagement with the noble-minded Octavia, the sister of Augustus and widow of C. Marcellus, in order to confirm the new friendship.
The marriage was celebrated at Rome. Sext. Pompeius, who had had no share in these transactions, continued to cut off the provisions of Rome, which was suffering greatly from scarcity : scenes of violence and outrage at Rome shewed the exasperation of the people. Augustus could not hope to satisfy the Romans unless their most urgent wants were satisfied by sufficient supplies of food, and this could not be effected in any other way but by a reconciliation with Pompeius. Augustus had an interview with him on the coast of Misenum, in B. C. 39, at which Pompeius received the proconsulship and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, together with the province of Achaia.
In return for these concessions he was to provide Italy with corn.
In order to convince the Romans of the sincerity of his intentions, Augustus betrothed M. Marcellus, the son of Octavia and stepson of Antony, who was present on this occasion, to a daughter of Pompeius.
Peace seemed now to be restored everywhere. Antony returned to the East, where his generals had been successful, and Augustus too received favourable news from his lieutenants in Spain and Gaul. Augustus, however, was anxious for an opportunity of a war, by which he night derive Sext. Pompeius of the provinces which had been ceded to him at Misenum.
A pretext was soon found in the fact, that Pompeius allowed piracy to go on in the Mediterranean. Augustus solicited the aid of the two other triumvirs, but they did not support him; and Antony was in reality glad to see Augustus engaged in a struggle in which he was sure to suffer.
The fleet of Augustus suffered greatly from storms and the activity of Demochares, the admiral of Pompeius; but the latter did not follow up the advantages he had gained, and Augustus thus obtained time to repair his ships, and send Maecenas to Antony to invite him again to take part in the war. Antony hereupon sailed to Tarentum, in the beginning of the year 37, with 300 ships; but, on his arrival there, Augustus had changed his mind, and declined the assistance.
This conduct exasperated Antony; but his wife, Octavia, acted as mediator; the two triumvirs met between Tarentum and Metapontum, and the urgent necessity of the times compelled them to lay aside their mutual mistrust. Augustus promised an army to Antony for his Parthian war, while Antony sent 120 ships to increase the fleet of Augustus, and both agreed to prolong their office of triumvirs for five years longer. While Antony hastened to Syria, Octavia remained with her brother. Soon after this, M. Vipsanius Agrippa received the command of the fleet of Augustus, and in July of the year 36, Sicily was attacked on all sides; but storms compelled the fleet of Augustus to return, and Lepidus alone succeeded in landing at Lilybaeum. Pompeius remained in his usual inactivity; in a sea-fight off Mylae he lost thirty ships, and Augustus landed at Tauromenium. Agrippa at last, in a decisive naval battle, put an end to the contest, and Pompeius fled to Asia. Lepidus, who had on all occasions been treated with neglect, now wanted to take Sicily for himself ; but Augustus easily gained over his troops, and Lepidus himself submitted.
He was sent to Rome by Augustus, and resided there for the remainder of his life as pontifex maximus.
The forces which Augustus had under his command now amounted, according to Appian, to forty-five legions, independent of the light-armed troops and the cavalry, and to 600 ships. Augustus rewarded his soldiers with garlands and money, and promised still further rewards; but the veterans insisted upon their dismission, and upon receiving (at once) the lands and all the sums that had been promised them. Augustus quelled the rebellion in its commencement by severity combined with liberality : he dismissed the veterans who had fought at Mutina and Philippi, and ordered them to quit Sicily immediately, that their disposition might not spread further among the soldiers.
The latter were satisfied with the promises of Augustus, which he fulfilled at the expense of Sicily, and lands were assigned to the veterans in Campania. Augustus now sent back the ships of Antony, and took possession of Africa. The Roman senate hastened to honour the conqueror in the most extravagant manner; and when he approached the city, which Maecenas had governed during his absence, the senate and people flocked out to meet him. Augustus addressed the senate in a very modest manner, and declined some of the distinctions which were offered him.
He celebrated his ovation on the 13th of November, B. C. 36.
The abundant supply of provisions which was now brought to Rome satisfied the wants and wishes of the people ; and as this happy state of things was the result of his victory, his interests coincided with those of the people, whose burdens were also lessened in various ways.
By the conquest of two of his rivals, Augustus had now acquired strength enough to enter upon the contest with the third.
He first endeavoured, however, as much as was in his power, to remedy the confusion and demoralisation in which Italy had been involved in consequence of the civil wars, and he pretended only to wait for the arrival of his colleague in order to withdraw with him into private life, as the peace of the republic was now restored.
This pretended self-denial did not remain unrewarded, for the people elected him pontifex maximus, though Lepidus, who held this office, was yet alive; and the senate decreed, that he should inhabit a public building, that his person should be inviolable, and that he should sit by the side of the tribunes. Augustus took every opportunity of praising and supporting his absent colleague, Antony, and by this stratagem the Romans gradually became convinced, that if new disputes should break out between them, the fault could not possibly lie with Augustus.
But matters did not yet come to this : the most urgent thing was to keep his troops engaged, and to acquire funds for paying them.
After suppressing a mutiny among the insolent veterans, he prepared for a campaign against some tribes on the north-eastern coast of the Adriatic, of which the Romans had never become complete masters, and which from time to time refused to pay their tribute. Augustus marched along the coast, without meeting with much resistance, until he came near the country of the Japydes : their zapital Metulum was strongly fortified and garrisoned ; but the perseverance of Augustus and the courage of his troops compelled the garrison to surrender, and the place was changed into a heap of ashes by the brave Japydes themselves (B. C. 35).
As the season of the year was not yet much advanced, Augustus undertook a campaign against the Pannonians in Segestica.
After several engagements during their march through the country, the Romans appeared before the town of Segesta, which, after a siege of thirty days, sued for pardon. Augustus, to suit his own purpose, imposed only a fine upon the inhabitants, and leaving his legate Fufius Geminus behind with a garrison of twenty-five cohorts, he returned to Rome. Octavia had in the meantime been repudiated by Antony; and at the request of Augustus the senate declared Octavia and Livia inviolable, and granted them the right of conducting their own affairs without any male assistance--an apparent reparation for the insult offered to Octavia by her husband, but in reality a means of keeping the recollection of it alive. Augustus intended next to make an expedition against Britain, but the news of fresh revolts in the countries from which he had just returned, altered his plan. His generals soon restored peace, but he himself went to Dalmatia, where Agrippa had the command. Several towns were taken, and neither life nor property was spared. Augustus penetrated as far as Setovia, where he was wounded in his knee.
After his recovery, he gave the command to Statilius Taurus, and returned to Rome to undertake the consulship for the year B. C. 33, which he entered upon on the 1st of January together with L. Volcatius Tullus, and laid down on the same day, under the pretext of the Dalmatian war, though his presence there was no longer necessary, since Statilius Taurus had already completed the defeat of the Dalmatians. Out of the spoils made in this war Augustus erected a portico called, after his sister, Octavia. During this year, Agrippa was aedile, and did all he could to gain popularity for his friend Augustus and himself, and Augustus also made several very useful regulations.
Meantime the arbitrary and arrogant proceedings of Antony in the East were sufficient of themselves to point him out to the Romans as an enemy of the republic, but Augustus did not neglect to direct attention secretly to his follies. Letters now passed between the two triumvirs full of mutual criminations ; and Antony already purchased from Artavasdes cavalry for the impending war against his colleague.
The rupture between the two triumvirs was mainly brought about by the jealousy and ambition of Cleopatra. During the year B. C. 32, while Cleopatra kept Antony in a perpetual state of intoxication, Augustus had time to convince the Romans that the heavy sacrifices he demanded of them were to be made on their own behalf only, as Italy had to fear everything from Antony War was now declared against Cleopatra, for Antony was looked upon'only as her infatuated slave. In B. C. 31, Augustus was consul for the third time with M. Valerius Messalla. Rome was in a state of great excitement and alarm, and all classes had to make extraordinary exertions.
An attempt of Augustus to attack his enemy during the winter was frustrated by storms; but, in the spring, his fleet, under the command of the able Agrippa, spread over the whole of the eastern part of the Adriatic, and Augustus himself with his legions landed in Epeirus. Antony and Cleopatra took their station near the promontory of Actium in Acarnania. Their fleet had no able rowers, and everything depended upon the courage of the soldiers and the size of their ships. Some persons ventured to doubt the safety of entering upon a sea-fight, but Cleopatra's opinion prevailed, and the battle of Actium was fought in September, 31.
As soon as the queen observed that victory was not certain on her side, she took to flight, and Antony soon followed her. His fleet fought in vain to the last, and, after a long hesitation, the land forces surrendered.
The danger which had threatened to bring Rome under the dominion of an eastern queen was thus removed, the ambition of Augustus was satisfied, and his generosity met with general admiration.
After the battle of Actium, he proceeded slowly through Greece and a part of western Asia, where he entered on his fourth consulship for the year B. C. 30, and passed the winter at Samos.
The confidence of his army in him grew with his success, but the veterans again shewed symptoms of discontent, and demanded the fulfilment of the promises made to them. Soon after, they broke out into open rebellion, and Augustus hastened from Samos to remedy the evil in person.
It was with great difficulty that he escaped the storms and arrived at Brundusium. Here he was met by the Roman senators, equites, and a great number of the people, which emboldened him to ask for their assistance to pay his soldiers. His requests were readily complied with, and he was enabled to fulfil his engagements towards the veterans, and assigned lands to them in various parts of the empire. Without going to Rome, he soon after sailed to Corinth, Rhodes, Syria, and Egypt. Cleopatra negotiated with Augustus to betray Antony; but when she found that Augustus only wanted to spare her that she might adorn his triumph, she put an end to her life. [ANTONIUS, No. 12.] Egypt was made a Roman province, and the booty which Augustus obtained was so immense, that he could easily satisfy the demands of his army. At Rome the senate and people rivalled each other in devising new honours and distinctions for Augustus, who was now alone at the head of the Roman world. In Samos he entered upon his fifth consulship for the year B. C. 29.
The senate sanctioned all his acts, and conferred upon him many extraordinary rights and privileges.
The temple of Janus was closed, as peace was restored throughout the empire. In August of the same year, Augustus returned to Rome, and celebrated his threefold triumph over the Pannonians and Dalmatians, Antony and Egypt; and he obtained the title of imperator for ever.
After these solemnities were over, Augustus undertook the consulship for the year 28 together with his friend Agrippa.
He was determined from the first not to lay down the power which his own successes and the circumstances of the times had placed in his hands, although he occasionally pretended that he would resign it.
He first directed his attention to the restoration of order in all parts of the government; and, as he was invested with the censorship, he began by clearing the senate of all unworthy members; he ejected two hundred senators, and also raised the senatorial census; but where a worthy senator's property did not come up to the new standard, he very liberally made it up out of his own means.
He raised many plebeian families to the rank of patricians; and as he had a predilection for ancient, especially religious, institutions, he restored several temples which had fallen into decay, and also built new ones.
The keeping of the aerarium was transferred from the quaestors to the praetors and ex-praetors.
After having introduced these and many other useful changes, he proposed in the senate to lay down his powers, but allowed himself to be prevailed upon to remain at the head of affairs for ten years longer.
This plan was afterwards repeated several times, and he apparently allowed himself to be always persuaded to retain his power either for ten or five years longer.
He next made a division of the provinces, leaving the quiet and peaceful ones to the senate, and retaining for himself those which required the presence of an army.
The administration of the former was given every year by the senate to proconsuls, while Augustus placed the others under legati Caesaris,
sometimes also called propraetores, whom he appointed at any time he pleased.
He declined all honours and distinctions which were calculated to remind the Romans of kingly power; he preferred allowing the republican forms to continue, in order that he might imperceptibly concentrate in his own person all the powers which had hitherto been separated.
He accepted, however, the name of Augustus, which was offered to him on the proposal of L. Munatius Plancus. In B. C. 23 he entered upon his eleventh consulship, but laid it down immediately afterwards ; and, after having also declined the dictatorship, which was offered him by the senate, he accepted the imperium proconsulare and the tribunitia potestas for life, by which his inviolability was legally established, while by the imperium proconsulare he became the highest authority in all the Roman provinces. When in B. C. 12 Lepidus, the pontifex maximus, died, Augustus, on whom the title of chief pontiff had been conferred on a former occasion, entered upon the office itself. Thus he became the high priest of the state, and obtained the highest influence over all the other colleges of priests. Although he had thus united in his own person all the great offices of state, yet he was too prudent to assume exclusively the titles of all of them, or to shew to the Romans that he was the sole master. Other persons were accordingly allowed to hold the consulship, praetorship, and other public offices; but these offices were in reality mere forms and titles, like the new offices which he created to reward his friends and partisans. Augustus assumed nothing of the outward appearance of a monarch : he retained the simple mode of living of an ordinary citizen, continued his familiar intimacy with his friends, and appeared in public without any pomp or pageantry; a kingly court, in our sense of the word, did not exist at all in the reign of Augustus.
His relation to the senate was at first rather undefined : in B. C. 28 he had been made princeps senatus, but in the beginning of the year 24 he was exempted by the senate from all the laws of the state. During the latter years of his life, Augustus seldom attended the meetings of the senate, but formed a sort of privy council, consisting of twenty senators, with whom he discussed the most important political matters. Augustus had no ministers, in our sense of the word; but on state matters, which he did not choose to be discussed in public, he consulted his personal friends, C. Cilnius Maecenas, M. Vipsanius Agrippa, M. Valerius Messalla Corvinus, and Asinius Pollio, all of whom contributed, each in his way, to increase the splendour of the capital and the welfare of the empire.
The people retained their republican privileges, though they were mere forms : they still met in their assemblies, and elected consuls and other magistrates; but only such persons were elected as had been proposed or recommended by the emperor.
The almost uninterrupted festivities, games, and distributions of corn, and the like, made the people forget the substance of their republican freedom ; and they were ready to serve him who fed them most liberally : the population of the city was then little better than a mob.
It was a necessary consequence of the dominion acquired by force of arms, that standing armies (castra stativa
) were kept on the frontiers of the empire, as on the Rhine, the Danube, and the Euphrates, which in many instances became the foundations of flourishing towns.
The veterans were distributed into a number of colonies. For the protection of his own person, Augustus established ten praetorian cohorts, consisting of one thousand men each, which were placed under the command of two equites with the title of praefecti praetorio. For the purpose of maintaining order and security in the city, he instituted a sort of police, under the name of cohortes urbanae, which were under the command of the praefectus urbi.
The fleets were stationed at Ravenna, Misenum, and in various ports of the provinces.
In the division of the provinces which Augustus had made in B. C. 27, especial regulations were made to secure strict justice in their administration; in consequence of which many, especially those which were not oppressed by armies, enjoyed a period of great prosperity. Egypt was governed in a manner different from that of all other provinces.
The division of the provinces was necessarily followed by a change in the administration of the finances, which were in a bad condition, partly in consequence of the civil wars, and partly through all the domain lands in Italy having been assigned to the veterans.
The system of taxation was revised, and the taxes increased.
The aerarium, out of which the senate defrayed the public expenses, was separated from the fiscus, the funds of the emperor, out of which he paid his armies.
Augustus enacted several laws to improve the moral condition of the Romans, and to secure the public peace and safety. Thus he made several regulations to prevent the recurrence of scarcity and famine, promoted industry, and constructed roads and other works of public utility.
The large sums of money which were put into circulation revived commerce and industry, from which the eastern provinces especially and Egypt derived great advantages.
Although Augustus, who must have been startled and frightened by the murder of Caesar, treated the Romans with the utmost caution and mildness, and endeavoured to keep out of sight every thing that might shew him in the light of a sovereign, yet several conspiracies against his life reminded him that there were still persons of a republican spirit.
It will be sufficient here to mention the names of the leaders of these conspiracies,--M. Lepidus, L. Murena, Fannius Caepio, and Cornelius Cinna, who are treated of in separate articles.
After this brief sketch of the internal affairs of the Roman empire during the reign of Augustus, it only remains to give some account of the wars in which he himself took part. Most of them were conducted by his friends and relations, and need not be noticed here. On the whole, we may remark, that the wars of the reign ot Augustus were not wars of aggression, but chiefly undertaken to secure the Roman dominion and to protect the frontiers, which were now more exposed than before to the hostile inroads of barbarians. In B. C. 27, Augustus sent M. Crassus to check the incursions of the Dacians, Bastarnians, and Moesians on the Danube; and, in the same year, he himself went to Gaul and Spain, and began the conquest of the warlike Cantabri and Asturii, whose subjugation, however, was not completed till B. C. 19 by Agrippa. During this campaign Augustus founded several towns for his veterans, such as Augusta Emerita and Caesar Augusta. In B. C. 21 Augustus travelled through Sicily and Greece, and spent the winter following at Samos.
After this, he went to Syria at the invitation of Tiridates, who had been expelled from his kingdom of Parthia.
The ruling king, Phraates, for fear of the Romans, sent back the standards and prisoners which had been taken from Crassus and Antony. Towards the end of the year 20, Augustus returned to Samos, to spend the approaching winter there. Here ambassadors from India appeared before him, with presents from their king, Pandion, to confirm the friendship which had been sought on a former occasion.
In the autumn of B. C. 19, he returned to Rome, where new honours and distinctions were conferred upon him. His vanity was so much gratified at these bloodless victories which he had obtained in Syria and Samos, that he struck medals to commemorate them, and afterwards dedicated the standards which he had received from Phraates in the new temple of Mars Ultor. In B. C. 18, the imperium of Augustus was prolonged for five years, and about the same time he increased the number of senators to 600.
The wars in Armenia, in the Alps, and on the Lower Rhine, were conducted by his generals with varying success. In B. C. 16 the Romans suffered a defeat on the Lower Rhine by some German tribes; and Augustus, who thought the danger greater than it really was, went himself to Gaul, and spent two years there, to regulate the government of that province, and to make the necessary preparations for defending it against the Germans. In B. C. 13 he returned to Rome, leaving the protection of the frontier on the Rhine to his step-son, Drusus Nero. In B. C. 9 he again went to Gaul, where he received German ambassadors, who sued for peace; but he treacherously detained them, and distributed them in the towns of Gaul, where they put an end to their lives in despair. Towards the end of this year, he returned to Rome with Tiberius and Drusus. From this time forward, Augustus does not appear to have again taken any active part in the wars that were carried on.
Those in Germany were the most formidable, and lasted longer than the reign of Augustus.
In A. D. 13, Augustus, who had then reached his 75th year, again undertook the government of the empire for ten years longer; but he threw some part of the burden upon his adopted son and successor, Tiberius, by making him his colleague.
In the year following, A. D. 14, Tiberius was to undertake a campaign in Illyricum, and Augustus, though he was bowed down by old age, by domestic misfortunes and cares of every kind, accompanied him as far as Naples. On his return, he was taken ill at Nola, and died there on the 29th of August, A. D. 14, at the age of 76. When he felt his end approaching, he is said to have asked his friends who were present whether he had not acted his part well.
He died very gently in the arms of his wife, Livia, who kept the event secret, until Tiberius had returned to Nola, where he was immediately saluted as the successor of Augustus.
The body of the emperor was carried by the decuriones of Nola to Bovillae, where it was received by the Roman equites and conveyed to Rome.
The solemn apotheosis took place in the Campus Martius, and his ashes were deposited in the mausoleum which he himself had built.
As regards the domestic life of Augustus, he was one of those unhappy men whom fortune surrounds with all her outward splendour, and who can yet partake but little of the general happiness which they establish or promote. His domestic misfortunes must have embittered all his enjoyments. Augustus was a man of great caution and moderation--two qualities by which he maintained his power over the Roman world; but in his matrimonial relations and as a father he was not happy, chiefly through his own fault.
He was first married, though only nominally, to Clodia, a daughter of Clodius and Fulvia. His second wife, Scribonia, was a relation of Sext. Pompeius : she bore him his only daughter, Julia.
After he had divorced Scribonia, he married Livia Drusilla, who was carried away from her husband, Tiberius Nero, in a state of pregnancy.
She brought Augustus two step-sons, Tiberius Nero and Nero Claudius Drusus.
She secured the love and attachment of her husband to the last moments of his life. Augustus had at first fixed on M. Marcellus as his successor, the son of his sister Octavia, who was married to his daughter, Julia. Agrippa, jealous of Augustus' partiality for him, left Rome, and did not return till Marcellus had died in the flower of his life. Julia was now compelled by her father to marry the aged Agrippa, and her sons, Caius and Lucius Caesar, were raised to the dignity of principes juventutis.
At the death of Agrippa, in B. C. 12, Tiberius was obliged to divorce his wife, Vipsania, and, contrary to his own will, to marry Julia. Dissatisfied with her conduct and the elevation of her sons, he went, in B. C. 6, to Rhodes, where he spent eight years, to avoid living with Julia. Augustus, who became at last disgusted with her conduct, sent her in B. C. 2 into exile in the island of Pandataria, near the coast of Campania, whither she was followed by her mother, Scribonia.
The children of Julia, Julia the Younger and Agrippa Postumus, were likewise banished.
The grief of Augustus was increased by the deaths of his friend Maecenas, in B. C. 8, and of his two grandsons, Caius and Lucius Caesar, who are said to have fallen victims to the ambitious designs of Livia, who wished to make room for her own son, Tiberius, whom the deluded emperor was persuaded to adopt and to make his colleague and successor. Tiberius, in return, was obliged to adopt Drusus Germanicus, the son of his late brother, Drusus.
A more complete view of the family of Augustus is given in the annexed stemma.
Our space does not allow us here to enter into a critical examination of the character of Augustus : what
he did is recorded in history, and public opinion in his own time praised him for it as an excellent prince and statesman; the investigation of the hidden motives
of his actions is such a delicate subject, that both ancient and modern writers have advanced the most opposite opinions, and both supported by strong arguments.
The main difficulty lies in the question, whether his government was the fruit of his honest intentions and wishes, or whether it was merely a means of satisfying his own ambition and love of dominion; in other words, whether he was a straightforward and honest man, or a most consummate hypocrite. Thus much is certain, that his reign was a period of happiness for Italy and the provinces, and that it removed the causes of future civil wars. Previous to the victory of Actium his character is less a matter of doubt, and there we find sufficient proofs of his cruelty, selfishness, and faithlessness towards his friends.
He has sometimes been charged with cowardice, but, so far as military courage is concerned, the charge is unfounded.
The principal ancient sources concerning the life and reign of Augustus are : Sueton. Augustus ;
Nicolaus Damasc. De Vita Augusti ;
Dio Cass. xlv.--lvi.; Tacitus, Annal.
i.; Cicero's Epistles
and Philippics ; Vell. 2.59
; Plut. Antonius.
Besides the numerous modern works on the History of Rome, we refer especially to A. Weichert, Imperatoris Caesaris Augusti Scriptorum Reliquiae,
Fasc. i., Grimae, 1841, 4to., which contains an excellent account of the youth of Augustus and his education; Drumann, Geschichte Roms,
vol. iv. pp. 245-302, who treats of his history down to the battle of Actium; Loebell, Ueber das Principat des Augustus,
in Raumer's Historisches Taschenbuch,
5ter, Jahrgang, 1834; Karl Hoeck, Römische Geschichte vom Verfall der Republik bis zur Vollendung der Monarchie unier Constantin,
1.1. pp. 214-421.)