Augustus was born Gaius Octavius on September 23 63 B.C. Julius Caesar, his great-uncle,
adopted him and was then known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, or Octavian. Octavian was
eighteen when his great-uncle was assasinated. In his will Caesar named Octavian his heir, acting
though he had the priveledge to name his succeeding dictator. The Roman Senate was upset with
Caesar’s disregard for their authority, but it didn’t matter, for Octavian was able to use the magic
of Caesar’s name to win over Caesar’s veterans.
Augustus ruled over Rome for nearly half a century from 31 B.C. till 14 A.D. During his reign,
Augustus set down the foundations of the Roman Empire for his successors to come. The bases
for his power was the army, whose loyalty was bought with money and land-grants at retirement,
and the genuine support of his people, who wanted by any means to end the bloodshed caused by
the late Republican civil wars. Octavian ruled over Rome for a short time with Mark Antony,
however, when Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide in 31 B.C. Octavian was left as sole
ruler of Rome. In 32 B.C. the citizens of rome and many of its provinces pledged an oath of
allegiance to support Octavian against his enemies. They rewarded Octavian with countless
honors, crowns, games, commemorative structures, and additional powers. Octavian soon after
proclaimed the restoration of the republic, but never had any intention of ever stepping down. In
January 27 B.C. he “placed the republic at the disposal of the Senate and the Roman people,” but
the Senate begged him not to abandon the state. In return for staying, Octavian received the
military command for the imperium for a period of ten years, and also received the responsiblity of
administrating of those provinces that required the presence of the Roman army. His offical name
became Imperator Caesar Augustus. After 27 B.C. Octavian maintained he excelled his equals
only in his auctoritas, the personal power which rested on the loyalty of the people. In 23 B.C. he
received the tribunician power for life and assumed in this way the role of protector of the Roman
people. With this grant, Augustus received the right to veto anything passed by the Senate, got
magisterial power to compel citizens to obey his orders, and got the power to help citizens
oppressed by other magistrates.
When Augustus took ill in 22 B.C. riots broke out in Rome because the people feared that
Augustus had withdrawn from the consulship. he was begged to return to Rome and when he
finally did after his recovery, the day was declared a holiday.
For the most part, Augustus had a very good relationship with the military. He operated as a
patron to clients. He usually paid the army with money from his own pocket and gave to his
successors an army that soon became accostomed to receiving tributes. Early in his career,
Augustus was viewed as the son of a god and after his defeat of Antony, he was regarded as a
divine king within Egypt. In the provinces they erected temples to him in association with the
goddess Roma. In Rome, the senate made vows and prayers for his safety, and included him in
their annual prayers at the beginning of the year. In 27 the cult of the Genius of Augustus was
established, in which it was declared that a libation should be poured to his guardian spirit at
public and private banquets. In the Senate a golden shield was set up celebrating his military
virtue and service to the people of Rome. These shield was associated with the goddess Victoria
and implied god-given rule.
During his reign Augustus created a system known as the principate, the rule of the first citizen.
It was based on the allegiance of the army and the people to the emperor. It also involved the
emperor’s collaboration with the Senate and the equestrians. Augustus’s system survived through
each of his successors and set a precedent for all other empires that existed. Augustus was
beloved by the people he governed and admired by those which he represented.