Augustus - The Rise to Power

Statue of Roman leader Augustus
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Augustus, a fascinating and controversial man, may have been the most important figure in Roman history. Through his long life (63 B.C. - A.D. 14) and deeds, the failing Republic was converted to a Principate that endured for centuries.

The Name of Augustus

Before he was assassinated, Julius Caesar named his grand-nephew Octavius as heir, but Octavius did not know of it until Caesar's death. He then took the name C. Julius Caesar Octavianus or Octavian (or simply Caesar), which he kept until he was named Imperator Caesar Augustus on January 16, 17 B.C.

Rise From Obscurity

Being the adopted son of the great man meant little politically -- at first. Brutus and Cassius, the men who headed the faction that had killed Julius Caesar were still in power, as was Caesar's friend Antony. Cicero's support of Octavian led to the repudiation of Antony and ultimately, to Octavian's acceptance in Rome.

Augustus and the Second Triumvirate

In 43 B.C., Antony, his supporter Lepidus, and Octavian formed a triumvirate (triumviri rei publicae constituendae) for five years that would end in 38 B.C. Without consulting the senate, the three men divided the provinces among themselves, instituted proscriptions, and (at Philippi) fought the liberators who then committed suicide.

Augustus Wins the Battle of Actium

The second term of the triumvirate ended at the end of 33 B.C. By this time Antony had married Octavian's sister and then repudiated her for Cleopatra. Accusing Antony of setting up a power in Egypt to threaten Rome, Augustus led Roman forces against Antony at the Battle of Actium. Antony, decisively defeated, soon committed suicide.

Power of Augustus

With all strong opponents dead, the civil wars ended, soldiers settled with the wealth acquired from Egypt, Octavian -- with universal support -- assumed command and was consul every year from 31-23 B.C.