gigatos | November 27, 2021
Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus (September 23, 63 BC, Rome – August 19, 14 AD, Nola) was an ancient Roman politician and founder of the Roman Empire. He was consul 13 times (43 B.C., 33 B.C., annually from 31 B.C. to 23 B.C., 5 B.C., 2 B.C.), from 12 B.C. he was grand pontiff, from 23 B.C. he had the power of tribune (tribunicia potestas), in 2 B.C. he received the honorary title “father of fatherland” (pater patriae).
He was descended from a poor and wealthy family and was a grandnephew of Caesar. In 44 B.C. he was adopted by Caesar in his will and found himself in the center of political life of the Roman Republic, enjoying the support of many Caesar”s supporters. In 43 BC, together with Caesar”s Marc Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, he created a second triumvirate to fight common adversaries. After the victories over Marcus Brutus and Sextus Pompey, a power struggle began between the triumvirs, culminating in a war between Antony and Octavian.
In 27-23 B.C. Octavian concentrated in his hands a number of ordinary and extraordinary offices, which enabled him to rule the Roman state, avoiding the establishment of an open monarchy. The term “principate” is used to describe the new system, and Octavian is considered the first emperor in the modern sense of the word. During his reign Octavian greatly expanded the borders of the Roman state, including large territories on the Rhine and Danube, in Spain, as well as Egypt, Judea and Galatia. Active foreign policy was made possible through development of economy, development of provinces and military reform. Octavian”s reign was marked by a decrease in the influence of the Senate on Roman politics and the emergence of the cult of the emperor (among the manifestations of the latter was the renaming of one of the months into August). Since the emperor had no sons, during his reign he considered various possible heirs. Eventually he left power to his stepson Tiberius, and the Julius-Claudian dynasty founded by Augustus ruled the Roman Empire until 68.
Octavian”s father, Gaius Octavius, came from a wealthy plebeian family of horsemen. The plebeian family Octavius was known in Rome, supposedly rooted in the royal era. Its representatives held the highest position of consul in 128, 87, 76 and 75 years BC. However, the degree of kinship of the future emperor with these Octavians is unclear: some historians accept Suetonius, biographer Octavian, that the ancestors of the Emperor and Octavius-consuls were descendants of two different sons of Gnaeus Octavius Rufus, quvestor 230 BC, but other scholars consider their kinship a fiction of Augustus” supporters, who wanted to give the emperor a more solid pedigree.
Octavian”s ancestors came from Veliter (today”s Velletri) near Rome and were engaged in banking. The family was well known in that city and even had a street named after them. Belonging to the class of horsemen was an indication of the family”s wealth. Nevertheless, the Octavians were not part of the Roman elite, the nobility. Because of this, Octavian”s opponents reproached him for his ignorance, and he himself subsequently tried to distance himself from his name. Mark Antony even claimed that Octavian”s great-grandfather was a freedman, but this is surely not true.
Her mother, Atia, was a member of the Julian family. She was the daughter of Julia, Caesar”s sister, and the senator Marcus Atius Balba, a relative of Gnaeus Pompeius. Gaius Octavius married her by second marriage, according to various sources, about 65 From this union was also born Octavian”s sister, Octavia the Younger. Nothing is known about Gaius” first wife, Ancharia, who gave birth to Octavia the Elder.
The exact birthplace of Octavius has been difficult to pinpoint since antiquity. The most common version is that the emperor was born in the capital, but some historians (e.g., Suetonius and Dio Cassius) call his birthplace Velitri. Suetonius specifies that he was born on the Palatine “at the Bull”s Head” (according to various versions, this is the name of a house, street or quarter).
Since Suetonius mentions that the future emperor was born “on the ninth day before the October calendar,” his birth date is now traditionally considered September 23, 63 BC, but some historians point to September 24. It is also known that the birth occurred shortly before dawn. Nevertheless, Suetonius states that he was born under the sign of Capricorn (midwinter), and Octavian subsequently minted coins with this symbol and made it the emblem of the legion named after him. The astrological evidence of Suetonius is considered either a mistake (which admits that Octavius may have been conceived under the sign of Capricorn), or it is interpreted as the presence in the constellation of Capricorn not of the Sun, but of the Moon at the time of his birth. The serious discrepancy between the 354-day Roman year and the astronomical time which was finally corrected only by Gaius Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. could also make some mistake. Because of the complex of unknown factors Johannes Kepler attributed the date of birth of the Roman governor to July 2, and some historians of the 20th century, on the contrary, considered his birth date as the middle of December in modern time. According to the ancient custom, ancient authors associated many different signs with his birth, supposedly foreshadowing the birth of a great man.
Many ignorant Romans, including the future emperor”s father, did not have a cognomen (the third part of the name). Gaius had it from birth – “Thurinus” (Lat. Thurinus – “Furian”) in honor of his father”s victory over the rebel slaves of Spartacus near that city. Octavian himself based his birth cognomen on one of the Greek epithets of Apollo as guardian of the door (the Greek θυραῖος . Dion Cassius once called the future emperor “Gaius Octavius Caipias” (Greek Καιπίας), but this cognomen does not appear in other sources. There are various versions about the meaning of this word, from the distorted Latin name of the Roman colony in Furiae (Copiae) to the inaccurate translation of the Latin word for “goat” (Caper, Capricornus). It is Furinus that is generally accepted as the cognomen.
From late 61 to 59 BC, Gaius” father was governor of the province of Macedonia, but it is not known whether his wife and children went with him. Gaius Senior died without reaching the consulship, the highest position in the Roman Republic. Thanks to her kinship with two triumvirs at once, Atia was able to find a worthy husband, despite having three children with her. His stepfather was Lucius Marcius Philippus, consul of 56 B.C. The wedding took place in 57 or 56 B.C. Octavius probably spent the first few years of his life in Velitrae, but after his father died he was sent to be brought up by his maternal grandmother, Julia (the sister of Gaius Julius Caesar). In 51 B.C. she died, and the young Octavius gave a eulogy at the funeral. Jean-Pierre Nerodo, a professor at Paris III University, believes that being in the home of Atia and Julia influenced the child”s interest in politics and introduced him to Caesar”s activities. However, Octavius could not see his famous relative because he was busy fighting the Gallic War, so he probably met Caesar in person only after the beginning of the civil war and the latter”s return to Italy.
In Rome Octavius received a good education; among his teachers are the slave-educator Sphera, the philosophers Arius of Alexandria and Athenodorus Kananitis of Tarsus, the Greek rhetorician Apollodorus and the Latin rhetorician Marcus Epidius (other students of the latter included Mark Antony and Virgil). Antique authors differ in their assessment of his proficiency in Ancient Greek, ubiquitous as the language of science and culture among educated Romans: Pliny the Elder believes that Octavian excelled in this language, but Suetonius argues to the contrary. Dion Cassius speaks of Octavian”s special military training and special study of politics, but there is no other evidence. Already as a child Gaius became acquainted with Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and other peers who would later help him rule the empire.
By the beginning of the civil war of 49-45 B.C. Octavius was still a child, and his initiation took place in October 48 or 47 B.C. In 47 B.C. Octavius took his first two posts – an honorary seat in the college of pontiffs, vacated after the death of Lucius Domitius Agenobarbus, and the ceremonial post of city prefect (praefectus urbi), when he formally governed Rome during the Latin festival, by the patronage of Caesar. Though Octavius did not go on Caesar”s African expedition, he was invited by the general to participate in the triumphal ceremonies of 46 B.C. Caesar placed him in a place of honor – just behind his chariot – and even rewarded him on a par with the real campaigners. Since then, Octavius appeared more and more often with the dictator at public events, because of which many Romans began to seek his favor and ask to intercede on their cases before Caesar. On his behalf, in the summer of 46 B.C., Octavius was engaged in organizing theatrical productions, although his zeal was marred by an attack of obscure illness (see “Health”). He expected to take part in Caesar”s second Spanish campaign, but was late for the decisive battle of Munda for unclear reasons (Suetonius mentions a shipwreck, but Nicholas of Damascus writes that Octavius sailed later because of malaise and arrived in Spain successfully).
In 45 B.C., tribune Lucius Cassius, acting on Caesar”s instructions, proposed a law transferring a number of plebeian families to the thinning class of patricians, and the Octavius family was honored. In September of that year Caesar left a will whereby Gaius Octavius received most of his inheritance, provided he agreed to undergo adoption. Already in medieval times, however, differing views existed as to how serious were Caesar”s plans for Octavius, and whether Octavius had had knowledge of his intentions. The extant sources reflect a later view and may have exaggerated the dictator”s attention to his relative, and contemporaries had hardly noticed young Octavius before Caesar”s will was announced. Werner Eck, a professor at the University of Cologne, believes that Caesar, whatever his further intentions, was killed before he had had time to prepare the ground for a full transfer of power does not believe Octavius was aware of Caesar”s will. In his view, Octavius may have been a “temporary heir”: the dictator did not plan to die early, and Octavius” constant illnesses, on the contrary, made him expect to die soon. On the contrary, Helga Gesche, a professor at the University of Guise, and David Shotter, a professor at Lancaster University, suggest that Caesar had plans for Octavius long before his will was drafted believes that contemporaries viewed Octavius as only one of many claimants to Caesar”s inheritance. Doctor of History I. Shifman believes that Caesar probably discussed the adoption of Octavius with his associates, and the scientist considers Gaius” ignorance to be played.
Although the legal tradition of the Roman Republic did not provide for hereditary succession, and the often discussed possibility of Caesar becoming rex would still require the election of a new ruler, Octavian as official heir was later able to command the wealth looted in Gaul as well as the support of numerous soldiers loyal to Caesar himself.
The problem of inheritance was acute because Caesar had no sons born in a legitimate marriage. The dictator”s only daughter, Julia, died in childbirth along with the child of Gnaeus Pompey. The three closest relatives to the dictator were Lucius Pinarius, Quintus Pedius, and Gaius Octavius (see table). Marc Antony, who was both a relative of the dictator (albeit a very distant one) and a close associate, also had some reason to hope for an inheritance. Caesarion, Cleopatra”s son, was supposedly the dictator”s son, but Caesar did not officially recognize him and did not mention him in his will.
In the winter of 45-44 B.C. Octavius went to Apollonia (near the modern city of Fieri in Albania) on Caesar”s orders. There he finished his education and prepared for the war conceived by the dictator (according to different versions, the enemy was to be either Parthia). Antique authors also mention that Caesar was preparing to appoint Octavius as head of the cavalry, that is, to the responsible position of deputy dictator, instead of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. Some historians doubt the plausibility of this appointment, which, however, never took place because of Caesar”s assassination on March 15, 44 BC.
Spring-fall of 44 B.C.
When news of Caesar”s murder came to Apollonia, the legionaries promised to protect Octavius from possible assassination attempts by the conspirators. The young man was even offered to lead the legions stationed in the Balkans and lead them to Rome to avenge Caesar”s murder (the latter story may have been invented by later historians). Octavius” friends in Apollonia supported the expedition to Italy, but his parents dissuaded him in letters from escalating tensions. Moreover, his stepfather later even urged the young man to renounce Caesar”s inheritance for his own safety. As Nicholas of Damascus reports, in the first days after Caesar”s assassination, many feared that the conspirators would begin to kill the dictator”s relatives as well. Nevertheless, Octavius crossed into Italy, but without troops. Apparently, the refusal to use the army was due to the lack of reliable information about what was happening in Rome. After the veterans of the dictator”s army in Italy welcomed the heir with joy (by this time everyone had learned of the dictator”s will), Octavius announced his intention to accept the succession, after which his name became “Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian.” On his way to Rome, Octavius lingered in Campania, where he consulted with experienced politicians-primarily Cicero. The details of their conversation are unknown, but the great orator wrote in one of his letters that Octavian was entirely devoted to him. It is generally assumed that Cicero had already intended to use the inexperienced Gaius to fight his longtime enemy, Marc Antony.
In the summer of 44 B.C. Octavian consistently strengthened his authority in the capital. To publicly demonstrate his grief he let go of his beard and did not shave it as a sign of mourning for the murdered dictator. In July he became a steward of the games in honor of Caesar”s victories, during which a very bright comet appeared in the sky. Some Romans believed that the comet was a portent of misfortune, but Octavian was apparently able to convince them that it was the soul of the deified Caesar. Finally, he distributed to each Roman the 300 sesterces promised by the dictator in his will. He was forced to sell ancestral property to fulfill this clause of the will because Antony refused to hand over money from Caesar”s personal treasury to the rightful heir. While Octavian was successfully consolidating his popularity, Antony, who did not take the young heir seriously, was losing his credibility among the common Caesarians, both among the capital”s plebs and among the veterans. This was due to his inconsistency in prosecuting the conspirators, his brutal suppression of the townspeople”s riots, and his constant promulgation of laws that the dictator supposedly had in mind. In the fall Marcus quarreled with many senators and, above all, with Cicero.
The Mutin War
Although Octavian was popular with the urban plebs, the active army and many of Caesar”s veterans largely supported Antony, an experienced general and associate of the dictator. To defend his interests, Octavian left for southern Italy and began to assemble an army, attracting to his side the veterans and cantoned legionnaires who had obtained land there with money and promises of a speedy reprisal against Caesar”s murderers. Soon two legions, which had previously recognized Antony”s authority, sided with him. Marcus offered the hesitant soldiers 100 denarii (400 sesterces), but the legionnaires ridiculed him: Octavian had offered them five times as much. Only by arranging a decimation, in which 300 rioters were executed, and by raising the promised pay, Antony kept the remaining soldiers. Gathering a 10,000-strong personal army, Octavian moved on Rome and occupied the Forum on November 10. There he made a speech in which he called for war with Antony, a lawbreaker and offender of Caesar”s rightful heir. But his speech ended in an unexpected way: many soldiers, who had been ready to defend Octavian from possible assassination attempts and fight Brutus and Cassius under his rule, did not want to go to war with Antony, a loyal Caesarian. Young Octavian”s lack of legal authority was also remembered. The Senate remained indifferent to his proposal. Although many soldiers remained with Octavian, he left Rome and fortified himself at Arretia (modern Arezzo).
Shortly after Octavian”s departure, on November 24, 44 B.C., Antony entered Rome with his troops. Marcus redistributed a number of key provinces in favor of the Caesarians and his brother Gaius; an attempt to declare Octavian an enemy of the state was unsuccessful. Antony then moved into Cisalpine Gaul and besieged the seat of Decimus Brutus at Mutina (modern Modena). Meanwhile, the senate began to prepare for war with Antony, who had shown open defiance. On January 7, 43 B.C., Cicero insisted that Octavian receive the powers of propretor, become a senator early (a seat in the senate was usually guaranteed by performing the magistracy of quaestor), and be able to be elected to all offices ten years earlier than the prescribed term. The Senate also insisted that a number of Antony”s orders be annulled, including his appointment as governor of Cisalpine Gaul. The two consuls, Gaius Vibius Pansa and Avulus Girtius, then assembled an army and marched to Mutina to lift the siege. In exchange for legal authority, Octavian agreed to give the consuls the most combat-ready troops at his disposal, and soon marched to Mutina. Apparently, many soldiers were unenthusiastic about going to war with Antony, still popular with the Caesarians, which forced Octavian to consider their opinions.
In April Pansa”s troops were ambushed by Antony near the Gallic Forum (present-day Castelfranco-Emilia). Pansa was defeated and killed, but just as Antony was preparing to celebrate his victory, Hirtius” troops arrived on the battlefield and drove the enemy back to the walls of Mutina, where troops remained to continue the siege. A few days later, Hirtius and Octavian attacked Antony near Mutina to finally lift the siege on that city. They forced Antony to flee across the Alps to Narbonne Gaul, but during the battle Hirtius was mortally wounded and soon died. The deaths of both consuls were suspicious, and in ancient times Octavian was sometimes blamed for their deaths. The extent of Octavian”s participation in the battles is unclear: authors of the Imperial era reported that he fought in the front ranks and even picked up the legion banner as an eagle from the hands of the wounded Aquilifer (standard-bearer). Mark Antony, on the other hand, claimed that Octavian shamefully fled the battlefield. After the battle Gaius was no longer useful to the senate: by this time Mark Brutus and Gaius Cassius, close to the senate, had gathered large troops in Greece, and defeating Antony was already considered a matter of the next few days. As a result, the senate demanded that Octavian surrender to Decimus Brutus the consular troops that he had accepted after the death of the consuls without legitimate reasons. In addition, the senate refused to pay the previously promised rewards to all of Octavian”s soldiers. Dissatisfied with the senate”s actions, Gaius refused to assist Decimus Brutus in the pursuit of Antony, and he had to act only with his siege-weary soldiers and with the consular troops. In addition, the two legions that Octavian was to hand over to Brutus refused to fight under the former conspirator and remained with Gaius.
The foundation of the triumvirate. Proscriptions
After his victory at the battle of Mutina, Octavian declared his intention to become consul-sufficient: custom demanded new elections after the death of consuls. He saw Cicero as his second suffekt: Octavian proposed that “Cicero would rule the affairs of state as the elder and more experienced, while Caesar would be satisfied with one title, convenient to lay down his arms”. The Senate rejected Octavian”s claims on perfectly legitimate grounds: Octavian was very young for the consulship, even taking into account the earlier reduction of the required age for the magistracy by 10 years. Nevertheless, for his actions Octavian received the honorary title of emperor, which in the republican era denoted a victorious commander and allowed him to claim a triumph. However, the Senate denied him the right to the triumph itself, although the opportunity was granted to Decimus Brutus.
While Decimus Brutus was crossing the Alps, Antony managed to lure to his side the troops of the viceroys of all the western provinces – the former Caesarian Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, Gaius Asinius Pollio and Lucius Munacius Plancus. Antony declared his intention to avenge Caesar”s death, after which Octavian was faced with the problem of choosing sides. Octavian”s soldiers, among whom were many veterans of the dictator”s army, swayed their commander to side with Antony. They also vowed never again to fight against other Caesarians. In addition, the soldiers were extremely concerned about the revision of Antony”s laws that had begun, which included promises of cash rewards and land distributions for Caesar”s veterans. Octavian”s own rapprochement with Antony began on the basis of a shared hatred of the Republicans and dissatisfaction with the actions of the Senate. To demonstrate his willingness to negotiate, Octavian began to release Antony”s captured soldiers and centurions. In addition, he openly sabotaged the orders of the senate and let Publius Ventidius Bassus pass with reinforcements for Antony recruited in southern and central Italy.
After gathering a large army, Antony had more power and influence than Octavian, making the latter a junior partner in any alliance that was formed. Apparently, in order to negotiate with Antony as equals, Gaius continued to try to take the consulship. The senators refused to go along with him. Moreover, they tried to split Octavian”s army by making generous promises to the most combat-ready legions; Octavian”s ambassadors, in turn, sought fulfillment of earlier commitments in Rome and the right to elect their commander as consul.
The Senate still hoped that Brutus and Cassius would soon arrive in Italy, and therefore rejected Octavian”s delegations. But Marcus Brutus, who was in Macedonia, was dissatisfied with the negotiations between the young Caesar and Cicero (there were even rumors in his circle that they had already been elected consuls) and refused his mentor, who had urged him to come to Italy with his army sooner. Brutus apparently did not want to start a new civil war, so he spared the life of Gaius Antony, the general”s brother who had been captured in Macedonia.
The death of Decimus Brutus and the neutrality of Marcus Brutus left Italy with only a small force loyal to the senate. After the failure of another negotiation in August (sextilius), Octavian, ostensibly to fulfill the demand of the soldiers, began the march on Rome. The civil war began, as it had six years earlier, with the crossing of the Rubicon, but this time the general led not one but eight legions into battle. When his troops were on their way, the Senate agreed to grant Octavian the right to be elected consul without resigning, but Gaius continued the march. Three legions located near Rome immediately went over to his side, bringing the total number of Octavian”s army to 11 legions, or about 50,000 soldiers. During the march, Gaius feared for the safety of his mother and sister who remained in Rome, but they took refuge with the priestesses-vestal virgins who enjoyed immunity.
After the troops entered the capital without a fight, Gaius seized the state treasury to pay his soldiers and secured an election. On August 19 (sextile), Octavian was elected consul, along with his uncle Quintus Pedius (Cicero or the father of Octavian”s bride Publius Servilius Vatius Isauricus were considered more likely candidates for the second place). Apparently, there were no other candidates for consulship. In his new position, Octavian first completed his adoption of Caesar by convening the curiae comitiae. Soon Quintus Pedius passed a law for the trial in absentia of Caesar”s murderers (Pedius”s law), followed by a trial and conviction in one day. The property of the escaped convicts was confiscated, and their credentials were annulled. Soon the senate, under pressure from the consuls, repealed all the laws against Antony and Lepidus, after which peace negotiations began with them.
In October 43 B.C., Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus met on a small island on a river near Bononia (present-day Bologna). At this meeting it was agreed to establish a second triumvirate, a union of three politicians with unlimited powers. Unlike the first triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, the new alliance was formalized and limited to a five-year term. The triumvirate did not agree on any serious reforms, and officially the triumvirate was created “to put the republic in order” (rei publicae constituende (rei publicae constituendae). The people”s assembly approved a bill for the creation of the triumvirate (Titius” law) on 27 November 43 BC, and before he took office Octavian resigned his powers as consul. The triumvirs agreed on the distribution of the higher magistracies among their supporters for the following years and divided among themselves all the western provinces. Octavian benefited the least from this division, for the provinces given to him – Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica – were partly occupied by the Republicans. The triumvirate was sealed by Octavian”s marriage to Claudia, stepdaughter of Antony, the most powerful triumvirate. Two years later the marriage was dissolved (see Family section).
Although Octavian, upon assuming the position of consul, did not prosecute his opponents, at a meeting in Bononia the triumvirs agreed to organize mass executions of their opponents on pre-agreed lists – proscriptions. The initiator of the proscriptions is unknown, and the details of their negotiations are unclear because of the secret nature of the discussion and the desire of Octavian”s supporters to downplay his guilt for the proscriptions. In all, the final list of those condemned to death included about 300 senators and about 2,000 horsemen, with Cicero”s name at the top.
The property of the proscribed was usually auctioned off to replenish the treasury. However, soldiers and other enforcers of the proscriptions looted the houses left unguarded, and the auction conditions and the atmosphere of terror against the wealthy deterred many potential buyers. As a result, the sale of the property of the proscribers did not cover the costs of the impending war with the Republicans, although many associates of the triumvirate became extraordinarily rich. To cover the costs, the triumvirate imposed new taxes, arranged a forced loan, obliged senators to recruit slaves for the fleet, and confiscated the property of many wealthy citizens. A separate tax was imposed on the property of wealthy women, but Roman women succeeded in having the tax abolished or greatly reduced.
The Campaign in Greece. Battle of Philippi
Leaving Lepidus in Italy with some troops, Antony and Octavian successfully crossed the Adriatic Sea, passing the superior naval forces of the enemy. Total triumvirate troops in Macedonia had about 100 thousand infantrymen and 13 thousand horsemen, Republicans (their self-name – liberators, liberatores) had about 70 thousand infantrymen, but had an advantage in the cavalry (about 20 thousand) and the sea. In September Antony arrived at the plain near the city of Philippi, where the Republicans were already entrenched. Octavian was delayed for several days by indisposition.
The camps of the Triumvirs were on a marshy plain, while the Republicans had built their camps on the hills beforehand, which made their position more advantageous. The Republicans hoped to avoid a general battle, relying on a sea advantage and good supplies to weaken the Triumvirs. Soon, however, a battle ensued on the left flank of the Republicans between the troops of Antony and Cassius. Marcus was successful and captured the enemy camp, but at the same time Brutus attacked Octavian”s forces and captured his camp. Brutus and Antony then returned to their original positions, and Cassius, who was unaware of Brutus” success, committed suicide. A few weeks later, when the supply situation in the camp of the triumvirs became critical, Brutus yielded to the entreaties of his comrades-in-arms and led his troops out into the decisive battle. Thanks to Antony”s skillful actions, the Triumvirate army won the battle. Octavian”s role in both battles was minimal: the first battle the superstitious commander missed due to a bad dream of his doctor and hid in the swamps for three days.
Octavian decapitated Brutus” body and sent the head to Rome to throw it at the feet of Caesar”s statue, but the ship carrying Brutus” head crashed. The two victors redistributed the provinces: Marcus retained Gaul, received Africa and, apparently, all the eastern provinces; Gaius received the Spanish provinces, Numidia (Lepidus lost his influence. The triumvirs also divided responsibilities in the matter of fulfilling their promises to the soldiers: Octavian had to give them land in Italy, while Antony”s task was to find cash in the rich eastern provinces.
The Peruvian War. Treaty of Brundisia
After his return to Italy, Octavian began to give land to the soldiers who had served, and plots were also given to the soldiers of Brutus and Cassius who had surrendered, so that they would not revolt and join the surviving Republicans. The triumvirs had previously identified 18 cities whose lands were to be confiscated, but it was up to Octavian to carry out the mass expropriations. Soon it became clear that these lands would not suffice for the many veterans, and Octavian was forced to begin confiscating land from other cities as well. The veterans were to receive plots in Italy, where there had long been a shortage of available land, and the mass removal of colonies to the provinces was not yet a common practice. It was not uncommon for land to be taken from residents of settlements hostile to the Triumvirs in the past. As a rule, the smallest allotments were left to their former owners, as were many of the largest tracts, and it was the middle peasants and owners of small agricultural villas who suffered most. The size of the veterans” allotments is unknown: the average size is estimated from very small allotments to plots of 50 juger (12.5 ha) for soldiers and 100 juger (25 ha) for centurions. Rarely did the owners of land destined for partition succeed in securing a plot: for example, the poet Virgil was lucky to be interceded for by Gaius Asinius Pollio. Octavian paid money to the previous owners of the stolen land, but even these token payments could not always be obtained. The situation was seriously complicated by the blockade of the Apennine Peninsula by the fleet of Sextus Pompey, which had established itself in Sicily and did not allow ships with grain to enter Italy.
Lucius Antony, brother of Mark Antony, and Fulvia, wife of the triumvir, who had remained in Italy, took advantage of the discontent created by the mass eviction of Italians and the naval blockade. Lucius blamed Octavian for what was happening and promised that his brother would restore the republic upon his return from the East. His agitation was successful not only with the Italians, but also with some senators. Soldiers and warlords interested in continuing the distribution of land tried to reconcile Octavian with Lucius Antony, but soon Italian uprisings began in central Italy. It is unclear whether Lucius acted at the behest of his brother: Appianus, for example, states that he began to campaign independently, and modern historiography holds that Marcus had nothing to do with his brother”s actions. In the summer of 41 B.C., Lucius and his loyal troops occupied Rome and headed north from there, hoping to unite with the regular troops of Asinius Pollio and Ventidius Bassus. Octavian, Agrippa and Quintus Salvidien Rufus, however, did not allow the rebel forces to join and blocked Lucius Antony at Perusia (modern Perugia). After a long siege and unsuccessful attempts to lift it, Lucius surrendered. Octavian pardoned him, Fulvia, Ventidius Bassus and Asinius Pollio, but he gave the city itself to the soldiers to pillage, and executed most of the local nobility except for one man. To top it all off, the city burned to the ground: Appian and Velius Paterculus attributed the fire to the city”s madman. Octavian”s opponents claimed that he had ordered 300 Peruvians to be sacrificed on the altar of the divine Caesar.
Many of the survivors of the revolt fled to Mark Antony. Despite his affair with Cleopatra and his busy preparations for war with Parthia, Marcus crossed into Italy and laid siege to the important port of Brundusium (modern Brindisi). He was soon joined by Sextus Pompey and Gnaeus Domitius Agenobarb. It was only under the influence of the soldiers, who did not want to allow further clashes between the triumvirs, that negotiations began in Brundisium, mediated by Gaius Asinius Pollio on Antony”s side and Maecenas on Octavian”s side. Both triumvirs made peace and redistributed the provinces. Antony received all the eastern provinces, Octavian all the western provinces, and Lepidus retained only the province of Africa. All the triumvirs received the right to recruit new soldiers in Italy. The agreement was sealed by the marriage of the widowed Antony to Octavia, Octavian”s sister, who had recently lost her husband. Sextus Pompey”s interests were ignored by the triumvirs, and he resumed the siege.
War with Sextus Pompey. Extension of the Triumvirate
The redistribution of land in Italy disorganized agriculture, as peasant allotments and former latifundia fell into the hands of veterans. It is unclear whether they had all they needed for agricultural work. The redistribution of land resulted in food shortages, greatly exacerbated by the naval blockade of the Apennines by Sextus Pompey: by the middle of the first century BC, most of the grain for supplying Rome and Italy was imported by sea. The situation was complicated by Octavian”s lack of a full-fledged navy and by the mass flight of slaves to Sextus Pompey, who promised them freedom in exchange for service in his ranks. Finally, Octavian was under pressure from the people of Italy: they demanded the restoration of supplies not through another war, but through peace negotiations. At the beginning of 39 BC, desperate Romans stoned the triumvirs. Octavian was forced to begin negotiations with Sextus.
To demonstrate the seriousness of his peaceful intentions, Octavian, who had already divorced Claudia, married Scribonia. She was the sister of Lucius Scribonius Libonus, father-in-law of Sextus Pompeius, and at the same time a distant relative of Pompey. The conclusion of this marriage facilitated an early reconciliation with Pompey. The first stage of the Triumvirs” negotiations with Pompey took place on a shoal in the Bay of Naples, where two small wooden platforms were built for each side. The second stage was successful, which took place either at Cape Mizen or at the nearby Puteoli.
Pompey was refused admission to the triumvirate in place of Lepidus, but Octavian and Antony otherwise made concessions to him. They promised amnesty for all the pro-scribes who had taken refuge in Sicily, freedom for runaway slaves from Pompey”s army, and rewards similar to those paid to the soldiers of the triumvirate. Sextus legalized his control of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, and also received the Peloponnese. In addition, his supporters were included among the magistrates for future years. In return, Pompey undertook to completely lift the naval blockade of Italy and to facilitate its grain supply. According to legend, the agreement was celebrated with a joint feast on Pompey”s ship. At dinner Menodorus, Sextus” chief naval commander, allegedly offered to kill Octavian and Antony, but Pompey refused.
Among the Romans who returned to the capital under the Triumvir guarantees was Tiberius Claudius Nero with his pregnant wife Livia Drusilla and their young son Tiberius. Octavian and Livia began an affair, soon culminating in an engagement and marriage. Claudius not only did not prevent the marriage, but even collected a dowry for his wife and organized a celebration of the engagement at his house: Livia”s father had committed suicide because of being placed on the proscription lists. The date of the wedding is unclear: according to various versions, it took place either three days after Druse”s birth or in the sixth month of pregnancy.
The peace treaty proved tenuous: contrary to peace, Octavian began to build a warship fleet, while Pompey was slow to dismantle the warships and disband their crews. Sextus did not officially reinstate the naval blockade, but pirates began to operate along the Italian coast, and Octavian claimed it was Pompey”s men. Soon Menodorus defected to Gaius and surrendered Sardinia and Corsica to him. Octavian accepted Menodorus and strengthened the coast guard.
Soon the ships of Pompey and Octavian met at Cum in the Bay of Naples. A fierce battle ended in victory for the Pompeians. However, the commander of Pompey”s fleet, Menecrates, was killed, and his successor, Demochar, took the ships to Messana (modern Messina) on the island of Sicily. Octavian”s ships followed him. The first clashes in the Straits of Messina proved unsuccessful for the triumvirate, and a storm that soon broke out forced his fleet to retreat. Gaius Octavius lost more than half his ships and requested help from Antony. After the differences between the triumvirs were settled through the mediation of Octavius and Mecenate, they met at Tarenta in the spring of 37 B.C. They agreed to extend the term of the triumvirate for another five years. In addition, Octavian, who needed a fleet, was to receive 120 ships from Antony. In exchange, Mark, who was planning an invasion of Parthia, was to receive 20,000 soldiers. Antony kept his end of the bargain, but Octavian gave his counterpart only a tenth of the promised troops.
After the extension of the triumvirate, Octavian continued building a new fleet. He had few experienced sailors at his disposal, and a new naval base was established near Cum for training. To build the fleet Octavian compelled the wealthy to make large donations and gave their slaves to be rowers. Agrippa, who directly supervised the preparation of the fleet, took into account the experience of previous battles and built larger ships with a hook-crane (lat. harpax) to destroy the gear of enemy ships (it is unclear whether this device was a Roman invention or had been used since the Hellenistic era).
Octavian had the chance to build a fleet and train sailors because of Pompey”s indecision and reluctance to use his dominance at sea for land operations. Octavian”s plan for the invasion of Sicily was to attack the island simultaneously from three directions – Statilius Taurus was to sail from Tarentus, Lepidus from Africa, and Octavian himself from Puteol. The march was scheduled for July 1, 36 B.C.
Gaius” plans were thwarted by a suddenly strong southerly wind. It caused a large part of Octavian”s flotilla to break up, and Taurus returned to Tarentus. Lepidus lost several ships to the wind, but the elements also repulsed Pompey”s scout ships, so that Lepidus” troops were able to land on the island unhindered. However, he failed to take the strategically important city of Lilibey in the west of Sicily, and he made a campaign across the island to Tauremenia (modern Taormina), where Octavian soon crossed with the land forces as well. In August (sextilii) Agrippa, commanding the fleet, successfully conducted the battle of Milas on the northern coast of the island, and on September 3, 36 B.C., at the battle of Navloch he won a decisive victory over Pompey. Sextus fled to the East, and Lepidus, without waiting for Octavian to arrive, made peace with the Pompeian troops. Lepidus soon tried to use his army to make Sicily a province of his own and so strengthen his position, but Octavian promised his soldiers greater rewards and they left the commander. Octavian pardoned Lepidus for this treachery, but removed him from politics.
After the victory, Gaius did not fulfill his previous promise to grant Pompey”s slaves their freedom. On the contrary, he returned 30,000 runaway slaves to their former masters and ordered the execution of those whose owners could not be found (there were about six thousand of them). Because of the depletion of the treasury and the deterioration of relations with Antony, Octavian delayed payments to the soldiers and the distribution of lands. Instead, he gave out generous military rewards, which antagonized the soldiers. The shortage of money was partly solved by the huge 1,600-talent contribution imposed on Sicily (similar levies were usually imposed on vanquished enemies). The shortage of land was partly solved by settling veterans not only in Italy but also in the western provinces. This measure avoided a new phase of mass expropriations of land in Italy and the unrest they caused. The Senate granted Octavian a minor triumph for his victory over Pompey (Octavian, relegated to the rank of patricians, was not entitled to hold that office). Livia and Octavius were soon granted similar privileges.
Second confrontation with Antony. The Battle of Actium and the Conquest of Egypt
After defeating Sextus Pompey, Octavian began to prepare for the coming war with Antony, without, however, breaking off relations with him. Consuls continued to be elected in accordance with the Tarenta Treaty – usually one associate from each of the two remaining triumvirs. Agrippa, however, at Octavian”s direction, continued to build up the strength of the navy, the purpose of which was to prevent Antony from landing in Italy. Octavian himself led the invasion of Illyria in 35 B.C., which was seen as both a training exercise for the soldiers and an excuse not to disband a large army. In addition, with this campaign Octavian hoped to strengthen his authority as a commander in the eyes of the army. In addition, in Illyria Gaius may have hoped to capture slaves and recruit auxiliary troops. Other directions for war were probably also considered: Dio Cassius mentions failed plans to invade Britain.
As a result of the war in Illyria Octavian strengthened his prestige in the army and among the people of Italy, equaling that of Antony, the acknowledged master of war, whose reputation had suffered from failure in Parthia. He used the spoils of war to support monumental construction in the capital and to organize lavish public events to win the support of the urban plebs. The general himself received the right to a triumph. However, the Roman successes in Illyria proved to be fragile: Octavian”s troops avoided protracted campaigns and managed to establish control only over a territory near the Adriatic coast, and in 6 AD a major revolt broke out on the conquered territory (see the section on Rome”s foreign policy).
After the death of Sextus Pompeius, the surviving republicans were forced to choose between Octavian and Antony. Many of them joined with Marcus. Antony was also supported by many neutral senators, who saw him as less evil than the vengeful Octavian, who, in their opinion, was destroying what was left of republican liberties. Octavian, on the other hand, relied on Caesar”s indebted veterans, on the Italian business community, and on his friends, whom he actively promoted. However, his old friend Salvidien Rufus, governor of Transalpine Gaul and commander of a large army, was put on trial for treason for allegedly negotiating behind the scenes with Antony. As a result, Rufus committed suicide.
Around 35 B.C. Octavian sent money and military equipment to Antony, who was defeated by the Parthians, as well as soldiers, which he was to give under the Treaty of Tarenta in exchange for 120 ships. However, instead of the promised 20,000 soldiers, Gaius sent only 2,000 legionnaires to the East. The convoy was accompanied by Octavia, Mark”s lawful wife, although his connection with Cleopatra was well known. Apparently, Gaius hoped Antony would provoke a scandal that he could use to start a war. However, Antony acted cautiously and did not give Gaius a reason to make serious accusations, although sources give different accounts of the details of Octavia”s mission. Octavian also did not allow his colleague to recruit troops in Italy, contrary to the existence of such a possibility under the agreement at Tarenta. As V. N. Parfyonov notes, the impossibility of receiving reinforcements from Italy prompted Antony to make concessions to Cleopatra. Subsequently Octavian began to publicly accuse Antony of arbitrariness and betrayal of the interests of Rome, focusing primarily on the arbitrary redrawing of borders and the distribution of titles to please the queen of Egypt. Another issue around which Gaius” accusations were built was Antony”s abandonment of his Roman wife in favor of a foreigner. Antony tried to defend himself against Octavian”s attacks. Suetonius preserved a fragment of his letter, composed in response to charges of violating the sacred bonds of marriage:
The triumvirs also argued over which of them was to blame for the death of Sextus Pompey, who was quite popular with the people, and whether Caesarion was Caesar”s rightful heir instead of Octavian.
Before the expiration of the second triumvirate, Octavian and Antony”s powers exceeded those of the consuls. The exact date of the end of the triumvirate is unclear-either December 31, 33 B.C., or (less likely) December 31, 32 B.C. Octavian did not formally resign his powers as triumvir after they expired, but he did not use them either. On January 1, 33 B.C., he became consul, but only a few hours later handed over the powers to Lucius Autronius Petus. In the summer Antony abandoned preparations for a new war with Parthia and began to redeploy troops closer to Greece, which is generally considered evidence of a sharp deterioration in relations between the triumvirs. On January 1 of the following year, Antony”s supporters took office and took advantage of their position to launch a new phase of propaganda campaign against Octavian. Gaius responded by appearing at a Senate meeting accompanied by armed supporters. After this demonstration of strength, quite a few senators defected to Antony”s side. The two consuls also defected to him. Although this provided a convenient opportunity for Marcus to respond to the trampling on the rights of the senate, he did nothing. Moreover, there was no unity among Antony”s supporters: some of them favored a break with Cleopatra and a reconciliation with Octavian, but the supporters of the Egyptian queen proved more influential. This led to the flight of many noble Romans in the opposite direction to Gaius.
Among the defectors to Octavian were Lucius Munacius Plancus and Marcus Titius. As Antony”s closest associates, they had witnessed the signing of his will and told Gaius of its contents. Octavian took the will from the priestesses who had kept it, then opened it and read some of its clauses before the Senate (such disregard for the secrecy of the will was considered blasphemy). The testamentary provisions known from the sources are certainly authentic; however, we cannot rule out the possibility that Octavian read out certain phrases without context, or that the document he read out was forged. Under Octavian”s influence, the Senate deprived Antony of all his powers, including the consulship he was to hold the following year, but he declared war only on Cleopatra.
To maintain an army capable of standing up to Antony”s large army, Octavian resorted to extraordinary measures to replenish the treasury: free citizens had to contribute 14 of their annual income in a lump sum, wealthy freedmen 18 of their entire wealth. Forced loans under the guise of donations were also carried out. The harsh measures led to revolts in Italy, which were suppressed by the army. Octavian also forced the population of the western provinces to swear an oath of allegiance to himself, apparently similar to the oath of soldiers to their commander (he later claimed that the oath was taken voluntarily).
Antony”s troops did not arrive at the Ionian Sea until the end of the summer of 32 B.C., when it was already risky to start crossing a huge army. Mark slightly outnumbered Gaius both in numbers of ground troops (100,000 infantry against 80,000) and in number of ships, but his ships lacked oarsmen. Antony was aware of the uprisings in Italy and expected that a protracted war would hurt Octavian more than him. He distributed his fleet and army between several points along the coasts of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, but the bulk of the ships were concentrated in the Gulf of Ambracian. In early 31 B.C. Agrippa and Octavian suddenly attacked Antony”s peripheral naval bases in Greece and, gaining the advantage at sea, landed troops in Greece. The opponents drew their main forces to the Gulf of Ambracian, where Agrippa blocked most of the enemy”s fleet. After a long positional struggle, during which Octavian evaded Antony”s attempts to impose a land battle, Marcus initiated a naval battle at Cape Acid (September 2, 31 B.C.). Agrippa prevailed over the enemy”s fleet, but Cleopatra and Antony managed to break the blockade and sail into Egypt. After their commander fled, Antony”s soldiers began to defect en masse to Octavian”s side, although they usually haggled for favorable terms of treason.
Octavian himself led his troops into Egypt. When he approached Alexandria, Antony”s legions again sided with him, and Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra committed suicide a week later. Octavian allowed them both to be buried according to their request, in the same tomb. But the reason for this step may have been Octavian”s wish to prevent Antony”s burial in Rome. After Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide, Octavian had Cleopatra”s son Caesarion executed, and soon Antony”s eldest son, Antilles, was also killed. Mark Antony”s other children had not yet come of age, so Octavian pardoned them. Upon his return from Egypt, Octavian staged a triple triumph. On August 13, 29 B.C., he celebrated his victory at Illyria, on August 14 at Actium, and on August 15 at Egypt, the most magnificent of the three.
Establishment of principality
In historiography, the way of government established by Augustus and, in the main, preserved until the establishment of absolute monarchy (dominatum) is referred to as principate (see “Octavian and the Senate”). Contemporaries did not use the term “principate” in its political meaning, although it came into use already by the time of the historian Tacitus (late I – early II century A.D.). The principate was formed on the basis of republican system, largely preserving continuity with the political institutions of the Roman republic. Octavian did not seek to collect all republican offices and conceivable honors and titles. Instead, he concentrated the highest power in the provinces (imperium) and the greatest powers in the capital (tribunicia potestas) in his hands for an unlimited period. This combination of powers was a first – Sulla and Caesar ruled with dictatorial powers – and in order to maintain his position the emperor consistently strengthened his authority with the inhabitants of the empire (auctoritas). The vast army was also under the emperor”s complete control.
The foundations of the principate were laid by the reforms of 27-23 B.C. On January 13, 27 B.C., Octavian delivered a speech to the senate in which he declared his willingness to give up all emergency powers in favor of the senate and the people. The text of the speech has been preserved by Dion Cassius, although its inauthenticity is admitted. The carefully orchestrated speech (Dion Cassius mentions that a group of Octavian supporters supported him with applause) came as a surprise to the senators, and they rejected Octavian. Moreover, the Senate granted him the right to govern the Spanish and Gallic provinces as well as Syria for a 10-year renewable term (normally a viceroy received one province for one year). Egypt was recognized as Octavian”s “personal domain. On January 16, at a new session, the senate granted him a number of honors, most notably the name “Augustus,” with the result that the ruler”s full official name became “Emperor Caesar Augustus, son of God” (Imperator Caesar Augustus divi filius) and the short name Caesar Augustus. The inclusion of the new element in the full name was not Octavian”s invention: Sulla adopted the name Felix (Happy), Pompey adopted Magnus (Great). At the same time, the word “Augustus” had a pronounced religious connotation and referred to the poet Ennius” well-known lines about the founding of Rome after a “sacred divination” (augusto augurio). Octavian had originally been asked to add the name “Romulus” instead of “Augustus,” after the mythical founder of Rome who had carried out the “augusto” divination, but he refused. The ruler”s reasons for refusing the name “Romulus” were both associations with the murder of his brother Remus and the royal power he had established. The pro-consular power was in effect only in the provinces, while in Rome Octavian continued to exercise the power of consul, holding the office annually.
In 24-23 B.C. Octavian consolidated his position with new political reforms. In 24 B.C. the senators, according to Dion Cassius, exempted the ruler from obedience to the laws, which is interpreted as immunity from prosecution. The following year a political crisis broke out, caused primarily by the emperor”s illness. Agrippa, who had hoped to succeed Octavian, was dissatisfied with the rise of Marcellus, the ruler”s nephew and son-in-law. Some historians attribute to 23 B.C. the trial of Marcus Primus and the conspiracy of Cepio and Murena, which complicated the ruler”s position. Augustus managed to reconcile Agrippa with Marcellus, but the latter soon died. On July 1 Octavian suddenly resigned his consulship and refused to be elected in the future. The reasons for this step are unclear. Instead of consulship Augustus received from the Senate a “greater imperium” (imperium maius), by which he was able to intervene in the administration not only of his own, but also of the Senate provinces. The Senate also gave Octavian the power of tribunes of the people (tribunicia potestas), but not the position itself, which was available only to the plebeians. The tribune”s power gave him the right of legislative initiative, which he had lost when he resigned his consular office, as well as the right to veto (intercession) any laws that were passed. Sacred immunity, inherent in the tribunes, Octavian received as early as 36 B.C. After 23 B.C. Octavian concentrated in his hands and the highest power in the provinces of the Roman Empire, and broad legal powers in Rome. The combination of the two powers proved to be very stable, and subsequent emperors relied predominantly on them.
When a famine broke out in Rome in 22 B.C., it was rumored that a bad harvest and a great flood had been sent down on Italy because Octavian was no longer consul. According to Dion Cassius, the people began to ask Octavian to accept the position of dictator that had been abolished after Caesar”s assassination. The same historian states that Augustus was soon offered the position of third consul for life and was even granted the right. Thereafter, a third, for Octavian, was allegedly installed between the two curule seats in the Senate. Modern scholars, however, admit that the ancient author may have been mistaken. Finally, in the reign of Octavian, the Romans, condemned by the court, lost the right to appeal for a review of the punishment to the popular assembly (provocatio ad populum), but instead could ask for a pardon from the emperor (apellatio ad Caesarem).
The problem of inheritance
The downside of the preservation of republican political institutions and Octavian”s refusal to legally enshrine individual power was the impossibility of appointing a successor. In addition, not all of the people who accepted the establishment of the principate were willing to inherit power. Eric Gruen assumes that around 24 B.C. Octavian thought about retiring from politics, and to provide a peaceful old age he granted himself judicial immunity. However, contemporaries did not yet know whom he planned to make his successor. The most obvious candidate was the Emperor”s nephew and son-in-law Marcellus, although Octavian denied his plans for him. During the crisis of the following year, the sick Octavian handed his ring to Agrippa, which was interpreted by the senators as his intention to transfer power to him. Nevertheless, after his recovery the emperor continued to entrust important tasks to Marcellus. Soon Marcellus died unexpectedly.
Octavian soon granted Agrippa, his closest supporter, the powers of tribune and possibly a “great empire” (imperium maius) for a five-year renewable term. At the emperor”s insistence, the widowed Julia married Agrippa. The principate did not, however, become a dual power. Apparently Agrippa”s powers were to ensure the stability of the state in the event of the death of Augustus, who was often ill. Since Octavian still had no sons of his own, he adopted the children of Agrippa and Julia, Gaius and Lucius, who were soon born, through a half-remembered fictitious purchase procedure. It is assumed that he prepared them for power from childhood, hiring the famous teacher Marcus Verrius Flaccus and sometimes joining in their education. Tiberius and Drusus, the emperor”s stepchildren, thus ceased to be regarded as the main heirs. Some historians suggest that Agrippa was to become regent under Octavian”s new children, but this implied a hereditary monarchy.
In 12 B.C. Agrippa died, and Octavian had to reconsider plans for the transfer of power. Gaius and Lucius were too young, and the emperor accelerated the advancement of the adult Tiberius (Drususus died in 9 B.C.). The emperor”s stepson was a successful general and his abilities were not questioned, although ancient authors mention his difficult character. Octavian secured for him the right to hold office five years before his due age, married him to the newly widowed Julia (having previously ordered Tiberius to divorce Vipsania) and began to entrust command in important wars. Tiberius, however, was not immediately given the power of tribune, and he did not receive the “greater empire” (imperium maius).
In 6 B.C. Tiberius suddenly resigned all his positions and announced his retirement from politics. His mother and adoptive father tried unsuccessfully to change his mind, but he went on a hunger strike. On the fourth day Octavian allowed Tiberius to leave Rome, and he sailed for Rhodes. The reasons for Tiberius” sudden decision were unclear in antiquity, and no single satisfactory explanation has so far been offered. After his stepson left politics, Octavian pinned all his hopes on Gaius and Lucius: he personally introduced them to the Romans, and they were soon nicknamed “principes iuventutis” (princes of youth). The emperor allowed them to sit in the Senate and hoped to make them consuls well before their proper age. He gave responsible assignments to his more mature relatives, in particular Lucius Domitius Agenobarbus. In A.D. 2, Lucius Caesar died unexpectedly in Massilia (present-day Marseilles), and on February 21, A.D. 4, Gaius died of a severe wound.
Shortly before Gaius died, Tiberius returned to Rome. Octavian soon returned to him the powers of tribune for a ten-year term and entrusted him first with the leadership of operations in Germany and then with the suppression of the revolt in Pannonia and Illyrica. On June 26, A.D. 4, the emperor finally adopted Tiberius, as well as Agrippa”s third son, Agrippa Postum (Suetonius mentions that he took this step with a heavy heart). But already in 7 A.D. Agrippa Postumus quarreled with the emperor, and Octavian banished him from Rome and then crossed him out of his will. In A.D. 13 the tribunal power of Tiberius was extended for ten years, and about the same time he received the imperium maius. Because of these preparations, Augustus” death on August 19, A.D. 14, allowed for a peaceful transition of power to Tiberius. Nevertheless, short-lived unrest broke out in the legions on the Danube and Rhine, caused by the desire of the troops to proclaim Germanicus the Younger as emperor, and another possible claimant to Augustus” succession, Agrippa Postumius, was murdered under unclear circumstances.
Octavian and the Senate
Under Octavian the Senate ceased to be a legislative body, gaining legislative powers. The right of legislative initiative, however, was retained by the magistrates. The Senate also gained judicial powers. But the real power was concentrated in the hands of Octavian. Because the Senate still had the power to act independently, the emperor pursued a careful policy toward it. According to Michael Grant, “the ruler ruled the whole system single-handedly, without ceasing to pay lip service to the merits of the Senate. A new deliberative body, the consilium principis, which consisted of the consuls, representatives of other magistrates, and 15 senators, chosen by lot for six months, became very influential. It was this council that prepared the bills which the consuls presented to the Senate, making sure to mention Octavian”s approval of the initiative. In A.D. 13 this council was reformed: Tiberius, Drusus and Germanicus became advisers for life, and its decisions could have the force of law.
The emperor undertook several reforms that regulated various aspects of the Senate”s activities. Octavian paid a lot of attention to the quantitative reduction of the sprawling Senate. In the mid-40s B.C., Gaius Julius Caesar brought the number of senators to 900 and increased the number of junior magistrates, which allowed entry into the Senate. As a result by the beginning of Octavian”s reign, despite civil wars and proscriptions, there were more than a thousand people in the Senate (according to A. B. Egorov, there were about 800 people sitting there). In 29 BC Octavian together with Agrippa obtained the authority of censor and revised the list of senators, removing about 190 people. He soon reduced the number of quaestors from 40 to 20, which reduced the annual replenishment of the senate. Finally, in 18 B.C., he conducted a second revision of the body. Initially the emperor planned to reduce the number of senators almost threefold, from about 800 to 300 (such was the number of the Senate before the reforms of Sulla), but their determined resistance forced Octavian to limit the reduction to 600 people. Among those dismissed were many of the emperor”s opponents. Octavian placed himself first on the list of senators, thus becoming princeps of the senate. The property census for senators was raised to 1 million sesterces. In 11 B.C. Octavian abolished the quorum of 400 senators, and in 9 B.C. he passed a law revising the quorum and procedure for convening senate meetings. A separate quorum was established for different types of meetings, and high fines were imposed for unexcused absences. Different interpretations are made of the evidence that meetings were held twice a month, on the kalends (the 1st of each month) and ides (the 13th or 15th of the month). Some scholars (e.g. N.A. Mashkin) believe that the meetings were held only on those days, but, according to Richard Talbert, who examined the question in detail, the Senate could meet on other days, besides the Ides and calends, but attendance at these two meetings was obligatory. However, all the emperor”s attempts to improve the Senate”s attendance failed, and henceforth the emperor looked the other way. During the reign of the first emperor, Octavian forbade the senators to leave Italy with Sicily without special permission, and the minutes of the Senate sessions ceased to be published. Rather rarely did the emperor make concessions to the senators, and usually these were minor measures – for example, the entire front row of seats in the theater was reserved for them. The elimination of censors made membership in the Senate virtually for life, although unwanted ones could be expelled by the emperor. In addition, benefits for children of senators strengthened the hereditary nature of this estate.
As a result of Octavian”s reforms, the influence of the Senate on foreign policy, provincial administration, and finances decreased. After the emergence of the imperial treasury (fisca), Octavian continued to freely dispose of the money from the state treasury (eraria) as well. Senators could no longer influence the troops: at the beginning of the first century A.D. there was only one legion of regular army in the 13 senate provinces, and the emperor could interfere in the process of appointing governors and commanders of the troops in the senate provinces.
The attitude of the senate toward the ruler changed over the course of his reign. After defeating Antony, the Senate swore to support Octavian, to approve all his orders, and not to pass any laws against his will. But when the hopes of the senators for a rapid restoration of the Republic were not realized, and Octavian purged the body and began to concentrate all power in his hands, the mood changed. The role and influence of the senatorial opposition has been variously assessed. Particularly, N. A. Mashkin believes that hidden and evident opposition to the emperor especially increased to the end of his reign, when Octavian took it upon himself to regulate senators” private lives (see “Politics of restoration of manners”). On the contrary, A. B. Egorov concludes that the majority of senators gradually came to terms with the monarchy, Werner Eck points out that there was little opposition and senators preferred to withdraw from politics if they disagreed with the princeps, and Patricia Southern considers the opinion that the Senate opposition in Augustus” reign was too wide and exaggerated. Debates in the Senate, however, were often accompanied by verbal altercations, and ancient authors have preserved many examples of senators openly defying the emperor. Sometimes Octavian could not stand the heated debates and left the meeting. There were also other manifestations of dissent. Anonymous pamphlets, often insulting to the emperor, began to be burned in 12 A.D. and the authors were punished. Because of the inability to use legal methods of struggle for power, behind-the-scenes intrigues intensified, nepotism developed, and the most radical opponents of the emperor began to create conspiracies, often with the participation of senators. All of them, however, were uncovered, and their participants were severely punished, up to and including the death penalty. Although the tone of the opposition was set by representatives of influential families of the past, they were also supported by a number of novice senators who tried to imitate the mores of the nobility.
Octavian and the election of magistrates
Already early in his reign Octavian was nominating his supporters for most of the positions, and removing unwanted candidates from office. From A.D. 5 onward (lex Valeria Cornelia). (lex Valeria Cornelia) the voting procedure was finally reduced only to the approval by the people of candidates proposed by the emperor and previously approved by the richest centurions. In 7 A.D. Octavian appointed magistrates altogether. The new procedure of empowering the Romans as magistrates is no longer characterized as an election, but as an appointment. However, Arnold Jones believes that with few exceptions, the influence of Octavian on the outcome of the vote is exaggerated, and competition in the election of praetors and consuls remained, and for these places unfolded a real struggle. According to the British historian, the new laws against vote-buying indicated the persistence of a similar practice, very common in the late-Republican era, which would have been impossible under the decisive influence of the emperor”s opinion. Suetonius mentions that Octavian himself, on the day of the election, handed out a thousand sesterces to the Romans from the Fabian and Scaptic tribes (he belonged to the first by adoption, the second by birth) who came to vote, so that they would not accept bribes from candidates. The peculiarities of the social composition of consuls in 18 BC – 4 AD are interpreted either as a result of Augustus” purposeful policy of attracting the nobility to the government, or as a return to the traditional republican model of elections, in which the nobility for various reasons had advantages over the novices (homines novi). The view of relatively free elections, however, has not been seriously disseminated: Andrew Lintott, for example, considers elections under Octavian as a purely ceremonial procedure.
By preserving the election of magistrates and plebiscites (voting on bills), Octavian had a number of ways to get the desired result from the voters. Augustus”s authority was very strong because of the end of civil wars, the establishment of lasting peace, and the defense of Roman interests, which allowed him to use political and ideological leverage to influence the outcome of the votes. First, the emperor learned his lesson from Sextus Pompey”s rebellion and carefully monitored the supply of the capital, the disruption of which could have led to mass discontent. In 23 B.C., after difficulties with the delivery of food, he personally took control of the bread supply of Rome (cura annonae). Secondly, the ruler gave generous monetary distributions and organized gladiatorial fights and other mass spectacles. Finally, the emperor also demonstrated military strength. In Rome and its immediate surroundings Octavian kept personal bodyguards and the elite Praetorian Guard. In the case of disturbances in the capital, the Emperor could quickly call for help from Misen and Ravenna, where the two main bases of the fleet, or to arm about 200 thousand loyal veterans. As a result, the popular assembly never once acted in defiance of the princeps.
Roman foreign policy
Augustus” foreign policy, aimed at strengthening the power of Rome, was marked by both successes and defeats. In modern historiography the character of the princeps” foreign policy is assessed differently, from peacefulness to successive expansionism.
The emperor is not usually considered a talented general. After the victory over Antony, Octavian fought only once in person – in Cantabria in 26-24 B.C., but he did not finish it because of illness as well. This campaign ended only in the early 10s BC with the subjugation of the last independent tribes in the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula. From then on he entrusted responsible tasks to his relatives.
After defeating Spain and strengthening the economy after the civil wars, the expansion of the Roman Empire northward became a priority for conquest. In 25 and 17-14 B.C. Octavian”s subordinates, among them Tiberius and Drusus, conquered the Alps, whose passes provided a direct route from Italy to Gaul and Germany. The relevance of this direction was given by the frequent Germanic invasions across the Rhine into Roman possessions. After a major raid in 17-16 B.C., Octavian personally arrived in Gaul and began preparations for an invasion of the right bank of the Rhine. In 12 B.C. the offensive was led by his stepson Drusus, who by 9 B.C. had extended the borders of the Roman Empire to the Elbe. After the death of Druse, who received the agnomen “Germanicus,” the offensive was led by Tiberius. However, the Roman presence between the Rhine and the Elbe was rather nominal. At the turn of A.D. Lucius Domitius Agenobarb crossed the Elbe, in 1 A.D. Marcus Vinicius undertook a major operation against the Germans, but its details are unknown, and in 4-5 A.D. Tiberius defeated several Germanic tribes. At the same time the conquest of the Balkans was taking place. In 13-9 B.C. the Romans conquered the lands on the right bank of the Danube (the future province of Pannonia) and annexed them to Illyric, thus completing Octavian”s Illyrian War. The responsible task was assigned to Agrippa, and after his death to Tiberius. In the provinces of Africa and New Africa, the control of which was important for Rome”s grain supply, hostilities were fought (the generals celebrated several triumphs for victories over the surrounding tribes), but the details of almost all campaigns are unknown.
At the beginning of A.D. Augustus” conquering policy in the northern provinces encountered serious obstacles. In A.D. 6 the Great Illyrian Revolt broke out, barely suppressed by Tiberius by 9. Germany remained quiet during the Illyrian rebellion, but in A.D. 9 the Germans ambushed Publius Quintilius Varus”s Roman army in the Teutoburg Forest and defeated three legions. The defeat in the Teutoburg Forest shocked Octavian: according to Suetonius, the emperor did not cut his hair or shave for months and often repeated “Quintilius Vare, bring back the legions!” (Quintili Vare, legiones redde!).
Roman policy in the East was much more cautious and relied on diplomacy and trade. The only exceptions were the campaigns of Aelius Gallus against the Sabaean kingdom and Gaius Petronius against Ethiopia. The former ended in failure because of insufficient preparation for desert conditions. The war with Ethiopia was successful (the Romans captured the enemy capital), but Octavian made serious concessions to the Ethiopian ambassadors in order to preserve peace in Egypt. As a rule, the expansion of Roman influence in the East took place peacefully. In 25 BC the ruler of Galatia, allied to Rome, Aminta died, and the country became a Roman province. In A.D. 6, Octavian deposed Herod Archelaus, ruler of allied Judea. Judea was incorporated into the province of Syria as an autonomous province and became governed by a prefect of horsemen, like Egypt. The tribes of southern Thrace retained their independence, but all of northern Thrace was incorporated into the Roman Empire as the province of Moesia. Around 14 BC the pro-Roman ruler, Polemon I, was appointed the new ruler of the Bosporan Kingdom. From that time the Bosporan Kingdom supplied auxiliary troops to the Roman army, and its monetary system came under Roman control. After the death of Polemon, Octavian gave his widow in marriage to Archelaus of Cappadocia, to whom Pontus also went. Archelaus was also given power over Severe Cilicia and Little Armenia. The strengthening of Archelaus allowed the Romans to secure Asia Minor from a possible threat from Parthia. In many small states of Asia Minor, Octavian left power to previous rulers, even if they had previously supported Antony.
The key issue of Octavian”s eastern policy was relations with Parthia, the largest state in the Middle East, militarily and economically almost as strong as Rome. The struggle for the Parthian throne gave the Romans a chance to exploit the weakness of their strongest rival, but Octavian chose to remain neutral. Apparently this was due to the need for careful preparation for the war (Crassus and Antony had suffered defeat in Parthia), which was not possible immediately after the long civil wars. In the late 20s B.C. Octavian moved a large army led by Tiberius to Syria. The purpose of the operation was probably only to demonstrate strength, and at the first opportunity the Romans gave up the war in exchange for the return of the banners of Crassus” army and prisoners. Octavian, however, widely publicized his diplomatic success through the poetry of court authors, inscriptions and drawings on coins, and monumental construction; even the armor of Augustus of Prima Porta, the emperor”s most famous sculptural image, depicts a scene of the Parthian transfer of the trophy banner. In 20 B.C., ambassadors from India came to the emperor, who probably hoped to organize an alliance against Parthia. Octavian even concluded a treaty with the ambassadors, marking the beginning of Indo-Roman relations. In 10 B.C. Thraat IV sent his sons from his first marriage to Rome. Although kinsmen hostages were usually sent by vassals of Rome, Fraat was solving internal problems with this move, sparing his son”s marriage to the Roman Muse from possible infighting after his death. Around 7 B.C. Tigranes III, who had been enthroned by Tiberius” army, died in Armenia, and the throne was taken not by Artavazdes, the Roman protégé, but by Tigranes IV, who had an anti-Roman orientation. Octavian ordered Tiberius to settle the situation, but the heir refused the appointment and withdrew unexpectedly to Rhodes (see “The Problem of Succession”). In 2 B.C. it became known that Fraat IV died. The new ruler Thraat V supported Tigranes IV, which forced Octavian to send Gaius Caesar to the East with a large army. Nevertheless, an armed clash was avoided by a personal meeting between the Roman heir and the young Parthian king on an island on the Euphrates. As a result, a treaty of friendship was concluded between the Roman empire and Parthia, which proved to be very strong. The parties agreed to consider the Euphrates as the boundary of their spheres of influence, although Parthia recognized Armenia as Rome”s sphere of influence. Finally, during the reign of Octavian direct contacts with China were established: ambassadors of the Han dynasty came to Rome for the first time.
Octavian”s conquest policy relied on a reformed army. In his reign the civilian militia finally gave way to a regular professional army. Most of the legions that were in the ranks in 30 B.C. (about 50-70 legions), the emperor disbanded them with the provision of land, money, and, for provincials, Roman citizenship. The remaining legions were stationed in the peripheral provinces. According to different versions, Octavian left in the ranks from 25. In 14 B.C. Octavian disbanded several tens of thousands soldiers and gave them land, and in the following year he announced about replacement of land grants to veterans by money payments. A single term of service was also established – 16 years (it was later increased to 20 years). These events are considered the end of Octavian”s military reforms.
As a result of Augustus” reforms, the legions became permanent units. The command of the legions was entrusted to legates from the former quaestors (later praetors). Auxiliary troops (auxiliaries) also became regular and served for 25 years. Legionaries received for their service 225 denarii a year (centurions and tribunes received more), soldiers of auxiliary troops – 75 denarii. Each year the regular army took 20-30 thousand volunteers (Octavian had resorted to forced recruitment very rarely). However, at the beginning of A.D. the emperor was no longer able to recruit enough volunteers, and the introduction of forced conscription led to mass evasions: Suetonius mentions that one Roman cut off his sons” thumbs so that they could not be drafted. The first emperor also made regular the nine praetorian cohorts (known as the “praetorian guard”), subordinate directly to the princepsus and enjoying considerable benefits. Octavian also created a personal guard of at least 500 men, selected first from the Iberians of Calagourris (modern Calaorra) and then from the Germans. Presumably in 27 B.C. city cohorts were created to guard Rome, which from the beginning were subordinate to the emperor.
Under Octavian the permanent naval fleet was also established, with its main bases at Mizen and Ravenna. The principles of the recruitment of naval crews are unclear: traditionally the primary role of slaves and freedmen is assumed, but from the second half of the twentieth century a mass recruitment of free residents of the empire – both provincials and residents of Italy and the capital – is indicated. Among the captains of ships (trierarchs), however, there were also freedmen.
Octavian paid much attention to the organization of the provinces, both imperial and senatorial. The system of governing them as a whole did not change. However, since Octavian alone was governor of a number of provinces, he appointed a legatus pro praetore (legatus pro praetore) in each of them, each of whom was directly responsible for the administration of the territory entrusted to him. The exception was the emperor”s “personal domain”, Egypt: it was governed by a prefect appointed by the emperor from the class of horsemen. Senate provinces, as before, were governed by proprêtoros or proconsuls. They were assisted by quaestors, who in the era of the Republic were mainly concerned with financial matters. For the first time in Roman history Octavian took a census in the provinces, which had tax purposes. The system of taxation in the provinces was also revised (see section on economic policy).
Augustus spent a great deal of time in the provinces, sometimes absent from Rome for two or three years at a time. As a result, he visited all the provinces of the state except Africa and Sardinia. Among the purposes of these trips are said to be a desire to keep the viceroys from excessive plundering of the territories entrusted, and the population from rebellion, as well as an attempt to distance himself from the opposition-minded senate. The desire to create the appearance of restoring the Republic, where no one interferes with the senate and the people”s control of the state, is also suggested. It is unlikely that the emperor was driven by a desire to see the world, such as Hadrian in the early second century AD. Antique gossipmongers have cited another possible reason for the trips – the emperor”s desire for privacy with his mistresses. As a result of Octavian”s frequent travels, ambassadors from distant countries often had to look for the ruler in the provinces: in 20 BC the Ethiopian embassy met him in Samos, and five years earlier the Indian ambassadors had to come to the Spanish Tarracona to meet the emperor. Under Octavian”s successors the capital actually moved with the traveling ruler.
Even before his victory in the civil wars Octavian began the mass removal of colonies outside Italy, mainly along the Mediterranean coast of the Spanish, Gallic, African provinces (see “War with Sextus Pompey. Extension of the Triumvirate”). After the end of the Cantabrian wars Octavian, considering the possibility of a new revolt of local tribes, founded two large colonies of veterans in strategically important places – the cities Caesaraugusta (Caesaraugusta, modern Zaragoza) and Augusta Emerita (Augusta Emerita, modern Merida). During Augustus” reign many new cities and military camps appeared on the Roman-German border: Trier (Augusta Treverorum), Worms (Augusta Vangionum), Mainz (Mogontiacum), Maastricht (Traiectum ad Mosam) and others. Settlements also appeared in other regions of the empire, mostly near its borders and in potentially unstable regions. Some existing settlements (mainly in the less urbanized western provinces) were given urban status. To commemorate the victories at Actium and Alexandria, Octavian founded two Nicopolis (Greek Νικόπολις – city of victory, Niki) near the sites of these battles. For his active cultivation of the colonies and his patronage of the existing cities, Horace called Octavian “the father of cities” (pater urbium). (pater urbium). Not only Octavian”s soldiers were given land in the new colonies, but also the veterans of Antony”s army (although they were seated separately from the conquering veterans). Since many of the latter were from the eastern provinces, there were multicultural settlements: in Nemaus (now Nîmes), for example, Egyptian veterans, who tried to preserve their religion and culture, were given land among others. Most of the colonists, however, were from Italy. The veterans were eager to move into the provinces because, as full Roman citizens, they were privileged over the local population. The founding of the colonies and the granting of land to veterans in the provinces (mostly in the west) encouraged their Romanization and supported the economy with the emergence of many small landowners.
During Octavian”s reign there were serious changes in the sphere of money circulation. The emperor began a systematic minting of gold coins – aureus with a face value of 25 denarii or 100 sesterces (previously gold coins were made in Rome irregularly). The introduction of gold coins into the monetary system allowed the inhabitants of the empire to conveniently transact everything from real estate to food. Sestertii and dupondii began to be minted from orichalc (brass) – an alloy that occupied an intermediate position between bronze and silver. As a dictator, Caesar was faced with a financial crisis, caused in part by the lack of cash. Octavian”s conquests, especially the annexation of Egypt, and the beginning of regular minting of gold coins solved the problem of cash shortages in the economy. The massive injections of money into the economy during his reign, however, led to a spike in prices.
Silver and gold coins began to be minted outside of Rome under the direction of the emperor. The largest mint was Lugdunum (modern Lyon). Between 14 and 12 B.C. the Senate finally ceased minting silver and gold coins, and only small bronze coins, marked SC (Senatus Consulto), continued to be minted in the capital under its supervision. During Octavian”s reign, control over the manufacture of money became centralized, and the names of the monetaries (officials responsible for minting) gradually disappeared from the coins. The eastern provinces (primarily Egypt) retained their own coinage systems and independent minting centers for some time. The emperor frequently, though not permanently, put his profile on the obverse of his coins, while on the reverse he often put scenes from his life, received honors and portraits of his relatives. Finally, under Octavian, the coins became an important instrument of propaganda for the new power through the available symbols and slogans which were embossed on the coins. It is, however, incorrect to consider Augustus” entire monetary policy as propaganda: first, most people in the empire did not use gold and, to some extent, silver coins with varied and detailed subjects in their daily lives. Second, many large issues of coins had rather trivial images, and many striking examples of propaganda for the new power are found on coins issued in small numbers.
The emperor created a separate treasury, which received the revenues from the imperial provinces (fiscus). It existed in parallel to the state treasury controlled by the Senate (aerarium – erarium). In 23 B.C. he transferred control of the erarium to praetors instead of quaestors. In addition to the fiscus, Octavian administered a large personal fund (patrimonium), which was filled with personal property, income from conquests, estates, and inheritances. The emperor often interfered in the activities of the Erarium. However, during his reign there was no clear distinction between them: apparently, the fisk and the urarium were finally separated only under subsequent emperors.
In Octavian”s reign taxation was reformed. First, the princeps unified the system of taxation of the imperial provinces, and soon the taxation of the senate provinces was revised along the same lines. The most important innovation was the regularity of tax collection. Octavian abandoned the surrender of direct taxes to the public and transferred their collection to the individual communities. The general principles of the land tax (tributum soli) were unified, although its rates varied, and in some provinces it was levied in finished products. It is assumed that because of insufficiently developed market relations, peasants often paid taxes in products, which the state accepted at fixed rates and accounted for as payment in cash. Per capita tax began to be collected on a regular basis. The republican principle was maintained, whereby Roman citizens and holders of Latin citizenship were not subject to direct taxes. At the beginning of Octavian”s reign, Hellenistic tax systems were retained in some eastern provinces, but they were gradually superseded by taxation according to Roman rules. The emperor also took into account the interests of influential paymasters, reserving to them the right to collect some kinds of taxes, although the public was not allowed into the newly formed provinces, and their influence gradually declined. Trade between provinces was subject to duties, but they were small and did not interfere with Mediterranean trade. Octavian imposed a five percent tax on the emancipation of slaves and on inheritances. Finally, the emperor began to publish reports on the state of public finances (rationes imperii).
During the Imperial period money became widely used in all spheres of society, and Strabo, a contemporary of Octavian, already regarded barter as a “barbaric” method of exchange. As a result, the level of monetization of the economy of the Roman state was much higher both in comparison with the Republic era and in comparison with the Late Antique period. By the end of Augustus” reign it was already about half of GNP, according to modern estimates. Up to III century A.D. the monetary emission, being subordinated first of all to realization of state interests, did not create serious problems in functioning of economy. This is associated with the existence of some elementary, based on the experience of the monetary policy of the state, which allowed to maintain a single rate in a complex system of coins from four different metals, while not allowing a long deficit of cash.
The conquest of Egypt and the right to use harbors in southern Arabia allowed a direct sea route to India and many times more trade than in the previous period. Nevertheless, foreign trade did not play a major role: mainly luxury goods were imported from outside the Roman state. On the contrary, trade between the provinces met the needs of the population for grain, olive oil, wine and other consumer goods. The maritime trade flourished thanks to the establishment of peace in the Mediterranean and the eradication of piracy. The involvement of conquered territories in market relations, the restoration of major trading centers (especially Carthage and Corinth), the modernization of the road network, and the non-interference of the state in trade transactions contributed to the development of trade. During Octavian”s reign, Italy experienced an economic boom thanks to the mastery of new technologies and the opening of new industries, the opening of large markets and successful competition with the developed crafts of the eastern provinces. Increased exports greatly reduced Italy”s trade deficit. An additional factor in the economic prosperity of Italy was the development of the provinces: while the colonists had not yet mastered Italian technology and had not had time to plant perennial crops (especially grapes), many finished goods from the metropolis were exported there.
The development of trade benefited businessmen from all over the empire, with the main business activity moving from the capital to Italy and the provinces. At the same time, the free Italian peasantry experienced a decline because of the increasing role of slaves in agriculture and the constant distribution of bread in Rome, as a consequence of which the cultivation of grain in Italy became unprofitable. The problem of the weakening of the peasantry – the backbone of the Roman army in the Republican era – was recognized at the highest level, but the emperor did not take any real measures (Suetonius mentions the emperor”s plans to eliminate grain distributions precisely to support the peasantry, which he himself abandoned because of their futility). After difficulties in supplying the capital with grain in 23 B.C. Octavian for a time supervised the supply of Rome personally with the authority of cura annonae, and in about 6 A.D. he created a special post of prefect of annonae to direct this activity on a regular basis. At the same time he reduced the number of recipients of free bread from 320,000 to 200,000.
The policy of “restoring morals”
Octavian attached great importance to the restoration of public morality according to old Roman models. The idea of moral decay as the root cause of all strife and civil wars was widespread in Rome in the first century B.C. (one of the most famous popularizers of this idea was the historian Gaius Sallustius Crispus), and of the first emperor”s entourage such ideas were advocated by Titus Livy and, more assiduously, Horace.
In 18-17 B.C., Octavian enacted at least two laws governing Roman marriage. All men from the classes of senators and horsemen under the age of 60 and women under 50 were to be married, and senators were forbidden to marry the daughters of freedmen, no matter how wealthy they might be. The penalties for non-compliance were a ban on attending solemn events and restrictions on receiving inheritances. The law on adultery (lex de adulteris) was very severe: lovers of married women faced heavy fines and banishment, and the husband himself received the right to divorce his unfaithful wife through a simplified procedure. The husband even received the right to kill his lover without trial if he was a slave, a freedman of the family, or a gladiator or actor (these and some other professions were defined in the law as people who made a living with their bodies – qui corpore quaestum facit). However, bringing the wife and the lover to justice was not a right, but a duty: the man who for some reason did not denounce them, the law prescribed that he himself be prosecuted as a procurer. If a father caught his daughter with her lover, he had the right to kill them both without trial (although the law did not allow the lover to be executed and the daughter to remain alive). Men, on the other hand, could only be prosecuted for having an affair with a woman who was not a registered prostitute. The law of Papias-Poppaeus in 9 A.D. consolidated and clarified the provisions of the former laws (modern historians have no doubt that Octavian was behind this law). Henceforth bachelors were deprived of the right to receive property by will, and the childless could receive no more than half of the amount specified by the testator. Tacitus mentions that the practice of applying the law led to numerous abuses, and the second emperor Tiberius created a special commission to improve the situation. At the same time, the Roman historian notes that the birth rate has not changed much since the law was enforced. In addition to the measures mentioned above, the laws were amended and clarified in 11 B.C. and 4 A.D.
There is no consensus on the purpose of Octavian family law. The goals mentioned are the restoration of traditional foundations to stabilize the state, to gain an excuse to persecute opponents, and to replenish the treasury through fines. Purely demographic objectives are also considered – increasing the number of soldiers in the future and reversing the trend towards a higher proportion of provincial and freedmen citizens than natives of Italy.
Octavian family laws were extremely unpopular. The Romans tried to circumvent them by exploiting loopholes in the laws: for example, fictitious engagements to girls of premarital age, which were subsequently dissolved, became common, but allowed for about two years to actually remain single without being subjected to discriminatory legal provisions. The time for the restoration of traditional patriarchal marriage proved unfortunate: it was during Octavian”s reign that the emancipation of women accelerated, and the emperor himself was reproached that his own family was by no means an example of decency. Ovid, in his poem The Science of Love, directly parodied Augustus” family laws, which precipitated the poet”s exile to the distant Tomas (present-day Constanza). Another Augustus-era poet, Propertius, wrote in a poem to his beloved:
The policy of “correcting” morals was also expressed in the enactment of laws that restricted luxury. In 18 B.C. Octavian set very modest limits on spending on feasts. He soon issued laws restricting the use of rich materials in women”s clothing and the construction of overly opulent structures, including tombstones. As Tiberius again tried to limit spending on luxury, it is suggested that Octavian”s measures were ineffective. Octavian himself led a modest life compared to many of his wealthy contemporaries, although his daughter, for example, lived large lives.
The emperor”s religious policy, aimed at strengthening traditional Roman beliefs, is considered one of the most important activities of his “restoration of the republic. Octavian repaired or rebuilt 82 temples and sanctuaries in Rome, restored the augurian ceremony of divination for the prosperity of the state and people (auguris salutis), and obtained the right to raise families in the patrician class, thinning due to wars and natural attrition. In 12 B.C., after the death of Lepidus, Octavian became grand pontiff. Using his powers Octavian restored the important priestly office of flamen dialis (flamen of Jupiter), which had been left vacant after the suicide of Lucius Cornelius Merula in 87 B.C. In 2 B.C. he consecrated the temple of Mars Ultor at the Augustus Forum, where the Senate was to meet to discuss peace and war issues. The lupercalia and games in honor of the lari, the patrons of the crossroads, began to be played again. Restoring veneration for the latter, Octavian ordered that all the sanctuaries of the laras at the crossroads of the streets and roads be repaired and that his own images be added to them. Slogans to end wars and establish peace (pax Augusta) were widely promoted, and in 13 B.C. an altar of peace (ara pacis) was laid in Rome. In the Acts of the Divine Augustus, the emperor emphasized that during his reign the gates of the temple of Janus were closed three times, symbolizing the end of all wars. Finally, veneration of the deified abstraction Pax Augusta (“the world of Augustus”) was established, accompanied by annual sacrifices.
In addition to his position as grand pontiff, the emperor was a member of the priestly collegia of augurs, quindecemvirs, and septemvirs-epulons. When Octavian was in Rome, he participated in the performance of religious rituals and carefully observed the many injunctions for a great pontiff (for example, he avoided looking at the dead, even if he was present at the funerals of loved ones). He did not, however, move to the state house (domus publica) in the Forum, which was his official duty, but attached the sanctuary of Vesta with a perpetual fire to his house on the Palatine to circumvent the religious injunctions. The emperor”s attitude to foreign religions varied depending on the circumstances. Despite the fact that in 42 BC the triumvirs decided to start the construction of the Temple of Serapis and Isis in Rome, Octavian later stopped its construction because of the support of the Egyptian Cleopatra Mark Antony (the temple was completed only under Caligula). In 28 B.C. he forbade the practice of Egyptian cults in the capital, and after coming to power he demonstrated his disdain for the Egyptian gods as well. Using the powers of the great pontiff, in 12 B.C. Augustus ordered two thousand different prophetic books, very popular during the turbulent civil wars, to be burned, and he ordered an official edition of the prophecies of the Cum Sibylline to be sealed in the pedestal of the statue of Apollo of Palatine. Earlier, in 33 B.C., Agrippa (apparently at the behest of Octavian) had expelled magicians and astrologers from the capital.
Octavian associated his reign with the coming of a new, “golden” age. At first the Etruscan Wise Men, from whom Romans adopted the tradition of counting the Ages, declared the end of the previous, ninth century, the beginning of civil wars in 49 B.C. and “Caesar”s comet” in 44 B.C. But in 17 B.C. another comet appeared in the sky, and Octavian interpreted it as the true sign of the change of Ages, having organized the magnificent Secular (Centuries) Games. The beginning of the new age was promoted in particular by the court poet Virgil, who foretold the coming of an eternal golden age:
Horace, in the Epodes, also wrote about the coming of a new age, but his version was less optimistic.
Octavian regarded Apollo as his patron and promoted his cult in every possible way from the period of the civil wars onward. In particular, Octavian used divine associations to contrast himself with Antony-Dionysus. It is believed that the reason for choosing his heavenly patron was the similarity of Apollo to Vejovis, the patron of the Julii family, and Apollo”s tutelage of Aeneas, the mythical progenitor of that family.
The Cult of the Emperor and the Sacralization of Augustus
Under Octavian the cult of the emperor, rooted in the lifetime veneration of Gaius Julius Caesar, began to take shape. On January 1, 42 B.C., the senators who had survived the proscription proclaimed Caesar a god, which allowed Octavian to call himself the son of a god. The first steps toward organized veneration of the ruler were taken at the initiative of the senate and with the support of the people after the victory over Antony. The emperor”s birthday, the day of Antony”s death, the day of his return from the Egyptian campaign, and the dates of his victories at Navlokh and Actium became holidays, while Antony”s birthday (presumably, January 14) became a cursed day. At first Octavian was not worshipped on an equal footing with the gods, as manifested in the sacrifices: animals were still sacrificed to the gods, but only libations (bloodless offerings) were to be made in honor of Octavian”s genius (spirit). His name was included in all official prayers and oaths, as well as in the hymn of the priests-salves. Beginning in the fall of 19 B.C., games and celebrations, the Augustalia, began to be held in Augustus” honor. Soon bulls began to be sacrificed to the genius of Augustus. In 8 B.C., the month of Sextilius was renamed after Augustus. The original plan was to name September, the month of his birth, after the emperor, but in memory of his first consulate and his victory over Antony, the last month of summer was chosen for renaming. On 5 February 2 B.C. Octavian received from the Senate the honorary title of “father of the fatherland” (pater patriae or parens patriae).
Nevertheless, Octavian refused to accept the honors inherent only in the gods, apparently for fear of repeating the fate of his adopted father. Some historians deny the existence of an organized imperial cult during Augustus” lifetime, despite the unequivocal evidence of the sources. The cult of the emperor was promoted by his statues, which appeared in abundance in Rome – on the forum, in front of the temple of Mars the Avenger, in front of the Pantheon (Agrippa wanted to install a statue of the emperor inside the temple, among images of the gods, but Octavian refused), and also in 265 small chapels in the streets and crossroads of the city and other places. His images were often placed on coins (see Economic Policy), although earlier portraits of living men were very rarely minted on Roman money. According to W. Eck, Octavian “dominated the public space. At the same time, the emperor demanded that he be portrayed as young even in his old age, which contradicted the tradition of maximally realistic Roman portraits. As a result, there is not a single image of Augustus in old age.
The lifetime veneration of Octavian differed markedly in Italy and the western provinces on the one hand, and in the eastern provinces on the other. In the West there were only altars in his honor or in conjunction with the goddess Roma, while temples and numerous statues began to be erected posthumously. At the same time, Octavian inherited the attributes of power adopted in Egypt under the Ptolemies and ruled that province as their successor. Images of the Roman emperor in Egyptian technique have also survived. The Egyptian Greeks generally shared the indigenous view of the ruler-god and called him Zeus the Liberator (Greek Zεὺς Ἐλευθέριος ). Temples were also built in his honor. The first of these was probably the sanctuary of Antony, founded by Cleopatra, but completed and consecrated as the temple of Octavian. Subsequently the example of Alexandria was followed by other cities. The veneration of Octavian during his lifetime also developed in Asia Minor. Some cities began to keep a new chronology from his victories over Antony, others renamed themselves after him (in particular, several cities were named Caesarea) or gave him the honorary title of co-founder of their city. However, the emperor asked the Greeks to erect temples not in his honor, but only together with the goddess Roma, who symbolized Rome.
On September 17 A.D. 14, one month after his death, the Senate recognized Octavian as a god and established a state cult in his honor. This decision was based primarily on the Roman senator”s statement that he had seen Augustus” soul ascend to heaven and on other favorable signs. By analogy with Caesar, the deified ruler was called “divine Augustus” (divus Augustus). The new emperor, Tiberius, welcomed the veneration of his adopted father in every possible way. Soon a temple was founded in Octavian”s honor in Rome (Caligula completed its construction) and a college of senior priests (flamines) was established to administer his cult. The first Flaminus was Germanicus, and the priestess of the new cult was Livia. Another college of sodales Augustales was also organized from the most noble senators. Until the temple was completed Octavian was worshipped in the temple of Mars the Avenger, where his golden statue was erected. The status of the festivals connected with the life of the deceased emperor was elevated.
Construction activities. Improvement of Rome
Augustus divided Rome into 14 districts, decorated the city with numerous new buildings (imperial palace and forum, altar of Peace, mausoleum on the Champ de Mars, etc.). Augustus” intensive building activity is attributed to both ideological and economic functions (reduction of unemployment).
Octavian laid the ornate Forum of Augustus with the great temple of Mars the Avenger. During Octavian”s reign marble began to be actively used in the capital. The first structure built entirely of Carrara marble was probably the Temple of Apollo. Octavian laid down his future tomb (the mausoleum of Augustus) early (in the late 30s B.C., when he was about 30 years old), which was due both to his frequent illness and to his desire to oppose Antony, who wished to be buried in Alexandria. In 29 BC the curia of Julius and the temple of Caesar were opened in the forum. In 20 B.C. a column was erected there showing the distances to other cities. The emperor bought several houses on the Palatine hill at public expense and built on their place his own, rather modest house. On the island of Capri, which he had traded from the Neapolitans, Octavian laid out a villa.
Octavian paid much attention to civil engineering. During his reign many old roads were repaired and new ones built. Many public buildings were built under the supervision of Agrippa, whose building activities are thought to be closely connected with Octavian. In particular, the emperor”s associate built two new aqueducts and repaired several old ones, and built hundreds of cisterns and fountains. He repaired many of the capital”s streets, public buildings and the city”s sewers, and completed the construction of the Septa Julii, begun by Caesar. On the Field of Mars, Agrippa built large public thermae, an artificial lake, a canal and landscaped gardens, and set up a map of the world on the Forum. After Agrippa”s death, Octavian created a commission of three senators to oversee the condition of the public facilities (curatores locorum publicorum iudicandorum).
Some buildings at the beginning of Octavian”s reign were erected in the capital by triumphant generals after their return from conquest (in particular, Gaius Asinius Pollio built and provided books for the first public library in Rome). Under Octavian, however, the practice of granting triumphs to outsiders ceased, causing the construction of public buildings by generals to stop. The last major building erected by a triumphant general was the Balba Theater. After another major fire in Rome in 6 BC, Octavian organized seven cohorts of regular fire brigades (vigili) headed by a prefect of vigili instead of the former private brigades. In addition to putting out fires, the vigili also kept order at night.
In his youth Gaius Octavius was engaged to Servilia, daughter of Publius Servilius Vatius Isauricus. But in 43 B.C. Octavian broke off the engagement and sealed the conclusion of the second triumvirate by marriage to Claudia (Claudia) Pulchra, stepdaughter of Mark Antony, who had barely reached marriageable age. In 41 B.C., after less than two years of marriage, Octavian divorced her. According to Suetonius, “having quarrelled with his mother-in-law Fulvia, he, without touching his wife, let her go as a virgin.” His second wife was Scribonia, a relative of Sextus Pompeius (see “The War with Sextus Pompeius. Extension of the Triumvirate”). Their union was not happy and soon broke up. The dissolution of the marriage was precipitated by Octavian”s acquaintance with Livia, wife of Tiberius Claudius Nero.
Octavian”s only child was born to Scribonia, her daughter Julia. From his marriage with Livia the emperor had no children. In 2 B.C. Octavian exiled his daughter to the island of Pandataria, according to the official wording, for profligacy. Octavian had no native sons, and there were several potential heirs at different times (see “The Problem of Inheritance”). The final heir was his adopted son Tiberius.
Suetonius describes in detail the circumstances of Octavian”s death at Nola on August 19, 14 A.D., at the ninth hour of sunrise (about 3 p.m. by modern reckoning). According to a Roman historian, he asked his friends “if he had played the comedy of life well” and recited the couplet with which pantomime actors concluded their performances. The emperor”s last words were addressed to Livia. His body was brought to Rome and cremated on the Champ de Mars, and the urn with the emperor”s ashes was placed in a long-built mausoleum, where his relatives were already at rest. His main heirs under the will were Tiberius and Livia, his other adopted son – Agrippa Postumius – was not mentioned in the will at all, and about his own daughter and granddaughter he left only one instruction: not to bury them in his mausoleum. The will was accompanied by instructions for his own funeral, a report on the state of the state (not preserved), and a brief autobiography for placement in front of the mausoleum, which has survived to this day and is known as the “Acts of the Divine Augustus.
Octavian was able to draw on the experience of Caesar”s dictatorship to formalize his personal power and convince those around him that it was necessary and inescapable. The first century B.C., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century B.C., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., the first century A.D., and the second. Already in the first century B.C., Octavian”s reluctance to affirm the hereditary nature of the princeps” power predetermined crises in the transfer of the throne. The violent struggle for succession under Octavian”s successors led to the rapid extinction of the Julius-Claudian dynasty established by Augustus. Nero, the last emperor of the dynasty, committed suicide in 68, and 11 years later Augustus” last relative, Junia Calvina, died as well. Only after the civil war and a series of palace coups did the emperor of Nerva implement the program of stable transfer of power first proposed by Galba – the selection of an heir based on his personal qualities rather than his degree of kinship, followed by his adoption. Nevertheless, the power based on a combination of traditional positions proved to be quite stable and lasted until the establishment of an open absolute monarchy – the dominatrix.
Octavian reformed the army, apparently hoping to conquer first all of Europe and then the entire inhabited world. This plan failed, however, primarily because he underestimated the “barbarians,” as manifested in the revolts in Pannonia and Germany. In addition, the emperor completely centralized the leadership of the army, and his desire to eradicate all political activity of provincial commanders predetermined the lack of flexibility of the army. The emperor managed to keep the army under control, but under his successors it became an independent political force. An important achievement of the emperor was the cessation of civil wars, in consequence of which agriculture, crafts and the Mediterranean trade were strengthened. Octavian”s social support was very broad and the emperor himself did not favor either senators or horsemen or any other group of people. Finally, the establishment of the principate completed the transformation of Rome from a sprawling city-state, still governed by elected magistrates, into a world power with an incipient bureaucracy.
Later, after the reign of Trajan, the Senate wished all subsequent emperors to be “happier than Augustus and better than Trajan” (“felicior Augusti, melior Traiani”).
Octavian”s abilities as a ruler have been assessed in various ways, from recognizing him as an energetic and talented ruler to concluding that he lacked serious ability compared to both his adopted father and his talented contemporaries.
Octavian”s appearance is known from numerous extant statues. However, it should be borne in mind that the court sculptors departed from the traditional realism when depicting the emperor (see “The Cult of the Emperor and the Sacralization of Augustus”). According to Suetonius, Octavian was of short stature, but this was only noticeable in comparison to tall people. The same author mentions the testimony of the emperor”s secretary that he was five and three-quarters feet tall (about 170 cm), which was even higher than the average height at the time. Despite his average height, Octavian did not consider himself tall enough and therefore resorted to using overstudded shoes.
Pliny the Elder mentions that Octavian had pale eyes (the word he uses glauci could mean gray-blue, greenish, or light blue). Suetonius describes his eyes as bright and shiny, and also mentions that he began to see less well with his left eye toward old age. The color of his hair is also not entirely clear: the same author speaks of slightly curly blond hair with a golden hue, but Adrian Goldsworthy speculates that the ancient authors may have meant a color close to brown. Scientific analysis of the residual paint on the official statues of Octavian shows that he most likely had light brown hair and light brown eyes.
Character, habits, attitudes
Octavian was extremely superstitious. After lightning killed a slave walking in front of his stretcher, he became afraid of storms: he carried a seal skin with him (it was believed that lightning never struck this animal), and at severe thunderstorms he hid in an underground shelter. Dreams had a great influence on the emperor. Under the influence of prophetic dreams he fled the battlefield of Philippi, decorated the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol with bells, returned the statue of Apollo by the sculptor Myron to Ephesus, and every year he asked the Romans for alms. Suetonius even reports in general terms the statistics of dreams that came true – the emperor probably kept similar counts. Octavian believed in omens, auguries, and miracles, and by his own decision avoided starting any new business on the nones of each month (nonae is consonant with the word non – “no”, and in the ablative nonis is consonant with non is – “. Octavian was afraid of people with dwarfism and physical defects, although he once showed a certain Lucius who was two feet tall (about 57 cm) to the Roman public, and the dwarf Conop played with his granddaughter Julia. It is telling that Octavian did not hide his irrational fears from those around him. Finally, the emperor feared assassination attempts – for example, he ordered the torture (and supposedly even personally killed) of a Roman praetor, suspecting the writing tablets in his hands to be a cache for weapons; while revising the list of senators, he wore a shell and surrounded himself with his strongest friends.
It is known that Octavian slept poorly, waking up several times a night and rarely slept more than seven hours. In addition, the emperor did not like to get up early. As a result, the emperor often dozed off during the day, and in 36 B.C. he almost slept through the beginning of the battle of Navlokh. In hot weather Octavian slept in a room with the doors open or in the courtyard near the fountain, with a slave to wrap around him. During the day he tried to avoid the sun by wearing some sort of headdress. In winter the emperor wore a thick toga, several tunics, and wrapped his legs. Suetonius also preserved a description of Octavian”s gastronomic habits. According to the Roman historian, he ate little and took a snack every time he felt hungry during the day. The emperor preferred to snack on coarse bread, dates, moist cheese, small fish, cucumbers, lettuce, fresh and dried apples, and other simple foods. For dinners – quite simple for his time – he chose his guests carefully, but he came to the table late and left first, and sometimes dined before or after his guests arrived. He did not drink much by Roman standards, usually limiting himself to three goblets of cheap Rhaetian wine, and rarely drank more than one sextarium (about 0.55 liters). However, in the 1930s B.C., when Rome was experiencing food shortages, Octavian was accused of organizing a lavish dinner with a mock feast of the Olympian gods.
The emperor”s favorite pastime was dice, the main gambling game of antiquity. He played constantly, with relatives, friends and slaves, and often for money, sometimes losing tens of thousands of sesterces. He engaged in physical training and training with weapons until the end of the civil wars, and subsequently confined himself to ball exercises, walks and jogging. In addition, he loved to fish. The emperor collected unusual large animal bones and the armor of heroes. In contrast, he did not collect art objects that were popular with his contemporaries, although he was accused of being addicted to expensive Corinthian vases: allegedly, he even put people on proscription lists because of these vases.
Literary activities. Patronage of writers and poets
The emperor wrote quite a lot: a polemical work “Objections to Brutus on ”Cato””, “Encouragement to Philosophy”, a detailed autobiography “On His Life”, a poem “Sicily” and a collection of epigrams. He began to compose a tragedy as well, but he soon destroyed what he had written. All these works, except the tragedy, were known to his contemporaries, but have not survived. Only the Acts of the Divine Augustus (a brief autobiography carved in stone) and fragments of his correspondence, often quoted by Suetonius and Aulus Gellius, have survived. Unlike most orators of his time, Octavian did not waste time memorizing the texts of public speeches, but rather read them out. Octavian was an advocate of reflecting the oral norms of the Latin language in writing, as expressed in some deviations from orthographic rules. Suetonius, who had access to Augustus” autographs, reports that he did not separate words with spaces or transfer them to another line, attributing letters that did not fit. The Roman historian also recorded some favorite phrases and words frequently found in the emperor”s correspondence and writings. Like all educated contemporaries, the emperor knew the ancient Greek language, but he did not dare to write in it. He was well versed in Greek poetry and loved the classical comedians.
Octavian and especially his friends patronized the development of Roman culture, thanks to which the cognomen (the third part of the name) of the emperor”s closest associate, Gaius Cilnius Maecenas, became a household name. The reign of Augustus was the “golden age” of Roman literature – the works of Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Tibullus, Propertius, Titus Livius and others.
Although Octavian lived a long life by Roman standards, he was frequently ill. In his youth, unknown illnesses prevented him from participating fully in his uncle”s military campaigns and executing his commissions in the capital. Sources have recorded several cases of illness in adolescence, as well as severe ailments in 42, 33, 28, 26, 24 and 23 B.C. Subsequently, however, the emperor”s health slightly improved. Frequent attacks of acute pain forced the emperor to think often about death: this is probably why in his youth he began to build his mausoleum, to write his autobiography and to make plans for the state system in the future.
The reasons for the emperor”s frequent ailments are unclear. The ailment that occurred in the summer of 46 B.C. can be explained by the consequences of sunstroke: Octavius was engaged in organizing theatrical productions and was constantly present in the open-air theater. In other cases food poisoning, infection, and exhaustion may have been the causes. Dion Cassius explicitly attributes one of Octavian”s ailments during the Cantabrian Wars to overexertion. After his return from that campaign the emperor, according to Suetonius, began to have serious liver problems. This unknown disease of Octavian was cured or seriously relieved by a new physician, Antony Musa, who recommended cold compresses to the emperor instead of hot poultices. In addition, Octavian was often afflicted by a runny nose, and every year at the beginning of spring and autumn he experienced slight indisposition. Very badly the emperor endured heat and cold. Finally, in his old age he suffered from rheumatism and weakness in his legs and arms. Suetonius also mentions bladder stones.
Although attempts to make a diagnosis based on existing information have been unsuccessful, it is assumed that the seasonal health disorders and too frequent use of the skin scrubber are indicative of a kind of atopy, that is, a type of allergy. The emperor”s underlying ailment, however, has not been diagnosed. Because of the lack of visible symptoms and disappearance of pains in 23 B.C. some historians also admit the possibility of a fictitious nature of Octavian”s ailments: allegedly rumors about his frequent illnesses and the imminent death of the ruler may have caused his subjects to fear the onset of a new civil war.
The Image of Octavian in History
Octavian”s biography and his time are fairly well known thanks to the writings of a number of ancient authors. However, his detailed autobiography and the writings of his contemporaries have not survived (with the exception of Tiberius” crony Velius Paterculus, who adhered to the official view of the principate). Seneca the Younger regarded Octavian as a “good princepsus,” though he equated the title of princepsus with that of king. Tacitus did not cover Octavian”s reign (his Annals begins with the death of the first emperor), but mentions him repeatedly. Passing on the opinions of supporters and opponents of Augustus, he refrained from unequivocal assessment, but considered all his titles and positions as only a formality to cover up his sole power based on military force. The only positive example of an emperor for a Roman historian was Vespasian. Suetonius, the author of biographies of Roman emperors, avoided drawing independent conclusions, allowing the reader to form his own opinion of all the rulers. Nevertheless, Michael von Albrecht suggests that the very nature of the selection of facts indicates Suetovian”s appreciation of Octavian.
In the late Antiquity and Middle Ages, interest in Octavian was sustained not only by his political activities, but also by the birth of Jesus Christ during his reign. In particular, there was a widely known legend of the prophecy of the Sibylline of Tiburtium, who supposedly showed Octavian the Virgin Mary with the child in heaven, after which the astonished emperor worshipped her. Thus there existed different variants of the legend: either the episode took place during Augustus” attempt to declare himself a god, or the image appeared to him in a dream. Even the exact place of the action was named – the land on the Capitol, where the Church of Santa Maria in Araceli was later built. Other legends also appeared around the well-known ruler: for example, the Tale of the Princes of Vladimir in the early 16th century popularized a fictional genealogy that traced Rurik”s origins to Prus, the mythical brother of Octavian. Ivan the Terrible knew this legend and repeatedly referred to his kinship with Octavian in his correspondence and in diplomatic negotiations.
In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France the attitude to Octavian was ambivalent: many historians and publicists, especially supporters of the monarchy, glorified him, but there were also condemning opinions (Corneille, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Gibbon and others). One of the works in this spirit, the multi-volume History of Rome by Charles Rollin and Jean-Baptiste-Louis Crévier, was translated into Russian by Vasili Trediakovsky. This translation had a great influence on the formation of ideas about antiquity in the Russian Empire. Later the focus on the assessment of the famous ruler through the prism of events of his time was maintained. In the 19th century publicists – supporters of Napoleon Bonaparte saw Augustus as the predecessor of their idol. The majority of historians and publicists of this period considered the establishment of the Empire itself as an undoubtedly positive phenomenon, although they were not unanimous in their assessment of the first emperor.
In Britain in the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, parallels between the British Empire and the Roman Empire, between London and Rome, were popular and led to great interest in antiquity. Octavian”s efforts to strengthen the role of the native Roman population against the provincials, to rebuild the capital, and to colonize the provinces on a large scale were generally supported in modern times. In the second half of the nineteenth century, Britain”s fascination with the history of the late Roman Republic was replaced by an appreciation of the early Roman Empire and, above all, of the Augustan principate. Parallels with modernity were also drawn in other countries, most notably Italy in the 1920s and 1930s, and the bicentennial of Octavian was widely celebrated in Rome in 1937-1938. Benito Mussolini systematically referred to the history of the Roman Empire in public speeches and often mentioned Octavian, although he often resorted to using the image of Caesar.
A Study of Octavian”s Activities in Historiography
Many special works are devoted to the life and activity of the first emperor (see the “Main Literature” section). At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century the main attention was focused on the problem of the character of Augustus”s power. With the light hand of Theodore Mommsen the term “principate” was fixed in science, about the essence of which, however, there were discussions. Previously, the principate was considered either a classical monarchy, or a monarchy with a republican “facade”, but the German historian pointed out that the power of Octavian was based on a combination of proconsular and tribunal powers. Equating the principate with an extraordinary magistracy, Mommsen noted that this regime, unlike the dominate, was based on law. Mommsen explained the preservation of a functioning senate within the framework of the theory of “diarchy” – the dual power of the emperor and the senate. Theodore Mommsen”s point of view was very popular, although it gave rise to a number of reciprocal theories about the nature of Octavian power. In particular, Edward Meyer suggested that Caesar”s dictatorship was an attempt to establish an absolute monarchy along Hellenistic lines, while Octavian”s rule was an ideological continuation of the “principate of Pompey,” or a monarchical superstructure with the republican order still in place. Meyer associated the theoretical justification for the latter form of government with Cicero”s treatise On the State. Guglielmo Ferrero hypothesized that Octavian had restored the Republic, but that it was unable to function independently because of the decay of the Roman nobility, which forced Augustus to concentrate more and more power in his hands. E. Grimm suggested that in the absence of a written constitution, the nature of the power of emperors may have changed over time. In his opinion Augustus ruled Rome in a republican spirit, but Tiberius and Caligula had already laid the foundations for a true monarchy, and it was not until the reign of Hadrian that it finally took shape. Victor Gardtgausen departed from trying to explain the principate within legal discourse, concluding that Octavian was in fact an absolute power.
The historiography of the first half of the twentieth century emphasized the emperors” reliance on military force, from which conclusions were drawn about the typological similarity of the principalship first with European absolute monarchies and then with totalitarian regimes. Historians have also attempted to explain the nature of Augustus” power through the dominance of Octavian”s personal “party” and through auctoritas, an influence based on moral superiority. More popular, however, has been the “constitutional” theory developed by Mason Hammond. From the point of view of the American historian, Augustus” principate did not contradict republican traditions, which makes it possible to consider it a continuation of the Republic. An important work by Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution, was published in 1939, in which the author concluded that the Roman nobility was almost completely renewed during the reign of Augustus.