Octavian Augustus

.. the naval battle of Actium and became sole ruler of Rome. He returned to Rome in 29 B.C.E and celebrated his recent victories against Antony. Although Octavian insisted that he had restored the Republic, Rome had finally become an empire. It was too large to be ruled by a group of people; it needed a strong central authority that could make quick, efficient decisions. In 27 B.C.E, Octavian made a bold and clever political move by declaring the Republican Government restored (Nardo 1994). To the public, this sounded sincere, but it was really a ploy to gain more power.

He immediately offered to resign from the position of consul, but the Senate, instead of accepting his offer, decided to give him the position of princeps, or first citizen (Coppolino 1997). The Senate also gave him the name Augustus, meaning revered one. The Senate knew that it could not accept Octavians offer to resign; he controlled a vast army and had tremendous personal wealth not to mention being the man who brought the civil wars to an end. The Senate decided to give Octavian control of the provinces of Gaul, Syria, Spain and Egypt. These areas had large numbers of troops stationed within their borders giving Octavian almost total military authority (Coppolino 1997).

In 23 BC, Octavian renounced his position as consul and became proconsul. He now had absolute control over the army without the administrative hassles of consul (Nardo 1994). Octavian was next granted the title of tribune of the people. Tribune was a very important position to Octavian. The Tribune was supposed to represent the citizens of Rome and had the authority to veto any laws passed by the Senate. Octavian now had all the political powers of an emperor without the hatred that came with the title.

To help run the empire, Octavian established an imperial household. The household ran the affairs of the empire and completed the various political tasks required by Octavian. He filled positions not only with former senators and statesmen, but also talented laborers and even an occasional slave (Nardo 1994). Octavians appointed men were much more efficient than the Senate. The household gained more and more power as time passed.

While the household managed the daily affairs of the empire, Octavian made it his duty to beautify the city. He once said that he had found the city in brick, and left it in marble. Octavian also organized fire and police brigades within the city (Coppolino 1997). Octavian reformed the tax system by taking a census to determine how much each province should pay in taxes. He used this extra money to improve roads and harbors, which in turn increased trade.

Although the Senate held little power, Octavian treated them with the utmost respect. Octavian addressed the Senators by their full names and attended any events he was invited to. Octavian was careful to consult members of the Senate before making political decisions, even if he held little value in their opinions. In these ways, the Senators remained happy with Octavian even as they gradually lost their power. Octavian became more and more powerful by becoming pontifex maximus, the religious head of state, in 12 B.C.E and pater patriae, or father of the country, in 2 B.C.E (Drinkwater & Drummond 1993).

Octavian held strong beliefs in traditional Roman religion. He restored over 80 temples and passed strict moral laws that mirrored older Roman values. The return to traditional values was influential in uniting the empire. With his position solidified, Octavian set about on yet more reforms of government. He cast out Senators that he deemed unworthy and filled their spaces with provincial governors and army commanders.

Octavian had by now changed the government exactly to his liking. He knew that his system would remain strong for many years to come. When Octavian died in AD 14, his achievements seemed remarkable, and they would only become more remarkable as time passed. One thing Octavian had not prepared well for was who would succeed the emperor. Octavian had adopted his stepson Tiberius and made it clear he would be his successor but could anyone govern as well as Octavian had? Tiberius, although highly experienced and a superb commander of troops, did not have the personal touch of Octavian (Drinkwater & Drummond 1993). Tiberius left Rome and lived on the island of Capri where he maintained his power as emperor, but was the target of many rumors and plots back in Rome. Caligula was the next to become emperor. However, like Tiberius he was a disappointment. Caligula focused more on the personal benefit provided by being emperor rather than improving the empire.

He was eventually murdered in AD 41. After the disappointments of Tiberius and Caligula, there was much talk of truly restoring the Republican Government. The emperors personal bodyguards, known as the Praetorian Guards, quickly found a replacement emperor before the talk could proceed (Drinkwater & Drummond 1993). They chose Claudius, an uncle of Caligula, to become the next Roman emperor (Hadas 1969). Claudius was successful in managing the government but his personal life was marred with unstable marriages. Claudius son, Nero, was the next to succeed and his reign was disastrous. A devastating fire in AD 64 was rumored to have been started by the emperor simply so he could win praise for rebuilding the city. When Nero committed suicide in AD 68, it brought an end to Octavians line (Nardo 1994).

The empire, however, was far from finished. Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who won the support of many troops soon, emerged as the next emperor (Hadas 1969). His two sons succeeded him and returned peace and prosperity to the empire. The Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, was a time of great prosperity for all people under Romes rule. Roman citizens enjoyed the spectacles of the gladiators in the coliseum and the comedies performed at the many theatres (Hadas 1969).

The Romans are attributed with the development of concrete, which enabled them to build large structures such as aqueducts. As Rome grew into the primary world leader, its Republican government was falling apart. The Senate was ineffective because it had no control of the vast armies that provided power. Conservative Romans who believed strongly in the Republic would immediately target a strong general who took sole control. Rome was in need of a solitary, powerful leader.

Octavian skillfully turned himself into an emperor without suffering the fate of his great-uncle, Caesar. He controlled the army, and managed to please the masses. Once in the position of power, he changed the government not only to benefit himself, but also to benefit the Empire and ultimately the people. This structure was so strong, that it could survive through weak emperors such as Caligula and Nero and major problems like who the next emperor should be. Octavian was so influential that eventually the Romans did not care that they were no longer a Republic. They knew that with Octavian, they could become the greatest empire in the world.

American History.

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