Octavian Augustus Octavian Augustus By Derek Jeter Octavian Augustus (63 B.C.E-14 AD) is known as the first, and one of the greatest, Roman Emperors ever. Octavian enabled the long, peaceful time of the Pax Romana by changing Rome from a fragile, crumbling republican government to a mighty empire. Octavians government was strong enough to withstand weak emperors who mismanaged the Empire. His changes proved to be the cornerstone of the greatest empire the world has ever seen. During the Conflict of Orders, the lower class Romans, or plebeians, forced the upper class Romans, known as patricians, to give them more rights and liberties (Hadas 1969). The Republican government in Rome was established to satisfy the plebeians, while still leaving a majority of the control with the patricians.
The government consisted of three main parts: the senate, the assemblies and the magistrates. The Senate was a group of former state officials, usually patricians, who acted as advisors, controlled public finances and handled all diplomatic dealings with other states (Hanes 1997). The assemblies were the various public meetings where citizens voted on laws and public office (Hanes 1997). Magistrates were the elected officials who put the laws into practice. The most important of these magistrates were the consuls. The two consuls each elected for one year acted as the chief executives of the state.
Censors were also very important magistrates. Censors were elected every five years to take a census and record the wealth of the people. Censors also had two other very important jobs. The first was to appoint candidates for the Senate and the second was to award contracts for government projects (Hanes 1997). As time passed, the Romans also began to elect other magistrates called praetors. Praetors acted as judges but could also fill in for the Consuls when they were away (Hanes 1997). The Republic first started to lose power in 133 BCE Tiberius Gracchus and his brother Gaius were the leaders of a campaign to help the landowners/soldiers of Rome (Hanes 1997).
The brothers tried to redistribute the public land of Rome to small farmers. The Senate, however, feared that the brothers were trying to take power away from the government. They ordered mobs to kill the brothers and hundreds of their supporters. The Gracchis efforts were the beginning of the Roman Revolution (Hanes 1997). In 107 B.C.E, a popular general named Marius was elected consul.
Because of his military background, Marius was interested in improving the army. He started to accept anyone into the army regardless of whether they owned any land. This created a vast change in the makeup of the armies. Many poor people decided to join in hopes that they would benefit financially from any victories. Soldiers became attached to Roman generals rather than the state because of the possible economic gains (Hanes 1997).
The governments separation of the army would prove to be a major problem. Laws could only be enforced if The Republic controlled the armies. When the army followed a general rather than the government, the government lost all power. In 90 B.C.E, Roman allies in Italy finally rebelled against the city. The allies were angry that they were not considered citizens of Rome. They had benefited little from Roman expansion even though their citizens had served in the military.
After a very bloody campaign, the Social War, as it was called, eventually ended when the allies were defeated. The Senate, however, decided to grant citizenship to the allies (Hanes 1997). This move expanded the Roman State to all of Italy. As the number of citizens grew, The Republic became harder and harder to manage. During the Social Wars, one general, Lucius Cornelius Sulla proved to be very successful in battles. Based on this military success, Sulla was elected consul in 88 BCE After completing his term, Marius tried to stop Sulla from taking any military command.
Sulla countered by marching his troops on Rome (Hanes 1997). Civil war broke out. Sulla led his troops to victory and became dictator. After killing many of his opponents, Sulla tried to change Rome back to its days of Republican government. When he felt he had accomplished his task, Sulla retired to his farm in the country.
Sullas brief reign as dictator did not prove helpful to the Republic. Instead, Sulla had shown the power and opportunity that a dictator possesses. Though he didnt intend to, Sulla had moved Rome one step closer to becoming an empire. Three men who would vie for this power: Gauis Pompey, Julius Caesar and Licinius Crassus. These three formed the First Triumvirate, or rule of three men, by dominating Rome with their personal armies (Drinkwater & Drummond 1993). When Crassus later died, Caesar defeated Pompey and became Romes sole leader (Hadas 1969).
In 44 B.C.E, the senate declared Caesar dictator for life. But, he was murdered later that year by a group of senators hoping to maintain the Republic (Drinkwater & Drummond 1993). The Triumvirate had shown that a large Senate was not needed to successfully govern Rome. The assassination did not help the Republic because within a year, three more men had come to power: Marc Antony, Ledipus and Octavian. They were to form the Second Triumvirate.
Octavian was born on September 23, 63 B.C.E (Coppolino 1997). His great-uncle was Julius Caesar and therefore he had many political connections in Rome. Octavian was favored by Caesar from an early age (Coppolino 1997). In 48 Caesar had his fifteen-year-old great-nephew elected to the priestly college of the pontifices, and he also enrolled him in the hereditary patrician aristocracy of Rome: (Quote from: Coppolino 1997) Octavian joined Caesar in 46 B.C.E on campaign against Pompey in Spain. Later, Octavian was sent to Apollonia, on the coast of Greece, to attempt to finish his education.
While in Apollonia, Octavian trained with Roman legions stationed there. (Coppolino 1997) Only months after arriving in Apollonia, Octavian learned that Caesar was murdered. He also learned that he was named as the beneficiary in Caesars will and had been formally adopted as his son. The will thrust tremendous power on Octavian. He was now the leader of a great army ready to follow the commands of Caesars heir.
Octavian used this army to occupy Rome and force the Senate to make him consul. Marc Antony, who had been consul with Caesar, was now forced to create the alliance with Lepidus, a high priest, and Octavian. The three leaders divided the land that Rome had conquered. Antony controlled the East and Octavian the West. Lepidus controlled Africa. The leaders led a ruthless campaign to punish Caesars assassins but soon turned on each other. Octavian first attacked Lepidus and took control of Africa and all of Italy.
Antony strained relations between Octavian and himself by divorcing Octavians sister, in favor of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Finally, in 31 B.C.E, war broke out between Octavian and the combined forces of Cleopatra and Antony. Octavian defeated his foes at …