Sunday, 14 June 2009


NAME Augustus. his full name was Gaius Octavius Thurinus until he was adopted (Julius Caesar in 44 BC. For the next seventeen years he was Gaius Julius Caesar. In 27BC he was given the name of Augustus meaning "venerable, grand, majestic," so until his death Augustus was known as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus.

WHAT FAMOUS FOR Roman emperor

BIRTH 63BC at Ox Heads, a small property on the Palatine Hill, very close to the Roman Forum in Rome.

FAMILY BACKGROUND Young Gaius lost his father, also confusingly called Gaius Octavius, when he was four. Daddy came from a respectable but undistinguished family of the equestrian order and was governor of Macedonia before his death in 58 BC. More importantly, his mother Atia Balba Caesonia was the niece of a certain Julius Caesar. In 45BC Augustus' Great Uncle Julius adopted him.
Once he became emperor Augustus claimed that he had been conceived through the divine intervention of the God, Apollo.

CHILDHOOD Young Augutus, like other Roman children, played marble games with nuts.

EDUCATION Augustus was learning the art of war with the army in Illyricum (Albania) when he heard Caesar had been killed and he had been named Caesar's successor.

CAREER RECORD Caesar's will caused a sensation when it came to light that the then Caius Octavian was named as his successor.
47BC Augustus' Uncle Julius had him raised to the college of Pontifices, a major Roman priesthood, at the age of 16.
44BC After the death of Uncle Julius, Augustus initially ruled in triumvirate with his brother-in-law Marcus Antonius Caesar (who is better known to us as that bloke Mark Antony who got friendly with Cleopatra) and Lepidus (who had been Caesar's master of horse). it was agreed that Augustus controlled the West, Antony the East and Lepidus Africa.
36BC Lepidus attempts to seize control of Sicily. Antony nips in and takes him captive.
31BC Augustus defeats Antony at Actium thus becomes sole leader and master of the Roman world. He waged war against Antony after discovering his brother-in-law's will contained provisions for Cleopatra and thus two-timed Augustus. From then on he exercised a presidential type rule with a kitchen cabinet which included his third wife Livia.
30BC Augustus received the powers of a tribune, thus giving him the veto and control over assemblies.

APPEARANCE Augustus had a full flock of yellowish curly hair with two pincer shaped locks over his right eye. He was five and a half foot tall, handsome with a serene expression. A Roman nose and complexion half way between dark and fair. (3) Suetonius recorded that Augustus was “unusually handsome and graceful.”

FASHION Once he became, emperor, Augustus was eager to re-establish traditional Roman values. He wore woollen clothes made by his wife to encourage women to return to their looms. In winter he wore no less than four tunics with a heavy woollen gown and beneath them a woollen chest-protector and woollen garters.
He decreed the compulsory wearing of togas in the forum.
Augustus wore a lot of purple coloured garments.

CHARACTER Augustus was cold, implacable and calculating. Presumably he was also venerable, grand, majestic, and august.

SENSE OF HUMOUR When a certain Roman noblemen died with huge debts, Augustus instructed his agent to buy at the estates auction the man's pillow. The emperor explained "that pillow must be particularly conducive to sleep if its late owner, in spite of all his debts, could sleep on it."

RELATIONSHIPS Augustus married three times. His first wife, Clodia Pulchra, was the step daughter of Mark Antony. they married for political reasons. Not much is known about their marriage and little information survives about Clodia. Their marriage was never consummated, and Augustus returned Clodia to her mother with a letter informing her that he was returning her in "mint" condition
Augustus wed his second wife, Scribonia, again for political reasons and basically he hated her. She was older than him by several years and the marriage didn't last long. Augustus divorced her due to her constant nagging, and because he wanted to get hitched to the lovely Livia Drusilla. Scriboia bore Augustus, only natural child, Julia. Her birth occurred on the same day as Scribonia's divorce from Augustus.
Augustus' third wife, Livia Drusilla (58BC – 29AD) was his one true love. Livia, (see bust of the lovely Livia on the left) who was formerly the wife of Tiberius Claudius, was beautiful, ruthless and a fashion icon. She was was well known for anointing herself with more oil than a piece of cod in a fish and chip shop. Augustus loved her but Mr Traditional Roman values also cheated on her. Livia bore him no children but she did bring to their marriage two sons, Tiberius and Drusus Germanicus (who served as a general under Tiberius), by a previous marriage. Drusus died during his reign, leaving Tiberius, to succeed Augustus. Livia lived to the grand old age of 71, which was exceptional in times when the average life expectancy was 45 years.
Augustus' daughter Julia was prominent as an adulteress, despite marrying the Roman general Marcus Agrippa. She lived in a highly extravagant and depraved life style so her father banished her in 2BC to the barren island of Pandateria and he never allowed her name to be spoken again in his presence. She never returned to Rome.
On the death of Augustus' second grandson in 4AD, (the other one died in 2AD) he adopted formally his stepson Tiberius and his friend Agrippa's son Agrippa Postumus.
Among Augustus' friends were the poets Ovid, Horace and Virgil as well as the historian Livy. In the YouTube clip Gaius and Lucius get a lesson in Empire from daddy in I Claudius, episode 1.

MONEY AND FAME Augustus lived a simple lifestyle, (well, relatively simple for a Roman emperor) and tried to restore agriculture in Italy.
He held lotteries to help finance building projects and to give away property and slaves during Saturnalian feats and other entertainments.
Roman rulers understood little about economics, and Augustus was no exception. Like all the Emperors, he over-taxed agriculture and spent the revenue on armies, temples, and games. Once the Empire stopped expanding, and had no more loot coming in from conquests, its economy began to stagnate and eventually decline. The reign of Augustus is thus seen in some ways as the high point of Rome's power and prosperity.

FOOD AND DRINK Famously sober, Augustus only drunk three cups of wine with his meal. (They would have been diluted with water).
Augustus didn't have a large appetite but was very fond of asparagus and originated a saying, "Quicker than you can cook asparagus.” In the Roman Empire asparagus was not only eaten in season but was dried for later use. Apart from asparagus the emperor preferred the food of the common people and his diet consisted of coarse bread, a little fish, cheese and green figs.

MUSIC AND ARTS As emperor, Augustus encouraged the arts especially literature. He was a friend of the poets, Ovid, Horace and Virgil and the historian Livy.

LITERATURE Augustus himself was a writer known for his simple and direct style. He published an account of his reign My Achievements, a much fatter tome than some of his successors.
His reign was known as the "Augustian Age", and a golden age for literature- Horace, Livy, Ovid, Virgil etc.
Augustus' mate Virgil was commissioned to transform existing fables into a coherent masterpiece supplying Augustus' Julian ancestry with a mythical warrant. Thus Virgil wrote The Aeneid.

NATURE His subjects would train birds which make complimentary greetings to his royal purpleness. Augustus would then bury them.

HOBBIES AND SPORTS Augustus was quite a weakling, chronic illness preventing him from exercising too much and marching with his armies. To him the words "run" and "fun" were opposites. Running was something to do when your enemy is chasing you with a knife.
He insisted on personally teaching his adopted sons to swim.

SCIENCE AND MATHS 1. I know its not really science or maths but Augustus renamed the 30 day month of Sextiles giving it the name of August to honour himself. He chose August as it had been his most successful month, in that month he had began his consulship, tamed Egypt and ended civil wars. Augustus took a day from February (which originally had 29 days every year) and added extra day to August so that his month would be on a par with July which had been named after Julius Caesar.
2. Augustus had a giant sundial built in 9BC with two feet truck marble slabs. Its face nearly covered three acres. It indicated hours , days and months of the year and direction of prevailing winds. Its hand was a 100 foot high Egyptian obelisk. After a few years the obelisk went out of time.

PHILOSOPHY Augustus was a strict adherent of Roman virtues in times of growing permissiveness, when divorce was prevalent and the institution of the family was threatened. He attempted to buck the trend by morality crusade, promoting marriage, family, and childbirth while discouraging luxury, "interbreeding," unrestrained sex (including prostitution and homosexuality), and adultery. It was largely unsuccessful (indeed, his own daughter was banished and subsequently perished due to it).
Augustus strongly supported the worship of Roman gods, especially Apollo, and depicted Roman defeat of Egypt as Roman gods defeating Egypt's. He sponsored Vergil's Aeneid in the hope that it would increase pride in Roman heritage. The emperor forbade his own deification as he didn't want to upset the upper class Romans, but willingly received all the marks of piety bestowed upon him.
Augustus is mentioned in the Bible in a clear example of a non-believer fulfilling God's will by issuing a decree that a census be taken of (Luke 2 v1) the entire Roman world. As a result Joseph and his family had to register at his home town of Bethlehem. Thus the prophecy about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem in the Old Testament book of Micah (Chapter 5 v 2) was fulfilled.
Augustus was not unfriendly towards the Jews and respected their worship and institutions.
He was very superstitious about putting left shoe on before right.
It could be argued that Augustus was a sort of early pope (bear with me) . As the head of the Roman state religion., he was given the title Pontifex Maximus (high priest), which is now used by popes.

SCANDAL Augustus' daughter Julia (see left) was a fixture in the Roman gossip columns. A blatant adulteress, she lived a highly extravagant lifestyle so her father banished to a barren island.

MILITARY RECORD After pacifying Spain and Gaul and annexing Egypt, Augustus' modus operandi in his later years was diplomacy rather than outright war. The final years of his emperorship, known as "Pax Romana," was the most peaceful period Rome had had in centuries. He did this by restoring unity and orderly government to the realm after nearly a century of civil wars. Also, Augustus bought the army into the 0th century by making it a profession with fixed pay and length of service and a permanent fleet.

Here's a very brief summary of his august military record:
After Augustus' naval victory in Actium in 31BC, where he defeated Antony at Actium, he conquered Cleopatra's Egypt and the kingdom of the Galatians in central Turkey.
And a tragic end:
9AD His three finest legions, 15,000 men, led by General Varus were annihilated in the Teutoburg forest, Germany by the German chieftain Arminus' men. As a result Augustus died a broken man. He refused to cut his beard of hair for several months and walked about muttering "Varus, give me back my legions".

HOMES A lover of architectural splendour, Augustus claimed "I found Rome brick and left it marble", referring to improvements to Rome during his time at the top. He imposed a height limit of 80ft on tower blocks within Rome.
Augustus built his mansion on Palatine Hill, from which came the word, "palace".
He had a summer villa on the Mediterranean.
DEATH d14AD after becoming ill en route to his summer villa. Unable to complete the trip Augustus stopped at Nola, his parental home, where his father had died 60 years before. His friends gathered round him, charioteering across from Rome. The dying emperor mumbled ">

APPEARANCES IN MEDIA 1. Augustus features in two William Shakespeare plays, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra.
2. Brian Blessed played Augustus and Sian Phillips Livia in BBC's 1971 adaption of Robert Graves' novel I Claudius.
3. Max Pirkis played Julius Caesar's adopted successor Octavian Augustus in the 2005-07 HBO series Rome. (See YouTube clip)

ACHIEVEMENTS 1. 31BC Augustus' total victory over Octavian heralded the end of the Roan republic and the beginning of the Roman empire.
2. Augustus introduced to Rome water system, fire brigade, a police force, professional army an efficient administrative system including gathering of taxes and reorganised the welfare system including the distribution of corn.
3. I know I keep going on about it.. but his reign inspired many purple passages amongst Horace, Livy etc.
4. His grateful subjects awarded Augustus the title "Pater Patriae" (Father of his country) and on his death made him a god (Divus Augustus)
5. Gave the world the month of August.

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