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The Characteristics Of Octavian History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Augustus, during the time of his reign as princeps of the Roman people, cultivated for himself an image of military prowess, generosity, virtue, and clemency. Octavian, before known as Augustus was thought to be one of the most important leaders in Roman history. His character as a leader, gangster and statesman was brought up through tough competition .Also being the adopted son of Julius Caesar, has brought up more character in him than before as he had to live up to people exception as next Caesar . Even historians today, when compared to his adoptive father Julius Caesar, Augustus, did more for the country than did him.

The characteristics of Octavian (later known as Augustus) quickly grew as more prominent political figure, just after the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. Octavian, although only 18 at the time, had little in the way of merit to go off of other than his relation to Caesar. He relied heavily on this connection which can be seen through various methods of propaganda which were heavily promoted at the time.

One of the chief methods propaganda used in ancient Rome both during and outside of this time period was through the public. This was done by introducing coins, games and also by improving standard of living which was done by construction of public building and monuments in his name. He created the denarii, a silver coin that made trade between different parts of the empire much easier. Trade also became faster when Augustus eliminated all taxed goods which merged the Roman lands into one large economy. He also created faster transportation between cities by roads. The last important contribution was setting up the civil service. These services were open to anybody of all ranks in the army and were made to work for a job as a slave. This institution took care of Rome’s grain supply, road repairs, the postal system, and all the other daily work of running the empire. Under Augustus great accomplishments and advancements which were made over the years has led Roman Empire to flourish.

Yet in researching Augustus, one must pose the question, was he truly a great leader whose true aim to love Rome and its people at the heart of his decisions or was it masterfully manipulating and achieving what he wanted? Or could it be possibly accomplish both? In many ways, Augustus has left a deeper imprint on the world than Julius Caesar ever did. Despite having an imperialistic approach, he understood the concept of institutions and democracy and drove them forward. Yet the man, Caesar Augustus, remains a figure of shadows that gets lost behind the details of his achievements and propaganda of the time.

Over the course of his career Augustus did much to manipulate his image in order to serve the needs of his country. He managed to sufficiently and relatively quickly gain power and restore peace to Rome. His image continued to morph and change throughout his life going through the extremes of relatively unknown, to ruthless vengeance-bringer, to the pious, just leader of a restored republic.

Another aspect is the way in which Octavian (later known as Augustus) was use of the army which led to important formations and maintenance of power. Octavian primary aim was to avenge traitor who killed Julius Caesar. He first gained the support of the senate by creating an enmity between him and Antony. This helped Octavian over time which helped him to become more popular .The popularity helped him to take revenge on Cicero and Brutus. Thus, Octavian formed an alliance with Marcus Antonius and Marcus Lepidus leading to the second triumvirate. The first actions by the members were to kill the great speaker and writer Cicero along with other senators and traitors. The next move was to avenge the murders of Julius Caesar mainly Brutus and Cassius. They defeated and killed Brutus and Cassius at the battle of Philippi in Macedonia in 42 B.C. The Second Triumvirate were now dominant in the republic, but this did not last very long. Next person who fell into Octavian’s list was Marcus Lepidus and Antony. Marcus Lepidus tried to overthrow Octavian, but failed and was stripped of his title. Octavian confined Lepidus to house arrest and Lepidus later died. This event has left Antony and Octavian to divide the whole empire which was under the control of the senate. Octavian assumed control of the Roman forces in the West and Antony controlled the Roman forces in the East. Inevitably, the battle for control of the whole empire between Octavian and Marcus Antonius was ensured. This battle would have become the largest civil war Rome had ever seen. Marcus Antonius was supported by the pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra as they prepared to land their forces and navy at the battle of Actium on September 2, 31 BC in an attempt to overthrow Octavian. The naval forces of Octavian, commanded by the General Agrippa, came to be victorious. “The Battle of Actium is thought of as one of the most decisive battles ever fought because it established Octavian’s position as master of the entire Greco-Roman world” .Octavian now had the funds from the conquest of Egypt to pay his army and he also had increased the size of his own army due to the defection of Antonius’; army to his side. Octavian was now the sole commander of Rome and returned to Rome in victory. 

The creation of a new image was a crucial step to change ‘Octavian’ to Augustus, who had committed some violent acts as a Triumvir and held power illegally. At the heart of this position in the state was laying the army. It had been a major player in the chaotic events of the Late Republic and it had carried Augustus to power. Concern for its proper maintenance and for the effective channelling of its loyalties was therefore one of the chief goals of the Augustan settlement. In achieving these goals, Augustus’s actions were a rousing success, since the army was tamed as a force in imperial politics for the better part of a century.

This proved that Augustus was triumvir and his participation in the butchery, has led many to think that this man would seemingly stop at nothing to achieve lasting political primacy. But, we have the seemingly seen that this man had become benevolent monarch which was seen as latter part of his reign, as he was hailed as pater patriae (father of the fatherland) in 2 BCE. We have the man from a very provincial Italian background who rose to control Rome, who passed a range of conservative laws on marriage and the procreation of the governing classes, yet who was also the man whom, as Suetonius reports “Not even his friends could deny that he often committed adultery” [1] . These dichotomies pivot around the 27 BCE. Octavian the ‘evil’ triumvir was replaced by Augustus, the benevolent leader of the (restored) Republic who ruled with “universal consent”

His rule was pre-destined and was viewed favourably by the Gods. He had a divine ancestry and all Roman history had been leading up to the new Golden Age of peace, prosperity, piety, morality and justice which he ushered in.

The image of Augustus changed significantly throughout his life. He started off as little more than the son of Caesar and he came to earn the respect and faith of his nation. He manipulated his image over the course of his life in order to be that which the people needed in order to believe in the future of Rome and a time or peace instead of civil war. He avoided the arrogant flaws of his father in favour of maintain the friendship of the senate but ended up just as powerful as the dictator.

As a long-term ruler, he established a new system of government that managed the image of his rule as part of strategy for success. Augustus must have been one of the single most successful manipulators of his own image as he stands as comparison to the spin-doctors of the modern political scene. He was a conservative father figure, shepherding the nation into a new golden age and a propagandist. Most of his rule was based on by creating, by design, and by trial and error which created a new system of government and as well as a new governing regime. Even though his power through Brutal force, yet one would claim his rule came with a universal consent.

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