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Rise and Fall of Empires



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    The Emperor Augustus

    27 BC-AD 14


    The first and perhaps greatest of the Roman emperors, Augustus ended a bloody civil war, ruled with wisdom and power, and united and kept peace in Rome for many years.

    Augustus was born with the name "Octavian." Well educated in philosophy, rhetoric, and military skills as a boy, he was adopted by his uncle Julius Caesar and became his heir. When Caesar was assassinated, Octavian raised an army to claim his inheritance and avenge his uncle's murder. At the battle of Actium in 31 BC, he defeated the last of his opponents, Mark Anthony, and took control of Rome.

    Return to "Roman Empire" Chronology

    To legitimate his power, the Senate named him Imperium proconsulare maius infinitum in 23 BC, which gave him control over the provinces and the army. He saw taking control as the only way to sustain the empire. Even though it was a nominally a republic, he ran it as an autocracy. He acted in the name of the Senate, and the Senate reflected his will to keep people satisfied that the government was working together.

    Augustus also kept the people satisfied with their leader and proud of Rome. He built temples to encourage and place importance in Roman religion. He was a patron of the arts, gladly spending money to improve the artwork of Rome, and encouraged the wealthy class to do the same. To improve the moral climate of the empire, Augustus tried to revive the traditional Roman religion. He also tried to fortify the traditional Roman family by established laws which punished adultery and required marriage and the remarriage of widows.

    To more effectively govern the empire, he developed an imperial civil service. To more effectively govern the city of Rome, he divided it into 14 wards, and organized a bureaucracy to control them. The Urban cohorts were his police force for the wards, and either senators or Augustus himself served as ward leaders.

    The military was probably the focal point of his leadership. He had a great military mind, and used his military strength well. He organized the military with himself at the head, and used it to control the frontier regions of the Roman empire as well as invade new countries. Among his claims made include Spain, Gaul, Egypt, and Armenia. He also signed a peace treaty with Parthia, showing he used wisdom as well as aggression.

    Augustus died with honor, and was remembered well by his people. He gave Roman control to his stepson Tiberius for he had no other living male offspring. He was a great leader for the Roman empire. His wisdom and intelligence benefited the people of his empire, for he was a strong as well as fair ruler.


    Garnsey, P. and Saller, R. The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture (London; Duckworth, 1987).

    Grant, Michael. History of Rome. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ; Prentice Hall, 1978).

    Millar, Fergus. The Emperor in the Roman World (31 BC-AD 337). (London; Duckworth, 1977)

    Starr, Chester. The Roman Empire, 27 BC-AD 476: A Study in Survival. (Oxford; Oxford Univ., 1983)

    Edited by: Meredith L. Oliver
    Researched by: Darren J. Hekhuis
    Written by: David A. Nelson
    October 9, 1997

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