Augustus (Octavian)


Augustus (Octavian)
(63 BC–14 AD)
   First Roman emperor. Original name Caius Octavius. Son of Caius Octavius and Atia and great-nephew of Iulius Caesar who adopted him in his will. He used his adoptive father’s name and his own political skills following Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC to become one of the rulers of the Roman world, alongside Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Marcus Antonius. Augusttus eventually forced Lepidus’s resignation and clashed with Antonius and his ally Cleopatra VII, whom he defeated and drove to suicide in 30 BC. He then annexed Egypt as the personal property of the emperor, forbidding any senator to go there without imperial permission and putting Egypt under the control of a prefect. His rule restricted the rights of the native Egyptians and refused to recognize the use of the Egyptian language in official documentation. Augustus was considered pharaoh by the Egyptians, and his name appears in cartouches with the prenomen autocrator, the Greek equivalent of imperator, his official Roman designation.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier
* * *
Roman Emperor 27 BC-AD 14
    Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus took the title of Augustus when he became the sole ruler of the Roman empire in 27 BC; he was its first emperor and, as the political and legal heir of Julius *Caesar, his achievements were outstanding. Augustus probably feared the power enjoyed by Mark *Antony in the East, centred on Egypt, and he focused considerable attention on a propoganda war against *Antony and Queen *Cleopatra VII, accusing Antony of debauchery and treachery to Rome. This hostile verbal attack was followed by military action when he declared war on *Cleopatra and *Antony; he defeated them at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and pursued them to Alexandria, where they committed suicide rather than submit to defeat and the humiliation to which he would have subjected them. Octavian ordered that Ptolemy Caesarion (*Cleopatra's son by Julius *Caesar) should be killed, but he allowed the children of Mark *Antony and the queen to survive and to rule Egypt nominally for eighteen days before he took over on August 31, 30 BC. Egypt then became a *Roman province and lost all independence. Unlike other major Roman provinces, which were governed by the Roman Senate, Octavian created a special status for Egypt so that it became subject only to the Emperor who nominated a Prefect to govern it; the first of these was Cornelius Gallus (30-29 BC). Augustus visited Egypt only on the occasion of conquest in 30 BC, but he introduced wide-ranging reforms there. Egypt now became a Roman possession and the pattern of government which Augustus established continued in operation for some three hundred years. Many of the *Ptolemaic administrative measures were retained but there were also important new measures such as the imposition of Roman law.
    Augustus had enhanced the city of Rome and he spared Alexandria from destruction, apparently because he admired its size and beauty and greatly respected its founder, *Alexander the Great. Indeed, under Augustus, the city was enlarged and the suburb of Nicopolis, which had an amphitheatre and a racecourse, was added. The Caesareum (a great temple begun by *Cleopatra to honour Mark *Antony) was also completed, although its use was changed to a place where the divine cult of the Caesars was performed.
    As pharaoh, Augustus preserved the fiction of his role as Egypt's religious leader, the divine offspring of the gods. He is represented making offerings to the sacred Apis-bull, and he made additions to a number of Egyptian temples including the Birth-House and the Temple of Isis at Denderah, and temple wall-scenes at Philae which show him offering to the gods. His power as the god-king was also emphasised in Nubia with the foundation of a temple at Kalabsha dedicated to the local god Mandulis, and of a temple at Dendur. The first Prefect, Cornelius Gallus, marched south to pacify the district around Thebes, and the Roman policy was to establish their presence and emphasise their influence as far south as possible. Augustus inaugurated Roman rule in Egypt and left a well-established province there. Although his policies provided stability and economic growth, they removed from Egypt the last vestiges of its independence as a kingdom and reduced the country to the status of Rome's granary.
BIBL. Syme, R. The Roman Revolution. Oxford: 1939, 1952.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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