Julius and Augustus Caesar

Julius Caesar was a famous Roman general and dictator in the time of the late Republic (around 50 B.C.). His adopted son Octavian would become the first emperor of Rome. Both men came from an old noble family of patricians and possessed great wealth and power. Their rules marked the time when the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire.

While Julius Caesar was famously assassinated by a group of senators on the Ides of March (March 15th), 44 B.C. for wanting too much power, Octavian was renamed Augustus ("the Great One") by the Senate, and he ruled for more than 40 years.

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
(from BBC)

Caesar was a politician and general of the late Roman republic, who greatly extended the Roman empire before seizing power and making himself dictator of Rome, paving the way for the imperial system.

Julius Caesar was born in Rome on 12 or 13 July 100 BC into the prestigious Julian clan. His family were closely connected with the Marian faction in Roman politics. Caesar himself progressed within the Roman political system, becoming in succession quaestor (69), aedile (65) and praetor (62). In 61-60 BC he served as governor of the Roman province of Spain. Back in Rome in 60, Caesar made a pact with Pompey and Crassus, who helped him to get elected as consul for 59 BC. The following year he was appointed governor of Roman Gaul where he stayed for eight years, adding the whole of modern France and Belgium to the Roman empire, and making Rome safe from the possibility of Gallic invasions. He made two expeditions to Britain, in 55 BC and 54 BC.

Caesar then returned to Italy, disregarding the authority of the senate and famously crossing the Rubicon river without disbanding his army. In the ensuing civil war Caesar defeated the republican forces. Pompey, their leader, fled to Egypt where he was assassinated. Caesar followed him and became romantically involved with the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra.

Caesar was now master of Rome and made himself consul and dictator. He used his power to carry out much-needed reform, relieving debt, enlarging the senate, building the Forum Iulium and revising the calendar. Dictatorship was always regarded a temporary position but in 44 BC, Caesar took it for life. His success and ambition alienated strongly republican senators. A group of these, led by Cassius and Brutus, assassinated Caesar on the Ides (15) of March 44 BC. This sparked the final round of civil wars that ended the Republic and brought about the elevation of Caesar's great nephew and designated heir, Octavian, as Augustus, the first emperor.


Augustus Caesar (with baby Cupid (to symbolize
his family's connection to the goddess Venus)
Augustus (Octavian) Caesar
(from BBC)

Augustus was the first emperor of Rome. He replaced the Roman republic with an effective monarchy and during his long reign brought peace and stability.

Augustus was born Gaius Octavius on 23 September 63 BC in Rome. In 43 BC his great-uncle, Julius Caesar, was assassinated and in his will, Octavius, known as Octavian, was named as his heir. He fought to avenge Caesar and in 31 BC defeated Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium. He was now undisputed ruler of Rome.

Instead of following Caesar's example and making himself dictator, Octavian in 27 BC founded the principate, a system of monarchy headed by an emperor holding power for life. His powers were hidden behind constitutional forms, and he took the name Augustus meaning 'lofty' or 'serene'. Nevertheless, he retained ultimate control of all aspects of the Roman state, with the army under his direct command.

At home, he embarked on a large programme of reconstruction and social reform. Rome was transformed with impressive new buildings and Augustus was a patron to Virgil, Horace and Propertius, the leading poets of the day. Augustus also ensured that his image was promoted throughout his empire by means of statues and coins.

Abroad, he created a standing army for the first time, and embarked upon a vigorous campaign of expansion designed to make Rome safe from the 'barbarians' beyond the frontiers, and to secure the Augustan peace. His stepsons Tiberius and Drusus undertook the task (Augustus had married their mother Livia in 38 BC). Between 16 BC and 6 AD the frontier was advanced from the Rhine to the Elbe in Germany, and up to the Danube along its entire length. But Drusus died in the process and in 9 AD the annihilation of three Roman legions in Germany (out of 28 overall), in the Varian disaster, led to the abandonment of Germany east of the Rhine.

Augustus was determined to be succeeded by someone of his own blood, but he had no sons, only a daughter, Julia, the child of his first wife. His nephew Marcellus and his beloved grandsons Gaius and Lucius pre-deceased him, so he reluctantly made Tiberius his heir.

Military disaster, the loss of his grandsons and a troubled economy clouded his last years. He became more dictatorial, exiling the poet Ovid (8 AD), who had mocked his moral reforms. He died on 19 August 14 AD.

This map shows how Julius Caesar's conquests expanded the Roman territory
This map details the military campaigns of Julius Caesar, with a close up of his victory against his enemies at Pharsalus 
This map shows the expansion of the Roman Empire after the death of Julius Caesar until its height in 117 A.D.







This coin on display in the British Museum shows Brutus on one side and a freedom cap with daggers on the back


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