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Augustus Caesar

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AUGUSTUS CAESAR, first Emperor of the Romans. - Caius Octavius Coepius, afterwards surnamed Augustus, was the son of the Praetor Caius Octavius Rufus and of Atia, niece of Julius Caesar. He was born at Velitri Volscorum (now Velletri, in the Campagna di Roma) in October, 63 B.C., (year of Rome 691) under the consulship of Cicero. When only four years old, he lost his father; but his education experienced no neglect on that account; for in his tenth year he proved himself capable of making an oration to the people. This prince united first-rate talents to striking advantages of person and address. His relationship, too, to the illustrious Dictator (Julius Caesar), of whom he was from the very first a great favourite, secured to him an early training for public life, and introduced him whilst as yet a mere stripling into the highest society. In the year of Julius Caesar 's second consulate, 48 B.C. (year of Rome 706), he received the toga virilis, being then in his sixteenth year, and was soon afterwards admitted into the college of Pontiffs. In 45 B.C., returning to Rome with his grand uncle, whom he had joined in Spain, on a victorious expedition against the Pompeians, he was sent to Apollonia, in Illyricum, either to complete his civil education, or to receive practical instruction in the art of war amongst the legions there, or probably for both those purposes. The following year, being still at Apollonia, the tidings reached him of Julius Caesar 's murder; which caused him to return immediately from Illyricum to Rome. There, finding himself, by the will of Julius Caesar, adopted as the son of that celebrated man, he took the names of Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus. But on claiming the succession, he had to defend his rights as heir, against the opposition of Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius), and succeeded only after a turbulent struggle. - Octavian was only twenty years old when, in 43 B.C., he obtained the consulate, contrary to law, which required a much more mature age to be first reached. Then, pursuing with vengeance the assassins of his uncle, he was not long in uniting himself with Lepidus and Mark Antony, to form a triumvirate which, under pretence of re-constituting the republic (Reipublicae Constituendae), became a reign of wholesale cruelty and of proscriptive horrors. In 42 B.C., supported by Antony, he defeated Brutus and Cassius on the Thessalian field of Philippi. The next year he vanquished Lucius Antonius at Perusia. In 40 B.C., he gained a decisive naval victory over sextus Pompeius, whom he compelled to abandon Sicily. In 35 B.C., Octavian quarrelled with Antony, who had indeed given him cause by divorcing Octavian 's sister Octavia and marrying Cleopatra. The next three years were passed by Octavian in concerting his measures against that infatuated triumvir and, having assembled around his own banner all the legions of the East, he attacked and totally defeated his former colleague and only formidable rival, in a sea battle near Actium on the coast of Epirus, on the 2nd September, 31 B.C. The following year he proceeded with an army to Egypt and captured Alexandria. Antony and Cleopatra, deserted on all hands, brought their own hopeless affairs to a close, by each committing suicide; whilst Lepidus, indolently satisfied with descending again to a private station, left Octavian sole master of the enslaved republic. Next year (29 B.C.), having rendered Egypt a tributary province, he returned to Rome, and enjoyed among other honours and distinctions, those of a three days ' triumph - viz. for Dalmatia, for Actium and for Alexandria. It was then, that this fortunate despot caused the temple of Janus to be shut, it having remained open for the previous 205 years; and having, by these crowning victories, brought the whole world under the power, or within the influence, of Rome. He received from the Senate and People the designation of Imperator; not however in the former acceptation of the term as merely the general-in-chief of armies, but as a title indicative of supreme government - followed two years later, from the same authority, by the surname of AVGVSTVS. - See Augustus.

 In 28 B.C. (year of Rome 726) he was consul for the sixth time, with his son in law, Marcus Agrippa, for his colleague. A denarius which presents a fine head of Agrippa on its reverse, with the head of Augustus on the obverse, was struck on that occassion by Platorinus. The legend of the reverse is PLATORINVS IIIVIR M AGRIPPA. That of the obverse is CAESAR AVGVSTVS. The above cut is copied from an unusually well-preserved specimen of the coin, no less valuable for its historical interest than as a numismatic rarity. - See Agrippa.

That same year (28 B.C.) he caused the quinquennial ceremony of Lustral sacrifices and purgations to be performed; carried many laws; adorned the city with buildings; and repaired the public roads. This year also the Consuls took the census, at which the citizens numbered 4,164,000.

 In 27 B.C. (year of Rome 727), it being the year of Augustus ' expedition into Spain against the Cantabrians and Asturians, the gates of the Temple of Janus were re-opened. He returned to Rome from Spain in 24 B.C. and it is to the succeeding year that the coins are assigned, on which we read the date of the Tribunician Power (TRIBVNITIA POTESTAS) awarded to him by the Senate - " a dignity," says Millin, "that recalled to mind the high consideration in which the Tribunes of the People (Tribuni Plebis) were formerly held under the republic, and which, although not an honour of the first order, was also assumed by the successors of Augustus because it would have given too much authority to simple citizens." This title serves, with certain exceptions, to mark the years of their reigns. - See Tribunitia Potestas.

 In 21 B.C., during the absence of Augustus in Sicily, frightful tumults arose on account of the elections of Consuls. He therefore sent for Agrippa from the east, and, requiring him to divorce his wife, gave him his own daughter Julia, the widow of Marcellus, in marriage. The presence of Agrippa quelled the disturbances at Rome. From Sicily, Augustus visited Greece; thence he proceeded to Samos, where he passed the winter.

In 20 B.C. he went from Samos into the pro-consular province of Asia, and thence visited Syria; received from Phraates, king of Parthia, the military standards lost under Crassus, and the prisoners who had survived the slaughter of the legions in that fatal expedition; on which occasion, the following denarius was struck by one of his monetary triumvirs, Florus Aquillius. It bears on one side a radiate head, which if not that of Augustus (it has a palpable resemblance to his physiognomy), was probably meant for that of the Sun, as allusive to the East. The other side has the legend CAESAR AVGVSTVS SIGNis RECEptis and the type of a Parthian on his knees offering a military ensign.




 The same year Tiberius was sent from Syria into Armenia, which, with its king Tigranes, be brought under Roman yoke; and his successes are recorded on Augustus ' coins of this date, which bear the epigraph of ARMENIA CAPTA.

  19 B.C. Augustus returned from Asia to Rome, on which occasion the feasts called after him Augustalia, were celebrated to his honour. The same year, his son in law Agrippa suppressed rebellions in Gaul, Germany and Spain.

  17 B.C. In this year he adopted Caius and Lucius, sons of Agrippa; and celebrated the Secular Games (Ludi Saeculares).

  16 B.C. The insurrectionary hostilities of the Germani, who had obtained some successes over detachments of the Roman army under Lollius, induced Augustus to make a journey into Gaul and, about the autumn of the same year, Agrippa set out for the East. The two following years saw the emperor occupied with the personal administration of affairs in Gaul where (together with Spain) he founded several colonies, whilst Tiberius and Drusus brought the German and Rhaetian tribes into subjugation. Agrippa meanwhile quelled insurrections in the kingdom of the Bosphorus.

  13 B.C. Augustus returned from Gaul, and Agrippa from Asia, to Rome; and the Ara Pacis was erected in that city; but not dedicated until 9 B.C.

  12 B.C. The title of Pontifex Maximus begins with this year to appear on the coins of Augustus, the death of Lepidus the preceding year having left that office vacant. He sustained a great and irreparable loss in the death of the brave Agrippa. The following year, on account of the disturbed state of affairs in territories bordering on the Gallic provinces, Augustus again took up residence in them. But, in the year 10 B.C., peace being restored in Germania, Dalmatia and Pannonia, he, with his lieutenants, Tiberius and Drusus, returned to Rome. The latter, able and valiant commander, was sent in 9 B.C. to renew war against the Germans.

  8 B.C. Augustus, who, the year before, because of the death of Drusus on the banks of he lower Rhine, followed by a fresh insurrection of the Germans in that quarter, had once more, and for the last time, quitted Rome for Gaul, still remained there. This year the month Sextilis had its name changed to Augustus, in honour of the Emperor. And as the saviour of the citizens (OB CIVES SERVATOS) the oaken crown (corona quercea) was often after, as well as before, this period, decreed to him, and typified on his coins.



  7 B.C. Tiberius again sent to command in the German war. In his absence, Caius Caesar celebrated the Iudi votici for the return of Augustus.

  2 B.C. Augustus, at Rome, exhibited a naumachia, or representation of a naval engagement, and other magnificent public spectacles. He dedicated the temple of Mars Ultor; whilst the Senate capped the climax of their adulatory homage, by bestowing on him the title of PATER PATRIAE. Ovid, with the adroitness of a courtier, and more than the usual tact of a poet, alludes to the event, and addresses the Sovereign as the Sire of the Romans:-

Sancte Pater Patriae, tibi Plebis, tibi Curia nomen Hoc dedit, etc.

  1 B.C. Eckhel, according to the calculation of Dionysius Exiguus, names this year of Rome (753) as the one in which took place the nativity of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, Judaea. [Usher and other eminent chronologists reckon it to have been in the 749th year of Rome.]

  9 A.D. The time for celebrating the triumphal honours decreed to Tiberius for his victories over the Dalmatians and Pannonians deferred, on account of news received that Quinctilius Varus, with three legions, had been slain by the Germans under their chief Arminius. The Romans, by this overwhelming misfortune, lost all their possessions in Germany east of the Rhine. The grief of Rome, and of Augustus in particular, was very great indeed at this nationally humiliating disaster. In 10 A.D., Tiberius and Germanicus, to avenge the slaughter, made an attack on the Germans, but returned to Rome the same year.

  13 A.D. Now sinking under the triple burden of advanced years, bodily infirmities and domestic infidelities (his daughter Julia, convicted of manifold adulteries, had been banished to the island of Pandataria in 2 B.C.), Augustus associated Tiberius with him in the Tribunitian power, in order that the latter, whom he had adopted as his son and successor, might share with him the government of the provinces.

  14 A.D. -  Having attained his 76th year, Augustus caused the census to be again taken, when the citizens were 4,197,000. In the same year, despite his old age, he made a journey into Campania, but, at Nola, on his return towards Rome from Naples, he was seized by some disorder, which proved fatal. He died on the 19th of August. His remains were interred in the mausoleum, which had been built for him in the Campus Martius at Rome. He had ruled the republic (in conjunction with Mark Antony) for twelve years, and governed alone, as Emperor, for forty-four years.

  An instrument in the hands of an over-ruling Providence, for laying the foundation of manifold and decisive changes in the religious as well as in the social condition of the human race this extraordinary man, from the rank of a private citizen, had succeeded by the soundness of his policies, taking advantage of every favourable opportunity, and without being a great military commander, in becoming the head and chief of a universal empire. No sooner placed in this unsurpassed position of supremacy, the world at peace, and his government firmly grounded, than he thought, or seemed to think, only of effacing the memory of his past crimes by reigning on the general principles of justice, wisdom and clemency. Rome was increased and embellished by his munificence, and by that of the rich and illustrious citizens who, like Maecenas and Agrippa, emulated his example, both in architectural improvements and in the the establishment of useful institutions. It must be admitted that his adoption by Julius Caesar; the spiritless temperament of Lepidus; the mad folly of Antony and the treachery of Cleopatra were, more than manly courage or true virtue of character on his part, the stepping stones by which Augustus arrived at the highest summit of power. Yet, favoured as he was by circumstances and crowned by every species of terrestrial glory; beloved by his subjects, endeared to his intimate friends and prosperous in a reign of unprecedented duration, he was far from finding happiness in the bosom of his family. His wife, Livia, stood generally accused of having shortened the days of this great man, who, having no sons of his own, appointed Tiberius, his son in law, heir to the Empire.

  As Augustus was the founder of the Imperial government of Rome, it may be proper to recapitulate the dates of the different dignities successively bestowed on him, and which constituted the united prerogatives of that sovereignty which was transmitted by him to his successors. These dates will serve to class the coins of this eror, and are as follows :-

 As heir to the name of Caesar in 44 B.C., he caused himself to be nominated Consul. In 43 B.C., Triumvir [Reipublicae Constituendae] with Antony and Lepidus. (His effigy from that time appears on the gold and silver coinage of Rome, but later on that of bronze). This triumvirate, though it lasted no longer than 38 B.C., continued to be recorded on his coins until after 35 B.C.

  After the defeat, followed by the death, of Mark Antony in 29 B.C., he took as a prenomen the title of Imperator; accepted the title of AUGUSTUS in 27 B.C.; caused the Tribunitia Potestas to be inscribed on his coins, and to be calculated from the date of June, 23 B.C.; was invested with the Chief Pontificate in 12 B.C.; and finally was honoured by the imposing appellation of Pater Patriae (Father of the Country), by the Senate and People of Rome in the year 2 B.C.

  [It may be regarded as near the last mentioned date, that the rare Sestertius was struck, of which an engraving of the portrait side is placed at the head of this biography. The legend is CAESAR AVGVSTVS DIVI Filius PATER PATRIAE. The type represents the laureate head of Augustus. The altar of Lugdunum forms the type of the reverse. See Ara Lugdunensis.]

  The coins of Augustus are very numerous. On the earliest of them we read the title of IIIVIR, but on those of a later date, its place is taken by the names of Caius Caesar, Imperator, Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, Divi Filius, Pater Patriae. Ordinary gold and silver (with exceptions) are common. A gold medallion (see SICIL) found at Herculaneum, is unique. Silver and bronze medallions of foreign die, are rare. Sestertii and dupondii are common (with reverse of Agrippa, rare). Restored dupondii by Emperors, from Claudius to Trajan, rare. See Akerman, who observes, "towards the end of this emperor 's reign, the gold and silver coins are very beautiful, and the standard is of great purity." Numismatic Manual.

  "The medals of this politic ruler (says Capt. Smyth), are easily obtainable, and at a moderate price. Large brass ones, indeed, with the portrait, are difficult to procure, and are high priced according to their condition; but the smaller bronzes and solver are extremely common; for of the latter metal alone I have seen at least two hundred different reverses."

  Amongst the most curious types, in the fertile mint of Augustus, are those which represent the Temple of Janus shut (IAN CLV); the civic crown between the talons of the Roman eagle; the emperor himself in a quadriga on the top of a triumphal arch; the crocodile and legend of EGYPTO CAPTA, indicating the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra; Apollo Cytharoedus and Diana, in memory of the battle of Actium, where those deities were worshipped; the Parthians restoring the legionary ensigns; the Zodiac sign of Capricorn, under which Augustus was born; the Apex between the Ancilia; the Roman eagles; the portrait of his daughter Julia between the heads of Lucius and Caius, his adopted sons; the inscriptive tribute to his construction of public roads; his equestrian statue, etc. The medals struck after his death and apotheosis, bear the title of DIVVS AVGVSTVS and of DIVVS AVGVSTVS PATER. The radiate head is a sign of his deification : it is sometimes accompanied with athunderbolt and a star. A middle brass, minted to his posthumous honour by the Senate, exhibits, on the reverse, the figure of Livia as Ceres, with the legend of DIVA AVGVSTA. We see him also holding a patera, and in a temple. His portrait was afterwards restored on coins struck by Caligula, Claudius and other emperors. The colonial coins of Augustus, all bearing his "image and superscription," are numerous and generally common, but many of them very interesting. See DIVVS AVGVSTVS and DIVVS AVGVSTVS PATER.


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