The image of Octavian 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 favor of maintain the friendship of the senate but ended up just as powerful as the dictator.
After the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC Octavian, his adopted son, quickly became a prominent political figure. 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 coinage. Shortly after the murder of Caesar and almost immediately upon his deification a series of coins went out featuring the sidus Iulium and often bearing the phrase ‘Caesar divi’ and typically referencing the Julian’s descent from Venus through Aeneas.
Octavian seized on his father’s deification and began incorporating these symbols into his propaganda. Octavian, like Caesar used the imagery of Venus and Aeneas on his coins, which automatically recalled to the minds of the people his relation to not only Caesar but his relation to the hero of old and his divine mother through Caesar. (Zanker, 36) At this time Augustus was placing the comet of Caesar around Rome, especially on statues of Caesar. By also including the sidus Iulium on his coins the relation between the two was, again, made immediately clear. A final way in which his relation to the divine Caesar was made known was by declaring himself the ‘divi filius’. This, especially when combined with the sidus Iulium, was a particularly vivid way to invoke Octavian’s great lineage, a matter which greatly concerned him in the future. (Zanker, 34-35)
While establishing his connection to Caesar was particularly important to him, he also recognized the importance of establishing himself as a worthy leader in his own right. The primary way this was accomplished was through a series of statues that were put up ‘under official auspices’. The first statue which was erected within a year of Caesar’s demise was a gilded equestrian statue that was meant to stand next to the rostra. This statue presented him as a worthy military leader, especially as the grandeur of it was meant to rival the grandeur of the equestrian monuments of such military greats as Caesar, Pompey, and Sulla, despite the fact that he had never lead an army before. (Zanker, 38)
Octavian did go on to become a formidable military leader. The opening sentence of Augustus’s Res Gestae is ‘In my nineteenth year, on my own initiative and at my own expense, I raised an...