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The Politics Of Caesar Augustus Essay

2608 words - 10 pages

The Politics of Caesar Augustus

In 31BC Augustus won the battle of Actium against his former colleague in the triumvirate, but now bitter rival, Antony and the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, after having been in the triumvirate since 43BC.

This immediately faced him with a grating predicament; he now sought to fit his own position, as sole remaining member of the triumvirate, with the old republican system. He had several problems, one of which was that all through the civil war with Antony he had portrayed Antony to be a tyrant and a ruthless man who wanted to rule Rome for himself, as a dictator. This was potentially what he had now become, and so he had several possibilities; to retire, which could lead to another civil war, and he was too ambitious to do this; or to acquire total autocratic power, and be open to the same fate as Julius Caesar. In fact his plan was to create an image for himself that presented him as a head of state who would rule alongside the senate.

Octavian was too ambitious to withdraw, and so claimed to escort the senate and the people of Rome to a liberated and peaceful empire, upholding the traditions that Rome stood for, and shrewdly responding to public judgment.

He first looked to the triumvirate, who had been granted full emergency powers in 43BC because Rome was considered to be in need of repair. This did not mean the abolition of the senate, its assemblies and magistracies were all kept functioning, but could only advise the triumvirate, and could be overruled by them at any time. Octavian held on to the full emergency powers at the end of the battle of Actium and then set out to resolve the problem of the "state of emergency."

He knew he had to keep the army under control at this time, so proconsuls (individual commanders) didn't have large amounts of control over Rome's forces protecting frontiers, knowing that they might turn their forces upon Rome as Julius Caesar did. On the other hand he didn't want to look like he had a military dictatorship because this would have angered traditional republicans. He solves this problem by placing friends of his in command of forces and limited their tenure to two years, so restrictions the threats that these frontier garrisons pose to Rome.

We can see here that he is charming the hearts of the people by buying, out of his own pocket and from the spoils of war, land for the soldiers that have fought for him in the civil war, also representing the lack of requiring of an army, and so marketing the peace, and also isolating himself from the way in which Julius Caesar gained his power (marching an army upon Rome). This is cutting down of legions from 60 to 28 is also an obvious sign of peace for Rome.

We can learn a lot about the first emperor of Rome from Suetonius' "The Twelve Caesars." In book 18 we can learn that Augustus wanted to convey the right impression when he started, so had to be seen doing the right thing directly after the battle of Actium....

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