Caesar Augustus

Emperor

Born: 63 B.C.
Died: 14 A.D.
Birthplace: Ancient Rome
Best known as: The first and greatest Emperor of Rome

Name at birth: Gaius Octavius

The greatest ruler of Rome, Caesar Augustus was a conundrum: a ruthless politician and soldier who used his power to restore order and prosperity to Rome with such success that his reign (27 B.C. to 14 A.D.) became known as the Augustan Age. Born Gaius Octavius, he was named as the adopted heir of his great uncle Julius Caesar in Caesar's will. (At this point Octavius changed his name to Julius Caesar Octavianus; in his own era he was called Caesar, though in modern accounts he is usually called Octavian for clarity.) After the murder of Caesar in 44 B.C., Octavian formed an uneasy alliance with Julius Caesar's fellow soldier Marc Antony and the general Marcus Lepidus, an alliance known as the Second Triumvirate. The three spent several years conquering their common enemies, but Octavian and Antony finally turned on one another after Antony formed a political (and romantic) alliance with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Octavian defeated the combined forces of Antony and Cleopatra in the naval battle of Actium (31 B.C.) and became the absolute power in Rome. In 27 B.C. the Roman Senate added to his adopted name of Caesar the title Augustus (meaning "divine" or "majestic"). As emperor he expanded the borders of Rome and took a particular interest in civic and cultural affairs, building temples and theaters, improving aqueducts and supporting poets and historians like Virgil and Ovid. Augustus died in 14 A.D. and was replaced by his stepson Tiberius, the son of Augustus's second wife Livia.

Extra credit: The Augustan Age is also known as the Pax Romana -- the peace of Rome... The eighth month of the Gregorian calendar, August, bears his name... Later Roman emperors included Claudius and Constantine the Great... Augustus appears in a famous Biblical passage about the birth of Jesus Christ: "And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed."

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