Augustus: Rome's Powerful First Empire

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Julius Caesar
Ancient Rome

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Part 1: The Early Years

Octavian, more commonly known as Augustus Caesar, was one of Ancient Rome's most influential figures, beginning his life as a humble great-nephew of Julius Caesar and ending his life as Rome's first emperor.

Born in the city of Rome in 63 B.C., Octavian grew up with his mother and stepfather (his father having died when Octavian was just 4). His mother, Atia, was Caesar's niece; his stepfather, Lucius Marcius Philippus, claimed Alexander the Great as an ancestor. Octavian followed in his father's family's footsteps, pursuing a military career. 

His first wish was to fight in Spain, fighting alongside Caesar in the civil war with Pompey; however, Octavian contracted an illness that saw him bedridden for a time. Once he recovered, he set out for the front. Not even a shipwreck could stop him as he swam to shore and then crossed hostile territory to meet up with Caesar, who was so impressed, one source says, that he allowed his young great-nephew to share his carriage. The two got on rather well, and Caesar eventually named Octavian his heir.

Octavian didn't know that he was Caesar's heir. After Caesar's victory over Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus, Octavian went to Illyria for more military training. When he learned of Caesar's murder, he traveled closer to Rome proper, where he learned of his inheritance. He set about collecting some of the inheritance money and convincing some of Caesar's soldiers to pledge their loyalty to Caesar's heir.

He arrived in Rome two months after Caesar's death and set about gaining supporters. He soon came into conflict with Marc Antony, Caesar's most trusted lieutenant. The ensuing power struggle ended in an uneasy truce, which took the form of the Second Triumvirate, in 43 B.C. This three-member "government" also included Lepidus, Caesar's deputy dictator, and (unlike Caesar's First Triumvirate) had the full consent of the Senate.

Next page > Struggle for Supremacy > Page 1, 2, 3

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