Who Am I?
The Ides of March, the day my father died.
There I was, off in Illyria getting ready to go on
my first military service with the man who was then my great-uncle,
Gaius Julius Caesar. My name at that time was Gaius Octavius. It was
pretty cold in Illyria in March, so I was in no good mood to start
with. Suddenly a messenger arrived to tell me that my great-uncle had
been assassinated on the Ides, and that I had been named his heir and
adopted in his will.
Back to Italy I went with my friend Marcus Agrippa
to claim my legacy and find out about the death of my (now) father.
From this time on I kept the name of my father, Julius Caesar. The
assassins, Brutus and Cassius and their crowd, soon fled, and I was
allowed to command my army by the Senate even though I was just 19
years old. I was also given special powers through an emergency
decree, and was actually elected Consul, the state's highest office,
that same year when the two other Consuls died in battle.
After pursuing and destroying the murderers of my
father, I held special "trimviral" power with Antony and Lepidus for
over a decade so the Republic could be restored to order. Eventually,
things between me and Lepidus, and then between me and Antony, became
violent. The wars with the assassins and with Lepidus and others were
In fact, Antony eventually took up with that
Egyptian witch Cleopatra, even though he was married to my sister.
There was another war, which lasted some years but which I pretty
much won with my decisive victory in the Battle of Actium (31
BCE). Although Antony and Cleopatra got away
from that battle, they soon committed suicide.
Those had been violent years (44-31
BCE). But now that my father had been avenged,
and the Republic had been restored to order, pretty soon the Senate
asked me to take some special names and powers (27 BCE).
For example, I received the name Augustus, which no one
had held before and by which I have mostly been known ever since: it
shows the respect that people had for me, and the influence that I
had even though I did not have any more specific powers than any of
the magistrates. I held lots of different offices, but rather than be
named Dictator or anything like that, I was called "Princeps" (First
Because of this, I could recommend things to the
Senate or the people and they would do them. This made it possible
for me to accomplish many good works, which I have given in detail in
my autobiography, which I called the "Res Gestae."
I'll just mention a few of these things here. For
example, I found Rome a city made of brick, but I have made it a city
of marble. I built or restored many temples and important public
buildings, like the Senate-House, the portico at the Circus
Flaminius, the basilica between the Temple of Castor and the Temple
of Saturn (Basilica Julia), and the Theater of Pompey. I also
repaired the aqueducts, and practically all the bridges in Rome, and
repaired the Flaminian Way from Rome as far as Ariminum on the
northeast coast of Italy. After I finished the new Forum that my
father had begun, which has a Temple of Venus (his ancestor) in it, I
also built a new one of my own, which has a Temple of Mars the
Avenger in honor of my victory over Caesar's assassins.
Lots of times I paid for gladiatorial games and
other kinds of shows for the people. One of these shows was an
exhibition naval battle that had 30 triremes or biremes and lots of
smaller ships and boats as well -- there were about 3000 fighters in
this exhibition. This battle was given on an artificial lake across
the Tiber River that was 1800 feet long and 1200 feet wide.
But by far the most important thing I did was
bring peace to the civilized world by eliminating civil wars,
suppressing the pirates, and extending the borders of the Empire in
every direction, including the addition of Egypt.
I lived a very long time, to my surprise and the
surprise of my enemies and friends as well. When I wrote my "Res
Gestae" I was already 75 (CE 14). It was not
always easy, though. I was sick a lot and often thought I was going
to die. For that reason I thought a lot about who should succeed me
as Princeps. For a while I thought of the young Marcellus, but he
died, and even of my friend Agrippa, who was competent and reliable
-- but he also died before me (Marcellus: 23 BCE, Agrippa: 12 BCE).
My wife Livia and I never had any children. Livia
had a son named Tiberius by her first husband, but I never liked him
and did not want him to be the Princeps, though Livia was always on
his side. I had a daughter Julia by the woman I was married to
before Livia, but of
course she couldn't be Princeps because she was a woman. Besides, she
caused me all kinds of grief with her wild carryings-on, and
eventually I had to send her into exile so people would take my moral
legislation seriously. She was married for a while to my friend
Agrippa, and their two sons Gaius and Lucius were my fondest hopes. I
gave them all kinds of distinctions, and promoted them early to
higher and higher offices so that everyone would know that I wanted
them to succeed me. But they, too, died young (Lucius: CE
2, Gaius: CE 4), and I lived on
with no heir in sight. A year ago, when I wrote my will, since a
cruel fortune had deprived my of my grandsons, I finally named
Tiberius my heir. At least this made Livia happy.
I hardly know what to say about Livia. We have been married for over 50 years.
We were both very young when we met, and a bit on the wild side. She was already
pregnant with Tiberius when we married. As we aged, we became more formal with
one another, to the point that we hardly communicated except by letter. She
has become venerable in her old age, and she shows no sign of slowing down.
She'll probably outlive me by 10 years or more.
This fictional recreation of Augustus is based on the ancient sources and
was composed by James
Ruebel, Ball State University