Ancient History Essay on the Rise of Octavian
Discuss the rise of Octavian
Gaius Octavius was born in 63 BC, the year of Cicero’s consulship, into a wealthy and respected family (Octavii) from the countryside south of Rome. With his birth, the future of the Roman Empire was radically changed. He was to become one of the most powerful men the world has ever seen, using his wit and ruthlessness to achieve the ultimate positions in the Roman Empire…becoming ‘tribunicia potestas’ and ‘imperium maius’. Having these powers Augustus had virtual control over the entire Roman Empire, and after changing his name to Augustus legitimately achieved these positions. So how did he do it? Octavian’s entrance into politics, his campaigns against the republicans and Mark Antony will all be discussed in this essay. On the 15th March 44BC Brutus, Cassius and approximately 50 other senators murdered Julius Caesar by stabbing him to death. The motive of the murdering was to restore the Republic from the autocratic rule of Julius Caesar. Octavian did not learn that he was Caesar’s adopted heir until he returned to Italy. Despite the council of his parents not to challenge Antony and the senate, he pursued his intentions of avenging his father’s death, and to prove himself worthy of such a father as Julius Caesar and to possibly surpass his achievements to become the ‘Leader of Rome’ legitimately. Octavian knew the importance of having the support of the people of Rome so he was obliged to honour his father’s legacy and pay each man 75 denarii. This won him great popularity, and when he followed it up with games (honouring Venus Genetrix) at his own expense, his standing with the people was increased even further. During the games a comet appeared as recorded in Augustus’s Res Gestae, “On those very days of my games, the comet was seen for seven days in the region of heaven which is under the Great Bear. It would rise at the eleventh hour of the day and was evident to all the Earth. The common people believed that the comet signified the soul of Caesar being received into the divinities of the immortal gods, to name his was added, with a distinguished likeness of his head consecrated by us soon afterwards in the Forum”. Octavian suggested that Julius Caesar was a god and that the comet was Caesars soul going to the heavens. Not only did this honour the memory of Caesar but it was a very clever political move. Through this suggestion Octavian says (without saying it) he is the son of a god, a demi-god. This boosts his popularity with the people once more. Antony’s behaviour towards Octavian probably was not due to his belief that the young man was a serious political rival for leadership of the Caesarians; it was more likely ‘that Antony had been irritated at Caesars favouritism towards his young relative and acted out of bad temper’. If this was indeed the case, Antony had severely underestimated Octavian. Octavian temporarily collaborated with the republicans because Antony was threatening the safety by attacking Decimus Brutus in the north of Italy. Octavian, at his own expense and with his own army along with two of Antony’s Macedonian legions, marched north to attack Antony and to destroy him. The two consuls Hirtius and Pansa ‘assisted’ and accompanied Octavian and acted as supervision of Octavian. After the defeat of Antony at Cisalpine Gaul; both consuls died/were killed which conveniently left Octavian in sole command of the legions. The senate and Cicero had now made a serious mistake. Assuming they were now free from the threat of Mark Antony, they attempted to discard Octavian by electing others into the leading positions such as M. Brutus being the eastern provinces along with Cassius. Antony’s military force had been greatly strengthened by Lepidus and other leaders from Spain and Gaul. Octavian now realising that if Antony were defeated the Republicans would gain complete control over the State. This would make it difficult to...
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