Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Ancient World

ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.


The epics of Homer, the wars of Caesar, and temples and palaces characterize the image of classic antiquity and the cultures of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. They are the sources from which the Western world draws the foundations of its philosophy, literature, and, not least of all, its state organization. The Greek city-states, above all Athens, were the birthplace of democracy. The regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and great parts of Northwest Europe were forged together into the Roman Empire, which survived until the time of the Great Migration of Peoples. Mighty empires also existed beyond the ancient Mediterranean world, however, such as those of the Mauryas in India and the Han in China.


Alexander the Great



In Focus:


753 B.C. - fourth century A.D.


Roman emperors

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)




Augustus (Augustus Caesar) 27 BC–AD 14
Tiberius (Tiberius Caesar Augustus) 14–37
Caligula (Gaius Caesar Germanicus) 37–41
Claudius (Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) 41–54
Nero (Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) 54–68
Galba (Servius Galba Caesar Augustus) 68–69
Otho (Marcus Otho Caesar Augustus) 69
Vitellius (Aulus Vitellius) 69
Vespasian (Caesar Vespasianus Augustus) 69–79
Titus (Titus Vespasianus Augustus) 79–81
Domitian (Caesar Domitianus Augustus) 81–96
Nerva (Nerva Caesar Augustus) 96–98
Trajan (Caesar Divi Nervae Filius Nerva Traianus Optimus Augustus) 98–117
Hadrian (Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus) 117–138
Antoninus Pius (Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius) 138–161
Marcus Aurelius (Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus) 161–180
Lucius Verus (Lucius Aurelius Verus) 161–169
Commodus (Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus) 177–192
Pertinax (Publius Helvius Pertinax) 193
Didius Severus Julianus (Marcus Didius Severus Julianus) 193
Septimius Severus (Lucius Septimius Severus Pertinax) 193–211
Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus) 198–217
Septimius Geta (Publius Septimius Geta) 209–212
Macrinus (Caesar Marcus Opellius Severus Macrinus Augustus) 217–218
Elagabalus (Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus) 218–222
Alexander Severus (Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander) 222–235
Maximinus (Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus) 235–238
Gordian I (Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus) 238
Gordian II (Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus Africanus) 238
Pupienus Maximus (Marcus Clodius Pupienus Maximus) 238
Balbinus (Decius Caelius Calvinus Balbinus) 238
Gordian III (Marcus Antonius Gordianus) 238–244
Philip (Marcus Julius Philippus) 244–249
Decius (Gaius Messius Quintus Trianus Decius) 249–251
Hostilian (Gaius Valens Hostilianus Messius Quintus) 251
Gallus (Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus) 251–253
Aemilian (Marcus Aemilius Aemilianus) 253
Valerian (Publius Licinius Valerianus) 253–260
Gallienus (Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus) 253–268
Claudius (II) Gothicus (Marcus Aurelius Claudius Gothicus) 268–270
Quintillus (Marcus Aurelius Claudius Quintillus) 269–270
Aurelian (Lucius Domitius Aurelianus) 270–275
Tacitus (Marcus Claudius Tacitus) 275–276
Florian (Marcus Annius Florianus) 276
Probus (Marcus Aurelius Probus) 276–282
Carus (Marcus Aurelius Carus) 282–283
Carinus (Marcus Aurelius Carinus) 283–285
Numerian (Marcus Aurelius Numerius Numerianus) 283–284
Diocletian (Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus) East only 284–305
Maximian (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus) West only 286–305
Galerius (Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus) East only 305–311
Constantius I Chlorus (Marcus Flavius Valerius Constantius) West only 305–306
Severus (Flavius Valerius Severus) West only 306–307
Maxentius (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius) West only 306–312
Licinius (Valerius Licinianus Licinius) East only 308–324
Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Constantinus) 312–337
Constantine II (Flavius Claudius Constantinus) 337–340
Constans I (Flavius Julius Constans) 337–350
Constantius II (Flavius Julius Constantius) 337–361
Magnentius (Flavius Magnus Magnentius) 350–353
Julian (Flavius Claudius Julianus) 361–363
Jovian (Flavius Jovianus) 363–364
Valentinian I (Flavius Valentinianus) West only 364–375
Valens (Flavius Valens) East only 364–378
Procopius East only 365–366
Gratian (Flavius Gratianus Augustus) West only 375–383
Valentinian II (Flavius Valentinianus) West only 375–392
Theodosius I (Flavius Theodosius) 379–395
Arcadius (Flavius Arcadius) East only 395–408
Honorius (Flavius Honorius) West only 395–423
Theodosius II East only 408–450
Constantius III West only 421
Valentinian III (Flavius Placidius Valentinianus) West only 425–455
Marcian (Marcianus) East only 450–457
Petronius Maximus (Flavius Ancius Petronius Maximus) West only 455
Avitus (Flavius Maccilius Eparchius Avitus) West only 455–456
Leo I (Leo Thrax Magnus) East only 457–474
Majorian (Julius Valerius Majorianus) West only 457–461
Libius Severus (Libius Severianus Severus) West only 461–467
Anthemius (Procopius Anthemius) West only 467–472
Olybrius (Anicius Olybrius) West only 472
Glycerius West only 473–474
Julius Nepos West only 474–475
Leo II East only 474
Zeno East only 474–491
Romulus Augustulus (Flavius Momyllus Romulus Augustulus) West only 475–476



The Emperors of Rome



Caesar (100-44 B.C.)

Was born in a Patrician family; Enlarged the Roman Empire in military campaigns, particularly against the Gauls; by 45, had established personal dictatorship; refused the title of king for political reasons; prepared the change from republic to a monarchical state; had his name, Caesar, adopted as a title by later emperors; was murdered during the Ides of March (March 15) 44 B.C. by a conspiracy of senators in Rome.


Julius Caesar

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Roman ruler
in full Gaius Julius Caesar
born July 12/13, 100? bc, Rome [Italy]
died March 15, 44 bc, Rome

celebrated Roman general and statesman, the conqueror of Gaul (58–50 bc), victor in the Civil War of 49–45 bc, and dictator (46–44 bc), who was launching a series of political and social reforms when he was assassinated by a group of nobles in the Senate House on the Ides of March.

Caesar changed the course of the history of the Greco-Roman world decisively and irreversibly. The Greco-Roman society has been extinct for so long that most of the names of its great men mean little to the average, educated modern man. But Caesar’s name, like Alexander’s, is still on people’s lips throughout the Christian and Islamic worlds. Even people who know nothing of Caesar as a historic personality are familiar with his family name as a title signifying a ruler who is in some sense uniquely supreme or paramount—the meaning of Kaiser in German, tsar in the Slavonic languages, and qayṣar in the languages of the Islamic world.

Caesar’s gens (clan) name, Julius (Iulius), is also familiar in the Christian world; for in Caesar’s lifetime the Roman month Quintilis, in which he was born, was renamed “July” in his honour. This name has survived, as has Caesar’s reform of the calendar. The old Roman calendar was inaccurate and manipulated for political purposes. Caesar’s calendar, the Julian calendar, is still partially in force in the Eastern Orthodox Christian countries; and the Gregorian calendar, now in use in the West, is the Julian, slightly corrected by Pope Gregory XIII.

Family background and career
Caesar’s gens, the Julii, were patricians; i.e., members of Rome’s original aristocracy, which had coalesced in the 4th century bc with a number of leading plebeian (commoner) families to form the nobility that had been the governing class in Rome since then. By Caesar’s time, the number of surviving patrician gentes was small; and in the gens Julia the Caesares seem to have been the only surviving family. Though some of the most powerful noble families were patrician, patrician blood was no longer a political advantage; it was actually a handicap, since a patrician was debarred from holding the paraconstitutional but powerful office of tribune of the plebs. The Julii Caesares traced their lineage back to the goddess Venus, but the family was not snobbish or conservative-minded. It was also not rich or influential or even distinguished.

A Roman noble won distinction for himself and his family by securing election to a series of public offices, which culminated in the consulship, with the censorship possibly to follow. This was a difficult task for even the ablest and most gifted noble unless he was backed by substantial family wealth and influence. Rome’s victory over Carthage in the Second Punic War (218–201 bc) had made Rome the paramount power in the Mediterranean basin; an influential Roman noble family’s clients (that is, protégés who, in return, gave their patrons their political support) might include kings and even whole nations, besides numerous private individuals. The requirements and the costs of a Roman political career in Caesar’s day were high, and the competition was severe; but the potential profits were of enormous magnitude. One of the perquisites of the praetorship and the consulship was the government of a province, which gave ample opportunity for plunder. The whole Mediterranean world was, in fact, at the mercy of the Roman nobility and of a new class of Roman businessmen, the equites (“knights”), which had grown rich on military contracts and on tax farming.

Military manpower was supplied by the Roman peasantry. This class had been partly dispossessed by an economic revolution following on the devastation caused by the Second Punic War. The Roman governing class had consequently come to be hated and discredited at home and abroad. From 133 onward there had been a series of alternate revolutionary and counter-revolutionary paroxysms. It was evident that the misgovernment of the Roman state and the Greco-Roman world by the Roman nobility could not continue indefinitely and it was fairly clear that the most probable alternative was some form of military dictatorship backed by dispossessed Italian peasants who had turned to long-term military service.

The traditional competition among members of the Roman nobility for office and the spoils of office was thus threatening to turn into a desperate race for seizing autocratic power. The Julii Caesares did not seem to be in the running. It was true that Sextus Caesar, who was perhaps the dictator’s uncle, had been one of the consuls for 91; and Lucius Caesar, one of the consuls for 90, was a distant cousin, whose son and namesake was consul for 64. In 90, Rome’s Italian allies had seceded from Rome because of the Roman government’s obstinate refusal to grant them Roman citizenship, and, as consul, Lucius Caesar had introduced emergency legislation for granting citizenship to the citizens of all Italian ally states that had not taken up arms or that had returned to their allegiance.

Whoever had been consul in this critical year would have had to initiate such legislation, whatever his personal political predilections. There is evidence, however, that the Julii Caesares, though patricians, had already committed themselves to the antinobility party. An aunt of the future dictator had married Gaius Marius, a self-made man (novus homo) who had forced his way up to the summit by his military ability and had made the momentous innovation of recruiting his armies from the dispossessed peasants.

The date of Caesar the dictator’s birth has long been disputed. The day was July 12 or 13; the traditional (and perhaps most probable) year is 100; but if this date is correct, Caesar must have held each of his offices two years in advance of the legal minimum age. His father, Gaius Caesar, died when Caesar was but 16; his mother, Aurelia, was a notable woman, and it seems certain that he owed much to her.

In spite of the inadequacy of his resources, Caesar seems to have chosen a political career as a matter of course. From the beginning, he probably privately aimed at winning office, not just for the sake of the honours but in order to achieve the power to put the misgoverned Roman state and Greco-Roman world into better order in accordance with ideas of his own. It is improbable that Caesar deliberately sought monarchical power until after he had crossed the Rubicon in 49, though sufficient power to impose his will, as he was determined to do, proved to mean monarchical power.

In 84 Caesar committed himself publicly to the radical side by marrying Cornelia, a daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna, a noble who was Marius’ associate in revolution. In 83 Lucius Cornelius Sulla returned to Italy from the East and led the successful counter-revolution of 83–82; Sulla then ordered Caesar to divorce Cornelia. Caesar refused and came close to losing not only his property (such as it was) but his life as well. He found it advisable to remove himself from Italy and to do military service, first in the province of Asia and then in Cilicia.

In 78, after Sulla’s death, he returned to Rome and started on his political career in the conventional way, by acting as a prosecuting advocate—of course, in his case, against prominent Sullan counter-revolutionaries. His first target, Gnaeus Cornelius Dolabella, was defended by Quintus Hortensius, the leading advocate of the day, and was acquitted by the extortion-court jury, composed exclusively of senators.

Caesar then went to Rhodes to study oratory under a famous professor, Molon. En route he was captured by pirates (one of the symptoms of the anarchy into which the Roman nobility had allowed the Mediterranean world to fall). Caesar raised his ransom, raised a naval force, captured his captors, and had them crucified—all this as a private individual holding no public office. In 74, when Mithradates VI Eupator, king of Pontus, renewed war on the Romans, Caesar raised a private army to combat him.

In his absence from Rome, Caesar was made a member of the politico-ecclesiastical college of pontifices; and on his return he gained one of the elective military tribuneships. Caesar now worked to undo the Sullan constitution in cooperation with Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeius), who had started his career as a lieutenant of Sulla but had changed sides since Sulla’s death. In 69 or 68 Caesar was elected quaestor (the first rung on the Roman political ladder). In the same year his wife, Cornelia, and his aunt Julia, Marius’ widow, died; in public funeral orations in their honour, Caesar found opportunities for praising Cinna and Marius. Caesar afterward married Pompeia, a distant relative of Pompey. Caesar served his quaestorship in the province of Farther Spain (modern Andalusia and Portugal).

Caesar was elected one of the curule aediles for 65, and he celebrated his tenure of this office by unusually lavish expenditure with borrowed money. He was elected pontifex maximus in 63 by a political dodge. By now he had become a controversial political figure. After the suppression of Catiline’s conspiracy in 63, Caesar, as well as the millionaire Marcus Licinius Crassus, was accused of complicity. It seems unlikely that either of them had committed himself to Catiline; but Caesar proposed in the Senate a more merciful alternative to the death penalty, which the consul Cicero was asking for the arrested conspirators. In the uproar in the Senate, Caesar’s motion was defeated.

Caesar was elected a praetor for 62. Toward the end of the year of his praetorship, a scandal was caused by Publius Clodius in Caesar’s house at the celebration there of the rites, for women only, of Bona Dea (a Roman deity of fruitfulness, both in the Earth and in women). Caesar consequently divorced Pompeia. He obtained the governorship of Farther Spain for 61–60. His creditors did not let him leave Rome until Crassus had gone bail for a quarter of his debts; but a military expedition beyond the northwest frontier of his province enabled Caesar to win loot for himself as well as for his soldiers, with a balance left over for the treasury. This partial financial recovery enabled him, after his return to Rome in 60, to stand for the consulship for 59.

Family background and career » The first triumvirate and the conquest of Gaul
The value of the consulship lay in the lucrative provincial governorship to which it would normally lead. On the eve of the consular elections for 59, the Senate sought to allot to the two future consuls for 59, as their proconsular provinces, the unprofitable supervision of forests and cattle trails in Italy. The Senate also secured by massive bribery the election of an anti-Caesarean, Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. But they failed to prevent Caesar’s election as the other consul.

Caesar now succeeded in organizing an irresistible coalition of political bosses. Pompey had carried out his mission to put the East in order with notable success, but after his return to Italy and his disbandment of his army in 62, the Senate had thwarted him—particularly by preventing him from securing land allotments for his veterans. Caesar, who had assiduously cultivated Pompey’s friendship, now entered into a secret pact with him. Caesar’s master stroke was to persuade Crassus to join the partnership, the so-called first triumvirate. Crassus—like Pompey, a former lieutenant of Sulla—had been one of the most active of Pompey’s obstructors so far. Only Caesar, on good terms with both, was in a position to reconcile them. Early in 59, Pompey sealed his alliance with Caesar by marrying Caesar’s only child, Julia. Caesar married Calpurnia, daughter of Lucius Piso, who became consul in 58.

As consul, Caesar introduced a bill for the allotment of Roman public lands in Italy, on which the first charge was to be a provision for Pompey’s soldiers. The bill was vetoed by three tribunes of the plebs, and Caesar’s colleague Bibulus announced his intention of preventing the transaction of public business by watching the skies for portents whenever the public assembly was convened. Caesar then cowed the opposition by employing some of Pompey’s veterans to make a riot, and the distribution was carried out. Pompey’s settlement of the East was ratified en bloc by an act negotiated by an agent of Caesar, the tribune of the plebs Publius Vatinius. Caesar himself initiated a noncontroversial and much-needed act for punishing misconduct by governors of provinces.

Another act negotiated by Vatinius gave Caesar Cisalpine Gaul (between the Alps, the Apennines, and the Adriatic) and Illyricum. His tenure was to last until February 28, 54. When the governor-designate of Transalpine Gaul suddenly died, this province, also, was assigned to Caesar at Pompey’s instance. Cisalpine Gaul gave Caesar a military recruiting ground; Transalpine Gaul gave him a springboard for conquests beyond Rome’s northwest frontier.

Between 58 and 50, Caesar conquered the rest of Gaul up to the left bank of the Rhine and subjugated it so effectively that it remained passive under Roman rule throughout the Roman civil wars between 49 and 31. This achievement was all the more amazing in light of the fact that the Romans did not possess any great superiority in military equipment over the north European barbarians. Indeed, the Gallic cavalry was probably superior to the Roman, horseman for horseman. Rome’s military superiority lay in its mastery of strategy, tactics, discipline, and military engineering. In Gaul, Rome also had the advantage of being able to deal separately with dozens of relatively small, independent, and uncooperative states. Caesar conquered these piecemeal, and the concerted attempt made by a number of them in 52 to shake off the Roman yoke came too late.

Great though this achievement was, its relative importance in Caesar’s career and in Roman history has been overestimated in Western tradition (as have his brief raids on Britain). In Caesar’s mind his conquest of Gaul was probably carried out only as a means to his ultimate end. He was acquiring the military manpower, the plunder, and the prestige that he needed to secure a free hand for the prosecution of the task of reorganizing the Roman state and the rest of the Greco-Roman world. This final achievement of Caesar’s looms much larger than his conquest of Gaul, when it is viewed in the wider setting of world history and not just in the narrower setting of the Greco-Roman civilization’s present daughter civilization in the West.

In 58 Rome’s northwestern frontier, established in 125, ran from the Alps down the left bank of the upper Rhône River to the Pyrenees, skirting the southeastern foot of the Cévennes and including the upper basin of the Garonne River without reaching the Gallic shore of the Atlantic. In 58 Caesar intervened beyond this line, first to drive back the Helvetii, who had been migrating westward from their home in what is now central Switzerland. He then crushed Ariovistus, a German soldier of fortune from beyond the Rhine. In 57 Caesar subdued the distant and warlike Belgic group of Gallic peoples in the north, while his lieutenant Publius Licinius Crassus subdued what are now the regions of Normandy and Brittany.

In 56 the Veneti, in what is now southern Brittany, started a revolt in the northwest that was supported by the still unconquered Morini on the Gallic coast of the Straits of Dover and the Menapii along the south bank of the lower Rhine. Caesar reconquered the Veneti with some difficulty and treated them barbarously. He could not finish off the conquest of the Morini and Menapii before the end of the campaigning season of 56; and in the winter of 56–55 the Menapii were temporarily expelled from their home by two immigrant German peoples, the Usipetes and Tencteri. These peoples were exterminated by Caesar in 55. In the same year he bridged the Rhine just below Koblenz to raid Germany on the other side of the river, and then crossed the Channel to raid Britain. In 54 he raided Britain again and subdued a serious revolt in northeastern Gaul. In 53 he subdued further revolts in Gaul and bridged the Rhine again for a second raid.

The crisis of Caesar’s Gallic war came in 52. The peoples of central Gaul found a national leader in the Arvernian Vercingetorix. They planned to cut off the Roman forces from Caesar, who had been wintering on the other side of the Alps. They even attempted to invade the western end of the old Roman province of Gallia Transalpina. Vercingetorix wanted to avoid pitched battles and sieges and to defeat the Romans by cutting off their supplies—partly by cavalry operations and partly by “scorched earth”—but he could not persuade his countrymen to adopt this painful policy wholeheartedly.

The Bituriges insisted on standing siege in their town Avaricum (Bourges), and Vercingetorix was unable to save it from being taken by storm within one month. Caesar then besieged Vercingetorix in Gergovia near modern Clermont-Ferrand. A Roman attempt to storm Gergovia was repulsed and resulted in heavy Roman losses—the first outright defeat that Caesar had suffered in Gaul. Caesar then defeated an attack on the Roman army on the march and was thus able to besiege Vercingetorix in Alesia, to the northwest of Dijon. Alesia, like Gergovia, was a position of great natural strength, and a large Gallic army came to relieve it; but this army was repulsed and dispersed by Caesar, and Vercingetorix then capitulated.

During the winter of 52–51 and the campaigning season of 51, Caesar crushed a number of sporadic further revolts. The most determined of these rebels were the Bellovaci, between the Rivers Seine and Somme, around Beauvais. Another rebel force stood siege in the south in the natural fortress of Uxellodunum (perhaps the Puy d’Issolu on the Dordogne) until its water supply gave out. Caesar had the survivors’ hands cut off. He spent the year 50 in organizing the newly conquered territory. After that, he was ready to settle his accounts with his opponents at home.

Family background and career » Antecedents and outcome of the civil war of 49–45
During his conquest of Gaul, Caesar had been equally busy in preserving and improving his position at home. He used part of his growing wealth from Gallic loot to hire political agents in Rome.

Meanwhile the cohesion of the triumvirate had been placed under strain. Pompey had soon become restive toward his alarmingly successful ally Caesar, as had Crassus toward his old enemy Pompey. The alliance was patched up in April 56 at a conference at Luca (Lucca), just inside Caesar’s province of Cisalpine Gaul. It was arranged that Pompey and Crassus were to be the consuls for 55 and were to get laws promulgated prolonging Caesar’s provincial commands for another five years and giving Crassus a five-year term in Syria and Pompey a five-year term in Spain. These laws were duly passed. Crassus was then eliminated by an annihilating defeat at the Parthians’ hands in 53. The marriage link between Pompey and Caesar had been broken by Julia’s death in 54. After this, Pompey irresolutely veered further and further away from Caesar, until, when the breach finally came, Pompey found himself committed to the nobility’s side, though he and the nobility never trusted each other.

The issue was whether there should or should not be an interval between the date at which Caesar was to resign his provincial governorships and, therewith, the command over his armies and the date at which he would enter his proposed second consulship. If there were to be an interval, Caesar would be a private person during that time, vulnerable to attack by his enemies; if prosecuted and convicted, he would be ruined politically and might possibly lose his life. Caesar had to make sure that, until his entry on his second consulship, he should continue to hold at least one province with the military force to guarantee his security.

This issue had already been the object of a series of political manoeuvres and countermanoeuvres at Rome. The dates on which the issue turned are all in doubt. As had been agreed at Luca in 56, Caesar’s commands had been prolonged for five years, apparently until February 28, 49, but this is not certain. In 52, a year in which Pompey was elected sole consul and given a five-year provincial command in Spain, Caesar was allowed by a law sponsored by all 10 tribunes to stand for the consulship in absentia. If he were to stand in 49 for the consulship for 48, he would be out of office, and therefore in danger, during the last 10 months of 49. As a safeguard for Caesar against this, there seems to have been an understanding—possibly a private one at Luca in 56 between him and Pompey—that the question of a successor to Caesar in his commands should not be raised in the Senate before March 1, 50. This manoeuvre would have ensured that Caesar would retain his commands until the end of 49. However, the question of replacing Caesar was actually raised in the Senate a number of times from 51 onward; each time Caesar had the dangerous proposals vetoed by tribunes of the plebs who were his agents—particularly Gaius Scribonius Curio in 50 and Mark Antony in 49.

The issue was brought to a head by one of the consuls for 50, Gaius Claudius Marcellus. He obtained resolutions from the Senate that Caesar should lay down his command (presumably at its terminal date) but that Pompey should not lay down his command simultaneously. Curio then obtained on December 1, 50, a resolution (by 370 votes to 22) that both men should lay down their commands simultaneously. Next day Marcellus (without authorization from the Senate) offered the command over all troops in Italy to Pompey, together with the power to raise more; and Pompey accepted. On January 1, 49, the Senate received from Caesar a proposal that he and Pompey should lay down their commands simultaneously. Caesar’s message was peremptory, and the Senate resolved that Caesar should be treated as a public enemy if he did not lay down his command “by a date to be fixed.”

On January 10–11, 49, Caesar led his troops across the little river Rubicon, the boundary between his province of Cisalpine Gaul and Italy proper. He thus committed the first act of war. This was not, however, the heart of the matter. The actual question of substance was whether the misgovernment of the Greco-Roman world by the Roman nobility should be allowed to continue or whether it should be replaced by an autocratic regime. Either alternative would result in a disastrous civil war. The subsequent partial recuperation of the Greco-Roman world under the principate suggests, however, that Caesarism was the lesser evil.

The civil war was a tragedy, for war was not wanted either by Caesar or by Pompey or even by a considerable part of the nobility, while the bulk of the Roman citizen body ardently hoped for the preservation of peace. By this time, however, the three parties that counted politically were all entrapped. Caesar’s success in building up his political power had made the champions of the old regime so implacably hostile to him that he was now faced with a choice between putting himself at his enemies’ mercy or seizing the monopoly of power at which he was accused of aiming. He found that he could not extricate himself from this dilemma by reducing his demands, as he eventually did, to the absolute minimum required for his security. As for Pompey, his growing jealousy of Caesar had led him so far toward the nobility that he could not come to terms with Caesar again without loss of face.

The first bout of the civil war moved swiftly. In 49 Caesar drove his opponents out of Italy to the eastern side of the Straits of Otranto. He then crushed Pompey’s army in Spain. Toward the end of 49, he followed Pompey across the Adriatic and retrieved a reverse at Dyrrachium by winning a decisive victory at Pharsalus on August 9, 48. Caesar pursued Pompey from Thessaly to Egypt, where Pompey was murdered by an officer of King Ptolemy. Caesar wintered in Alexandria, fighting with the populace and dallying with Queen Cleopatra. In 47 he fought a brief local war in northeastern Anatolia with Pharnaces, king of the Cimmerian Bosporus, who was trying to regain his father Mithradates’ kingdom of Pontus. Caesar’s famous words, Veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”), are his own account of this campaign.

Caesar then returned to Rome, but a few months later, now with the title of dictator, he left for Africa, where his opponents had rallied. In 46 he crushed their army at Thapsus and returned to Rome, only to leave in November for Farther Spain to deal with a fresh outbreak of resistance, which he crushed on March 17, 45, at Munda. He then returned to Rome to start putting the Greco-Roman world in order. He had less than a year’s grace for this huge task of reconstruction before his assassination in 44 in the Senate House at Rome on March 15 (the Ides of March).

Caesar’s death was partly due to his clemency and impatience, which, in combination, were dangerous for his personal security. Caesar had not hesitated to commit atrocities against “barbarians” when it had suited him, but he was almost consistently magnanimous in his treatment of his defeated Roman opponents. Thus clemency was probably not just a matter of policy. Caesar’s earliest experience in his political career had been Sulla’s implacable persecution of his defeated domestic opponents. Caesar amnestied his opponents wholesale and gave a number of them responsible positions in his new regime. Gaius Cassius Longinus, who was the moving spirit in the plot to murder him, and Marcus Junius Brutus, the symbolic embodiment of Roman republicanism, were both former enemies. “Et tu, Brute” (“You too, Brutus”) was Caesar’s expression of his particular anguish at being stabbed by a man whom he had forgiven, trusted, and loved.

There were, however, also a number of ex-Caesareans among the 60 conspirators. They had been goaded into this volte-face by the increasingly monarchical trend of Caesar’s regime and, perhaps at least as much, by the aristocratic disdain that inhibited Caesar from taking any trouble to sugar the bitter pill. Some stood to lose, rather than to gain, personally by the removal of the autocrat who had made their political fortunes. But even if they were acting on principle, they were blind to the truth that the reign of the Roman nobility was broken beyond recall and that even Caesar might not have been able to overthrow the ancien régime if its destruction had not been long overdue. They also failed to recognize that by making Caesar a martyr they were creating his posthumous political fortune.

If Caesar had not been murdered in 44, he might have lived on for 15 or 20 years. His physical constitution was unusually tough, though in his last years he had several epileptic seizures. What would he have done with this time? The answer can only be guessed from what he did do in the few months available. He found time in the year 46 to reform the Roman calendar. In 45 he enacted a law laying down a standard pattern for the constitutions of the municipia, which were by this time the units of local self-government in most of the territory inhabited by Roman citizens. In 59 Caesar had already resurrected the city of Capua, which the republican Roman regime more than 150 years earlier had deprived of its juridical corporate personality; he now resurrected the other two great cities, Carthage and Corinth, that his predecessors had destroyed. This was only a part of what he did to resettle his discharged soldiers and the urban proletariat of Rome. He was also generous in granting Roman citizenship to aliens. (He had given it to all of Cisalpine Gaul, north of the Po, in 49.) He increased the size of the Senate and made its personnel more representative of the whole Roman citizenry.

At his death, Caesar was on the point of starting out on a new military campaign to avenge and retrieve Crassus’ disastrous defeat in 53 by the Parthians. Would Caesar have succeeded in recapturing for the Greco-Roman world the extinct Seleucid monarchy’s lost dominions east of the Euphrates, particularly Babylonia? The fate of Crassus’ army had shown that the terrain in northern Mesopotamia favoured Parthian cavalry against Roman infantry. Would Caesar’s military genius have outweighed this handicap? And would Rome’s hitherto inexhaustible reservoir of military manpower have sufficed for this additional call upon it? Only guesses are possible, for Caesar’s assassination condemned the Romans to another 13 years of civil war, and Rome would never again possess sufficient manpower to conquer and hold Babylonia.

Personality and reputation
Caesar was not and is not lovable. His generosity to defeated opponents, magnanimous though it was, did not win their affection. He won his soldiers’ devotion by the victories that his intellectual ability, applied to warfare, brought them. Yet, though not lovable, Caesar was and is attractive, indeed fascinating. His political achievement required ability, in effect amounting to genius, in several different fields, including administration and generalship besides the minor arts of wire pulling and propaganda.

In all these, Caesar was a supreme virtuoso. But if he had not also been something more than this he would not have been the supremely great man that he undoubtedly was.

Caesar was great beyond—and even in conflict with—the requirements of his political ambition. He showed a human spiritual greatness in his generosity to defeated opponents, which was partly responsible for his assassination. (The merciless Sulla abdicated and died in his bed.)

Another field in which Caesar’s genius went far beyond the requirements of his political ambition was his writings. Of these, his speeches, letters, and pamphlets are lost. Only his accounts (both incomplete and supplemented by other hands) of the Gallic War and the civil war survive. Caesar ranked as a masterly public speaker in an age in which he was in competition first with Hortensius and then with Cicero.

All Caesar’s speeches and writings, lost and extant, apparently served political purposes. He turned his funeral orations for his wife and for his aunt to account, for political propaganda. His accounts of his wars are subtly contrived to make the unsuspecting reader see Caesar’s acts in the light that Caesar chooses. The accounts are written in the form of terse, dry, factual reports that look impersonal and objective, yet every recorded fact has been carefully selected and presented. As for the lost Anticato, a reply to Cicero’s eulogy of Caesar’s dead opponent Marcus Porcius Cato, it is a testimony to Caesar’s political insight that he made the time to write it, in spite of the overwhelming military, administrative, and legislative demands on him. He realized that Cato, in giving his life for his cause (46), had made himself posthumously into a much more potent political force than he had ever been in his lifetime. Caesar was right, from his point of view, to try to put salt on Cato’s tail. He did not succeed, however. For the next 150 years, Cato the martyr continued to be a nuisance, sometimes a menace, to Caesar’s successors.

The mark of Caesar’s genius in his writings is that though they were written for propaganda they are nevertheless of outstanding literary merit. A reader who has seen through their prosaic purpose can ignore it and appreciate them as splendid works of art.

Caesar’s most amazing characteristic is his energy, intellectual and physical. He prepared his seven books on the Gallic War for publication in 51 when he still had serious revolts in Gaul on his hands, and he wrote his books on the civil war and his Anticato in the hectic years between 49 and 44. His physical energy was of the same order. For instance, in the winter of 57–56 he found time to visit his third province, Illyria, as well as Cisalpine Gaul; and in the interval between his campaigns of 55 and 54 he transacted public business in Cisalpine Gaul and went to Illyria to settle accounts with the Pirustae, a turbulent tribe in what is now Albania. In 49 he marched, within a single campaigning season, from the Rubicon to Brundisium and from Brundisium to Spain. At Alexandria, probably aged 53, he saved himself from sudden death by his prowess as a swimmer.

Caesar’s physical vitality perhaps partly accounts for his sexual promiscuity, which was out of the ordinary, even by contemporary Greek and Roman standards. It was rumoured that during his first visit to the East he had had homosexual relations with King Nicomedes of Bithynia. The rumour is credible, though not proved, and was repeated throughout Caesar’s life. There is no doubt of Caesar’s heterosexual affairs, many of them with married women. Probably Caesar looked upon these as trivial recreations. Yet he involved himself at least twice in escapades that might have wrecked his career. If he did in fact have an affair with Pompey’s wife, Mucia, he was risking his entente with Pompey. A more notorious, though not quite so hazardous, affair was his liaison with Cleopatra. By dallying with her at Alexandria, he risked losing what he had just won at Pharsalus. By allowing her to visit him in Rome in 46, he flouted public feeling and added to the list of tactless acts that, cumulatively, goaded old comrades and amnestied enemies into assassinating him.

This cool-headed man of genius with an erratic vein of sexual exuberance undoubtedly changed the course of history at the western end of the Old World. By liquidating the scandalous and bankrupt rule of the Roman nobility, he gave the Roman state—and with it the Greco-Roman civilization—a reprieve that lasted for more than 600 years in the East and for more than 400 years in the relatively backward West. Caesar substituted for the Roman oligarchy an autocracy that could never afterward be abolished. If he had not done this when he did it, Rome and the Greco-Roman world might have succumbed, before the beginning of the Christian era, to barbarian invaders in the West and to the Parthian Empire in the East. The prolongation of the life of the Greco-Roman civilization had important historical effects. Under the Roman Empire the Near East was impregnated with Hellenism for six or seven more centuries. But for this the Hellenic element might not have been present in sufficient strength to make its decisive impact on Christianity and Islam. Gaul, too, would have sunk deeper into barbarism when the Franks overran it, if it had not been associated with the civilized Mediterranean world for more than 500 years as a result of Caesar’s conquest.

Caesar’s political achievement was limited. Its effects were confined to the western end of the Old World and were comparatively short-lived by Chinese or ancient Egyptian standards. The Chinese state founded by Shih Huang Ti in the 3rd century bc still stands, and its future may be still greater than its past. Yet, even if Caesar were to prove to have been of lesser stature than this Chinese colossus, he would still remain a giant by comparison with the common run of human beings (see also ancient Rome).

Arnold Joseph Toynbee


Augustus (Gaius Octavius) (63 b.c.-a.d. 14)

As Octavian, was adopted as the son and heir of Julius Caesar in 45 B.C.; claimed his political inheritance after the dictator's death; in 31 B.C., ended a civil war with victory over Mark Antony, a rival for the reins of power; became Augustus, Rome's first emperor, in
27 B.C.; helped Rome achieve a period of prosperity-a cultural golden age celebrated as the "Pax Augustus"; skillfully combined the appearance and rituals of republican government with absolute personal power.



(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Roman emperor
also called Augustus Caesar or (until 27 bc) Octavian , original name Gaius Octavius , adopted name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus
born September 23, 63 bc
died August 19, ad 14, Nola, near Naples [Italy]

first Roman emperor, following the republic, which had been finally destroyed by the dictatorship of Julius Caesar, his great-uncle and adoptive father. His autocratic regime is known as the principate because he was the princeps, the first citizen, at the head of that array of outwardly revived republican institutions that alone made his autocracy palatable. With unlimited patience, skill, and efficiency, he overhauled every aspect of Roman life and brought durable peace and prosperity to the Greco-Roman world.

Gaius Octavius was born on September 23, 63 bc, of a prosperous family that had long been settled at Velitrae (Velletri), southeast of Rome. His father, who died in 59 bc, had been the first of the family to become a Roman senator and was elected to the high annual office of the praetorship, which ranked second in the political hierarchy to the consulship. Gaius Octavius’s mother, Atia, was the daughter of Julia, the sister of Julius Caesar; and it was Caesar who launched the young Octavius in Roman public life. At age 12 he made his debut by delivering the funeral speech for his grandmother Julia. Three or four years later he received the coveted membership of the board of priests (pontifices). In 46 bc he accompanied Caesar, now dictator, in his triumphal procession after his victory in Africa over his opponents in the Civil War; and in the following year, in spite of ill health, he joined the dictator in Spain. He was at Apollonia (now in Albania), completing his academic and military studies when, in 44 bc, he learned that Julius Caesar had been murdered.

Rise to power
Returning to Italy, he was told that Caesar in his will had adopted him as his son and had made him his chief personal heir. He was only 18 when, against the advice of his stepfather and others, he decided to take up this perilous inheritance and proceeded to Rome. Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius), Caesar’s chief lieutenant, who had taken possession of his papers and assets and had expected that he himself would be the principal heir, refused to hand over any of Caesar’s funds, forcing Octavius to pay the late dictator’s bequests to the Roman populace from such resources as he could raise. Caesar’s assassins, Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, ignored him and withdrew to the east. Cicero, the famous orator who was one of Rome’s principal elder statesmen, hoped to make use of him but underestimated his abilities.

Celebrating public games, instituted by Caesar, to ingratiate himself with the city populace, Octavius succeeded in winning considerable numbers of the dictator’s troops to his own allegiance. The Senate, encouraged by Cicero, broke with Antony, called upon Octavius for aid (granting him the rank of senator in spite of his youth), and joined the campaign of Mutina (Modena) against Antony, who was compelled to withdraw to Gaul. When the consuls who commanded the Senate’s forces lost their lives, Octavius’s soldiers compelled the Senate to confer a vacant consulship on him. Under the name of Gaius Julius Caesar he next secured official recognition as Caesar’s adoptive son. Although it would have been normal to add “Octavianus” (with reference to his original family name), he preferred not to do so. Today, however, he is habitually described as Octavian (until the date when he assumed the designation Augustus).

Octavian soon reached an agreement with Antony and with another of Caesar’s principal supporters, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, who had succeeded him as chief priest. On November 27, 43 bc, the three men were formally given a five-year dictatorial appointment as triumvirs for the reconstitution of the state (the Second Triumvirate—the first having been the informal compact between Pompey, Crassus, and Julius Caesar). The east was occupied by Brutus and Cassius, but the triumvirs divided the west among themselves. They drew up a list of “proscribed” political enemies, and the consequent executions included 300 senators (one of whom was Antony’s enemy Cicero) and 2,000 members of the class below the senators, the equites or knights. Julius Caesar’s recognition as a god of the Roman state in January 42 bc enhanced Octavian’s prestige as son of a god.

He and Antony crossed the Adriatic and, under Antony’s leadership (Octavian being ill), won the two battles of Philippi against Brutus and Cassius, both of whom committed suicide. Antony, the senior partner, was allotted the east (and Gaul); and Octavian returned to Italy, where difficulties caused by the settlement of his veterans involved him in the Perusine War (decided in his favour at Perusia, the modern Perugia) against Antony’s brother and wife. In order to appease another potential enemy, Sextus Pompeius (Pompey the Great’s son), who had seized Sicily and the sea routes, Octavian married Sextus’s relative Scribonia (though before long he divorced her for personal incompatibility). These ties of kinship did not deter Sextus, after the Perusine War, from making overtures to Antony; but Antony rejected them and reached a fresh understanding with Octavian at the treaty of Brundisium, under the terms of which Octavian was to have the whole west (except for Africa, which Lepidus was allowed to keep) and Italy, which, though supposedly neutral ground, was in fact controlled by Octavian. The east was again to go to Antony, and it was arranged that Antony, who had spent the previous winter with Queen Cleopatra in Egypt, should marry Octavian’s sister Octavia. The peoples of the empire were overjoyed by the treaty, which seemed to promise an end to so many years of civil war. In 38 bc Octavian formed a significant new link with the aristocracy by his marriage to Livia Drusilla.

But a reconciliation with Sextus Pompeius proved abortive, and Octavian was soon plunged into serious warfare against him. When his first operations against Sextus’s Sicilian bases proved disastrous, he felt obliged to make a new compact with Antony at Tarentum (Taranto) in 37 bc. Antony was to provide Octavian with ships, in return for troops Antony needed for his forthcoming war against the empire’s eastern neighbour Parthia and its Median allies. Antony handed over the ships, but Octavian never sent the troops. The treaty also provided for renewal of the Second Triumvirate for five years, until the end of 33 bc.

Military successes
In the following year the balance of power began to change: whereas Antony’s eastern expedition failed, Octavian’s fleet—commanded by his former schoolmate Marcus Agrippa, who, although unpopular with the influential nobles, was an admiral of genius—totally defeated Sextus Pompeius off Cape Naulochus (Venetico) in Sicily. At this point the third triumvir, Lepidus, seeking to contest Octavian’s supremacy in the west by force, was disarmed by Octavian, deprived of his triumviral office, and forced into retirement. Ignoring Antony’s right to settle his own veterans in Italy and recruit fresh troops, Octavian discharged many legionaries and founded settlements for them. His deliberate rivalry with Antony for the eventual mastership of the Roman world became increasingly apparent. Octavian’s marriage two years earlier had begun to win over some of the nobles who had previously been Antony’s supporters. Octavian also launched elaborate religious and patriotic publicity, centring on the classical god of order, Apollo, in contrast to Antony’s less Roman patron, Dionysus (Bacchus). In addition, Octavian had started to prefix his name with the designation “Imperator,” to suggest that he was the commander par excellence; and now, although he continued to use his triumviral powers, he omitted all reference to them from his coins, gradually concentrating on the plain, emotive name “Caesar Son of a God.”

But, if Octavian was to compete with Antony’s military seniority, successes in a foreign war were necessary; and so Octavian between 35 and 33 bc fought three successive campaigns in Illyricum and Dalmatia (parts of modern Slovenia and Croatia) in order to protect the northeastern approaches of Italy. With the help of Agrippa, he also lavished large sums on the adornment of Rome. When Octavian fomented public clamour against Antony’s territorial gifts to Cleopatra, it was clear that a clash between the two men was imminent.

In 32 bc the triumvirate had officially ended, and Octavian, unlike Antony, professed no longer to be employing its powers. Amid a virulent exchange of propaganda, Antony divorced Octavia, whereupon her brother Octavian seized Antony’s will and claimed to find in it damaging proofs of Cleopatra’s power over him. Each leader induced the populations under his control to swear formal oaths of allegiance to his own cause. Then, in spite of grave discontent aroused by his exactions in Italy, Octavian declared war—not against Antony but against Cleopatra.

Accompanied by her, Antony had brought up his fleet and army to guard strongpoints along the coast of western Greece; but in 31 bc Octavian dispatched Agrippa very early in the year to capture Methone, at the country’s southwestern tip. His enemies were taken by surprise; and after Octavian himself arrived—leaving his Etruscan friend and adviser Gaius Maecenas in charge of Italy—he and Agrippa soon shut Antony’s fleet inside the Gulf of Ambracia (Arta). At the Battle of Actium, Antony tried to extricate his ships in the hope of continuing the fight elsewhere. Though Cleopatra and then Antony succeeded in getting away, only a quarter of their fleet was able to follow them. Cleopatra and Antony fled to Egypt and committed suicide when Octavian captured the country in the following year. Executing Cleopatra’s son Ptolemy XV Caesar (Caesarion)—whose father she had claimed was Caesar—Octavian annexed Egypt and retained it under his direct control.

The seizure of Cleopatra’s treasure enabled him to pay off his veterans and made him finally master of the entire Greco-Roman world. From this point on, by a long and gradual series of tentative, patient measures, he established the Roman principate, a system of government that enabled him to maintain, in all essentials, absolute control. Gradually reducing his 60 legions to 28, he retained approximately 150,000 legionaries, mostly Italian, and supplemented them by about the same number of auxiliaries drawn from the provinces. A permanent bodyguard (the Praetorians), based on the bodyguards maintained by earlier generals, was stationed partly in Rome and partly in other Italian towns. A superb network of roads was created to maintain internal order and facilitate trade, and an efficient fleet was organized to police the Mediterranean. In 28 bc Octavian and Agrippa held a census of the civil population, the first of three during the reign. They also reduced the Senate from about 1,000 to 800 (later 600) compliant members, and Octavian was appointed its president.

Government and administration
Remembering, however, that Caesar had been assassinated because of his resort to naked power, Octavian realized that the governing class would welcome him as the terminator of civil war only if he concealed his autocracy beneath provisions avowedly harking back to republican traditions. From 31 until 23 bc the constitutional basis of his power remained a continuous succession of consulships, but in January 27 bc he ostensibly “transferred the State to the free disposal of the Senate and people,” earning the misleading, though outwardly plausible, tribute that he had restored the republic. At the same time, he was granted a 10-year tenure of an area of government (provincia) comprising Spain, Gaul, and Syria, the three regions containing the bulk of the army. The remaining provinces were to be governed by proconsuls appointed by the Senate in the old republican fashion. Octavian, however, believed that his supreme prestige—crystallized in the meaningful term auctoritas—safeguarded him against any defiance by these personages; and he was indeed able, more or less indirectly, to influence their appointments, just as he was able (on the rare occasions when he regarded it as desirable) to influence the appointments to the consulships and other metropolitan offices that continued to exist in “republican” fashion.

Four days after these measures, his name Caesar, acquired through adoption in Julius’s will, was supplemented by “Augustus,” an appellation with an antique religious ring, believed to be linked etymologically with auctoritas and with the ancient practice of augury. The word augustus was often contrasted with humanus; its adoption as the title representing the new order cleverly indicated, in an extraconstitutional fashion, his superiority over the rest of mankind. With the aid of writers such as Virgil, Livy, and Horace, all of whom in their different ways shared the same ideas, he showed his patriotic veneration of the old Italian faith by reviving many of its ceremonials and repairing numerous temples.

Military operations continued in many frontier areas. In 25 bc recalcitrant Alpine tribes were reduced, and Galatia (central Asia Minor) was annexed. Mauretania, on the other hand, was transferred from Roman provincial status to that of a client kingdom, for such dependent monarchies, as in the later republic, bore a considerable part of the burden of imperial defense. Augustus himself visited Gaul and directed part of a campaign in Spain until his health gave out; in 23 he fell ill again and seemed on the point of death. Feeling, amid reports of conspiracies, that new constitutional steps were necessary, he proceeded to terminate his series of consulships in favour of a power (imperium majus) that was separated altogether from office and its practical inconveniences. This power raised him above the proconsuls; it was never referred to on the official coinage or in Augustus’s political testament but was intended to be exercised mainly in emergencies and on personal visits. He was also awarded the power of a tribune (tribunicia potestas) for life. Earlier he had accepted certain privileges of a tribune. The full power he now assumed carried with it practical advantages, notably the right to convene the Senate. But, more particularly, the office of a tribune surrounded him with a “democratic” aura because of the ancient character of the annually elected tribunes of the people as defenders of the plebs. This was, perhaps, needed all the more because Augustus himself—while admittedly supporting the interests of poorer people by a great extension of the right of judicial appeal—tended to back the established classes as the keystone of his system.

Agrippa, too, was granted superiority over proconsuls, presumably in order to ensure that the armies would be in safe hands in case one of Augustus’s recurrent illnesses proved fatal. The next to die, however, was the emperor’s young nephew Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who had been married to his daughter Julia and might eventually have been envisaged as his successor. In the same year, 23 bc, Agrippa was sent out to the east as deputy princeps; two years later he became Julia’s second husband. Meanwhile Augustus himself traveled in Sicily, Greece, and Asia (22–19). Important reorganizations were put into effect wherever he went; and immense satisfaction was caused by an agreement in 20 bc with Parthia, under which the Parthians recognized Rome’s protectorate over Armenia and returned the legionary standards captured from Crassus 33 years earlier. In 19 bc Agrippa completed the subjugation of Spain. In this year there was some adjustment of Octavian’s powers to allow him to exercise them more freely in Italy, and the two following years witnessed social legislation attempting to encourage marriage, regulate penalties for adultery, and reduce extravagance. In 17 there were resplendent celebrations of ancient ritual, known as the Secular Games, to purify the Roman people of their past sins and provide full religious inauguration of the new age.

Although the principate was not an office which could be automatically handed on, Augustus seemed to be indicating his views regarding his ultimate successor when he adopted the two sons of his daughter Julia, boys aged three and one, who were henceforward known as Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar. Their father, Agrippa, whose powers had been renewed along with his master’s, returned to the east. But now Augustus also gave important employment to his stepsons—his wife Livia’s sons by her former marriage—Tiberius and Drusus the Elder. Proceeding across the Alps, they annexed Noricum and Raetia, comprising large parts of what are now Switzerland, Austria, and Bavaria, and extended the imperial frontier from Italy to the upper Danube (16–15 bc).

It was probably during these years that an executive, or drafting, committee (consilium) of the Senate was established in order to help Augustus to prepare senatorial business. His administrative burden was also lightened by the expansion of his own staff (knights, who could also now rise to a number of key posts, and freedmen) to form the beginnings of a civil service, which had never existed before but was destined to become an essential feature of the imperial system. Gradually, too, a completely reformed administrative structure of Rome, Italy, and the whole empire was evolved. The financial system that made this possible was evidently far more effective than anything the empire had ever seen until then. The system was based on the central treasury (aerarium), but the details of its relationship with the treasuries of the provinces, and particularly the provincia of Augustus, are still imperfectly understood, partly because, although the emperor proudly recorded his gifts to the central treasury, he did not report what funds passed in the opposite direction.

The taxation providing these resources apparently included two main direct taxes: a poll tax (tributum capitis), paid in some provinces by all adults and in others by adult males only, and a land tax (tributum soli). There were also indirect taxes, which (as in the past) were farmed out to contractors because their yield was unpredictable and the embryonic civil service lacked the resources to handle them. The republican customs dues continued; but the rates were low enough not to hamper trade, which, in the peaceful conditions created by Augustus, flourished in wholly unprecedented fashion. Industries did not exist on a very large scale, but commerce was greatly stimulated by a sweeping reform and expansion of the Roman coinage. Gold and silver pieces, their designs reflecting many facets of imperial publicity, were issued in great quantities at a number of widely distributed mints. The Rome mint was reopened for this purpose about 20 bc. The absence of bronze token coinage, which had been sparse for many decades, was remedied by the creation of abundant mintages in yellow orichalcum and red copper. In the west the principal mint for these pieces, besides Rome, was Lugdunum (Lyon), whose coins displayed a view of the Altar of Rome and Augustus that formed a model for other provincial capitals. The Roman citizen colonies of the west, many of them established by Augustus to settle his veterans, supplemented this output by their own local coinages, and in the east, particularly Asia Minor and Syria, numerous Greek cities were also allowed to issue small change.

Expansion of the empire
The death in 12 bc of Lepidus enabled Augustus finally to succeed him as the official head of the Roman religion, the chief priest (pontifex maximus). In the same year, Agrippa, too, died. Augustus compelled his widow, Julia, to marry Tiberius against both their wishes. During the next three years, however, Tiberius was away in the field, reducing Pannonia up to the middle Danube, while his brother Drusus crossed the Rhine frontier and invaded Germany as far as the Elbe, where he died in 9 bc. In the following year, Augustus lost another of his intimates, Maecenas, who had been the adviser of his early days and was an outstanding patron of letters.

Tiberius, who replaced Drusus in Germany, was elevated in 6 bc to a share in his stepfather’s tribunician power. But shortly afterward he went into retirement on the island of Rhodes. This was attributed to jealousy of his stepnephew Gaius Caesar, who was introduced to public life with a great fanfare in the following year; and the same compliments were paid to his brother Lucius in 2 bc, the year in which Augustus received his climactic title, “father of the country” (pater patriae). Gaius was sent to the east and Lucius to the west. Both, however, soon died. Tiberius returned home in 2, and in 4 Augustus adopted him as his son, who in turn was required to adopt Germanicus, the son of his brother Drusus. The powers conferred upon Tiberius made him almost Augustus’s own equal in everything except prestige.

Tiberius’s next task was to consolidate the invasion and provincial organization of Germany (ad 4–5). An invasion of Bohemia was planned and had already been launched from two directions when news came in 6 that Pannonia and Illyricum had revolted. It took three years for the rebellion to be put down; and this had only just been completed when Arminius raised the Germans against their Roman governor Varus and destroyed him and his three legions. As Augustus could not readily replace the troops, the annexation of western Germany and Bohemia was postponed indefinitely; Tiberius and Germanicus were sent to consolidate the Rhine frontier.

Although Augustus was now feeling his age, these years in association with Tiberius were marked by administrative innovations: the annexation of Judaea in ad 6 (its client king Herod the Great had died 10 years previously); the establishment at Rome (in the same year) of a fire brigade with police duties, supplemented seven years later by a regular police force (cohortes urbanae); the creation of a military treasury (aerarium militare) to defray soldiers’ retirement bounties from taxes; and the conversion of the hitherto occasional appointment of prefect of the city (praefectus urbi) into a permanent office (ad 13). When, in the same year, the powers of Augustus were renewed for 10 years—such renewals had been granted at intervals throughout the reign—Tiberius was made his equal in every constitutional respect. In April, Augustus deposited his will at the House of the Vestals in Rome. It included a summary of the military and financial resources of the empire (breviarium totius imperii) and his political testament, known as the “Res Gestae Divi Augusti” (“Achievements of the Divine Augustus”). The best-preserved copy of the latter document is on the walls of the Temple of Rome and Augustus at Ankara, Turkey (the Monumentum Ancyranum). In ad 14 Tiberius was due to leave for Illyricum but was recalled by the news that Augustus was gravely ill. He died on August 19, and on September 17 the Senate enrolled him among the gods of the Roman state. By that time Tiberius had succeeded him as the second Roman emperor, though the formalities involved in the succession proved embarrassing both to himself and to the Senate because the “principate” of Augustus had not, constitutionally speaking, been heritable or continuous. Like other emperors, Tiberius assumed the designation “Augustus” as an additional title of his own. Agrippa Postumus, who had been named his co-heir but was later banished, was put to death. The order to kill him may already have been given by Augustus, but this is not certain.

Personality and achievement
Augustus was one of the great administrative geniuses of history. The gigantic work of reorganization that he carried out in every field of Roman life and throughout the entire empire not only transformed the decaying republic into a new, monarchic regime with many centuries of life ahead of it but also created a durable Roman peace, based on easy communications and flourishing trade. It was this Pax Romana that ensured the survival and eventual transmission of the classical heritage, Greek and Roman alike, and provided the means for the diffusion of Judaism and Christianity. Although his regime was an autocracy, Augustus, being a tactful and imaginative master of propaganda of many kinds, knew how to cloak that autocracy in traditionalist forms that would satisfy a war-worn generation—perhaps, most of all, the upper bourgeoisie immediately below the leading nobility, since it was they who benefited from the new order more than anyone. He was also able to win the approbation, through the patronage of Maecenas, of some of the greatest writers the world has ever known, including Virgil, Horace, and Livy.

Their enthusiasm was partly due to Augustus’s conviction that the Roman peace must be under Occidental, Italian control. This was in contrast to the views of Antony and Cleopatra, who had envisaged some sort of Greco-Roman partnership such as began to prevail only three or four centuries later. Augustus’s narrower view, although modified by an informed admiration of Greek civilization, was based on his small-town Italian origins. These were also partly responsible for his patriotic, antiquarian attachment to the ancient religion and for his puritanical social policy.

Augustus was a cultured man, the author of a number of works (all lost): a pamphlet against Brutus, an exhortation to philosophy, an account of his own early life, a biography of Drusus, poems, and epigrams. The conventional view of his character distinguishes between his cruelty in early years and his mildness in later life. But there was not so much need for cruelty later on, and, when it was needed (notably in the suppression of alleged plots), he was still ready to apply it. It is probable that nothing short of this degree of political ruthlessness could have achieved such enormous results. His domestic life, however, was simple and homespun. Within his family, the successive deaths of those he had earmarked as his successors or helpers caused him much sadness and disappointment. His devotion to his wife Livia Drusilla remained constant, though, like other Romans, he was unfaithful. His surviving letters show kindliness to his relations. Yet he exiled his daughter Julia for offending against his public moral attitudes, and he exiled her daughter by Agrippa for the same reason; he also exiled the son of Agrippa and Julia, Agrippa Postumus, though the suspicion that he later had him killed is unproved. As for Augustus’s male relatives who were his helpers, he was loyal to them but drove them as hard as he drove himself. He needed them because the burden was so heavy, and he especially needed them in the military sphere because he was not a great commander. In Agrippa and Tiberius and a number of others, he had men who supplied this deficiency, and although, on his deathbed, he is said to have advised against the further expansion of the empire, he himself, with their assistance, had expanded its frontiers in many directions.

His physical condition was subject to a host of ills and weaknesses, many of them recurrent. Indeed, in his early life, particularly, it was only his indomitable will that enabled him to survive—a strange preliminary to an unprecedented and unequaled life’s work. His appearance is described by the biographer Suetonius:

He was unusually handsome and exceedingly graceful at all periods of his life, though he cared nothing for personal adornment. His expression, whether in conversation or when he was silent, was calm and mild.…He had clear, bright eyes, in which he liked to have it thought that there was a kind of divine power, and it greatly pleased him, whenever he looked keenly at anyone, if he let his face fall as if before the radiance of the sun. His teeth were wide apart, small and ill-kept; his hair was slightly curly and inclining to golden; his eyebrows met.…His complexion was between dark and fair. He was short of stature, but this was concealed by the fine proportion and symmetry of his figure, and was noticeable only by comparison with some taller person standing beside him.

Augustus’s countenance proved a godsend to the Greeks and Hellenized easterners, who were the best sculptors of the time, for they elevated his features into a moving, never-to-be-forgotten imperial type, which Napoleon’s artists, among others, keenly emulated. The contemporary portrait busts of Augustus, echoed on his coins, formed part of a significant renaissance of the arts in which Italic and Hellenic styles were discreetly and brilliantly blended. Still extant at Rome are the severe yet delicate reliefs of the Ara Pacis (“Altar of Peace”), depicting a religious procession in which the national leaders are taking part; there are also scenes from the Roman mythology. The altar was dedicated by the Senate and people of Rome in 13 bc to commemorate the pacification of Gaul and Spain.

The architectural masterpieces of the time were also numerous; and something of their monumental grandeur and classical purity can be seen today at Rome in the remains of the Theatre of Marcellus and of the massive Forum of Augustus, flanked by colonnades and culminating in the Temple of Mars the Avenger—the Avenger of Julius Caesar. Outside Rome, too, there are abundant memorials of the Augustan Age; on either side of the Alps, for example, there are monuments to celebrate the submission and loyalty of the local tribes, an elegant arch at Segusio (Susa), and a square stone trophy, topped by a cylindrical drum, at La Turbie. From Livia’s mansion on the outskirts of Rome, at Prima Porta, comes a reminder that not all the art of the day was formal and grand. One of the rooms is adorned with wall paintings representing an enchanted garden; beyond a trellis are orchards and flower beds, in which birds and insects perch among the foliage. Augustus himself had no interest in personal luxury. Yet if ever he or his associates had any spare time, such were the rooms in which they spent it.

Michael Grant

Tiberius (42 B.C.-37 a.d. )

Emperor 14-37 a.d.; adopted by Augustus in 4a.d., guaranteeing patronage and advancement; led successful military campaigns in Armenia, Rhaetia, Vindelicia, Pannonia, and Dalmatia from 20 B.C. to 9 B.C.; became emperor after a formal vote by the Senate in 14 a.d.; handed over affairs of state to the Praetorian guard prefect Sejanus between 27and 31; spent his last years on the island of Capri.



Nero (37-68)

Emperor 54-68; raised by the philosopher Seneca; reigned at first in close cooperation with the Senate on the Augustan model; had his mother and first wife murdered; ruled increasingly despotically after 62; was suspected of arson after a great fire in Rome in 64; brutally persecuted Christians; committed suicide in 68 after being declared a public enemy by the Senate due to the people's increasing hostility.



(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Roman emperor
in full Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus , also called (ad 50–54) Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus , original name Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus
born Dec. 15, ad 37, Antium, Latium
died June 9, 68, Rome

the fifth Roman emperor (ad 54–68), stepson and heir of the emperor Claudius. He became infamous for his personal debaucheries and extravagances and, on doubtful evidence, for his burning of Rome and persecutions of Christians.

Nero’s father, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, died in about ad 40, and Nero was brought up by his mother, Agrippina the Younger, a great-granddaughter of the emperor Augustus. After poisoning her second husband, Agrippina incestuously became the wife of her uncle, the emperor Claudius, and persuaded him to favour Nero for the succession, over the rightful claim of his own son, Britannicus, and to marry his daughter, Octavia, to Nero. Having already helped to bring about the murder of Valeria Messalina, her predecessor as the wife of Claudius, in 48, and ceaselessly pursuing her intrigues to bring Nero to power, Agrippina eliminated her opponents among Claudius’ palace advisers, probably had Claudius himself poisoned in 54, and completed her work with the poisoning of Britannicus in 55. Upon the death of Claudius she at once had Nero proclaimed emperor by the Praetorian Guard, whose prefect, Sextus Afranius Burrus, was her partisan; the Senate thus had to accept a fait accompli. For the first time absolute power in the Roman Empire was vested in a mere boy, who was not yet 17.

Early reign.
Agrippina immediately eliminated the powerful freedman Narcissus, who had always opposed her aims. She hoped to control the government, but Burrus and Nero’s old tutor, the Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, though they owed their influence to Agrippina, were not content to remain her tools. They encouraged Nero to act independently of her, and a growing coolness resulted in Nero’s relations with his mother. In 56 Agrippina was forced into retirement. From that time until 62, Burrus and Seneca were the effective rulers of the empire.

Brought up in this atmosphere, Nero might well have begun to behave like a monster upon his accession as emperor in 54 but, in fact, behaved quite otherwise. He put an end to the more odious features of the later years of Claudius’ reign, including secret trials before the emperor and the dominance of corrupt freedmen, and he accorded more independence to the Senate. The testimony of contemporaries depicts Nero at this time as a handsome young man of fine presence but with soft, weak features and a restless spirit. Up to the year 59, Nero’s biographers cite only acts of generosity and clemency on his account. His government forbade contests in the circus involving bloodshed, banned capital punishment, reduced taxes, and accorded permission to slaves to bring civil complaints against unjust masters. Nero himself pardoned writers of epigrams against him and even those who plotted against him, and secret trials were few. The law of treason was dormant: Claudius had put 40 senators to death, but, between the murders instigated by Agrippina in 54 and the year 62, there were no like incidents in Nero’s reign. Nero also inaugurated competitions in poetry, in the theatre, and in athletics as counter-attractions to gladiatorial combats. He saw to it that assistance was provided to cities that had suffered disaster and, at the request of the Jewish historian Josephus, gave aid to the Jews.

Artistic pretensions and irresponsibility.
While directing the government themselves, Burrus and Seneca had largely left Nero uncontrolled to pursue his own tastes and pleasures. Seneca urged Nero to use his autocratic powers conscientiously, but he obviously failed to harness the boy’s more generous impulses to his responsibilities. At first Nero hated signing death sentences, and the extortions of Roman tax collectors upon the populace led him in 58 to unrealistically suggest that the customs dues should be abolished. Even later Nero was capable of conceiving grandiose plans for conquests or the creation of public works, but for the most part he used his position simply to gratify his own personal pleasures. His nocturnal rioting in the streets was a scandal as early as 56, but the emergence of real brutality in Nero can be fixed in the 35-month period between the putting to death of his mother at his orders in 59 and his similar treatment of his wife Octavia in June 62. He was led to the murder of Agrippina by her insanity and her fury at seeing her son slip out of her control, to the murder of Octavia by his having fallen in love with Poppaea Sabina, the young wife of the senator (and later emperor) Otho, and by his fear that his repudiated wife was fomenting disaffection at court and among the populace. He married Poppaea in 62, but she died in 65, and he subsequently married the patrician lady Statilia Messalina.

Seeing that he could do what he liked without fear of censure or retribution, Nero began to give rein to inordinate artistic pretensions. He fancied himself not only a poet but also a charioteer and lyre player, and in 59 or 60 he began to give public performances; later he appeared on the stage, and the theatre furnished him with the pretext to assume every kind of role. To the Romans these antics seemed to be scandalous breaches of civic dignity and decorum. Nero even dreamed of abandoning the throne of Rome in order to fulfill his poetical and musical gifts, though he did not act on these puerile ambitions. Beginning about 63 he also developed strange religious enthusiasms and became increasingly attracted to the preachers of novel cults. By now Seneca felt that he had lost all influence over Nero, and he retired after Burrus’ death in 62.

The great fire that ravaged Rome in 64 illustrates how low Nero’s reputation had sunk by this time. Taking advantage of the fire’s destruction, Nero had the city reconstructed in the Greek style and began building a prodigious palace—the Golden House—which, had it been finished, would have covered a third of Rome. During the fire Nero was at his villa at Antium 35 miles (56 km) from Rome and therefore cannot be held responsible for the burning of the city. But the Roman populace mistakenly believed that he himself had started the fire in Rome in order to indulge his aesthetic tastes in the city’s subsequent reconstruction. According to the Annals of the Roman historian Tacitus and to the Nero of the Roman biographer Suetonius, Nero in response tried to shift responsibility for the fire on the Christians, who were popularly thought to engage in many wicked practices. Hitherto the government had not clearly distinguished Christians from Jews; almost by accident, Nero initiated the later Roman policy of halfhearted persecution of the Christians, in the process earning himself the reputation of Antichrist in the Christian tradition.

The approaching end.
Meanwhile, the imperial government had had some success in the east. The great foreign-policy problem of the time was that of Armenia. Since the reign of Augustus, it had been Roman policy to appoint vassal kings there and so make Armenia a buffer state against Parthia, Rome’s implacable foe in the east. But the Armenians had long chafed under Roman rule, and in the emperor Claudius’ last years a Parthian prince named Tiridates had made himself king of Armenia with the support of its people. In response, Nero’s new government took vigorous action, appointing an able general, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, to the command. Prolonged military operations by Corbulo led in 66 to a new settlement; Tiridates was recognized as king, but he was compelled to come to Rome to receive his crown from Nero.

Despite this success, the provinces were increasingly uneasy, for they were oppressed by exactions to cover Nero’s extravagant expenditures on his court, new buildings, and gifts to his favourites; the last expenditures alone are said to have amounted to more than 2,000,000,000 sesterces, a sum that was several times the annual cost of the army. A revolt in Britain was headed by Queen Boudicca (Boadicea) in 60 or 61, and an insurrection in Judaea lasted from 66 to 70. Nero had many antagonists by this time. The great conspiracy to make Gaius Calpurnius Piso emperor in 65 reveals the diversity of his enemies—senators, knights, officers, and philosophers. That the conspiracy included military officers was an ominous sign, but Nero did not give way to panic; slaves kept him out of danger by warning him of plots that were hatching among their masters. And he did not altogether abandon his lenient attitude. Out of 41 participants in the Piso conspiracy, only 18 died (including Seneca and the poet Lucan), either by order or from fear; the others were exiled or pardoned.

At the end of the year 66, Nero undertook a long visit to Greece that was to keep him away from Rome for 15 months, and during his absence he entrusted the consulate to one of his freedmen. On this trip Nero engaged in new displays of his artistic prowess, and he walked about garbed as an ascetic, barefoot and with flowing hair. His enthusiasm for Greek culture also prompted him to free a number of Greek cities in honour of their glorious past. In the four months following his return to Rome in February 68, his delirious pretensions as both an artist and a religious worshiper aroused the enmity not only of the Senate and those patricians who had been dispossessed by him but also of the Italian middle class, which had old-fashioned moral views and which furnished most of the officers of the army. Even the common soldiers of the legions were scandalized to see the descendant of Caesar publicly perform on stage the parts not only of ancient Greek heroes but of far lower characters. “I have seen him on stage,” Gaius Julius Vindex, the legate who rebelled against him, was to say, “playing pregnant women and slaves about to be executed.”

At the news of revolts brewing throughout the empire—that of the provincial governor Servius Sulpicius Galba in Spain, the rebellion of the provincial governor Julius Vindex at Lyon in Gaul (France), and others on the eastern frontier—Nero only laughed and indulged in further megalomaniacal displays instead of taking action. “I have only to appear and sing to have peace once more in Gaul,” he is reported to have said. Meanwhile, the revolt spread and the legions made Galba emperor; the Senate condemned Nero to die a slave’s death: on a cross and under the whip. The Praetorian Guard, his palace guard, abandoned him, and his freedmen left to embark on the ships he kept in readiness at Ostia, the port of Rome. Nero was obliged to flee the city. According to Suetonius, he stabbed himself in the throat with a dagger. According to another version (recounted by Tacitus and almost certainly fiction) he reached the Greek islands, where the following year (69) the governor of Cythnos (modern Kíthnos) recognized him in the guise of a red-haired prophet and leader of the poor, had him arrested, and executed the sentence that had been passed by the Senate.

The Roman populace and the Praetorian Guard later came to regret that they had lost such a liberal patron, but to his subjects in general, Nero had been a tyrant, and the revolt his misrule provoked sparked a series of civil wars that for a time threatened the survival of the Roman Empire and caused widespread misery.


Trajan (53-117)

Emperor 98-117; was adopted the son of Emperor Nerva; became the first emperor to come from a province (Spain) in 98 a.d.; significantly extended the Roman Empire through conquests in Asia Minor, the Middle East, and Central Europe; later presided over public building projects and a major extension of the roman road network; opened the age of the adopted emperors.



Hadrian (76-138)

Emperor 117-138; supposedly adopted by Trajan in his will; dedicated himself to securing the borders of the empire, particularly through the construction of the defensive walls (known as limes) in Britain and Germany; had the Jewish "Bar Kochba" rebellion crushed in 132; ordered the first Roman codification of laws; dedicated himself to the intellectual refinement of the Roman lifestyle and promoted education for all levels of the empire's population.



Marcus Aurelius (121-180)

Emperor 161-180; was adopted by his uncle Antoninus Pius in 138; became a significant philosopher of the Stoic school; wrote Meditations; successfully defended the empire in lengthy wars against the Parthians and Marcomanni; shared power with his adoptive brother Lucius Verus as coemperor; succumbed to the plague in Vindobona (modern Vienna) in 180.



Lucius Septimus Severus (146-211)

Emperor 193-211; born in Leptis Magna in North Africa; established a Roman province in Mesopotamia after defeating the Parthians; increased the power of the army and especially that of the Praetorian Guard; laid the foundations for the soldier-emperors who succeeded him; centralized the imperial administration and instigated wholesale judicial reform.



Diocletian (ca. 240-316)

Emperor 284-305: created the tetrarchy (rule of four); decentralized the empire and secured the borders against the Germanic tribes and the Persians; sought a return to traditional Roman values and the original Roman religion; initiated a systematic persecution of the Christians and Manichaeans; carried out military reforms and favored the army, which had proclaimed him emperor in 284; abdicated in 305 according to the tetrarrhian order of succession.



Constantine I (285-337)

Emperor 306-337; initially ruled as a tetrarch; after the Battle at the Milvian Bridge in 312, became the first emperor to adopt Christianity; extended rights of worship to the Christians; became sole ruler in the empire after defeating his last rival in 324; made efforts to bring unity to the Church; renamed Byzantium "Constantinople" in 330, declaring it the "new Rome" in the East; was a generous patron of public building projects; was baptized on his deathbed in 337.




Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy