In exciting news, we got together recently with the amazing and very hilarious gentleman of Totalus Rankium, Rob and Jaime, to discuss all things Augustus! We love their work on the Roman emperors and thought it would be great fun to see how all our different perspectives on Augustus shaped up in conversation.
The results are in! Enjoy a sparring match of words that goes in all directions. We explore some of the highlights and low-lights of Augustus’ life and career. You can hear all the fruits of our conversation as Dr G tries valiantly to salvage something from the criticism coming from all directions!
The controversial politics of Augustus is central to the conversation and we’ll even take a spin on judging Augustus’ career against the categories developed by Totalus Rankium. We really enjoyed this collaboration and stay tuned because we’ll be delving into Tiberius next 🙂
Augustus, Octavius, Thurinus?
Augustus is always a
bit of a tricky figure, so let’s back up the truck for just a moment,
here are some of the key details of Augustus’ life through his
The first problem is always Roman naming conventions and even these get a run for their money when we come to Augustus. Here’s a brief overview of his names in a timeline:
C. Octavius (Thurinus)
63 BCE, 23rd of September
- The son of Atia and C. Octavius. As is customary, they name their son after his father: C. Octavius. Suetonius Aug. 7 reports he is also known as Thurinus because of an ancestral connection with the Thurii region.
Caesar, son of Caesar
44 BCE, post the Ides of March
- His adoption by Gaius Julius Caesar leads to the assumption of a new name. According to Appian BC 3.11, he begins to refer to himself as Caesar, son of Caesar – this is a different formulation than usual for adopted children. While Romans may have been expecting him to become known as C. Julius Caesar Octavianus, with a nod to his birth family, he instead takes a radical approach of renaming himself as though he were Caesar’s legitimate natal son rather than simply his grand-nephew adopted by will.
- Ancient historians tend to refer to him as Octavian for the period between 44-27 BCE. Octavian is a shortened version of Octavianus and it is a useful distinction to prevent confusion regarding which C. Julius Caesar is under discussion.
Gaius Julius Caesar Divi Filius
42 BCE onwards
- Construction begins on the temple to the deified Julius Caesar. This allows our main man to add something a little bit fancy to his name: he’s not just C. Julius Caesar son of Caesar, he is now C. Julius Caesar son of the God (C. Julius Caesar). It’s a bold political move!
Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus
27 BCE, 16th of January
- In the wake of the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra in 30 BCE, and the ostensible restoration of the republic, he accepts the honorific ‘Augustus’, proposed to the senate by Munatius Plancus. He’d been using the military title imperator for some time, but his transformation from humble Octavius to Augustus is something of a zenith. He will be known as Augustus for the rest of his life.