The “Divine” Augustus


Gaius Octavius Julius Caesar Augustus (63BC-14AD) was the first Roman Emperor. He titled himself Imperator, then claimed to be upholding the Republic, but was essentially an absolute monarch.

Octavius, with his efficient administration, certainly brought a new era of peace and prosperity, after the civil wars. He claimed: “I found Rome built of sun-dried bricks; I leave her clothed in marble.” {Suetonius Augustus II}

The price the Romans paid for this was submitting to autocracy. The Senate continued for centuries, but without the same powers. To make this palatable; Octavius used propaganda in the form of coins, literature and monuments.

The biggest form of propaganda used by Octavius was the claim he was divine, calling himself Augustus in 27BC. The son of Atia and Gaius Octavius was now became son of the deified Julius Caesar (while having his natural son Caesarion killed). He name-dropped Mars, Jupiter and supposed ancestress Venus. Augustus seem to have superseded the worship of the gods when he wanted to have hemself venerated in temples, with god-like images. {Tacitus From Augustus to Tiberius I}

Many monarchs have claimed to be descended from gods, such as the Pharaohs, his arch-rival Cleopatra was considered a daughter of Isis. Today, the same claim was made by the Japanese Emperor, even the North Korean dictators. Opposing these rulers becomes not only treason, but also sacrilege.

So this was Augustus’ biggest form of propaganda, as seen in his own Res Gestae Divi Augusti:  “A copy below of the deeds of the divine Augustus, by which he subjected the whole wide earth to the rule of the Roman people, and of the money which he spent for the state and Roman people.”{Augustus} Unlike subsequent Caesars, he did not let this hype go to his head.


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