Today on August 19, 14 CE, Augustus dies after ushering in a golden era of stability and prosperity - Pax Romana!
Augustus Caesar, also known as Octavian, was undoubtedly one of the greatest emperors of Ancient Rome. After decades of turmoil and internal strife, the Roman Republic had finally come to end with the dictatorship of Julius Caesar. Augustus was the nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar and widely believed to be his heir apparent. Following Caesar’s assassination, the republic was once again thrown into disarray. After hunting down the conspirators at the Battle of Philippi, Octavian formed a political alliance with Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus. The political arrangement, now known as the Second Triumvirate, saw the three leading Caesareans co-rule over the empire for a short period. The alliance was shaky at best, as Mark Antony and Octavian quickly sought to gain full control.
In 31 BCE, Octavian decisively defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, resulting in their eventual demise. He quickly moved to consolidate his power across the vast empire. Augustus pronounced the beginning of a free and open republic, but in reality, he maintained the same autocratic rule as Julius Caesar. However, Augustus masterfully portrayed the Senate as the leading governmental institution. He outwardly rejected monarchical titles and referred to himself as the First Citizen of the State. Over the next few years, he carefully crafted a new political framework which placed himself at the center of the power.
In many respects, Augustus was the most effective man to ever rule over the Roman Empire. Throughout his 44 year reign, he made a number of sweeping political, military, and cultural reforms. The empire’s borders significantly expanded after he annexed Egypt and other territories across North Africa. He also launched invasions into Germania and completed the conquest of Hispania. He established a secure frontier with massive fortification programs and developing alliances with several buffer states. Government coffers were finally restored after implementing several taxation reforms. His reign marked the beginning of Pax Romana, a two-hundred year period of relative peace and stability.