The very first Roman Emperor was born on this day (23rd September) in 63 BCE. Born as Gaius Octavius to a wealthy family, his great uncle happened to be another great Roman leader, Julius Caesar.
Caesar, who had been dictator of the Roman Republic, was assassinated by a group of Roman senators in 44 BCE. In his will, Caesar had named his great-nephew, Octavian, as his heir and bequeathed him the Caesar name, which at the time was incredibly potent and brought with it the loyalty of much of the Roman population. However, before he achieved total power, Octavian would have to fight several wars, most notably against Antony and Cleopatra. Eventually, his defeat of the two at the Battle of Actium made him undisputed leader of Rome.
Rather than lead as a dictator, as his great-uncle had done, Augustus, as Octavian was now known, established the Principate, thereby ending the Roman Republic, which had lasted for five centuries. This was a form of enlightened absolutism, whereby Augustus dominated the political regime without reintroducing a legal monarchy. The earlier Roman Kingdom was hated by the population and so Augustus worked hard to give the impression of the continuation of the Republic; avoiding unnecessarily flaunting his wealth and power.
After a tumultuous period of civil wars, Augustus’ reign brought with it a number of constitutional and social reforms, heralding one of the most peaceful periods in Roman history, known as the Pax Romana. Augustus also became patron of several of the Roman Empire’s greatest poets, including Virgil, and expanded the Empire to include large parts of northern Africa, modern-day Turkey, Spain, Portugal, several areas of Eastern Europe and large parts of Germany, whose tribes had long resisted Roman expansion into their territory.
The Roman Empire would go on to become one of the largest empires the world has ever seen, and certainly the largest in Classical Antiquity. Its influence is still felt across its former territories, from politics, religion and culture, to language and art.
If your students are studying the Roman Empire, there really is no better way to enthuse them and provide them with unique historical insights than a school classical studies trip. We organise tours to Rome, Naples and Sorrento, and Provence. All our tours are tailor-made to fit the requirements of each group, so to find out what we can arrange for your group, please contact us.