If anyone had hoped that the assassination of Julius Caesar would bring about the return of Republican rule, they must surely have been disappointed, for the political turbulence simply continued. Caesar’s assassins and his old commanders battled for control, while orators like Cicero labored to save the old Republic. In the and, Julius Caesar’s great nephew and adopted son Octavian known to history as Augustus Caesar outmaneuvered and outfought everyone.
The year after his uncle’s death, Octavian and his allies of the Caesarian faction joined forces in an alliance called the second Triumvirate. By means of intriguer and threat, they coerced the senate into granting them and their legions the power to rectory peace to the Roman state. In the battle of Philippi, in northern Greece in 42b.c., Octavian and his allies defeated the conspirators who had assassinated Julius Caesar. However, peace was not at hand. Octavian split with his former allies, especially with Mark Antony, who was now Cleopatra’s lover. In a climactic naval battle at Actium in 31b.c., Octavian defeated Mark Antony. Antony’s death and Octavian’s victory effectively ended the Roman Civil war. In the thirty seventh poems in his first book of Odes, the poet Horace wrote in response: Nuncest bibendum nuncpede libero pulsanda tellus! Octavian took power, and Horace hailed him as “Caesar,” which, for the first time, becomes a horrific title.
Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus held both military command and tribunician power he was both chief priest. He was also politically astute enough to adorn reality with palatable outward forms, replacing democracy with autocracy in a way that did not antagonize the public. He called on the services of culture, religion, literature, architecture, and the visual arts to help create a new picture of the world, with the result that there was a politically inspired aesthetic revolution, which led to the legalization of absolute power. In 27b.c., Octavian formally divested himself of all authority. In response, the Senate and the people promptly gave it back to him, voting him the title Augustus. Although he was never officially emperor of Rome at all, within four years he had assumed complete power including the right of veto over any law. The Republic was formally dead.
During the forty-five years that Augustus ruled, the Senate and popular assemblies continued to meet. However, the election of consuls, proconsuls, tribunes, and other officials required his blessing, the Senate was filled with Augustus’ finds, and the popular assemblies seem to have lost all political function. As commander of the armies, he rule all the vast territories of an empire that reached to the Rivers Rhine and Danube in what is now Germany. He commanded in the name of his uncle, Julius Caesar, and on the basis of his own military victories, claiming that he brought peace and order after a century of civil wars. He rebuilt temples to the Olympian gods, the “divine” Julius Caesar, and to “Rome and Augustus.” He built roads, bridges, and aqueducts, established a sound currency, nurtured honest government, and maintained peace, which lasted nearly two hundred years.