||Octavius Augustus Caesar
||43 BC-14 AD
the tomb of the great Macedonian; when he was invited next to see the tombs of the Ptolemies, he is said to have replied, "I came to see a King, not a row of corpses".
The Senate, ever willing to be subservient to the man with the legions, voted Octavius all sorts of powers, as well as the title Augustus, by which he was generally known, in 27 BC. Augustus himself showed much deference toward the Senate, doing his best to act as though he were its servant rather than its master; he let it have the form of power, while he kept the substance. Augustus thus made his principiate (from Princeps, first citizen) palatable by using the forms of the Republic.
His later rule was looked on by subsequent generations of Romans as a sort of golden age, as he did much to reform and improve the Roman state. He reformed the laws, and acted as a social engineer. Most notable, according to his biographers, were his reform of the marriage laws; given that he considered it in the best interests of Rome to have the people produce as many legitimate free citizens as possible he gave privileges and tax breaks to the fathers of large families, while doing his best to penalize the childless and unmarried. He also engaged in lavish public works projects; given that the imperial capitol was so vulnerable to flooding from the Tiber, as well as to fire, he had much of it rebuilt. He rebuilt so much that he later claimed to have found Rome a city of brick, and left it one of marble.
His generals, notably first Agrippa, then Tiberius, kept busy waging war against German barbarians. In one of these wars Varus, through gross negligence, perished with three legions in the Teutoburger Forest in AD 9. In general, however, Augustus's generals kept things under control.
His family life was somewhat less successful. He married Livia Drusilla, divorcing her from her first husband, and they got along well enough. They had no children, however. Livia had two of her own; the first was Tiberius, and the second, Drusus; she was pregnant with the latter when Augustus married her. Augustus had a daughter Julia by a previous marriage; she was first married to Agrippa, then after his death to Tiberius.
Augustus's designated heirs were his grandsons through Julia, namely Caius and Lucius, who he formally adopted. Unfortunately for him, first Caius, then Lucius, died, and Julia with her daughter Julia were proven guilty of all sorts of immoral conduct. He then adopted the third grandson, Agrippa Posthumous, along with Tiberius, as his heir; the former's unsuitability and thuggish nature made Augustus send him into exile.
His attitude to life can be seen from his use of various proverbial phrases, preserved for us by Suetonius. His motto in general was "festina lente", roughly "hasten slowly". He often commented that someone would repay him "on the Greek Calends", as the Kalends was a term used only in the Roman calendar, it meant "never". Another was "Let us be satisfied with this Cato", namely to be concerned with the situation as it is, not as it would be were it ideal.
Augustus died in 14 AD, leaving a state which, thanks largely to his efforts, was prosperous, well-run, and probably as beneficial to the well-being of the people as a military dictatorship could possibly be.