Augustus was the adopted son of the most famous Roman of all time, Julius Caesar. Augustus was very successful and has earned his place as one of the greatest Roman Emperors ever to live. This passage is adapted from an article written by Vicki Chao on edhelper.com
For ancient Rome, 27 B.C. was a defining moment. That year, the Roman Republic ceased to exist. In its place, the Roman Empire was born, and Augustus was its first emperor.
2 Augustus’ rise to power was in many ways, a stroke of luck, for he had a very powerful great uncle. That great uncle of his was none other than Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar took Augustus under his wing and gave him plenty of opportunities to succeed. On every occasion, Augustus did exceedingly well. He never let his great uncle down. Impressed by the boy’s potential, Julius Caesar secretly changed his will. In it he adopted Augustus as his son and named him his successor. Not long afterwards, on March 15, 44 B.C., a group of senators stabbed Julius Caesar 39 times in the senate building. The senators had no idea that Julius Caesar had appointed Augustus, who was only 18 years old, as his successor. Right away, the already chaotic Roman Republic became even more divided. Despite the mounting pressures, Augustus refused to back down and quickly gathered enough support from his great uncle's troops.
3 In the midst of this power struggle, Augustus, was more or less considered a minor player. Nobody took him seriously because of his young age. At the time, Mark Antony (Julius Caesar’s general and right-hand man) and Cicero (a well-spoken senator) were both vying for the control of the Roman Republic. Cicero had ridiculed Augustus behind his back. When Augustus learned of the man's true intention, he forged an alliance with Mark Antony; together with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, they reached a five-year agreement and formed the so-called Second Triumvirate. Immediately after the ink was dry, the trio unleashed a ruthless campaign of killing in Rome. In all, there were some 300 senators and 2,000 noblemen killed. Among the victims, Cicero’s fate was the worst. He was caught and slain near Caieta on December 7, 43 B.C. Upon his death, his head and hands were brought back to Rome and displayed on the speaker's platform at the Forum. Mark Antony's new third wife, Fulvia, allegedly pulled out Cicero's tongue and jabbed it repeatedly with a hairpin, in final defiance against the man's power of speech.
4 Like so many political alliances in history, the Second Triumvirate stood on rather shaky ground. When the deal was struck, Mark Antony, Augustus, and Marcus Lepidus had a common goal – avenge the death of Julius Caesar. Once that was achieved, there was not much else to keep their relationship strong. With Mark Antony and Augustus disliking each other more and more and Marcus Lepidus dieing peacefully, the final straw came when Mark Antony decided to leave his fourth wife, Augustus’ sister and be with Cleopatra. Mark Antony then set up a will to appoint Cleopatra and Julius Caesar’s son Caesarion, the rightful heir of Julius Caesar. When Augustus got word of this document, he stole it and used it as the proof that Mark Antony no longer cared about Rome and Roman traditions. This set off a public outcry against Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Knowing this could start a civil war, Augustus persuaded the Senate to declare war on Cleopatra. The two sides starting fighting and almost immediately it was clear that Augustus had the advantage. Mark Antony and Cleopatra fled from the battleground and returned to Egypt where they committed suicide together.
5 Now with victory firmly in his hands Augustus took over Egypt and quickly had Caesarion killed so that there would be nobody else who could have and hereditary claims to Julius Caesar. At the age of 33, Augustus defeated every opponent and united the Roman Republic. Such accomplishments were simply unthinkable. Had Julius Caesar been alive, he would have surely been very impressed!
6 As the most powerful man in the world, Augustus knew that he must not rush to consolidate his position and get rid of the senate as Julius Caesar has tried. For example, instead of declaring himself Emperor right away, he served as a consul for several years. He then announced his he wanted to retire and the general public and senators begged him to stay because they thought he truly understood what it was like in the Roman Republic. Augustus has gotten what he wanted, in reality he didn’t want to retire.
Augustus Reading Questions
Who was Augustus’ great uncle?
Julius Caesar adopted Augustus, true or false?
Why didn’t anyone take Augustus seriously at first?
Who did Augustus form an alliance with to defeat Cicero?
What was Cicero’s fate?
What was the goal of the 2nd Triumvirate?
Why did Mark Antony want to go back to Egypt?
What was the name of Julius Caesar’s biological son?
Who won the battle between Augustus and Mark Antony? What did Mark Antony do afterwards?
How old was Augustus when he united the Roman Republic?