By Gregory Aldrete, Ph.D., university of Wisconsin, environment-friendly Bay

What’s in a name? A lot, as we discover when trying out the numerous titles of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor.

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(Image: Unknown – Santo Attilio, Augusto, Milano 1902/Public domain)

Octavian’s Title: The importance of a Label

When Octavian assumed leadership of Rome, his main goal was no to be assassinated choose his predecessor Julius Caesar had actually been. Thus, he concentrated on consolidating strength while in ~ the same time maintaining the illusion the he walk not have the absolute regulate of a king.

One strategy was to give up manage of federal government offices through an election, or else with candidates favored by the Senate. However, the handful of provinces that stayed under Octavian’s direct control were specifically those which consisted of the overwhelming bulk of the roman army.

This is a transcript native the video collection The roman Empire: native Augustus to the autumn of Rome. clock it now, Wondrium

An added leg supporting Octavian’s settlement pertained to the an overwhelming question of finding a name or title to call himself. While his position was monarchical in reality, the obviously could not openly label himself as a king.

Octavian briefly thought about taking the name Romulus ~ the legendary founder the Rome, but rejected this idea because Romulus himself had actually been a king. The association would have been also close for comfort.

Julius Caesar’s an answer to this worry had been to take on the title of “Dictator because that Life.” while the office the dictator had indeed existed throughout the republic, it had been strictly restricted to a six-month term. Thus, to produce a Dictator because that Life was to straight contradict the most an essential characteristic of the original office and also was too tantamount to being a king.

To solve this vexatious dilemma, Octavian turned come his facility at propaganda and also devised a remarkable clever solution. Gift innovative, it offered the illustration of merely following established traditions.

What he did was to take on not just one surname or title, however a plethora of them, each of i m sorry individually didn’t seem the intimidating or autocratic, however which collectively bestowed unprecedented status and prestige ~ above him.

Additionally, every one of these name or title either had republican precedents or were based on long-standing cultural concepts, so that it showed up Octavian to be respectful of tradition, also if, in his version, these same terms take it on additional or novel meanings.

Learn more about Octavian and also the dawn the the roman Empire

What go “Augustus” Mean?

One of the most amazing of these was the location of Augustus, bestowed ~ above Octavian by a vote of the Senate after his claimed abdication of strength in 27 B.C. Again, he had probably i ordered it behind the scenes because that this come happen, however he might publicly claim the Senate had actually spontaneously granted the this location in gratitude for his actions.


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Ancient roman statue of Emperor Augustus as Jove. (Image: Photography by I, Sailko/Public domain)

The hatchet Augustus was a traditional one that had actually an interesting, ambiguous set of interpretations related come religion. On the one hand, to define someone together “augustus” simply suggested that he was a deep pious individual who was filled with respect for the gods.

On the other, to brand someone together “augustus” implied the he was divine or deserving of religious veneration.

The duality of this term—somehow projecting modesty while additionally singling the end its thing as practically a magnificent being—is common of the particularly facility that Octavian possessed because that manipulating words and also images to encourage himself and his reign.

It has become a convention because that historians, when describing the job of this man, to refer to him together Octavian throughout the an initial stage the his life up to 27 B.C., however then to switch to calling the Augustus when he had actually effectively end up being the sole ruler of the roman world. Complying with this exercise as well, he will now be described as Augustus.

Learn more about Augustus’ significant success as Rome’s very first emperor

Layered interpretations in the titles of Augustus

Augustus also began to use the honorificprinceps civitatis, which around translates as “the first citizen.” favor the indigenous augustus, this ax embodies contradictory meanings that can be perceived alternately as expressions the modesty or self-aggrandizement.

On the surface, by labeling himself as the “princeps,” Augustus seemed to it is in stressing his identification as an plain Roman citizen. However, the term said that he to be not simply a citizen, yet the very first citizen, hinting in ~ a distinct or elevated status.


Augustus chose countless names, each highlighting a various component the his power. (Image: photo by user Bibi Saint-Pol/Public domain)

Occasionally, princeps is translated into English together the expression “the an initial among equals,” an inherently oxymoronic construction that nicely catches its double nature. Princeps is the root of the English native “prince,” and also the type of government that Augustus created is occasionally referred to as “the Principate.”

One location Augustus embraced had old republican precedents: This was the ax “imperator.” It had long been the tradition for a general to it is in hailed with shouts that “Imperator!” after ~ a remarkable battlefield victory, yet Augustus took on this originally spontaneous acclamation together a permanent part of his formal name. That is indigenous the Latin term imperator the the contemporary English words “emperor” and also “empire” are derived.

While words “augustus” associated him v religion, the location imperator emphasized his role as a successful military leader. Once we speak of roman inn emperors, we space picking among their numerous titles and also using it as a shorthand for every one of them.

Finally, Augustus likewise had bestowed upon himself the titlePater Patriae, meaning “Father the the Country.” when the translate into of this title is straightforward, as soon as again, the connotations are more complex.

One stereotype linked with fathers is that they love and protect their children. Giving Augustus the location of “Father that the Country” seems choose a warm and fuzzy acknowledgment the he cared deeply around his metaphorical children, the roman inn people.

However, in roman culture, the father was a figure of huge authority and dignity that wielded absolute strength over the members of his family—up to and including the ability to sell his kids into slavery, or even to kill them.

Thus, Octavian’s influenced solution come the dilemma of what to call himself to be to take no solitary name or title, however instead come conceal his strength behind a hold of them, no one of i beg your pardon individually seemed excessive, however each the which emphasize a various component that his power.

All of this terms became not just parts the his title yet components of his yes, really name. Subsequent monarchs would follow his lead and call us by the very same constellation that terms.

Learn an ext about Augustus’s use of propaganda

Augustus’s Behavior: A display of Modesty

The fourth and also final component of his effective solution come the an obstacle of how to preeminence Rome as one man, centered about his behavior. In this realm, the was reasoning of the animosity Julius Caesar had provoked by his arrogant and autocratic manner; thus, Augustus do a an excellent show of make the efforts to show his modesty.

Rather 보다 living in a lavish palace, he populated a home of modest size; fairly than attract jewels or ornate robes, that dressed in a an easy toga, prefer every other citizen; rather than indulging in extravagant feasts, that dined ~ above ostentatiously straightforward foods, choose a roman farmer; rather than lording it over the members that the aristocracy, he treated senators through respect and also courtesy.

Content with possessing real power, he did not see the need for luxuriating in that superficial trappings. Augustus’ calculatedly unpretentious habits helped to sustain the fiction the he to be not, in fact, an absolute monarch—and the worked.

Learn an ext about the dangers of life in old Rome

Whereas Julius Caesar had been assassinated after just a couple of years, Augustus appreciated a lengthy reign that almost half a century, and also ultimately passed away of natural causes.

Common Questions about the title Augustus Held


Q: What to be the an interpretation of the location Augustus?

The title Augustus was an honorific which meant “exalted” or “venerable;” however, it to be clever in that it additionally held both modest and also saintly spiritual meanings, i beg your pardon endowed Augustus with a close to saintly image while still being modest and also humble.


Q: What every titles did Augustus hold?

The title Augustus held were many, consisting of Divi Filius, Princeps Senatus, and Pontifex Maximus, v his main title becoming Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus.


Q: What to be the definition of Augustus’ location Pontifex Maximus?

Augustus absorbed the title of Pontifex Maximus together it to be the ultimate judgment title, denote both religious and political power over old Rome. Julius Caesar had actually originally hosted the title, however as Augustus asserted the title for the newly created Empire, or Imperium, the full level of powers it conveyed ended up being mostly political.

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Q: walk the location of Augustus make Octavian a god?

Octavian’s location Augustus had a distinctly religious connotation as it was applied to deities. Augustus want to be viewed as a god and after his death was had in the roman inn pantheon.


This short article was updated on December 10, 2019

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