From Ocatvius to Augustus

Augustus reigned over the Roman Empire from 27BC-14AD.  He was posthumously adopted by his maternal great uncle, Julius Caesar, which ultimately led to his succession as the Roman head of state.  Despite imperial expansion and a year-long civil war over succession of the Empire, Augustus led the Empire into the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, for nearly two centuries.   Augustus is best known for his physical expansion of the Empire, yet there are many more significant additions to the Empire.  Augustus reformed the Roman taxation system, completed a network of travelling roads and implemented the Empire’s first courier system; he created police and fire fighting services in Rome and effectively rebuilt much of the city during his reign.

The images of Augustus and his triumphs throughout his reign are great in number and are portrayed through many different types of media.  There are works created during Augustus’ reign that show his preference in both his depiction and the media that was used.  A variety of images of Augustus are presented in forms including sculpture, numismatic representation and painting.  All images of Augustus portray a man of power, military prowess and beauty.  He crafted his image and the story of his legacy to be one of perfection.

Born Gaius Octavius, Augustus was posthumously adopted by Julius Caesar. Augustus, Marc Antony and Marcus Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate to avenge Caesar's assassination.
The Second Triumvirate was eventually torn apart by the ambition and desire for power of its members. Marcus Lepidus was exiled and Marc Antony committed suicide after his defeat at the Battle of Actium.
Augustus was partial to being portrayed in a Neo-Classical style. Youthful with smooth skin and strong features.
Augustus supported his many titles using statues. For example, Veiled Augustus represents his title as Pontifex Maximus, head of the religious church.
It was not only large scale works that commemorated the legacy of Augustus. This bronze statue stands at 50.5cm yet captures the face of a steadfast, confident and powerful head of state.
In the low-relief cameo cut Arabian onyx stone of the Gemma Augustea, it is widely accepted that Augustus is the figure depicted seated on the throne, a halo above his head. This represents the tendency for Roman rulers to be raised to divine lineage, effectively placing themselves amongst the gods.
Augustus was a Roman emperor that did not discriminate the medium that was used depicting his likeness, as long as it produced a detailed, fine image that represented his perfection. As seen with the cameo gem crafted from glass, Augustus also appreciated his image in many different sizes as well.
Roman coins were also likely places to find images of the Head of State. Augustus is shown on the obverse of the coin. A wreath of laurel leaves are placed on his head, symbolizing a victor and someone with many accomplishments. Never to be one to forget his lineage, Augustus placed Julius Caesar on the other side of the coin.
Another coin depicted Augustus with the laurel wreath on his head. The reverse of this coin depicts Augustus surmounted on a rostral column holding a spear. This again gives reverence to his military prowess and the elevated position shows his title within the Roman population.
This painting is an example of how a legacy lives on, being completed centuries after Augustus' death. The painting shows Augustus building the Port of Misena, a rallying point for the Roman navy. Once again, accolades are given not only to Augustus' military endeavours, but also to his additions to major points within Rome.
Credits: All media
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