CHAPTER XXXVI. AUGUSTUS (30 B.C.-14 A.D.)
After enjoying his triple triumph, Octavius should, according to the precedents of the Republic, have given up the title of IMPERATOR; but he allowed the Senate, which was only too glad to flatter him, to give him that name for ten years, - a period which was repeatedly renewed. In this way he became permanent commander of the national forces. Next the Imperator (Emperor) caused himself to be invested with the authority of Censor. This enabled him to revise the list of Senators, and to restore to this body something of its ancient respectability. By judicious pruning he reduced the number to six hundred, and required a property qualification for membership. He placed himself at its head as PRINCEPS (prince), a title which implied that the Emperor was the first citizen, without claiming any rights of royalty, thus lulling any suspicions of the populace.
The Senate still decided the most important questions. It had jurisdiction in criminal matters, and the right of ratifying new laws. It was convened three times each month; viz. on the 1st, 5th (or 7th), and 13th (or 15th). The Emperor voted with the other Senators.
The Senate next conferred upon Octavius the title of AUGUSTUS; then it made him Proconsul (an officer with the right to govern provinces), and Consul, with the privilege of having twelve lictors, and of sitting in the curule chair between the two Consuls. The regular Consuls, of course, were only too ready to follow his wishes. Finally, he was made Pontifex Maximus, the head of the Roman religion.
Augustus was now supreme ruler in fact, if not in name. The Senate was practically subject to his will. The Assemblies gradually lost all voice in the government, and finally disappeared entirely. The Senate, however, continued nominally to act until the time of Diocletian (284 A. D.).
As Augustus had exclusive command of the armies, he chose to govern as Proconsul those provinces which required military forces. He himself resided at the capital, and sent deputies (legati) to oversee them. The other provinces, called Senatorial, were governed by Proconsuls appointed by the Senate. These were at this time Sicily, Africa, Achaia (Greece), Macedonia, Asia (Minor), Hispania Ulterior, and Gallia Narbonensis.
The city government now included all Italy. In this Augustus was assisted by three Praefects; one in charge of the corn supplies, a second in charge of the city proper, and a third in charge of his body guard of nine thousand men, called the PRAETORIAN GUARD. These Praefects soon overshadowed all the regular magistrates, and through them Augustus reigned supreme.
The Roman Empire at this time included all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, extending east to the Parthian kingdom (the Upper Euphrátes) and the Arabian Desert, south to the Desert of Sahara, and west to the Atlantic Ocean. On the north the boundary was unsettled, and subject to inroads of barbarians. In the early part of his reign Augustus joined to the Empire a new province, Moesia, comprising the territory along the Lower Danube, and making nineteen in all.
Augustus next devoted himself to the task of conquering the territory between the Lower Rhine and Moesia, which was occupied by hardy mountaineers whose resistance was likely to be stubborn. His two step- sons, Drusus and Tiberius, were in charge of this important work. They were so successful as to acquire enough territory to form two new provinces, Rhaetia and Noricum (15 B.C.).
Tiberius also conquered the valley of the Save, and made it the province of Pannonia (Western Hungary), 10 B.C.
Drusus, while his brother Tiberius was engaged in Pannonia, made a campaign against the Germans near the Rhine. He had nearly finished the conquest of Germany from the Rhine to the Elbe, when he died (9, B.C.), and was succeeded by his brother Tiberius, who completed his work.
Drusus received the cognomen of Germanicus for his conquests in Germany. His wife was Antonia, daughter of Mark Antony, by whom he had two sons, Germanicus and Claudius, the latter of whom was afterwards Emperor.
In 7 A.D. Lucius Varus was appointed governor of the newly acquired territory in Germany. When he endeavored to subject these recently conquered peoples to the forms of the Roman provincial government, they rose in rebellion under the lead of Arminius (Herman), a powerful chief.
Varus was allured from his fortified camp (9 A.D.) into a pass in the Teutoberger Forests, where he was suddenly attacked on all sides. After three days' fighting, he succeeded with great loss in making his way through the pass into the open plain, but was there met by the enemy in full force, and his troops were annihilated. In despair Varus killed himself. Germany was practically lost and the Rhine became again the Roman frontier. This defeat caused a great stir at Rome, and the Emperor is said to have exclaimed in his sorrow, "Varus, Varus, give me back my legions!"
Five years later (14 A.D.) Augustus died. In his last moments he asked his friends if he had not played well his part in the comedy of life.
Although married three times, the Emperor had but one child, JULIA (39 B.C. - 14 A.D.), by his second wife, Scribonia. She was noted for her beauty and talents, but infamous for her intrigues. She was married three times; first, to Marcellus, her cousin; secondly, to Agrippa, by whom she had five children; and thirdly, to the Emperor Tiberius. She was banished on account of her conduct, and died in want.