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

How walk the Roman empire end up v so plenty of maniacal leaders? The price lies in the actions of Rome’s very very first emperor, Augustus, and the criterion he created for exactly how emperors were selected.

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(Image: Cris Foto/Shutterstock)

Augustus (63 B.C.-14 A.D.) brilliantly thrived in figuring out exactly how to single-handedly dominion Rome there is no overtly seeming prefer a king. In spite of this, his regime was significant by numerous other spectacular achievements.

Augustus brought peace and also stability to the Roman world after an era of chaos and civil war. That patronized art and artists such together Virgil and Ovid, secured the borders and also reformed the army, and also reorganized roman society, passing countless laws intended to gain back morality. He extensively rebuilt the city that Rome, in his very own words “inheriting a city the brick, however leaving one developed of marble.” Augustus became the inspiration and model for succeeding leaders.

However, there was one significant flaw in his negotiation of the empire: the concern of succession.

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

The problem of Succession

Since there was no main position of emperor, there was nothing concrete to carry to the following person. Even over the inquiry of how to happen on the empire, there was the additionally vexing problem of exactly how to choose the best-qualified ruler.

What was the ideal technique for choosing the next emperor? For much better or worse, Augustus worked out on the principle of heredity. The next emperor would certainly be the nearest male blood loved one to the vault one.

Augustus’s selection of heredity as the device for succession was somewhat curious together he had actually no close masculine relatives. He had no boy from any of his three marriages, no one did that have any kind of brothers. What he had to occupational with were 3 women: his sister, Octavia; his daughter, Julia; and also his third wife, Livia.

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Promising Heirs: Marcellus andAgrippa

Augustus looked very first to his sister Octavia, who had a promising heir in her teenage son, Marcellus. Come solidify Marcellus together his heir, Augustus required his 14-year-old daughter Julia come marry Marcellus in 25 B.C. Augustus then began grooming Marcellus to take over, appointing him—despite his youth—to several federal government posts, so that he would obtain experience and respect together a leader.

Marcellus to be bright and popular, and also his future appeared promising. Two years later, however, Marcellus caught an illness, and unexpectedly died when the was just 19 years old.


Marcus Vipsaniuns Agrippa was the 2nd heir to Augustus. (Image: http://www.aeria.phil.uni-erlangen.de/Public domain)

Augustus next concentrated his attention on his faithful friend and also general, Agrippa, who had played a vital role in Augustus’s climb to power and also had successfully served as his second-in-command. Eighteen-year-old Julia to be compelled to marry 43-year-old Agrippa, making the general Augustus’s heir.

Even despite the two males were the same age, anyone assumed that Agrippa would outlive the existing emperor. Augustus had constantly been sickly, whereas Agrippa had a durable constitution. Agrippa was very competent, very experienced, and widely respected.

Everything as soon as again appeared fine—until Agrippa unexpectedly passed away in 12 B.C.

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Adopted Sons: Gaius and also Lucius


Gaius Caesar (Image: HOWI – Horsch, Willy – roman Germanic Museum/Public domain)

All was not lost, however, since the union that Agrippa and Julia had created two sons, Gaius and also Lucius.

Augustus was an extremely fond of this grandsons. He thrust the Senate to approve them extraordinary honors. The guys were featured on coins, touted together the “young principes,” and also given important military and political posts. Gaius to be appointed come the consulship, the greatest office in the government, at the tender period of 20.

To make the sequence even clearer, Augustus embraced Gaius and Lucius together his own. In spite of their privileged upbringing, both boys seemed stable and promising.

In 2 A.D., while en course to Spain to gain additional military experience, Lucius fell ill and died in ~ the age of 19. There to be still his brother, Gaius, that had already served in many military and government posts. However, just 18 month later, Gaius was slightly hurt in a skirmish in Armenia. Though no serious, the injury did not heal properly. Gaius fell ill and shortly thereafter, died in 4 A.D. In ~ the period of 23 year old.

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Choosing Tiberius

Augustus had to begin again and select one more heir. By currently it to be an problem of part urgency due to the fact that Augustus self was 66 year old and also had never ever been specifically healthy.

All attempts by Augustus to discover an heir had actually thus far focused top top his family, the Julian family. Now, he had run the end of close masculine Julians. The just remaining male even remotely associated to Augustus was his stepson indigenous Livia: Tiberius Claudius Nero.


Tiberius Claudius Nero was the adopted heir of Augustus from the Claudian family. (Image: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek,Copenhagen /Public domain)

After the death of Agrippa, Augustus forced Tiberius come divorce his mam Vipsania, Agrippa’s daughter, who he loved, to marry the widowed Julia. The hapless Julia was also less than thrilled through this arrangement. Augustus disliked Tiberius, but he now had little an option but to adopt Tiberius as his son and promote him as heir come the throne.

Resentful of gift repeatedly used as a dynastic pawn, Julia sought happiness by having numerous affairs. This tease the image-conscious Augustus since her habits undermined his desire to present his own family as a model of propriety. He comment by banishing his daughter come a tiny island much less than a square mile in area.

By marrying Julia, Tiberius came to be at the exact same time Augustus’s child by adoption, his stepson by marriage, and his son-in-law through marriage. That was likewise a union in between stepsiblings. By this convoluted path, Augustus finished up promoting a member of the Claudian family, rather than the Julian one, as his heir.

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Augustus sets a Precedent

Throughout all of this, Augustus steadfastly persisted in basing the sequence on the principle of heredity. Thus, he collection the precedent for how future kings would be chosen. They would be the nearest masculine blood relative, another characteristic the a monarchy.

Augustus surprised anyone by life a lengthy time. That finally died in 14 A.D. That natural causes at the ripe period of 75.

The minute of Augustus’s death was probably the best opportunity to reclaim the roman inn Republic. However, Augustus had actually ruled so long that nobody was left alive who might remember the old Republic.

The sheer size of Augustus’s reign is just one of the key reasons why the mechanism he set up took host so strongly and became the version for future rulers the Rome.

Common Questions about Roman Emperor Augustus


Q: exactly how did Augustus come to be the very first Roman Emperor?

Augustus came to be the an initial Roman Emperor after defeating Antony and Cleopatra in the fight of Actium. Together he to be heir come Julius Caesar, he had actually a claim.

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Q: did Augustus make any significant contributions to the roman Empire?

Augustus’ greatest contributions were to unite the nations of Rome under Pax Romana, finishing the polite wars, and to establish civil services such as fire fighting and police jobs available to any citizen who might do them. He made roads and established a stand army.


Q: that was Augustus’ heir?

Augustus insisted on very first male heirs as followers to Emperorship. He can find no very first males in the Julius family and so instead made decision his stepson Tiberius.


This short article was updated on November 26, 2019

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