II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > E. Rome > 3. Civil War and Renewal, 70 B.C.E.–14 C.E. > c. Augustus and the Principate
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
c. Augustus and the Principate
The Roman Republic had fallen, a victim of its own success. The post-Sullan nobility had proved incapable of governing a Mediterranean empire, while some, such as Caesar, succumbed to the temptation of personal power. In addition, the enfranchisement of millions of Italians had overwhelmed a political system designed for a citizen body of about 300,000. Finally, the development of a professional army necessary for an overseas empire had presented the new problem of who was going to pay for it. Because the governing classes had been unwilling to foot the bill, the loyalty of landless soldiers had shifted from the government to generals who promised land after service. The force that used soldiers to acquire that land helped to bring the Republic down. Augustus solved these problems by effectively putting an end to free elections and aristocratic competition; by opening up the government to equestrians and Italians; by continuing the policy, initiated by Caesar, of extending the Roman citizenship beyond Italy to the provinces; and by securing the loyalty of the armies by taxing the upper classes and using the proceeds to finance a regular program of payment for veterans.  1
On returning from Egypt, Octavian's first task was to control the military. He reduced the legions from about 60 to 29, and between the years 30 and 29 settled some 57,000 veterans in colonies. He eventually established a system of 28 legions (about 150,000 men), wherein legionaries received regular pay and retired after 20 years with land or a monetary bonus. Complementing this was an equal number of noncitizen auxiliary soldiers who, after 25 years, received Roman citizenship on retirement.  2
The Senate bestowed on Octavian the title Augustus, chosen by himself. Augustus then gave up all extraordinary powers, ostensibly restoring the Republic by returning it to the “senate and people.” But he was careful to retain exclusive control of the army by dividing the provinces between the senate and himself. “Senatorial provinces” were those that required few troops and were governed by regular senatorial proconsuls serving for one year. Augustus retained for himself as “imperial provinces” all those provinces where large armies were stationed. These he governed by carefully chosen legates—legati Augusti pro praetore—who tended to have longer terms of office. All provincial governors were salaried. Augustus also excluded independently minded senators from power by employing equestrians in military positions and administrators—prefects or procurators. The most important of these equestrian positions were the praefectus annonae, who was in charge of Rome's grain supply; the praefectus vigilum, who oversaw the city's fire brigade; the praefectus Aegypti, who governed Egypt as Augustus's private holding; and the praefectus praetorio, who controlled the praetorian guard—nine cohorts scattered over Italy. Augustus's vast private wealth was organized into an imperial treasury—the fiscus—distinct from the senatorial treasure—the aerarium.  3
From 31, Augustus had held the consulship every year; then in 23 Augustus resigned the consulship and arranged a new settlement whereby he received tribunicia potestas—the power of a tribune—giving him the authority to initiate and veto legislation and convene the senate. He and all subsequent emperors would number their reigns by tribunician years. He retained control of the military by a grant of imperium maius, a “command greater” than that of other magistrates. To control elections, Augustus exercised the right to nominate and commend candidates of his choice. Thus, without holding office, and merely as first man (princeps), Augustus controlled the Roman state.  4
A diplomatic settlement of Rome's eastern frontier was struck with Parthia, whereby Rome recovered the standards lost by Crassus and Antony, while a compromise candidate governed Armenia, the strategic high road between Parthia and Roman Syria. Augustus otherwise followed a policy of military expansion.  5
Agrippa subdued northwest Spain. Gaul had been organized into three provinces, and beginning in 12, Roman armies extended Roman territory across the Rhine (abandoned after a disaster in 9 C.E.). Augustus's armies also fought along the Danube, creating four provinces: Raetia was formed by 16, Noricum in 16, Pannonia in 13, and Moesia by 6 C.E.  6
Augustus used his tribunician power to pass the lex Iulia de maritandis ordinibus, which regulated marriages between the various social orders, and the lex Iulia de adulteriis coercendis (18?), which made adultery a crime. This was the beginning of Augustus's program of social improvement, which he continued with legislation restricting the manumission of slaves—the lex Fufia Caninia of 2 C.E. and the lex Aelia Sentia of 4 C.E.—and a law, the lex Papia Poppaea (9 C.E.), to encourage marriages.  7
Agrippa died in Pannonia. Since 18 he had shared tribunicia potestas and since 21 had been married to Augustus's daughter, Julia, the union producing two sons, Gaius (b. 20) and Lucius (b. 17), whom Augustus adopted as his sons. In 11, Julia was married to Tiberius Claudius Nero (Tiberius), the son, along with Nero Claudius Drusus (Drusus), of Livia by her first husband.  8
Drusus led Roman armies across the Rhine to the Elbe, while Tiberius campaigned in Pannonia. Drusus died in 9 and was replaced by Tiberius, who campaigned in Germany until 7.  9
Tiberius, after receiving tribunicia potestas for five years, suddenly renounced public life and retired to Rhodes.  10
2 B.C.E.–4 C.E
Augustus's daughter, Julia, was banished for adultery in 2. In 2 C.E., Augustus's grandson Lucius died in Spain. In 4 C.E. his other grandson, Gaius, died in the east. Left with no heirs, Augustus adopted his stepson, Tiberius, who had returned to Rome in 2 C.E.  11
Tiberius campaigned in Germany, until he was called to suppress a serious revolt in Pannonia in 6.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.