The Reformation and Laws of the Roman Empire during the Augustus Rule

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Augustus Caesar was born into an already well known family in 63 BCE. He was the son of a senator and the great nephew of Julius Caesar, the Dictator, on his mother's side. Augustus’s father died when he was still young, and his Grandmother, Julia Caesar, the sister of Julius Caesar, became his primary caretaker. In 51 BCE Augustus was flung in to the public eye when his grandmother died. He gave her funerary speech on the speaker's platform in Rome when he was only 12 years old. At 16 years old, in 47 BCE, Augustus Caesar became a priest. In 46 BCE he joined his great uncle, Julius Caesar, on a military campaign in Spain despite illness. The two eventually got seperated in a shipwreck and Augustus got washed to shore. He crossed enemy territory to return to Caesar. This act of devotion is what impressed Caesar enough to name Augustus the heir to ¾ of his fortune, without his knowledge. In 44 BCE augustus was in Apollonia completing military and academic studies when Julius Caesar was murdered. Augustus had been named as heir, and adopted son of Julius Caesar in his will. Augustus had experience in government, he had been a senator and a propraetor before, so even though the heirship was a surprise, he decided to take up his great uncle's legacy at only 18 years old.

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The problems started when, upon trying to claim the fortune, he was denied by one of Julius's supporters, generals, and the Caesar-appointed Administrator of Italy, Mark Antony. Antony refused to give over any assets or documents of Caesars, believing he is the rightful heir. Each had waged military campaigns on opposing sides in Italy and were already semi-hostile. Knowing he would never get the money, Augustus raised the funds on his own. His first act as Heir to the dictator was to put on the annual games, developed by Caesar. This won him great approval with the populace. After many minor issues with Antony, Augustus developed a political alliance with him and one other man, Marcus Lepidus, a supporter of Caesar. The alliance was known as the Second Triumvirate. The goal was to restore peace and order to the Roman Republic that was ravaged by the late dictator, and to prosecute Julius Caesar's murderers. The second Triumvirate was first recognized as Lex Titia, and was envisioned to hold power for 3-5 years. The Second Triumvirate enacted laws without the Senate’s mandate. This made the coalition a fairly dangerous endeavor for the government, because they held absolute power. The Second Triumvirate named 300 senators and 2000 equites as enemies of the state. This was done to eliminate anybody who didn't agree with them, and that would threaten their power.

The one thing Augustus needed to further his reach and control was a Consulship. The minimum age requirement was 33 years old, already lowered from the previous age of 44, and 19 year old Augustus was not close to this point, but because of his great support, the senate gave in to his demands and granted him consulship. His first act as consul was to reverse old laws, and enact Lex Pedia, a law condemning the murderers of Caesar, and the murderers associates. Mark Antony was enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship with Cleopatra Ptolemy, the former lover of Julius Caesar. It was based on money and romance. Trouble started to rouse when Mark Antony was forced by senatorial decree to marry Octavia, Augustus’s sister. Mark Antony, beginning to think that his relationship with Augustus was deteriorating, ventured back to Cleopatra, ignoring and divorcing Octavia. Antony believed that Cleopatra's money would help to fund a war with Augustus, if it was needed. Old love started to rekindle, and this forced Augustus to start a feud, or risk letting Antony and Cleopatra form a dangerous alliance.

This started the Battle of Actium. Augustus was waging war on Antony. The fighting started in 31 BCE. It was naval battle, in the Ambrian Gulf. Augustus brought bis armies, and faced both Cleopatra and Antony. Augustus won because of Antony's lack of command over his officers. Many were resentful of Cleopatra and Antony's relationship, believing they had too much power. This made the drive to win low, and the belief in their commanders, Antony and Cleopatra, even lower. Even though the lovers had many men on Augustus, they were defeated, and barely escaped. The plan was to eventually regroup, but false news of Cleopatra's death led Antony to commit suicide. This led off a chain reaction, in which Cleopatra did too. As Augustus was returning from the victory at Actium, the Senate named him Roman Emperor. This is when Augustus was officially granted his name. The death of Antony left only Augustus and Lepidus in the Second Triumvirate, although this did not last long. Marcus Lepidus and Augustus Caesar where waging war on Sextus Pompeius, a late associate of Caesar’s, in 36 BCE. They won, but Marcus Lepidus was hungry for power, and thinking that the army would side with him, he vied for Sicily. This backfired, because Augustus had more power. He kicked Lepidus out of the Second Triumvirate, making Augustus the sole ruler of Rome. Augustus was believed to be an excellent ruler for rome. He restored many of Rome's old monuments, re-introduced festivals and enacted many laws concerning family. Augustus beautified the city of rome by adding a new forum, new roads a new police force and department, and a new fire department. He also restored many monuments, including the Temple of the Gods, and made new monuments to preserve and further Roman Religion. Augustus also re-introduced Lupercalia & Lustrum ceremonies, along with the Ludi Secularae. Augustus even established his own cult, The Imperial Cult for Worship of the Emperor.

The reforms and laws Augustus is best known for are not his religious precepts however, they are his family laws. Augustus was a very traditional person, and believed in furthering the Republic with the nation’s children. The Lex Julia de Maritandis Ordinibus Prohibited celibacy and childless marriages. Augustus also rewarded families with 3 or more children with tax cuts, or similar leniencies. Unmarried men were likewise burdened with extra taxes. This became from the idea that too few children were being born from proper marriages, meaning children born out of marriage, or marriage between social classes. Augustus, to further pure children, even made interaction between social classes illegal and re-organized the seating in theaters to prevent mingling. On the other hand, people with no children after a certain age could be punished with increased taxes or worse. Augustus made adultery a civil crime under Lex Julia de Adulteriis Coercendis. This made it so rather than adultery being a familial issue, with the husband able to prosecute any adulterous wife under his own discretion, even murder, adultery became a civil crime, in which the state could take any adulterer to court. This made adultery a crime against the state, rather than just the family. Punishments included banishment or death. Augustus believed so strongly in these values, that he even banished his own daughter, Julia to an island, for being a suspected adulterer. Augustus is well known for being the first Emperor of Rome, but even more than that, for being a self-proclaimed.

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