How did Augustus become the first Roman Emperor?

The Logical Place

by Tim Harding

In 27BCE Gaius Octavius (‘Octavian’) in effect became the first Emperor of Rome, although this was not of one his official titles.  As part of this process, his name was changed by Senate decree to Augustus.  For all practical purposes, the Roman Emperor became a monarch, yet throughout Rome’s republican period, the Senate had resolutely opposed any return to the previous monarchy.  Indeed, this opposition has been given as one of the main reasons for the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44BCE (Cicero, III 82-83).  The purpose of this essay is to explore the reasons for this apparent paradox, and to suggest an explanation as to how Augustus was able overcome the Senate’s opposition to monarchy and become a king-like Emperor.

In order to better understand the Roman Senate’s aversion to the return of a monarchy, it is useful to consider the prior relationship between the Senate…

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