xvi Introduction of the Roman world. He controlled the armies, had the backing of Caesar’s faction among the people, ruthlessly suppressed any remaining opposition, and filled the Senate with men loyal to him. Outwardly Augustus portrayed himself as simply a first among equals, as the restorer of the republic, but he ruled a very different Rome. With his rule, the Roman Empire began. THE ROMAN EMPIRE The Roman Empire, as a territorial designation, actually began well before rule by a single man was reintroduced by Augustus. It is with the reign of Augustus, however, that we usually mark the beginning of the imperial pe- riod. The development of the office of emperor was gradual and emerged from the bloody period following the death of Julius Caesar. The civil war that followed the assassination of Caesar in 44 BCE witnessed the rise and eventual success of Caesar’s adopted heir, Octavian, as Emperor Augustus. Having learned from his uncle’s example, Augustus was careful to avoid the same mistakes and ruled a long time, from 31 BCE to 14 CE. A clever politician and strategist, Augustus made good allies and garnered support as a relative of Caesar, who despite senatorial dislike was beloved by the people for his largesse in distributing booty from the war in Gaul. Augustus portrayed himself and his administration as a restoration of the old republic. He maintained a clever facade that in outward appearance resem- bled much of the traditional system of rule. Augustus took well-established offices and championed old-fashioned values, all in an attempt to conceal his autocratic rule. For example, in 27 BCE he made his beau geste, a symbolic laying down of his powers. The Senate, stacked with his own men, immedi- ately begged him to resume them. This act of propaganda made it appear that the Senate still had power, but also sent a message to the army that it was not the only reason he was ruler. Augustus was the princeps, a title that had once denoted an honor accorded to the “first man” of the Senate, not a rex (king). Augustus claimed that he excelled no one in potestas (power), only in auctoritas (authority). The reality was that control of the army was vital, a fact that the military came to realize in later years. The Julio-Claudians, as the dynasty inaugurated by Augustus is known, ruled in much the same way, playing lip service to the Senate while possess- ing the power of the army. Several of these rulers, particularly Caligula (d. 41) and Nero (d. 68), were notorious, but Roman rule was secure even under them. Though technically still princeps, the Julio-Claudians slowly began to rule more as monarchs, and when Nero died in 68 it become clear not only that the army was the power behind the throne, but also that the ruler himself was far more than a first among equals. That year, the Year of the Four Emperors, was one of bloody civil war in which generals vied for the purple. Significantly, many of the would-be rulers were not born in Rome they were born in the provinces. Galba, for example, was from Spain.
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