Some Notes

Imperator Caesar Augustus (63 B.C. to 14 A.D.)

(formerly 'Octavian'), grandson of Julius Caesar's sister, adopted by Caesar in his will (44 B.C.). Young Caesar was thus the inheritor of the family priesthoods, the family property, the amicitiae (system of political friendships through fides ) and clients (including potentially the ex-soldiers of the late dictator Caesar). Conflict of interest and ambitions between young Caesar, Marcus Antonius (consul of 44 B.C. and the Dictator Caesar's closest political operative), and M. Aemilius Lepidus (Caesar's Master of the Horse in his dictatorship) brought on a political crisis which resulted in the creation of an alliance called the

Second Triumvirate (November, 43 B.C)

by the Lex Titia, 5 years (43-38) and a five-year continuation (38-33). Who had what power in 32 is an interesting question.


(princeps = `First citizen' or `Prince')

Succession to the Throne:

Legally, there was no throne; the Emperor was only a magistrate with very wide special grants of traditional powers, and every time a new emperor came to power the Senate and People had to pass a special law, authorizing new grants of power (a lex de imperio). This meant that legally there was no such thing as hereditary succession in a family to the Emperorship, though somebody inevitably did inherit the private wealth of the old emperor and the patronage that went with it. In fact, the Roman Emperor had become the Universal Patron of the entire Roman Empire. Tiberius was the heir of Augustus only in private law, though he already (at the time of Augustus' death) shared by legal votes in all of Augustus' powers as a magistrate.

Ways of Succeeding to the Throne:

(in spite of the constitution, in fact)


-Christianity is an illegal cult, not registered with the government or under the administration of a city. Its `secret' meetings were legally considered subversion.
-Christians refuse to participate in `pagan' religion, including the patriotic worship of the emperors (Imperial Cult). Therefore Christians are suspicious persons: they will not serve as soldiers, public officials, contributors to gymnasiums, theaters, temples, imperial festivals, etc. The impression grows that Christians do not pull their weight in society.
-"Catch 22": In trials before Roman officials, the bottom line is always reached when a provincial governor orders Christians (through his imperium) to sacrifice to the Roman gods and emperors. When Christians refuse, they are considered to be in defiance of the government (legally called contumacia), which is itself a capital crime. Their deaths, then, are always legally correct and justified.

[This system was not going to divide the Empire in half: whatever decisions one Augustus or Caesar made would be ratified and extended by the others, and would be considered valid only when both groups did so.]

© 07/24/2003

January 28, 2010 11:31 AM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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