Republic to Principate
Caesar Augustus is considered to be primarily responsible for transforming Rome from a republic into a principate. Once he successfully defeated both Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, both the western and eastern portions of Rome gave their loyalty to him. These events transpired in 31 BC. At this point, Octavian would become the sole ruler of the Roman Republic. Because of frequent civil wars, Rome had fallen into a state of chaos. While Octavian was accepted as a leader, the people would not accept him as a despotic ruler. At this point, Octavian was in a difficult position. He would not be able to remove his authority without running the risk of more civil wars occurring among generals.
To solve these problems, Octavian did a number of things. He first held elections so that he could be given the position of consul. While this required him to remove his own personal military forces, he was given legal control over the legions. By 27 BC, he transferred power back to the Roman Senate, and made the offer to give up his military control of Egypt. The decision of Octavian to step down caused political unrest among his supporters, who were known as the Plebeians. To settle the differences between the many groups, a compromise was reached which is known as the First Settlement. Under this compromise, Octavian was given power over Syria, which also contained a large percentage of the Roman legions.
In addition to this, Octavian was given the title by which he is known today, which is Augustus. Contrary to popular belief, the title Augustus was more connected to religion instead of politics. Another reason for the change in title is because Octavian wanted to separate his harsh methods from the more benevolent behaviours he would display under the name Augustus. The title of Augustus was important because it also denoted the creation of the Principate. What this means is that Augustus would give the appearance of a Roman Republic while simultaneously ruling as an autocrat behind the scenes. Even though he gave up his personal military force at first, he was given control of most of the legions upon becoming Augustus.
Historians consider the decision of Augustus to wear the Civic Crown to be dangerous, because it signified that his rule was that of a monarchy instead of a republic. However, the reason why Augustus continued to prosper is because wearing the Civic Crown did not give him additional authority.
Original Authors: Stephen Palmer
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 14/07/2008