Grandnephew of Julius Caesar (100-44BCE), (Gaius Octavius) Augustus eventually replaced his murdered uncle and reigned some forty-four years as one of history's most successful rulers.

Julius Caesar had been training Octavius to be one of his major commanders, and when Caesar was murdered in Rome, the eighteen-year-old Octavius, who was commanding troops in Dalmatia, immediately returned to Rome. There he reluctantly joined forces with Mark Antony, Caesar's trusted friend, who was considered by many to be Caesar's obvious heir. Octavius gained influence through his posthumous adoption as Caesar's son, and in 43 BCE he joined with Antony and (Marcus) Aemilius Lepidus (d. 12 or 13 BCE) in the Second Triumvirate. They declared Julius Caesar a god, eliminated several thousand enemies, and in 42 BCE defeated the primary murderers of Caesar, Marcus Junius Brutus (85-42BCE) and Gaius Cassius Longinus (d. 42 BCE), at Philippi in Macedonia.

By 36 BCE the Triumvirate was falling apart. Lepidus withdrew, and Octavius used Antony's relationship with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt as an excuse to turn on him, defeating him at the naval battle of Actium off the west coast of Greece in 31 BCE. Antony committed suicide and Cleopatra soon followed suit.

Now in complete charge of Rome, Octavius began to consolidate his power, carefully remaining within the structural limitations of the Republic. He assumed power over Roman provinces, took the position of consul, and was given the title Augustus, a religious term that implied powers beyond that of mere mortals. Later he was declared pater patriae, or father of his country. Although he accepted the title Imperator, this signified only control over the army and was not the title of emperor often mistakenly associated with him.

Augustus, as he is generally known, moved to consolidate many of Julius Caesar's reforms. He settled thousands of veterans in the provinces, paying the owners of the...