The Basis of Augustus Power

Research Essay – The Augustan Age 44BC-AD14
Upon examination of the basis of Augustus’ power, it is clearly evident that his claim within the Res Gestae, “I excelled all in influence, although I possessed no more official power than others who were my colleagues in several magistracies”, does not clearly reflect the basis of Augustus’ potestas. Through the acquisition of his appropriate titles as well as respective magistracies, Augustus’ power was far greater than any of his colleagues within the Senate.

The basis of Augustus’ power emerged from his family ties and bloodline, as the adopted son of Julius Caesar, which provided him a stable foundation for a surge of power. Elected as triumvir along with Lepidus and Mark Antony in an oath of revenge upon the killers of his adopted father, Augustus’ was granted great auctoritas, being supported only by his magistracy of Consul. Reelected as consul until 27BC, Augustus’ had gained further constitutional power at age 23, exceeding his colleagues within the senate.

Augustus had continually gained control over Rome and the Empire. Through his political manipulation, Augustus’ planted the image of him amounting an equal degree of power with his colleagues among the Roman citizens. According to Tacitus, senator and historian of the Roman Empire, Augustus “won the soldiers with gifts, cheap grain and the sweetness of peace and gradually took over the functions of senate, magistracies and laws”. This source indicates the political maneuvers of Augustus and his acts to gain auctoritas among roman citizens and military officials. Augustus further resigned his powers in 28BC. This was seen as a political act, as an indicator that Augustus was merely voted into the Senate by the people and not through his political coercion. However, this further indicates his far greater power amongst his colleagues, as it was a sign that roman citizens adored and respected Augustus and as a result, voted him into the senate.