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Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art

Augustus, Emperor

[Octavian; Gaius Octavius; Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus]

(b Rome, 23 Sept 63 BC; reg 27 BC–AD 14; d Nola, 19 Aug AD 14).

Roman emperor and patron. When Gaius Octavius was named the heir of Julius Caesar (assassinated 44 BC), he was a politically unknown 18 year old. Early portrait types presented him bearded, as a sign of mourning for his adoptive father, thereby reinforcing his claim to be Caesar’s rightful successor. Octavian’s most important programme of artistic patronage, however, followed his assumption in 27 BC of the title ‘Augustus’ (Lat.: ‘venerable’) and with it effective monarchic power. Artistic patronage was a vehicle by which Augustus sought to legitimate his new position in terms of traditional Roman values.

Jeremy J. Tanner