Primary History with 'A History of the World'

World History: Head of Emperor Augustus

  • The first emperor

    This bronze head is part of a statue of Augustus, the first Roman emperor.

    Known to his family as Octavian, he was born in 63 BC. (Puzzled by BC dates? Remember BC dates are counted backwards. As Octavian was born in 63 BC, he was 10 years old in 53 BC. He died in AD 14, aged 77.)

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  • Octavian's family

    Octavian's family was rich and powerful.

    His great-uncle was Julius Caesar, Rome's greatest general, and when Octavian was 18, Caesar named the young man his heir.

    A year later (44 BC), Caesar was dead, murdered in Rome by his political enemies led by Brutus and Cassius. Octavian soon defeated them, and became ruler of Rome, sharing power with his allies Lepidus and Mark Antony.

    Octavian soon got rid of Lepidus, and Antony left Rome for Egypt and its Queen Cleopatra.

    By defeating Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt, Octavian made himself master of Rome. Augustus improved Roman government, bringing law and order after years of civil war.

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  • Godlike

    Rome was a republic until in 27 BC Octavian became emperor, taking the name Augustus ('majestic'). The Roman Empire had began.

    Under Augustus and his successors, the Roman Empire became one of the biggest in history. Roman emperors were worshipped as semi-divine beings and Augustus was named a god after his death.

    This head of the emperor makes him look godlike. It's copied from the style of Ancient Greek artists and sculptors.

    The eyes of glass and stone give it a calm, distant gaze, as if Augustus can see everything that's going on.

    Statues like this reminded people everywhere of the power of Rome and its emperor.

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  • From Sudan

    This head of Augustus was found in Sudan, south of Egypt.

    In 31 BC, Augustus won a sea battle at Actium (off the coast of Greece), to defeat Antony and Cleopatra.

    To celebrate this triumph, the Romans set up statues of Augustus all over Egypt, and the head comes from one of them.

    In 24 BC, an army from Kush in Sudan attacked Egypt. The Kushites knocked down the Roman statues, and took this one to their city of Meroë.

    The head was cut off, and buried beneath the steps of a temple, so that people going in and out would tread on the head of the Roman emperor to show the power of Kushites. that the gods of Kush were greater than those of Rome.

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Fun Facts
  • Augustus was the adopted son of Julius Caesar. He changed his name to Gaius Julius Caesar after Caesar was murdered in 44 BC.

  • Defeating Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BC made Rome even richer. The Romans captured a vast treasure in Egypt.

  • Augustus married twice. His second wife Livia had two sons by an earlier marriage. One son, Tiberius, became emperor after Augustus.

  • Augustus was always busy; he even found time to keep an eye on Rome's fire brigade.

  • The name 'Augustus' was used by all Roman emperors. But only Augustus (the first emperor) is known by the name today.

  • Augustus spent a lot on new buildings. He boasted that he'd found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble.

  • At a feast, Augustus may have nibbled a Roman delicacy - stuffed dormouse.

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