Running the Family Business of the Roman Empire: Augustus the Founder

Running the Family Business of the Roman Empire: Augustus the Founder

Over three and a half centuries the Roman Empire - as seen through the lives of 10 of the most important emperors - gained in splendor and territory, then lost both. Over the ages the emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian and Constantine learned to maintain the family business, the government of an empire, by adapting when necessary and always persevering no matter the cost.  By the fourth century, the time of Constantine, the Roman Empire had changed so dramatically in geography, ethnicity, religion, and culture that it would have been virtually unrecognizable to Augustus, the founder of the empire.

The Triumph of Two Roman Emperors (left-hand side) with a Roman Emperor riding in a triumphal chariot. Metropolitan Museum of Art (Public Domain)

The Triumph of Two Roman Emperors (left-hand side) with a Roman Emperor riding in a triumphal chariot. Metropolitan Museum of Art (Public Domain)

Augustus the Founder

Augustus is an icon, and well he should be. Few historical figures show better what it takes to win at everything. He ended a century of revolution, brought down the Roman Republic, and replaced it with the empire of which he was the first emperor. But Augustus is also a mystery. Fatherless at the age of four, he became one of Rome’s top political players by the age of 19. How did he do that—and so much more?


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