Roman Government of the Early Empire

Essay by pli2003High School, 12th grade November 2004

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Octavian defeated Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra VII at Actium and became the undisputed leader of Rome. Through his military power he was able to maintain control of the Rome and gradually establish a monarchy. The Romans hated the term monarchy and Octavian wanted to be considered democratic. Thus he did not create any positions but simply held the powers of the regular magistracies, many at ones and continuously. The Romans, weary from civil war, knew what he was doing but accepted the situation.

After the civil war Octavian through his general Marcus Agrippa demobilized the Roman army from 75 legions reduced to 28. Octavian controlled all the stronger provinces where legions were stationed; out of the 28 remaining legions Octavian alone controlled 26. Dio Cassius wrote " ...he alone had arms and maintained soldiers..." Octavian was secure financially through his acquisition of Egypt administrated by him directly through his Praefectus Aegypti.

According to Dio CassiusOctavian controlled the state treasury and could spend it as he chooses. Because Octavian had both military and financial control of Rome he had absolute power in all matters.

Princeps was the official title of the early emperors. The Princep or 'first citizen' held supreme 'auctoritas' and were the top patrons. This form of government is referred to as the principate. Octavian was later given the title Augustus and became the first Princep. He established a model of government based on the assumption of positions and powers already existing in the Republic. This model of the principate was followed and extended by later principes.

According to Dio Cassius Augustus held all the offices and titles except dictatorship, although original constitutional magistracies still exist everything is carried out according to Augustus' wishes. Augustus frequently became a consul and always held the title of proconsul outside Rome; more...