Augustus (title)

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The honorary name Augustus ( Latin "the sublime") was 27 BC. First awarded to Octavian , the founder of the principate , and was - like the title Caesar - part of the emperor's title in the Roman and early Byzantine Empire until the beginning of the 7th century . The counterpart is the honorary title Augusta , with which wives or close female relatives of Roman emperors were awarded. In the Middle Ages, the title was taken up again by the Roman-German emperors .



Augustus is a derivation of * augos 'increase' (cf. augeo , formed from the same root , 'increase, increase') and means 'exalted, holy'. The first Roman emperor and founder of the principate , Gaius Octavius ​​or Gaius Iulius Caesar Octavianus, received it as an honorary title on January 16, 27 BC at the request of Senator Lucius Munatius Plancus . Awarded. Augustus rejected the proposal, also put forward in the Senate , that he should be named as the second founder of Rome after the mythical founder of the city and King Romulus , as this would have clearly marked him as a monarch. From then on he called himself Emperor Caesar Augustus , and all three elements were to become the imperial titular in the future.

The predicate added to Octavian initially became part of his personal name. Tiberius , the second princeps to succeed Octavian on the throne in AD 14, neither accepted the title of Augustus as an heir, nor did he have it recognized by the Senate. Nevertheless, he was named Augustus on coins and in inscriptions . However, since Caligula , the successor of Tiberius, the rulers wore the title consistently, usually after it was bestowed by the Senate. Even in the case of emperors who, after being proclaimed by the army, immediately accepted the Augustus title, legitimation was later given by the Senate.

Up until the end of the 2nd century AD, only the ruling emperor ever held the title of Augustus ; since Galba it has also become customary to proclaim the designated successor and co-emperor as Caesar . When Antoninus Pius died in 161, the empire passed to his adoptive son, Mark Aurel . Soon afterwards he appointed Lucius Verus to Augustus and thus to (almost) equal co-emperor - so there were two Augusti . Subsequently, up to the middle of the 3rd century, two or more emperors often bore the title of Augustus : Septimius Severus , Caracalla and Geta , Gordian I and II , Pupienus and Balbinus , Decius and Herennius Etruscus , Trebonianus Gallus and Hostilian or Volusianus . With the dual rule of Valerian and Gallienus , the ruling Augusti were assigned one half of the empire each as a sphere of responsibility for the first time.

Late antiquity

The beginning of late antiquity is generally assumed today with the arrival of Emperor Diocletian in 284, as he carried out a series of fundamental reforms with which he finally managed to overcome the imperial crisis of the 3rd century . Among other things, he fundamentally reformed the system of rule: the new tetrarchy provided for four emperors - two Augusti and two Caesares . The supreme emperor was the senior Augustus , followed by a junior Augustus and the two Caesares . Each of the two Augusti appointed a Caesar , who should succeed him as Augustus after his abdication or death and then appoint a new Caesar . In fact, the two Augusti ruled over one half of the empire, which they shared with their respective Caesar , whereby the territorial delimitation was relatively elastic and the senior Augustus was also able to intervene in the areas of the other rulers - this is how Diocletian's last persecution of Christians seems to have been decided in 303 who then ordered the other emperors to implement his will in their parts of the empire.

The tetrarchs normally governed relatively autonomously, they each had their own administrative and military apparatus, and each emperor was also responsible for the judiciary. Legislation, however, was usually reserved for the Augusti , and in case of doubt the senior Augustus had the highest authority and the last word. Although Constantine the Great reigned again as sole Augustus from 324 onwards, after his death (337) multiple empires were the rule: there was almost always more than one Augustus in the Roman Empire , after the so-called division of 395 (at least) one in the west and one in the east. This did not change until 480 with the death of Julius Nepos , the last recognized by Ostrom Western Roman Emperor: From now wore only the Eastern Roman Emperor in Constantinople Opel the title Augustus , to Heraclius it took off and in official correspondence only as for about 629 Basileus called . The late Roman empire finally passed into the Byzantine empire, although the title Augustus (as AVG) was to appear on coins for a while.

Middle Ages and Early Modern Times

The coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III. in the year 800, contemporaries viewed it as a renewal of the western empire. From then on, Karl put the designation serenissimus augustus a Deo coronatus magnus pacificus imperator Romanum gubernans imperium in front of his Franconian and Lombard king title (“most gracious, exalted, God-crowned, great, peace-making emperor who ruled the Roman Empire”). His immediate successors left the name imperator augustus in order not to come into conflict with the Byzantine rulers, who had been demonstratively dubbed “Emperor of the Romans ” since the time of Charlemagne . Only since Otto III was coronated as emperor . in 996 the rulers of the Roman-German Empire also carried the title Romanorum Imperator Augustus .

The translations German merer (1249) and French acroisans have been attested since the 13th century . The formula always Mehrer des Reich for Latin semper Augustus remained part of the emperor's title until the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in 1806 under Franz II (Franz I of Austria) .


Web links

Wiktionary: Augustus  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Article in: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities , London 1875 (obsolete, online at LacusCurtius )


  1. ^ Suetonius , Augustus 7.2.
  2. On the territorial system of rule and the division of powers in the tetrarchy cf. Alexander Demandt , The Late Antiquity. Roman history from Diocletian to Justinian 284-565 AD , CH Beck, Munich 1989, p. 48f. Kienast, Römische Kaisertabelle , p. 26, on the other hand, assumes that only Diocletian, as senior Augustus, had legislative powers.
  3. ^ RI 338
  4. ^ Dictionnaire Littré
  5. DRW. IX Col. 409-410