THE AUGUSTAN AGE
OCTAVIUS had been noted for his severity and even cruelty as
long as he shared the government with Lepidus and
Antony; but he now changed his ways entirely, and soon
won a great reputation for kindness.
Shortly after the death of Antony, he assumed the title
of imperator, or emperor, which his uncle had borne;
but, as the Romans had always called victorious
generals by this name, it gave no offense to the
people. Not content with one title, Octavius soon took
those of censor, tribune, and chief pontiff; and he
assumed all the pomp that belonged to these offices.
Consuls still continued to be elected, but they had no
real authority, and were mere puppets in the emperor's
In memory of his uncle, Octavius also took the name of
Cæsar; and this title was borne by all the Roman
emperors, although most of them did not belong to the
family of the great general.
Cæsar Augustus, as Octavius was now generally
called, had many good friends in Rome. Among them was
his favorite general, Agrippa, and a very rich man
named Mæcenas. This Mæcenas was very fond
of the society
 of clever people, and he liked to help all the learned
men and writers of his day.
At the banquets given in the house of Mæcenas, you
would have seen the most famous men of the time; and
this period was so rich in talented writers that it is
called the Augustan Age. The greatest genius was the
poet Virgil, the author of the Æneid. The
Æneid, as you may know, is a poem in which are
told the adventures of Æneas, the founder of the
There were other talented poets in Rome, such as
Ovid and Horace, whose works you will find very beautiful
when you come to read Latin. Then, too, there was
Livy, the historian, and Cornelius Nepos, the writer of the lives of great men.
After so many years of constant warfare, the Romans
were glad to be at peace with the whole world. It was
therefore a cause of much rejoicing when Augustus
ordered that the Temple of Janus should again be
closed. This was only the third time that such a thing
had ever happened; and yet the temple was said to have
been built by Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome.
Although Augustus seemed so fortunate, he was not a
happy man; and while his public career was very
brilliant, he had many sorrows. For instance, he lost
two grandsons, his sister Octavia, and his nephew and
son-in-law Marcellus; and he also survived the friends
he loved so dearly,—Agrippa and Mæcenas.
To amuse the people, Augustus often ordered the
celebration of many games, especially foot and chariot
races; but he prevented as much as possible the combats
between gladiators, and those with wild beasts. The
 emperor did this because he noticed that such sights
tended to make the Romans hard-hearted and cruel.
A Chariot Race.
The great treasures which Augustus had brought back
from Egypt and elsewhere, were now used to put up many
fine buildings in Rome. Thus the city changed very
rapidly under his rule; and his admirers even said that
he found Rome of bricks and left it of marble.
About twenty-five years after Augustus became emperor,
and during the peace, Jesus Christ was born in
Bethlehem of Judea. This country was then a Roman
province governed by Herod, whom Antony had made king.
With the birth of Christ a new era or epoch begins.
Until now, in telling when anything happened, we have
always told how many years it was before Christ (B.C.);
but from this time on we simply give the number of the
year after the birth of Christ, or add to this number
the letters A.D., which mean "In the year of our Lord."
Although Augustus was polite and gentle, and an
excellent ruler, he still had a few enemies; and among
these was Cinna, a grandson of Pompey the Great. Cinna
hated Augustus so bitterly that he once made an attempt
to kill him. But Augustus sent for Cinna, told him
that his plans were known, and asked why he was so
anxious to see his ruler dead.
Cinna at first tried to deny that he had any such
desire, but he was soon forced to confess all. Instead
of sending him to prison, or having him executed on the
spot, Augustus now freely forgave him. Cinna's heart
was so deeply touched by this generosity that he humbly
begged the emperor's pardon, and became his most