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In 27 BC, the Senate gave Gaius Julius Caesar the title Augustus. I am assuming that as the senate gave him that title, the motion must have been proposed by someone at the senate floor. Do we know, reliably, who proposed that motion? Do we know how many people opposed it and supported it and how many (if any) senators abstained from voting?

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I believe the wikipedia page you provided is a bit confusing. I had always thought he was given the title in 27 BC. The wikipedia confirms this and later makes the claim that on January 27th BC he was given the title Augustus. It appears to me to be an error in that likely the editor meant to say in January, 27 BC which would line up with what is the beginning of his reign as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus (16 January 27 BC – 19 August AD 14). –  E1Suave May 26 '12 at 13:22
Thanks for pointing that out. –  Monster Truck May 26 '12 at 14:16
I am going to continue working on my answer. It is still incomplete at this time and hasn't come together as expected. –  E1Suave May 26 '12 at 14:38
Thanks for trying. –  Monster Truck May 27 '12 at 2:49
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Octavian who would later become Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus:

My answer really focuses on the why as much as the who, because the reality may have been that in many ways he gave himself the title.

Octavian returned from Egypt with a wealth of treasure and a serious wealth of power. He was respected by his legions, of which he was commander of all sixty of them. Upon his return his fellow Romans believed they had seen the end of war and strife, and they hailed him as the Prince of Peace and benefactor of mankind. Octavian understood the importance of ensuring the people of Rome that he was benevolent. He certainly did not want to meet a similar demise to that of his great-uncle Gaius Julius Caesar (adopted father). So began a massive effort in religious renewal. Octavian restored 82 temples in one year alone. Also, there were grand new buildings like the Theatre of Apollo, and the Horologium. Octavian's right hand man Agrippa, too, embarked on several major building projects. Among these were the Pantheon, later rebuilt by Hadrian. Agrippa also repaired the city's water system and added two new aquaeducts, the Aqua Julia and the Aqua Virgo (Octavian famously quoted "I found rome of clay; I leave it to you of Marble") Rome was happy and Octavian had marble and possibly more importantly religion. Religion could be manipulated to suit the ambitions of Octavian and those he had given power to. Before we get to "those he had given power to" lets finish the topic of religion. Octavian recognized his prominence and equally recognized that without some shrewd decision making he had nowhere to go but down in regards to said prominence. His efforts to renew religious vigor throughout Rome would grant him a buffer during bad times and though one could assume that during good times he wouldn't receive the glory; they would be mostly wrong. Back to "those he had given power". The first form of "given" power would be the priesthood. Restoring temples meant restoring priests, of which Octavian had both subtle and secure power over. The second form and most noticeable to those with nobility was the purge and restoration of the senate. In 27 BC Octavian is famous for transferring power back to the Senate, but what really happened? The following two snippets do a great job of explaining this.

Why was Augustus so successful in creating the Roman Empire?


The fact of the matter was: the main body of the senate owed their careers to Augustus, and there was nothing that could be done about it – as Tacitus would want us to believe, Augustus’ grip on the senate was too strong. For instance, when Octavian returned to Rome after the civil wars had been extinguished, his censorial powers made it possible for him to purge the Senate of any potential resistance in his regime. The reason for such a rash act was due to the number of senators appointed by Octavian’s rival triumvir; the presence of senators that did not side with him during the Actium campaigns was also an adequate reason for an assessment. Thus in 29 BC, Octavian removed 190 potential threats to his administration ...

Why was Augustus so successful in creating the Roman Empire?

Octavian becomes Augustus Caesar


In 27 BCE, Octavian began his seventh term as consul. He renounced his consulship and declared that he was surrendering all powers to the Senate and other bodies, including control of the army. It was a bogus withdrawal from power. As Octavian expected, the Senate, packed with his supporters, responded by returning much of his power, claiming that it was doing so for the sake of unity and relief from factionalism and civil strife.


In keeping with his great prestige,the Senate gave him a title that had the ring of his being divinely chosen: Augustus Caesar. And the Senate made it law that he be included in the prayers of Rome's priests. In appearance, the republic had been restored, but in fact ultimate power still lay with Octavian -- Augustus Caesar. ...

Octavian becomes Augustus Caesar (www.fsmitha.com)

So in 29 BC two years prior to his "benevolent" action of giving up the power he ensured that he indeed would not really be giving up anything, well at least not in terms of power (He "had" religion and he had the Senate). It should also be noted that 29 BC was not the only time he reduced the number of Senators.

If you absolutely had to break this down into one person other than Octavian himself who would have been responsible for the title of Augustus being handed out, I would suggest that person was Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. Agrippa was "his right hand man" but possibly even more important he was Octavian's highest military aid, closest consul, son in law, and soon after their return to Rome, a member of the Senate. That being said, Agrippa was just one of about 800 members in the senate at that time.

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But someone must have put the motion to the floor, right? It must have been someone's idea (perhaps even Octavian's) but consuls or tribunes couldn't put a motion to the floor (unless I am mistaken) --in which case the question then becomes whom did he persuade? –  Monster Truck May 26 '12 at 14:19
This answers so much more than I asked for and that I didn't know that I feel obliged to accept this as an answer immediately. However, courtesy dictates that I give other users at least 1 day to post their comments/answers. –  Monster Truck May 29 '12 at 16:38
@MonsterTruck Giving more time is always smart. You never know if someone may provide a different perspective. :–) As for the answer, I found it to be a little different than I originally thought. :-P –  E1Suave May 29 '12 at 16:46
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According to Cassius Dio:

... the name Augustus was conferred on him by the Senate and the people. At the time when they wished to give him some title of special eminence, and some people were proposing one title and some another and pressing for its adoption, Octavian had set his heart strongly on being named Romulus. But when he understood that this aroused suspicions that he desired the kingship, he abandoned his efforts to obtain it and adopted the title of Augustus...

What I would interpret from this is that while a number of people may have made suggestions on Octavian's new title, he was the one who really decided upon it and the Senate vote would have been pretty much a formality.

Cassius Dio does not record how the Senate voted on the matter, although it would be odd for there to have been any voices of dissent when they were not present on the more significant matter of granting him his powers. There is also no record of who suggested the name in the first place or who put the motion up in the Senate. I would consider Agrippa to be an unlikely candidate for the latter given that Octavian would not have lacked sycophants who could have done so instead and having his closest ally make the proposal would not have been in keeping with his habit of making honours look as though they were voluntarily bestowed by a grateful Senate rather than actively sought.

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+1 for more information. –  Monster Truck Jun 10 '12 at 10:54
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