Despite his sexual proclivities being so similar to his predecessor’s, Caesar’s successor, Octavian, enjoyed a much better reputation. Throughout his life, Augustus (or Octavian as he was called prior to becoming emperor) used sex in a thoroughly Roman way: as a means of obtaining power. Politically, this justified his homosexual escapades towards the beginning of his career—most famously with Aulus Hirtius: a consul and military writer by whom Octavian allowed himself to be buggered for the bargain-basement price of three hundred thousand sesterces.
The man who repeatedly reminded Octavian of this was Lucius Antonius, the brother of Marcus Antonius (or Mark Antony). Initially his co-consul, Mark Antony would become Octavian’s bitter rival until his defeat at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. We shouldn’t be surprised that Mark Antony and his allies sought to portray Octavian in these terms. As someone said to have driven a chariot led my lions, Antony was the quintessential Roman: bold, brash, a military man through and through. He knew full well that, in the thoroughly macho culture of the Roman elite, the best way to trash your opponent was by emphasizing his effeminacy.
This is why Mark Antony alleged Octavian had only earned Caesar’s favor by sleeping with him; why Lucius Antonius claimed he practiced singing his legs with roasting nutshells to soften the hairs; and why Sextus Pompey—another dynast who fought against Octavian—taunted him as a man given to effeminacy (or mollitia as the Romans called it). And it wasn’t just his submission to men that his enemies picked up on. Not even Octavian’s allies could deny his proclivity for adultery, although they stressed that he was motivated by policy rather than passion
In what was presumably a bare demonstration of power, during a banquet Augustus was said to have taken the wife of an ex-consul from the dining table to his bedroom, returning her a short while later with her hair disheveled and her ears glowing. His friends would routinely procure women for him and, like slave dealers, strip them down for him to inspect and select. Most shockingly, his later wife Livia would do the same, but exclusively to satisfy his penchant for deflowering virgins.
He had three wives but was faithful to none. His first, Clodia Pulchra, he divorced in order to cement a political alliance with the family of his second, Scribonia. However he felt that Scribonia nagged him too much, and he divorced her as soon as she’d given birth to their daughter Julia. He exiled Julia in 2 BC; our sources cite treason as the reason. In all likelihood, it was, hypocritically, for her serial adultery, which badly undermined his family-orientated marriage policies of 18 BC. His third wife was Livia, with whom his relationship could hardly be described as romantic. But their marriage was never based on romance. It was more a marriage of political pragmatism than passion, her more his Lady Macbeth than his Juliet.