Augustus Repeated Pompey’s King-making
After his victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BC, Gaius Octavius, better known to history as Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD), reorganized power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Rulers from the Nile in Egypt to the shores of the Black Sea were confirmed, deposed, or installed, as reward or punishment for their stances during the recently concluded conflict. Herod the Great, mentioned in the New Testament as having ordered the Massacre of the Innocents, was among the kings whose fates were decided by Augustus. He was an unlikely kingmaker. Octavius had been born to an affluent plebian family on his father’s side, while his mother was of the patrician Julii lineage, and a niece of Julius Caesar.
Octavius’ famous grand uncle launched him into public life, and groomed him to be his heir. He was in Albania, engaged in military and academic studies, when Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. When he returned to Italy, Octavius learned that Caesar had adopted him as his son in his will, and made him his chief heir. However, Caesar’s lieutenant, Mark Antony, refused to honor the will, while Caesar’s assassins ignored the teenager. Cicero, an elder statesmen and a key figure in a politically powerful but militarily weak faction, sought to manipulate him. He quipped that he would “raise, praise, then erase” Octavius.