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“He didn't really restore the Republic, you know.”
“He took away the power of the Senate and ignored the liberties of the people? Sounds like the kind of guy I'd invite to the Lincoln Bedroom...for a small fee of course..”
Augustus (previously known as Gnastius Octavius Octavian 'Octopussy Junior' ) grabbed the Roman Republic by the short and curlies and transformed into the new 'All Singing, All Killing Roman Empire' we now read about today. And what's more, no one saw him do this until it was too late. Augustus said he was going to 'repair' the Roman Republic but instead turned into a manic family-run business. Some of the stationery remained the same and Rome still conquered in the name of 'The Senate and People of Rome' (SPQR) as carried on the eagle standards by Roman armies but it was all a bit of farce. Augustus became 'Principal Citizen', Commander in Chief of Rome's armies and when dead, the Immortal Divine Emperor. This is how Augustus - or as he started out 'Octavius' - did it.
Eight Legs Good, Usually
The future Augustus started life at the 'plebbier' end of Rome in 63 BC. His father Gnastius Octavius 'Octopussy' Senior was a strange man who believed in the power and luck of the number eight. He had an eight room villa, an eight wheeled chariot and an eight books to read in rotation. Octavius senior also liked keeping a pet octopus (hence the nickname) and worshiped an obscure Roman god called Octa 'Eight-Ball' Slap-Yer-Money-Down' to increase his luck.
Octavius's own grandfather (also called Octavius the 'Useless' - that's original)) had died backing the wrong dictator (Sulla) in the infamous Roman civil wars a few years earlier. The losers lost their estates and their heads, the latter being nailed to the rostrum where Romans would hear the latest news updates. Octavius Senior chose to keep out of politics and make his money in the exotic pet trade.
He opened the 'Octopussy's Pet Emporium', a store that soon became a popular pick up place for rich Romans to flirt and display over a tank full of tarantulas. It was situated next to the Temple of Octa and soon Octavius Senior's fortunes began to make a modest recovery .
It was at the temple of Octa that Octavius met Atia Caesar.. Her Rapido Expresso litter threw 'a slave' as they say (the unfortunate had collapsed and died in other words) outside the Octa Temple. It had then toppled to the ground, tipping Atia into the mud. As she had stood up to clean herself, a 'rank' crowd had gathered around to gawp and grope at the expensively dressed woman. Octavius rushed over to her side and gave her a free slave (and an octopus, it was on special offer that week) to help Atia continue on her journey.
Now it just so happened that Atia had been on her way back from a local oracle where she had been told that on this day she would meet her future husband on the trip back and that he would have something about the number eight. So not one in doubting The Gods and their funny ways, Atia thought this must meant she had to marry Octavius. He also thought it was the right match as Atia was wearing a spider-shaped ornament around her neck.
Atia's uncle Julius Caesar was at first against his niece marrying 'the squid man' as he called Octavius Senior but eventually relented when told by Atia that 'a lizard's gizzards never lie' (her oracle reading had including the dismemberment of an unfortunate reptile). Caesar agreed to funding the nuptials and then left Rome for a long tour of duty in Gaul to fill his army boots with barbarian booty and slaves .
The disappearance of 'Uncle Julie' didn't bother Octavius and Atia as they were too busy in the bedroom conceiving, producing and directing babies. Two were born in relatively quick succession:A girl called Octavia and then her younger brother Octavius 'Octopussy Junior'. However, Octavius Senior's hope to have another six children were cut short when he died from the bite of a poisonous spider. So eight wasn't so lucky for him after all.
Agrippa and Agrappla
With their father dead, Octavia and Octavius were left with Atia's mother Julia to look after them. Atia needed a new husband to keep her villa and got herself out and about in upper class Roman society. 'Granny' Julia was a hard woman, known as the 'slave thrasher' for her harsh treatment of the domestic servants. Julia also believed that beating someone close to death was good for their morality as well and so decided that Octavius needed to go to the toughest school she knew : Scipio's College For Boys and Bullies. Despite Atia's fears and opposition, Julia got her way and sent her grandson off to the school.
Like all newbies arriving for the first time at school, Octavius had his packed lunch stolen, books burnt and ended the day hanging upside down over an open sewer. It would have been worse for him if hadn't met in the course of the day the Brawnius twins: Agrippa and Agrappla. Fed on a diet of junk Ancient Roman food (Gallic Fries, Teutonic Sausage, Corinthian Kebabs etc ) they were the biggest boys in the school but remembered Octavius at his father's pet shop and that he had once given them a pig to play with. That the Brawnius boys had then stolen it and turned the pig into a pot roast was neither here or there for Octavius he had found his first friends and bodyguards.
The Man From Your Uncle
Octavius followed the exploits of Julius Caesar in the Gallic War reports. Orators sympathetic to Caesar would read them out, adding their own rhetorical and dramatic flourishes to entertain the crowd in The Forum. Compared to the other Roman leaders like the fat and waddling Pompey and the gold toothed money grubber Crassus, Caesar seemed to be more of a 'heroic statesman'. There were also the added extras about Caesar's reputation as a 'sexual plunderer' - chasing both men and women - that always brought in the crowds to listen and applaud. But at least Octavius always got a few gold coins on his birthday from 'Uncle Julie' and once received a scroll about Philosophy, Politics and Pederasty:The Roman Republic For Dummies with a nice fig roll inside.
Octavius was still in his short toga when news reached Rome of a great military disaster in 53BC. Caesar's colleague, the triumvir Crassus had been killed by the Parthians when his legions for lost in Mesopotamia looking for mysterious 'super weapons'. This changed the triumvirate into an unstable duo and with Crassus's supporters now supporting Pompey in the senate. Rome became a dangerous place to stay if you were a Caesarian.
Breaking open his piggy bank for ready cash, Octavius left Rome and headed north to look for Gaul and his Uncle Julius. He had eventually reached a rock-strewn stream and crossed over. On the other bank facing north was a scruffy little temple and a sign marked out in a big red circle painted on a board:
Welcome to the homeland of the Roman Republic. You are about to cross the mighty Rubicon. If you are a Roman general, please leave your army in the lockers provided at the nearby Temple of Jeremius Pax Hominem. Only household slaves can accompany you to Rome from here on in.
Whilst Octavius had read the notice ('picking his nose' according to a later writer), a man nearby shouted at him. Octavius looked round and saw a brutish looking soldier in armour washing his socks in the river. He was apparently leaning on a cleft rock which, on a second longer look for Octavius ,turned out to be the bare buttocks of an ample naked woman shampooing her hair in the river.
Gnastius Octavius..My Name is Mark Antony. I am sharper than a Parthian pin and meaner than Macedonian mustard. I don't care where I stick my penis because I believe in Rome and Julius Caesar . I am here as your uncle's emissary. Oh..this is my wife Fulvia Maximus Arsus, she lives on a block. She's eccentric.
Fulvia had looked over her shoulder and then snorted as she saw the skinny legs of Octavius.
I see he has the bandy legs of the Caesars. Will this boy go bald like old Julie?
Leaving Fulvia to get dressed, Mark Antony strode up to Octavius and grabbed him by the testicles. It was Antony's method of deciding the worth of a friend or a possible opponent. He wasn't impressed but the two men walked a little distance where Julius Caesar and his legions were camped inside a fortified stockade.
Up For Adoption
The meeting of Great uncle and nephew after so many years away was a shock for them both. Julius Caesar was pleased to see that Octavius had grown, was going bald and had the 'pins of a goddess' (the family like to claim their ancestor had once got laid by the goddess Venus on one of her 'Olympian girls night out' centuries ago. ) For Octavius he was shocked how aged and crabby his Great uncle now looked. And unless it was him..someone also smelt of stale urine.
Caesar embraced Octavius and pinned a badge on the young man's toga which read 'Adopted. Second Class'. He was no longer Octavius but would be hence known as Gaius Octavian Caesar which didn't see much of a change but to indicate he was on track for full adoption. Caesar said he would also 'wait a few years' before going ahead with a full adoption of Octavian as his doctors and soothsayers had warned him that 'Death Would Come Knocking' if he did it right now.
Disappointed by his uncle's decision not to make it a first class adoption, Octavian joined the army. Crossing the Rubicon and declaring the War Campaigning Season was now open, Caesar's army marched directly on Rome. In the senate, Republican leaders told everyone to defend the city but were also slipping away when no one was watching. Some fled to their villas whilst others joined Pompey on the first free galley to Greece to meet up with his legions. Amongst those leaving Rome to fight against Caesar was Octavian's old school friend Agrapplar, though his brother Agrippa elected to stay and join Team Caesar.
Fun In The Sun For Some
Caesar and Mark Antony took ship to chase the Pompous Pompey and his pellvmell Republicans. Caesar left instructions to Octavian to look after the family villa, water the gardens and feed the cat. Though he was 'of the blood of Caesar', Old Julie still saw Octavian as 'just a weedy kid with the boils of ambition on his skinny bottom'. Antony's wife Fulvia who was managing Antony's estate took every opportunity to berate 'bum fluff' as she labelled Octavian and boasted that her husband was Caesar's natural successor. Octavian had learnt to keep his temper and just wrote down death lists with lemon juice on his old school books.
News that Pompey's armies had been thoroughly thrashed at Pharsalus (the fat one had lost the battle when his over pampered armies declined to fight 'in the midday sun in case they got burnt') was celebrated in Rome by the 'Caesarian Democrats'. The war seemed to be over and only the escape of Pompey to Egypt had spoilt the victory. Caesar sent a note back to Rome that he intended to 'capture Pompey, sort out the Egyptians and take some holiday snaps out there'. The victorious commander also reasoned that he needed a bit of TLC in a nice warm climate after freezing his arse off for Rome in long military campaigns in Gaul and that double visit to island of mist and piss - Britannia - hadn't helped.
What Happened In the Bath?
Octavian spent the next two years waiting for his uncle to return from Egypt. Pompey's credit ran out the moment he tried to enter Alexandria, his head sheared off as a macabre 'Golden Hello' present for Caesar. However then came the news that everything had gone wrong and that his uncle was holed up with a small force in an Egyptian palace with new girlfriend Queen Cleopatra to play horsey-horsey around in the bedroom.
Octavian for his part was growing very frustrated and realised that he needed to be out there as a soldier, salami slicing Rome's enemies (or just anyone would do) if he ever had dreams of getting on. Instead Octavian was told by Mark Antony to organize the 'Greek Games' in honour of the Caesarian Popular Democrats recent victories. The event involved a lot of naked men running and throwing things around in the Circus Maximus, performing the sacred balloon dance and a few bouts of homoerotic wrestling (not one for the ladies). Antony who was body proud, took part in all of these and dared Octavian expose his skinny frame to the glare of the hot Roman sun. But Octavian declined 'let it all hang out for Rome', he was still trying to grow pubic hair at this stage.
Feeling deliberately humiliated by Antony's muscle man act, Octavian was more anxious than ever to get into some serious warfare. Caesar had finally got away from Egypt (leaving Cleopatra with a Roman bun in the oven) and now prepared for a new campaign to mop the remnants of Pompey's scarf-waving supporters now holed up in Spain. Octavian missed the date of departure as Caesar was now operating under his own self-named calendar and to make his own way across the Mediterranean.
But Octavian had a bad journey over He lost all his luggage in a shipwreck when his galley sank in a storm and only made it to the Spanish coast on a raft of dead slaves. With just a few friends, Octavian finally crossed a hostile county before finding Caesar in his tent up to his usual frisky hobbies.
Wow.. Octavian , you look adorable enough to lick . I need to wash every orifice before lunch - care to join me?.
What happened inside Caesar's tent is now lost in the archives of ancient Roman libel firms - though Mark Antony was sure Octavian had allowed his great uncle 'more than friendly cuddle in the 'sudatorium' (the moist room)'. What ever happened, when Julius Caesar and Octavian returned to Rome after beating the Pompey gang in a battle, 'Bum Fluff' was now Gnastius Octavian Julius Caesar. This meant he had been fully adopted and was now Julius's official heir. As the Roman Orator Cicero was to write Octavian was now truly rendered for posterity. Talking of posteriors..(rest of text lost due to bashful copyists).
Senatorial Stabbing Hot Spot
Octavian's joy at his new position was short lived. The slippery Caesar had not only made the shifty ex-Pompey supporter Marcus Brutus Deputy Legal Heir but that Queen Cleopatra of Egypt had turned up in Rome with a son she called 'Ptolemy Caesarion' and claimed he was 'Julie's boy'. Mark Antony who had been running Rome whilst Caesar was away was also less then happy and unsure who he despised the most. But the situation had changed, Caesar was now Dictator (Dictaphallicin Greek) of the Roman Republic for a year. Elections were now officially useless.
So whilst Julius got on with introducing his new dating system to a confused public and feigning false modesty when the senate renamed a calendar month named after him, Octavian chose to leave Rome again. Caesar had his hands full of Cleopatra and mopping up Caesarion's baby sick. Octavian left a note on Julius's breakfast sofa and rode out to a distant garrison fort in Illyria with his friend Agrippa. Octavian reasoned that uncle/father would only appreciate him when he needed him.
Octavian was still out in the Roman sticks when he got news that Julius Caesar had been stabbed and slashed in the senate after he had made a speech extolling the virtues of him being granted the job of Dictator of Rome for Life. After a show of knives by Brutus and his fellow assassins, Caesar lost the motion and finished the debate in a pool of blood at the foot of a statue of his old rival Pompey.
Octavian and Agrippa returned to Rome in a high state of political ferment. They had learnt that Julius Caesar had left 'Little Caesar' (it wasn't clear if this meant him or Cleopatra's boy) everything bar his official wife Calpurnia and his soldier's pension. This confusion was resolved when Cleopatra moved out of the Dictatorial Suite she was staying in and took Caesarion back to Egypt.
In Rome the Republicans were initially happy, their leaders stood around and shouted themselves hoarse that Julius Caesar deserved death as he was about to introduce socialism, Druid Worship, the welfare state and banning of equipping your own private army at home. The Republicans tried to hunt down all the 'Dictatorcrats' (their name for the Caesarian Popular Democrats) they could find but Mark Antony eventually turned the tables and drove out the pro-stabbing wing of the Republicans.
Rome's non-party independents now allied with the more moderate Republicans led by the great windbag Cicero. They forced out Mark Antony and his acolytes who moved towards the north of Italy to form their own army. Octavian's political position at this time was not certain to others - and he liked to give no hints about what he was thinking. Brutus and Cassius also left Rome to go on a military recruitment drive in Greece. With his chief rivals out of town, Octavian claimed he was the political/legal/Villa/Spare Chariot/owner of Caesar's estate and legions. He then quickly suggested that Rome needed a coalition government of moderate Republicans and 'sensible Caesarian Democrats' to go against both Mark Antony and Marcus Brutus. Cicero endorsed the new government with a 'hyperbollock' speech in the senate and also suggested they appoint two consuls: Will.I.Am Hurtius and Y.Frontius Pantus to keep an eye on Octavian. First target of the coalition would be to kill Antony.
But as is the nature of war, Octavian's two colleagues both died in separate shaving accidents in their bathrooms just as the two armies were about to get down and murderous on a field of battle. It was an uncanny coincidence but convenient. With no reason to fight, the two armies threw down their weapons and embraced each other, shouting "Party Unity! Party Unity!!". They buried their differences and the luckless consuls and then promptly reversed marched on Rome with Antony and Octavian riding out in front, confident that no one would dare throw a javelin in their direction.
There Were Three of Us in This Political Arrangement
When they heard of Octavian's double dealings, the remaining Republicans in Rome either fled to join Brutus in Greece (even then a home for broken hopes, broken plates and a broken economy) or buried their heads in their togas in the hope no one knew they were still there. Cicero tried to blow everyone away with his rhetoric to fight for the republic but then also tried to 'do a runner' before Antony's men caught him. They cut off the orator's head, hands and big toes. These were couriered to the forum and dutifully nailed on the rostrum where the living Cicero had made his public speeches. This marked the start of a general massacre of the slowest and dull witted Republicans who were still about (i.e. most of them). It was extended to their families and bank accounts with the confiscated wealth deposited in the Bank of Jupiter to be re-distributed 'at a later date'.
The new incoming regime was soon announced. It would be known as the Second Triumvirate - in 'honour' of the political arrangement made earlier by Julius Caesar , Pompey and Crassus. The big surprise was the colleague chosen by Mark Antony and Octavian to make this new power threesome: A seedy senator by the name of Amelianus Lepidus. The Third Triumvir's previous job had been 'Master of the Horse', a post that seemed to involve in doing something pretty disgusting in the stables and providing equine-related drugs for Caesar. But it had meant Lepidus 'knew all the goss' as he liked to put about Rome's elite dirty secrets and promised his colleagues that he had enough information to bury a lot of rich Romans in wagon-loads of horse shit.
Retribution and Redistribution
Octavian was now the effective ruler of Rome. He dismissed Lepidus as a political lightweight and probably a horse molester as well (unfortunately for Octavian he discovered there was no law against that) but chose to leave him alone as the lickspittle was also Pontifex Maximus, i.e. the supreme Pagan Bigwig sacrificial Master of Ceremonies.
Though he still had to do deal with 'the stabbing bastards' as he called Brutus and Cassius, Octavian knew that his main enemy was likely to be Mark Antony. But first of all the new government needed money to spend on the loot hungry soldiers and also a chance to settle more scores. So in a very petty move, the Triumvirate decided to do some preemptive killing of real,supposed or imaginary enemies of the new government to raise immediate revenue. These were called 'The Prescriptions', though anyone getting receiving Triumvirate medicine were the next day's dog meat.
Once again Greece was the scene of a final showdown. The Republicans challenged the Triumvirate to take them on there so Antony and Octavian obliged and met Brutus and Cassius in battle. Actually it was only Antony as Octavian got food poisoning after eating a plate of calamari in Corinth. Agrippa led Octavian's legions but under the overall command of Antony. Sick and clutching his stomach, Octavian retired to his tent and waited to hear the battle results as they came in:-
Ancient Civilization Soccer Premiere League
- Ancient Britons 1 - Celtic Gaul 0
- Caledonian Academicals 2 - Pirates of the Mediterranean 0
- Egypt 4 - Herod Judea 1
- Germanic Tribes 0 - Dacia 1
- Hibernians 3 - Blue Woad Celts 0
- Hispania Rebels 0 - Pompey Juniors 7
- Parthia 0 - Armenia 0
And then came the result he was waiting for...
- Rome Triumvirate Heroes 2 - Stabbing Bastard Assassins 0
...And we can confirm..Brutus killed himself at half time and Cassius ran on his own sword when the referee awarded a penalty to the Triumvirs. Agrippa scored from the penalty spot...and now back to Alan in the studio to talk about that Scythian centre forward who plays for ...
'Forza Antony ...Forza Octavian..Forza Horse Botherer..' Octavian heard the shouts, cries and curses of his soldiers as they celebrated their victory. He had also hoped that somehow Mark Antony would have had that convenient shaving accident which always seemed to happen when Octavian was on a battlefield. But not this time, Antony was growing a beard.
The war seemed finally over but so was the alliance between Octavian and his two colleagues. The agreed a carve up of the Roman Empire. Octavian got Italy, Gaul, Spain ,Illyria, and some other place no one could ever remember. He was given rights to Britannia if he fancied a cross-channel trip. Lepidus received Africa (i.e. Carthage and a lot of desert) and a season ticket at the Circus Maximus so could visit his four legged friends for free. Antony garnered the rest including Cleopatra's Twitter account details. The three men all agreed to undying peace between them and set up marriages for their children to marry each other. But it was really only a 'two horse race now' - everyone had discounted 'Lepidus the Horse Shit Shoveller' from the final furlong. Just how long could Octavian and Antony stay in harness with Lepidus running behind them with a bucket? Not very long would be the answer.
Falling Out , Falling In and Fooling About
If Octavian had any fast and ready plans to take on his colleagues, this had to be put one side as the Pompey gang reappeared to carry on the war. They were now lead by Pompey's surviving son Sextus 'Sexedup Dossier' Pompeius. Less of a blubber than his father, Sextus had a sexy fleet and a base in Sicily to disrupt Rome's trade. He blockaded the port of Ostia and stopped Octavian's home city receiving its daily import of Alexandrian fried chicken, Syrian meat pies and bagels from Palestine. Without the supplies, Rome's junk food shops would pull the shutters down. This spelt political danger and would hand the mob a reason to turn on Octavian. He could expect no help from his fellow Triumvirs. Octavian was in a poor position but now it got worse.
Mark Antony's wife Fulvia Maximus got news that her husband was 'wenching it away with Cleopatra' in Asia Minor. Fulvia blamed Octavian and teamed up with Antony's brother Lucius Antony, to start a wave of demonstrations against Octavian in Rome . They also had the with the support of senators eager to stick a boot into the unpopular government and to oil their way into Antony's favour. Octavian prayed to the gods for a divine accident to befell at least one of his enemies and was rewarded when Fulvia over-practised holding her head underwater in a bath and expired. Lucius Antony surrendered and was exiled to Spain where he was allowed to play golf all day and drink sherry. He was dead within in a week, another bathroom accident.
With his wife now dead, Mark Antony was now officially a single man. Octavian suggested he marry his sister Octavia, his rather prim and frumpy elder sister. To cut costs, Octavian decided to make peace with Sextus Pompieus by marrying one of his relatives called Scribonia. The double celebration would be held on a barge. Lepidus could be given a pony to keep him company. No one mentioned Cleopatra who was not let in on the secret. Everyone toasted each other long life and happiness with some holding their liquor and others their stomachs as the boat rocked to the all night party.
Tony and Cleo
Octavian's marriage to Scribonia was pretty much over after a brief honeymoon in . Their brief mixing of body fluid did produce a daughter Julia but Octavian hated his in-laws and wondered how come he had missed them off that prescription list.
Octavian's marital misery changed when he decided that instead of a looking for a new wife, he would take someone elses. Her name was Livia Claudius and she was married to the flabby faced Claudius Nero, a political flip-flopper who had attempted (and failed) to stay onside with the winning side. The couple already had two sons, a gloomy 'pull-the-legs-off-a-spider' type of boy called Tiberius, later to become Roman Emperor and his younger brother Drusus. Octavian came to a 'a gentleman's agreement' with the elder Tiberius Claudius. He would 'disappear and divorce Livia' whilst Octavian abandon Scribonia.
By then the agreements between the Triumvirs and Sextus Pompey had broke down and the old pirate tried to repeat his trick of blockading Ostia. However this time Octavian got naval help from his colleagues and they left Sextus's fleet cluttering up the bottom of the sea. He fled to Antony but the latter grew bored of Sextus's stale sea stories and had him strangled. Lepidus then tried to barge in for a cut of the spoils but was in turn deposed by his army and incarcerated with two horses and a donkey. Surprisingly, Octavian allowed Lepidus to carry on breathing but was locked up in his own villa. Perhaps Octavian expected the old nag lover to kill himself but Lepidus contrived to live another 30 years, a longevity the ex-triumvir put down to drinking horse urine every day.
Whilst this was going on, Mark Antony had crept out of the little palace in Greece where he had been obliged to play happy families with Octavia and their daughters Octavia One and Octavia Two to return for more hot action back in Alexandria. News that his sister had been left holding the babies Octavian got politically angry and saw it as a great opportunity to get a big one over on Mark Antony. Octavian's spin doctors went around the forums and temples whispering that Mark Antony was going 'all oriental.' For those who couldn't read, Octavian got hold of Antony's holiday papyri which showed the former Roman hero lying drunk on Cleopatra's barge whilst the Queen of the Nile had to sexually amuse herself with some of her Nubian slaves.
Sunk by a Shopping Trip
In 31 BC Octavian and Agrippa quickly got their soldiers and fleet ready and planned a campaign to take on Mark Antony. For some reason Antony decided that he was going to 'beat the brat' at sea and ordered a huge fleet of ships to sail to Rome. However, as his main army was heading towards Greece to hitch a lift, Antony's fleet had to go via Greece. They got there in August 31 BC but stayed there longer than planned as Cleopatra wanted to do some shopping in Athens (she was looking for a nice Grecian dress for her to wear when she and Antony rode into Rome in triumph). Unhappy about being dragged around for his opinion on her choice of dresses, Antony slunk off to a sun lounger to drink wine, read the papers and tell dirty jokes to his cronies.
Whilst Antony was sleeping in the sun, Octavian's navy arrived outside Piraeus harbour and issued a challenge to Antony to come out and fight like a Roman. Antony gathered his fleet together and tried to break out of the harbour but neglecting to tell Cleopatra what he was doing. When she came back to their rented villa with her bags of clothes, jewels and trinkets to be told Antony was out fighting, Cleopatra huffily ordered her barge to be equipped with the strongest slaves and rowed out and away from the battle. As the waft of her departing perfume reached Antony, he abandoned his ship and jumped on his own fast getaway ship after her. His troops stopped fighting and surrendered.
Octavian's victorious army followed the losers to Egypt. Antony tried to kill himself but instead cut off his legs instead. His bleeding torso was dropped outside Cleopatra's bedroom. She had vaguely promised to go along with her lover's suicide pact but thought it worth trying her charms on 'the boy Octavian'. However Octavian's sharp eyed wife Livia made sure she was in Egypt as well and killed Cleopatra by mixing in a snake with a fruit salad and then hiding all the spoons in the queen's apartment. The story of the Asp was invented later by the Roman Fruit lobby to avoid unpleasant serpent associations with their product.
And Then There Was Just The Special One
The deaths of Antony and Cleopatra just left Caesarion to deal with. Octavian sent out his special team of 'bathroom fixers' who found the unfortunate prince and 'water boarded' him to confess that his father was really a carpet store salesman in Alexandria who gained Cleopatra's sexual favours in exchange for some quality Egyptian shagpile rug to hide in. Then the young lad was drowned in his shower.
Once news reached Rome of Octavian's victories, the city authorities ordered a 'Triumph of All Triumphs' to celebrate. In the midst of the victory party, Octavian said he was willing to retire to his villa and 'grow sausages.' The assembled guests were horrified and urged him to reconsider. Octavian agreed but said he wanted to mark the new era with a different name. The senators then gave him a list of suggestions and after considering the merits of 'Trevor' or 'Billy-Bob' ,Octavian picked 'Augustus' as it sounded very posh and grand. He could have chosen October (the old Octopussy connection) but Livia objected .
The senate approved of the name change and in case any hold-out Republicans were going to object,agreed to park a number spare legions around Rome to 'concentrate minds' (later to become the Praetorian Guard). Augustus was Octavian/Octopussy Junior or 'Bum Fluff' no longer.He was now officially Roman Citizen Number Uno, leader of the Unfree Roman World and the Biggest Swinging Dickus in history.
Augustus liked his new position as the top dog of Rome but wanted a 'grander' sounding title to encompass all his powers. So in 27BC Augustus asked the Senate to give him another job title besides the ones already granted. They came up with Prince and said that Augustus would have to wear the Colour Purple from now on - even in bed. Augustus liked this but also wanted a something a bit meatier and chose the additional title Emperor. This was in honour of his father's famous pet shop, The Emporium. Some thought it would be unwise to remind Augustus of his relatively humble origins but their supreme leader didn't care and ordered some new purple stationery he could use every time a proclamation was issued. So now Augustus's full titles were Emperor Augustus Julius Caesar. Squiggle-Prince of the Roman Republic When Doves Cry, Conqueror of Traitors, Stabbers, Barbarians, Oriental Seducers.. Etc Etc. Nice guy, though Augustus had to wait until Lepidus died to add Pontifex Maximus (i.e. the Pagan Pope) to his accumulated honours.
The Roman World was now generally at peace besides a few 'chariot rage' incidents. Not everyone had reconciled themselves to 'Bum Fluff Octipants' so Augustus still found it necessary to arrange a few discrete and ingenious washroom accidents to keep the discontent to a minimum. It was a warning that the emperor couldn't take his status for granted.
Age of Bores and Buildings
The new regime in Rome soon attracted writers, painters, poets (the 'sycophanti') to come visit Augustus. Amongst those sticking their hands out for imperial benefits were Horace , Livy and Lucius 'Roughhouse' Rufus all made their way to the Palatine hill where the palace was located . However the winner was Virgil who made his name writing the 'Burpolics' about the pleasures of belching and was he who got the nod to trot off to the main imperial dinner room where Augustus was waiting for the jugglers and tumblers to finish.
Augustus happened to like Virgil and asked him to come back with his brothers Scottus, Gordianus, Johannes..and Alan to perform the tragic drama Thunderbirds:The Rescue of Lady Penelope From Skull Island for his birthday. Pleased with this show, Augustus requested Virgil perform more 'funny' shows and got the Aeneid instead. This dreary epic about how Aeneas and his Trojans escaped from Troy , how they survived a sad singing contest with Dido in an edition of Ancient World Song Contest in Carthage and finally got to Italy to create a new civilization just goes on and on. It led to The Aeneid receiving the unofficial description as the 'Bum Numb Recitation' but Augustus loved it and liked to hear it at least once a year on his birthday. He said it was 'culture' and as he was emperor Rome liked it as well so that was that. Augustus was discovering an important benefit of becoming a supreme leader: only his views and opinions counted.
Augustus wanted Rome to move with the times. His stay in Alexandria had impressed him and on returning to his home city he was struck how that Rome was as about as charming as a 'brick shit house'. So August ordered the architect Vitruvius to draw up plans to knock 'the slum down' and rebuild it in nice shiny marble. Amongst the new buildings constructed were the Forum of Augustus (a 24 hour shopping mall for the rich and greedy) and the Pantheon, a large round structure with a hole at the top like a doughnut. He also made available one of his palaces available for the Roman public to enjoy concerts by the young Tomasius Jonesian and Edius Murphonius to keep them contended and amused. Those who didn't like it could move to the Sardinian salt mines.
Keep This in the Family : Part One
Emperor Augustus liked to project himself as the 'all seeing, all knowing father'. However what he wasn't about was what would happen to his powers when he died. From his long experience with Roman senate and their mix of oily flattery and murderous discontents ('every one of them want to be' was how Augustus described it), the emperor preferred to hope he could find someone in his own family to take control.
Augustus did have one daughter Julia by his former wife Scribonia whilst Livia had two sons Tiberius and Drusus by her former husband Claudius Nero. Augustus would have preferred to have his own children by Livia but despite trying every quack concoction they could find, or praying at the right temples there were no more children. Augustus eventually reasoned the Gods were not going to give them any so turned to his sister Octavia or The Baby Collector as she was also now known.
Ever since Antony had walked out on her, Octavia had got into the child adoption business. She already had two daughters by Antony, three kids from her first marriage and now took in the three brats of Antony and Cleopatra and even Antony's surviving son Iullus Antony by his wife Fulvia. As Livia also tended to leave her sons Tiberius and Drusus there too, Octavia was now Mistress of the Imperial Brood. She suggested Julia should marry her son Marcellus and so it was agreed and the pair became the named heirs of Augustus if he was to die.
However this arrangement angered Augustus's old war chum Agrippa. A veteran killer and mangler for Augustus in the past, Agrippa had been posted out in the Eastern provinces of the empire. Agrippa thought that after all he had done for his boss, he deserved better. Agrippa was also a big enemy of Marcellus so when he returned to Rome the locals were puzzled to read that Augustus's heir had died of starvation after getting his foot stuck in a bidet.
Fearing that Agrippa was turning very nasty, Augustus suggested he marry the now widowed Julia. Agrippa agreed and said that it would be a great comfort in 'his old age' (he was the same age as Augustus) and that there was no chance of him having children as he was suffering from an old groin injury. However the Gods must have been laughing, the old warrior and Julia promptly then had six strapping children before Agrippa died of exhaustion in 12 BC.
Planting The Eagle Everywhere
The end of the Roman civil wars left Augustus with a lot of surplus legions. He was aware of the Roman proverb : Idle Soldiers Are Busy Plotters' so sent them out to the frontiers to work off a bit of steam in pointless killing. It certainly wore down a few but Augustus was happy to see the advance of Rome's borders - and booty all the same. During this period the legion was truly planted over the whole of Hispania and along the Rhine and Danube. Augustus showed no interest in going to Britannia which he would bring no material advantage to the empire unless they wanted everyone to start drinking tea and eating sandwiches in the afternoon. So he left them alone and made a push towards the East with the removal of various petty and perverted local rulers ('Pederasts to a man' was Augustus's judgement of the client kings.)
The only local ruler Augustus left in charge was Herod the Great in Judea. The Jews seemed to Augustus to be people who got easily upset at any perceived insult and would curse you to the heavens with the power of Yahweh. However as Augustus liked to point out, if the Jews' god was so powerful why was he letting the Romans walk all over them? He was told by experts about the Jewish obsession about 'sins', 'righteous wrath' and 'shellfish' but said he was none the wiser. So was at least glad Herod knew what to do with the place and would fill out his Roman Tax Extraction forms out in time.
Sextilis Sucks As Julia Blows
Augustus became very prudish when he became an emperor. He banned men and women bathing together in the imperial jacuzzi, forced them to sit separately at gladitorial contests and forbade single women from cutting their hair if they were still virgins. He also made adultery a capital offence and introduced a tax on masturbation. These little petty changes were compounded when Augustus then took exception to some popular almanacs predicting what was going to happen in the future. So he ordered all horoscopes, crystal balls, tarot cards and any other instrument of fortune telling to be piled high in the Forum and be burnt to cinders.
Then Augustus turned his attention to the calendar and decided to muck around with the names of the months and how many days they should have. His 'divine' father Julius Caesar already had a month renamed after him - and the next one after that Sextilis was well...too easy a name to provide future humourists with silly jokes about 'having sex in Sextilis'. So Augustus came up with a solution - change Sextilis to his name. The Roman Senate inititially misunderstood the instructions and pronounced that July would be followed by 'Squiggle ' (i.e. 'Prince') - before this was hastily changed to 'August' by imperial degree. Also as a punishment to February for looking smug on 30 days, Augustus snatched two days from them and added to his month instead. Augustus could be very petty at times.
Whilst Augustus was making changes to the calendar his now twice widowed daughter Julia was turning the imperial palace into a high class knocking shop. Giving herself up to 'pleasure' after marrying for politics, Julia liked to party with Iullus Antony. A bit like his old father, Iullus was said to have the stamina of a stallion in bed and possessed the sexual equipment to match. Julia however said she couldn't commit to just one man and instead had plenty of willing lovers come round to see if they could match Iullus. Eventually Augustus found out and banished his daughter and her lovers to various remote islands or isolated settlements. Iullus was told to fall on his sword but was eventually strangled with his own member by a personal slave.
Keep It In The Family : Part Two
Julia's disgrace and exile left Augustus to bring up her two sons Gaius and Lucius as his own kids but they both died young - this time in strange accidents in the kitchen. Empress Livia denied she had anything to do with it but others noticed that she and her eldest son Tiberius were very skillful when it came to dicing carrots.
Augustus then made the gloomy Tiberius one of his imperial co-heirs along with Postumus Agrippa (younger son of Agrippa). Tiberius had been living away from Rome in Rhodes where he was working as lifeguard and night time beach entertainer. Livia told her son to come back and also contrived to disgrace Postumus in some sordid business with a plumber. Postumus got posted and when no one was looking, he was found dead, choked to death on a rubber duck.
This Is Where The Christians Come In
Augustus always liked to know if 'the gods have been active' and always made the right amount of offerings to them to to make sure they wouldn't get all silly and start sending fire/floods/earthquakes etc etc to show who was the real boss.
It was whilst he was looking for Signs of Divine Intervention that the emperor read an interesting report from Judea about some strange reported sightings in Bethlehem. Distrusting Herod of Judea who was anyway, dying and killing of his family at the same time, Augustus asked his spy network to send news about what was happening. He received this from a well connected informant :
Bethlehem Police Station. Incident Log for 24th December (Roman Reckoning) or (Jewish Reckoning) 24th September (15 Tishru). Minus 4 BC.
- 18.00. Bethlehem hotels managers report all rooms are fully booked for the Festival of The Tabernacles. Only a few caves on the outskirts report they have a few spare mangers [Note in the margin. Managers or Mangers?]
- 19.00. A bright object is reported over Bethlehem. Seems to be standing still over a cave. Send Centurion Oscarius.B.Tango out to investigate.
- 20.00. Sheep reported to have entered main square. No sign of shepherds.
- 21.00. Men of the Jewish persuasion seen dancing in a circle in the street. Understand it is religious but send out snatch squads, dogs and riot police just to make sure.
- 22.00. Sunny Side Cave Police Station reports that there is a 'big rave' going on in a stable down the road. Complain about 'voices' in the skies and lots of what appear to be little fat men flying around with wings on their backs. Also seen loitering are tall thin people dressed in white and glowing brightly.
- 23.00. Officer Oscarius.B.Tango returns to the station and says he checked out the address given for the disturbance but doesn't think any particular funny stuff going on. Looking at his scroll, Tango says:.. saw a lot of people standing around in a stable talking to animals, or sitting on their knees. He talked to some old guy standing next to an animal trough who says that they are performing a local Jewish custom and that his wife Mary is about to give birth to 'an earth shaker'. I haven't got a clue what that means but no one appears to be on drugs here. I decided to leave as I don't like mixing with the ethnics too long in case I am stabbed by a passing zealot. It was also getting cold and I needed some hot tea to keep me going..
- 23.30. Three suspect men are arrested on the outskirts of town. They are dressed up for a fancy dress party and are carrying three 'gifts' which may be explosive devices. Brought in for some mild questioning and vigorous water boarding. They are kept in the police station until further notice.
- 24.00. A sudden noise is heard from the vicinity of Cave party. Officer Juliet Zulu says it is the opening bars of 'Let's Get The Party Started' by Pink but others suggest it is 'Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.
- 00.30. The senior centurion on duty decides this event is of no consequence but sends a message to Herod the Great's Child Cruelty Enforcement Unit for further possible action.
- .00.45.A terrorism check is be run on The Wisemen . They are to be held in custody for the next 12 days whilst the Imperial Homeland Office investigates.
After he had read the report Augustus decided to take no more action. His old ally Herod exploded into a cascade of maggots and no more reports were sent from Bethlehem. Moreover, Augustus's attention was drawn to the Rhine frontier with news about a Germanic invasion threat.
Varus! Herman Vorsprung Durch Technik!!
Roman General Publius Quinctilius Varus - or 'Barfly Varus' as he was also known - approached Augustus with a scheme to expand the Roman Empire at no real extra cost, well perhaps of a few spare Roman soldiers. Parthia was too risky to take on in a war and no one fancied going back to Britannia either. So how about Germania? As Varus was well connected and had married into the imperial dynasty, Augustus studied the planned invasion and gave an evasive yes to the invasion. In other words, if it went wrong, Varus would take the shame.
Varus had already served Rome well. He had a knack of crucifying the right malcontents and had just dealt with some Jewish rebels after the death of Herod the Great. However, he was after greater glory. So Varus came up with the plan to annex the lands between the Rhine and the Elbe and turn into a province of the Empire to be exploited for slaves and raw materials under the aegis of Ditchwater Inc. Varus said that if Julius Caesar could trounce the Gauls then the Germans would be easy to beat as no one else liked them. The would-be conqueror also had a good German friend called (naturally enough) 'Herman The German' or Arminius as the Romans hated names starting with 'H'. Arminius/Herman said it would be a 'walk in the woods' to crush his fellow countrymen and advised Varus that 'three crack legions' would do the job in an afternoon.
Augustus was at first unsure about the real scope of Varus's mission but everyone else said that the Germans were a 'beery, hairy rabble' who would run away from the first taste of Roman steel. Varus got his way and equipped three legions (the XVII, XVIII and XIX) to cross over the Rhine for what was officially billed as a 'Civilization Expansion Mission' .
At first the invasion went well. Flaxen haired men and women threw flowers and phone numbers at the Roman soldiers but the mood got ugly when some legionaries took advantage of the welcome and started a side business in slave trading. In revenge, Herman the German lent the Roman armies some faulty sat-nav equipment which led Varus and his army to disappear into a Black Forest Gateaux and never come out alive again. Soon reports came back that the Romans had been slaughtered to a man by the Germans with their more efficient, faster chariots . In shame and afraid to come back as a loser to Rome Varus killed himself and donated his intestines to the birds.
When he heard the news, Augustus lost his marbles. He rent his clothes, refused to bathe for six months and grew a beard so long that it tripped him up. Empress Livia told Augustus 'to get a grip!' and dispatched her son Tiberius to the Rhine frontier to restore order and enhance his position as Imperial heir. Augustus felt humiliated and plum stupid.
Keep What in the Family?: Part Three
By 12 A.D. Augustus was growing weary and dreaming of retiring to a nice little villa overlooking the sea and spending his days riding around for free on a pensioner's bus pass. He would even grow 'sausages' in the garden (Augustus was a bit dim when it came to horticulture). Livia refused to take his idea of retirement, she had no wish to spend her evenings knitting or listening to her husband's boring stories. The jam making would have to wait.
Livia needed Tiberius would have to go on a charm offensive to absolutely make sure he would succeed Augustus. This turned into a disaster as Tiberius' attempts to smile and pretend he was 'just normal' instead made people see the kid who once liked to chew the heads off butterflies . They were more impressed with his nephew Germanicus, the son of his Tiberius's late brother Drusus and some urged him to run against his uncle if the imperial job came up soon. But Germanicus refused and instead went to Germany to live up to his name and kill more defenceless German women and children. Only Augustus was now holding up his stepson from inheriting the purple robes.
Death and the Augustan Legacy
Augustus was now really feeling his age and alarmed his court when he was seen apparently conversing with invisible people. He was even seen engaging in a long conversation with a statue of Mark Antony. Livia decided that her hubby was a few steps away from permanent incoherence so sent him to a beach resort whilst she ran the Roman Empire in his name. There he died suddenly, eating a salad whilst shaving in the bathroom. There was something oddly poetic about his ending.
The former Emperor's body was returned to Rome and given a right imperial send off. Now officially a god, Augustus's ashes were placed in the family tomb and an orgy of animal sacrifices wafted his spirit to join Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and other famous Romans in a Latino Heaven.
The contemporary Roman historian/gossip writer of the time Ovid sums it up best: -
Only after Augustus died that even his enemies began to appreciate him. We had a new month named in his honour and could celebrate Augustus's wisdom by taking four weeks holiday in the height of summer when Rome was at its stinkiest. He had ended the civil wars and rearranged the constitution so prevent anyone else upsetting the settlement. So Ok, now we were officially living in an empire rather than an old fashioned republic but Romans still had a Senate, Consuls, Tribunes and all that other stuff they cherished. The only difference now was the top job had to be held by Augustus and anyone he designated as a successor. At least Rome wasn't one of old Hellenistic monarchies like Syria or Egypt where any idiot could be put on the throne as long as he was in the same family....
Ovid got banished for that.
- ↑ Augustus wrote an autobiography ' From Sextilis to August:How I Renamed A Month of the Year and Changed Rome Around A Bit'. It is probably this very dull title that ensured the book was lost when Barbarians refused to return the only copy of this work in 624 A.D.
- ↑ Another version of how Octavius Senior got his name 'Octopussy' is given by Ovid in his 'Twelve Best Brothels in The Roman Empire'. It has nothing to do with keeping cephalods.
- ↑ The temple where Octavius senior and Atia met was discovered in the 19th century during the construction of a new sewer. Artifacts uncovered included messages on lead what said 'Goldfish Special Offer' and 'Buy One And Eat One Free' - possibly attached to a tank where Elvis the Octopuss lived.
- ↑ Agrippa and Agrappla also had a younger brother called Headtwister who died young. Agrappla fell out with his brother on their political preferences. Agrippa became a Caesarian Democrat whilst Agrappla stuck with the Republicans and died at Pharsalus.
- ↑ Julius Caesar apparently wrote all the cheques for the wedding under the name of Jack Kaiser. They all bounced.
- ↑ The Rubicon is now just a sick little piddle of a stream today.
- ↑ It was a eunuch-reality check. Only those with an undamaged pair had legal rights and able to testiculate in court.
- ↑ Some of these blanket bans remain in force today. No one has been able to repeal them.
- ↑ Caesar made one year 445 days long to increase the tax revenue.
- ↑ The Romans were really hopeless when it came to varying the names of their children.
- ↑ First triumph for marketing.
- ↑ Expansion Pack IV.
- ↑ Herman the German later moved to Monaco after his double dealing treachery but foolishly returned some years later and was killed by his fans who mistook him for a Roman.
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