Gaius Octavius

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This article is about the biological father of the first Roman Emperor. For the emperor himself, see Augustus.
For other uses, see Gaius Octavius (disambiguation).
Head of statue, thought to be Gaius Octavius, ca. 60 BC, Munich Glyptothek

Gaius Octavius[1] (about 100 – 59 BC) was an ancestor to the Roman Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He is the father of the Emperor Augustus, step-grandfather of the Emperor Tiberius, great-great grandfather of the Emperor Caligula, great-grandfather of the Emperor Claudius, and great-great-great grandfather of the Emperor Nero. He descended from an old, wealthy equestrian branch of the Octavii family. Despite being from a wealthy family, his family was plebeian, rather than patrician. As a novus homo ("new man"), he would not be of a senatorial family.

His grandfather, Gaius Octavius, fought as a military tribune in Sicily during the Second Punic War. His father Gaius Octavius was a municipal magistrate who lived to an advanced age. He is distantly related to Gnaeus Octavius, the consul of 87 BC who led the opposition to Lucius Cornelius Cinna.

Personal life[edit]

Octavius' first wife was named Ancharia. The two had a child (named Octavia Major). It is not known how the marriage ended, although it is possible that Ancharia died during child birth. He later married the niece of Julius Caesar, Atia Balba Caesonia. How they met is not known, although Atia's family (through her father, the Balbi) lived close to Velitrae, which was the ancestral home of the Octavii. They had two children: Octavia Minor and the Emperor Augustus, the latter of whom was born in 63 BC.

Political career[edit]

Octavius was elected quaestor, believed to have been in 70 BC. In 61 BC, he was elected praetor. In 60 BC, after his term had ended, he was appointed proprietor, and was to serve as governor of Macedonia. Before he left for Macedonia, the senate sent him to put down a slave rebellion at Thurii. These slaves had previously taken part in the rebellions of Spartacus and Catiline. He then left for Macedonia and proved a capable administrator, governing "courageously and justly", his deeds included leading the Roman forces to victory in an unexpected battle against the Thracian Bessian tribe. Cicero had high regard for his diplomatic dealings. Because of his successful term as governor of Macedonia, he won the support necessary to be elected consul.

In 59 BC, Octavius sailed to Rome, to stand for election as consul. However, he died before arriving in Rome. He supposedly died in the same bedroom where Augustus would pass away many years later. His career is summarized in an inscription erected by his son on the forum he built in Rome:[2]

C(aius) Octavius C(ai) f(ilius) C(ai) n(epos) C(ai) pr[on(epos)]
pater Augusti
tr(ibunus) mil(itum) bis q(uaestor) aed(ilis) pl(ebis) cum
C(aio) Toranio iudex quaestionum
pr(aetor) proco(n)s(ul) imperator appellatus
ex provincia Macedonia
“Gaius Octavius, son, grandson and great-grandson of Gaius,
father of Augustus,
twice military tribune, quaestor, aedile of the plebs together with
Gaius Toranius, judge,
praetor, proconsul, proclaimed imperator
in the province of Macedonia”

See also[edit]


  1. ^ No ancient source uses a cognomen (surname). The surname Rufus had belonged to his ancestor, Gnaeus Octavius, quaestor circa 230 BC. It was occasionally used (but more often ignored) by his descendants.
  2. ^ CIL VI, 41023


  • Suetonius - The Twelve Caesars - Augustus vs. 1-8
  • Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor; by Anthony Everitt