Cultural depictions of Augustus

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Caesar Augustus (63 BC–AD 14), also known as Octavian, was the first and among the most important of the Roman Emperors.

Augustus' most visible impact on everyday culture is the eighth month of the year, which was renamed in Augustus' honor in 8 BC because several of the most significant events in his rise to power, culminating in the fall of Alexandria, occurred during this month.[1]


Augustus was one of the most widely depicted individuals in ancient times,[2] appearing in coins, sculptures, cameos, plaques, and other media. His dominant portrait type is that of the serene, ageless Augustus of Prima Porta, introduced in 27 BCE.[3] At its best, in Roland R. R. Smith's view, this "type achieves a sort [of] visual paradox that might be described as mature, ageless, and authoritative youthfulness".[4] D. Boschung[5] identified four other portrait types (the Actium or Alcúdia type, the Béziers-Spoleto type, the Forbes or MA 1280 type, and the Lucus Feroniae type),[6] although Smith considers the Béziers-Spoleto type to be a variant of the Alcúdia type and the Lucus Feroniae type to be a category of dubious validity.[6] The Alcúdia portrait type is thought to have been developed around 40 BCE to coincide with the adoption of the patronymic title Divi Filius; Smith describes it as "a youthful portrait with thick hair and probably some expression of vigour and energy".[4] Different scholars have argued whether the Forbes type, "with distinctive short forehead hair," preceded or followed the Prima Porta type.[7]




Portrayals of Octavian/Augustus in film:


  • Augustus was played by Roland Culver in the 1968 BBC miniseries The Caesars.
  • In the 1969 Play of the Month production of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Augustus (as Octavius) is portrayed by John Alderton.
  • Augustus was portrayed in the celebrated BBC 1976 dramatization of Robert Graves' novel I, Claudius by Brian Blessed. It is implied in the dramatization that he was poisoned to death by Livia.
  • Augustus was portrayed in the movie Imperium: Augustus (part of the Imperium movie series) by Peter O'Toole as an old man and Benjamin Sadler as a young man. (2003)
  • In the HBO/BBC/RAI television series Rome (2005), Octavian is portrayed as a young man by Max Pirkis and as an adult by Simon Woods.[13] In the first season of the series Octavian is a well-read supporter of Caesar. Octavian becomes the pupil of Titus Pullo and also advises Pullo several times. Octavian shifts to more overtly ambitious and Machiavellian in the second season as his growing hatred with Antony becomes apparent. In contrast to more benign portrayals of Octavian this portrayal depicts him as fairly cruel (many call him a monster) with only brief moments of humanity shown in his relationship to his sister, which grows poor by the end of the series.
  • Augustus was portrayed by Santiago Cabrera in an ABC miniseries called Empire (2005), which took place after the assassination of Caesar.

Video games[edit]

  • In Civilization IV, each game concludes with various statistics and a timeline, as well as a scale comparing the player to various historical figures. Augustus Caesar is at the top of the scale. He was also added in the expansion Civilization IV: Warlords as a Roman leader, accompanying Julius Caesar from the original game.
  • Also made his way into Civilization V, once again leading the Roman Empire. His special ability is "The Glory of Rome", which grants production bonuses for city improvements.
  • Was also a Main Character in the PS2 game, Shadow of Rome
  • Augustus is one of the playable factions in Total War: Rome II's Imperator Augustus Campaign pack, which depicts the Second Triumvirate War between Octavian, Mark Antony and Lepidus during the last years of the Roman Republic.This DLC was released simultaneously with Total War: Rome II: Emperor Edition.


  1. ^ Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.12.35.
  2. ^ Goldsworthy (2014), p. 256.
  3. ^ a b Smith (1996), p. 38.
  4. ^ a b c d Smith (1996), p. 46.
  5. ^ D. Boschung (1993). Die Bildnisse des Augustus: das römische Herrscherbild. Berlin: Gebr. Mann. ISBN 3786116954. 
  6. ^ a b c Smith (1996), p. 39.
  7. ^ Smith (1996), pp. 38-39.
  8. ^ Smith (1996), p. 40.
  9. ^ Smith (1996), p. 37.
  10. ^ Goldsworthy (2014).
  11. ^ "The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved January 29, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Review: The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston". Kirkus Reviews. September 3, 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Augustus Caesar (Character) from Rome (2005)," The Internet Movie Database.


  • Goldsworthy, Adrian (2014). Augustus: First Emperor of Rome. ISBN 9780300178722. 
  • Smith, Roland R. R. (1996). "Typology and diversity in the portraits of Augustus". Journal of Roman Archaeology. 9: 30–47.