The Many Faces of Octavian Essay

The Many Faces of Octavian Essay

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The image of Octavian changed significantly throughout his life. He started off as little more than the son of Caesar and he came to earn the respect and faith of his nation. He manipulated his image over the course of his life in order to be that which the people needed in order to believe in the future of Rome and a time or peace instead of civil war. He avoided the arrogant flaws of his father in favor of maintain the friendship of the senate but ended up just as powerful as the dictator.
After the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC Octavian, his adopted son, quickly became a prominent political figure. Octavian, although only 18 at the time, had little in the way of merit to go off of other than his relation to Caesar. He relied heavily on this connection which can be seen through various methods of propaganda which were heavily promoted at the time. One of the chief methods propaganda used in ancient Rome both during and outside of this time period was through coinage. Shortly after the murder of Caesar and almost immediately upon his deification a series of coins went out featuring the sidus Iulium and often bearing the phrase ‘Caesar divi’ and typically referencing the Julian’s descent from Venus through Aeneas.
Octavian seized on his father’s deification and began incorporating these symbols into his propaganda. Octavian, like Caesar used the imagery of Venus and Aeneas on his coins, which automatically recalled to the minds of the people his relation to not only Caesar but his relation to the hero of old and his divine mother through Caesar. (Zanker, 36) At this time Augustus was placing the comet of Caesar around Rome, especially on statues of Caesar. By also including the sidus Iulium on his coins the relation between...


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...sed to the young Octavian. While the Prima Porta does recall the coinage that was first used when he came to power due to the Aeneid related images and his bared feet which mark him as a demigod it is a far cry from where he started out as nothing more than the filius divi with no political or military power to speak of. This later images portray him in his deserved greatness in the classical style that represents the order he brought to the empire.
Over the course of his career Octavian (later known as Augustus) did much to manipulate his image in order to serve the needs of his country. He managed to sufficiently and relatively quickly gain power and restore peace to Rome. His image continued to morph and change throughout his life going through the extremes of relatively unknown, to ruthless vengeance-bringer, to the pious, just leader of a restored republic.

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