First of all, let me state that I won’t be able to do justice to such a lofty, complex subject as I have alluded to in the title of this post. I do wish to touch base regarding this topic because I think it is quite relevant to today’s political situation in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Accounting for conversion from the Roman calendar of antiquity to the calendar in current use, today is a very important anniversary. It was on this date in the year 27 BCE that Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus was given the title Augustus by the Senate of Rome. This action by the Senate marked the official transition of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. That makes today the commemorative date recognizing the inauguration of the Roman Empire.
For particular details of this intriguing chapter of history, I recommend that you check out some of the numerous books written about the dawn of the Roman Empire. Most of them are rather thick with pages, but if you’re a history buff, the works are quick reads. If you’ve already familiarized yourself with the histories of the Roman Republic and the Empire, the subject is an enjoyable review anytime.
A very sketchy outline of the events leading up to the 16th of Januarius status change is basically according to this order:
During the year 60 BCE, the Generals Julius Caesar, Crassus and Pompey formed a political alliance. They held sway over the republic’s politics over many years. Their aim was to consolidate and concentrate their power. They were opposed by major elite conservative Senators. The most frequent critics were Cato the Younger and Cicero.
Caesar’s victory in Gaul, in 51 BC, brought Roman domination to the English Channel and the Rhineland. The securing of these huge territorial gains gave Julius Caesar unprecedented military power. This destabilized the influence and power of General Pompey. This instability was enhanced even more when General Crassus died in 53 BC.
The power and political alignments shifted in the Senate. The new alliance developed into a showdown between Caesar on the one hand and Pompey aligned with the conservative Senators.
The Senate then commanded Julius Ceasar to appear for trial, he was charged with various crimes against the republic. Caesar marched into Italy with his legions, crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC. This is where the saying “to cross the Rubicon” is referred to in modern culture. The entry of his troops ignited a civil war. Julius Caesar’s military actions led to victory and his ultimate takeover of the levers of Roman power.
There was much realignment of the various offices and branches of government which Caesar centralized. His puppet Senate finally proclaimed him “dictator in perpetuity”.
If you remember your Shakespearian plays, you’ll recall “The Tragedy Of Julius Caesar”. The story dramatized the dictator’s assassination on the Ides of March by Marcus Junius Brutus in 44 BCE. Although the assassination was intended to restore the Republic, the ultimate result was the permanent establishment of the Roman Empire.
That, in an extremely condensed capsule, is the significance of this date in ancient history.
The Blue Jay of Happiness can’t help but proclaim, “Hail Caesar!” even though the concept of dictatorship doesn’t fly with him.