(venerable, Graecized Αὔγουστος.), the imperial title assumed by Octavius, or Octavianus, the successor of Julius Caesar, and the first peacefully acknowledged emperor of Rome. He was emperor at the birth and during half the lifetime of our Lord (B.C. 30 to A.D. 14), but his name occurs only once (Lu 2:1) in the New Testament, as the emperor who appointed the enrolment in consequence of which Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, the place where the Messiah was to be born. SEE JESUS. The successors of the first Augustus took the same name or title, but it is seldom applied to them by the Latin writers. In the eastern part of the empire the Greek Σεβαστός (which is equivalent) seems to have been more common, and hence is used of Nero (Ac 25:21). In later times (after Diocletian) the title of "Augustus" was given to one of the two heirs-
apparent of the empire, and "Caesar" to their younger colleagues and heirs- apparent.
Augustus was descended from the Octavian family (gens Octavia), being the son of a certain praetor, Caius Octavius, and born in the year of Rome 691, B.C. 62 (Sueton. Octav. 5). His mother was Atia, daughter of Julia, the sister of C. Julius Caesar. He bore the same name as his father, Caius Octavius. Being adopted and educated by his great uncle Julius Caesar, he changed his name from Octavius to that of Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus (i.e. ex-Octavius), in accordance with Roman usage. After the assassination of Caesar, he went, although still a youth, into Italy, and soon acquired such political connections and importance (Suet. Ces. 83 sq.; Octav. 8) that Antony and Lepidus took him into their triumvirate (Suet. Octav. 13). After the removal of the weak Lepidus, he shared with Antony the chief power over the entire Roman empire, having special charge of the western provinces, as Antony did over the eastern (Suet. Octav. 16, 54; Appian. Civ. 5, 122 sq.). But there was no cordial union between these two ambitious men; their opposition gradually developed itself, and soon reached its crisis in the decisive naval battle of Actium (B.C. 31), in which Octavius was victor (Suet. Octav. 17; Dio Cass . 1.5 sq.; Vell. Paterc. 2:85). Two years afterward he was greeted as "emperor" (imperator) by the senate, and somewhat later (B.C. 27), when he desired voluntarily to receive the supreme power, as "Augustus" (Vell. Paterc. 2:91; Dio Cass. 53:16). Liberality toward the army, moderation toward the senate, which he allowed to retain the semblance of its ancient authority, affability and clemency toward the populace, strengthened the supremacy which Augustus, uniting in his own person the highest offices of the republic, maintained with imperial power, but without a regal title. To Herod, who had attached himself to the party of Antony, he was unexpectedly gracious, instated him as king of Judaea ("rex Judaeorum," Joseph. Ant. 15, 7, 3), raising also somewhat later his brother Pheroras to the tetrarchate (Joseph. Ant. 15, 10, 3). In thankfulness for these favors, Herod built him a marble temple near the source of the Jordan (Joseph. Ant. 15, 10, 3), and remained during his whole life affirm adherent of the imperial family. After the death of Herod (A.D. 4) his dominions, almost in exact accordance with the will which he left, were divided among his sons (Joseph. Ant. 17, 11, 4) by Augustus, who was soon compelled, however (A.D. 6), to exile one of them, Archelaus, and to join his territory of Judaea and Samaria to their rovincce of Syria (Joseph. Ant. 22, 13, 2). Augustus died in the 76th year of his age at Nola in Campania, August 19, in the year of Rome 767 (see Wurm, in Belgel's Archiv, 2, 8 sq.), or A.D. 14 (Suet. Octav. 99 sq.; Dio Cass. 56:29 sq.; Joseph. Ant. 18; 3, 2; War, 2, 9, 1), having some time previously nominated Tiberius as his associate (Suet. Tib. 21; Tacit. Annal. 1, 3). The kindness of Augustus toward the Herods, and the Jews through them (Philo, 2:588, 591, 592), was founded, not upon any regard for the Jewish people themselves (as the contrary appears to have been the case with all the Roman emperors, Suet. Octav. 93), but upon political considerations, and, as it would seem, a personal esteem for Herod. Augustus not only procured the crown of Judaea for Herod, whom he loaded with honors and riches, but was pleased also to undertake the education of Alexander and Aristobulus, his sons, to whom he gave apartments in his palace. When he came into Syria, Zenodorus and the Gadarenes waited on him with complaints against Herod; but he cleared himself of the accusations, and Augustus added to his honors and kingdom the tetrarchy of Zenodorus. He also examined into the quarrels between Herod and his sons, and reconciled them. SEE HEROD. Syllaeus, minister to Obodas, king of the Nabathaeans, having accused Herod of invading Arabia, and destroying many people there, Augustus, in anger, wrote to Herod about it; but he so well justified his conduct that the emperor restored him to favor, and continued it ever after. He disapproved, however, of the rigor exercised by Herod toward his sons, Alexander, Aristobulus, and Antipater; and when they were executed he is said to have observed "that it were better a great deal to be Herod's swine than his son" (Macrob. Saturn. 2, 4). It was through the warm attachment of Augustus for M. Vipsanius Agrippa that the latter was enabled to exercise a strong influence in favor of the Jews. SEE AGRIPPA. After the death of Lepidus, Augustus assumed the office of high-priest, a dignity which gave him the inspection over ceremonies and religious concerns. One of his first proceedings was an examination of the Sibyls' books, many of which he burnt, and placed the others in two gold boxes under the pedestal of Apollo's statue, whose temple was within the enclosure of the palace. This is worthy of note, if these prophecies had excited a general expectation of some great person about that time to be born, as there is-reason to suppose was the fact. It should be remembered, also, that Augustus had the honor to shut the temple of Janus, in token of universal peace, at the time when the Prince of Peace was born. This is remarkable, because that temple was shut but a very few times. For further details of the life of Augustus, see Smith's Dict. of Biog. s.v. On the question whether this emperor had any knowledge respecting Christ, there are treatises by Hasse (Regiom. 1805), Hering (Stettin, 1727), Kiber (Gerl. 1669), Sperling (Viteb. 1703), Ziebich (Gera, 1718, and in his Verm. Beitr. 1, 3), Zorn (Opusc. 2, 481 sq.).