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As the first Roman emperor (though he never claimed the title for himself), Augustus led Rome’s transformation from republic to empire during the tumultuous years following the assassination of his great-uncle and adoptive father Julius Caesar. He shrewdly combined military might, institution-building and lawmaking to become Rome’s sole ruler, laying the foundations of the 200-year Pax Romana (Roman Peace) and an empire that lasted, in various forms, for nearly 1,500 years.

Augustus: Birth and Inheritance

Of Augustus’ many names and honorifics, historians favor three of them, each for a different phase in the emperor’s life. From his birth in 63 B.C. he was Octavius; after his adoption was announced in 44 B.C., Octavian; and beginning in 26 B.C. the Roman Senate conferred on him the name Augustus, the august or exalted one. He was born Gaius Octavius Thurinus in Velletri, 20 miles from Rome. His father was a senator and governor in the Roman Republic. His mother Atai was Caesar’s niece, and the young Octavius was raised in part by his grandmother Julia Ceasaris, Caesar’s sister.

Octavius donned the toga, the Roman sign of manhood, at age 16, and began taking on responsibilities through his family connections. In 47 B.C. he went to Hispania (modern-day Spain) to fight alongside Caesar. He was shipwrecked along the way, and had to cross enemy territory to reach his great-uncle—an act that impressed Caesar enough to name Octavius his heir and successor in his will.

Augustus: The Path to Power

The 17-year-old Octavius was at Apollonia (in present-day Albania) when the news of Caesar’s death and his own inheritance arrived. The dead ruler’s allies, including many in the senate, rallied around Octavian against their powerful rival Mark Antony. But after Octavian’s troops defeated Antony’s army in northern Italy, the future emperor refused an all-out pursuit of Antony, preferring an uneasy alliance with his rival.

In 43 B.C. Octavian, Antony and Marcus Aemilus Lepidus established the Second Triumvirate, a power-sharing agreement that divided up Rome’s territories among them, with Antony given the East, Lepidus Africa and Octavian the West. In 41 B.C. Antony began a romantic and political alliance with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, which continued even after a Senatorial decree forced his marriage to Octavian’s sister Octavia Minor. Lepidus remained a minor figure until Octavian finally had him ousted after the triumvirate’s renewal in 37 B.C.

Antony’s affair with Cleopatra continued, and in 32 B.C. he divorced Octavia. In retaliation, Octavian declared war on Cleopatra. In the naval battle of Actium a year later, Octavian’s fleet, under his admiral Agrippa, cornered and defeated Antony’s ships. Cleopatra’s navy raced to aid her ally, but in the end the two lovers barely escaped. They returned to Egypt and committed suicide, leaving Octavian as Rome’s undisputed ruler.

Augustus: Emperor in All but Name

Historians date the start of Octavian’s monarchy to either 31 B.C. (the victory at Actium) or 27 B.C., when he was granted the name Augustus. In that four-year span, Octavian secured his rule on multiple fronts. Cleopatra’s seized treasure allowed him to pay his soldiers, securing their loyalty. To mollify Rome’s Senate and ruling classes, he passed laws harkening back—at least on the surface—to the traditions of the Roman Republic. And to win over the people, he worked to improve and beautify the city of Rome.

During his 40-years reign, Augustus nearly doubled the size of the empire, adding territories in Europe and Asia Minor and securing alliances that gave him effective rule from Britain to India. He spent much of his time outside of Rome, consolidating power in the provinces and instituting a system of censuses and taxation that integrated the empire’s furthest reaches. He expanded the Roman network of roads, founded the Praetorian Guard and the Roman postal service and remade Rome with both grand (a new forum) and practical gestures (police and fire departments).

Augustus: Family and Succession

Augustus married three times, although his first union, to Mark Antony’s stepdaughter Clodia Pulchra, was unconsummated. His second wife, Scribonia, bore his only child, Julia the Elder. He divorced in 39 B.C. to marry Livia Drusilla, who had two sons—Tiberius and Drusus—by her first husband, Mark Antony’s ally Tiberius Claudius Nero. The family tree became more complicated after Augustus had his stepson Tiberius briefly marry his daughter, and then adopted Tiberius outright as son and successor in A.D. 4.

Augustus Caesar died in A.D. 14, his empire secured and at peace. His reported last words were twofold: to his subjects he said, “I found Rome of clay; I leave it to you of marble,” but to the friends who had stayed with him in his rise to power he added, “Have I played the part well? Then applaud me as I exit.” Soon after that acknowledgement of human frailty, the Roman Senate officially declared their departed emperor, like Julius Caesar before him, to be a god.

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Julia, (born 39 bc —died ad 14, Rhegium [present-day Reggio di Calabria, Italy]), the Roman emperor Augustus’ only child, whose scandalous behaviour eventually caused him to exile her.

Julia’s mother was Scribonia, who was divorced by Augustus when the child was a few days old. Julia was brought up strictly, her every word and action being watched. After a brief marriage to Marcus Marcellus, who died in 23 bc , Julia wedded Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, Augustus’ chief lieutenant, in 21 bc . Their two eldest sons were adopted by Augustus in 17 bc and given the names Gaius and Lucius Caesar. Julia had a third son, Agrippa Postumus, and two daughters, Julia and Vipsania (later known as Agrippina the Elder).

With Agrippa’s death in 12 bc , Augustus’ wife, Livia, was able to convince him to favour her own sons by a former marriage, Tiberius and Drusus, as possible successors Augustus forced Tiberius to divorce his wife and marry Julia in 11 bc . It was an unwanted and unhappy marriage for both of them. After an infant son by Julia perished in 6 bc , Tiberius went into voluntary exile, leaving Julia in Rome. Julia was accused of leading a promiscuous life, her adulteries becoming common knowledge in Rome. An affair with Mark Antony’s son Jullus Antonius was politically dangerous.

Finally Augustus discovered how Julia was behaving. After threatening her with death, he banished her to Pandataria, an island off the coast of Campania, in 2 bc . In ad 4 she was moved to Rhegium. Upon becoming emperor, Tiberius withheld her allowance, and Julia eventually died of malnutrition.

Julia’s faithlessness is not in question, but, according to the 5th-century- ad Roman author Macrobius (Saturnalia), she was a witty and intelligent woman and was loved by the people. Augustus showed her no mercy, however, calling her a “disease in my flesh.”

Augustus' Political, Social, & Moral Reforms

Augustus is well known for being the first Emperor of Rome, but even more than that, for being a self-proclaimed “Restorer of the Republic.” He believed in ancestral values such as monogamy, chastity, and piety (virtue). Thus, he introduced a number of moral and political reforms in order to improve Roman society and formulate a new Roman government and lifestyle. The basis of each of these reforms was to revive traditional Roman religion in the state.

Restoration of Monuments

First, Augustus restored public monuments, especially the Temples of the Gods, as part of his quest for religious revival. He also commissioned the construction of monuments that would further promote and encourage traditional Roman religion. For example, the Ara Pacis Augustae contained symbols and scenes of religious rites and ceremonies, as well as Augustus and his “ideal” Roman family – all meant to inspire Roman pride. After Augustus generated renewed interest in religion, he sought to renew the practice of worship.


Religious Reforms

In order to do so, Augustus revived the priesthoods and was appointed as pontifex maximus, which made him both the secular head of the Roman Empire and the religious leader. He reintroduced past ceremonies and festivals, including the Lustrum ceremony and the Lupercalia festival. In 17 BC, he also revived the Ludi Secularae (Secular Games), a religious celebration that occurred only once every 110 years, in which sacrifices and theatrical performances were held. Finally, Augustus established the Imperial Cult for worship of the Emperor as a god. The cult spread throughout the entire Empire in only a few decades, and was considered an important part of Roman religion.

Tax & Inheritance Laws

Augustus' goal in restoring public monuments and reviving religion was not simply to renew faith and pride in the Roman Empire. Rather, he hoped that these steps would restore moral standards in Rome. Augustus also enacted social reforms as a way to improve morality. He felt particularly strong about encouraging families to have children and discouraging adultery. As such, he politically and financially rewarded families with three or more children, especially sons. This incentive stemmed from his belief that there were too few legitimate children born from “proper marriages.” On the other hand, he penalized unmarried men older than 38 years old by imposing on them an additional tax that others did not have to pay. They were also debarred from receiving inheritances and attending public games. Furthermore, the Lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus prohibited celibacy and childless marriages, as well as made marriage compulsory.


Marriage & divorce laws

Augustus also amended divorce laws to make them much stricter. Prior to this, divorce had been fairly free and easy. In addition, after Augustus' reforms, adultery became a civil crime instead of a personal crime under the Lex Julia de adulteriis coercendis. In other words, it became a crime against the state, which meant that the state (not just the husband) could take an adulterer to court if there was evidence of adultery. Penalties for adultery included banishment, or sometimes the husband or father of the adulterer could kill an adulterous wife. Augustus' own daughter, Julia, was banished for adultery after this new legislation. She was exiled to a desolate island called Pandateria.

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Augustus also felt that people should not interact with or, especially, marry those outside of their own social class. As such, he created laws that reinforced hierarchical seating in the theatre and amphitheatre. For instance, front row seats were reserved for Senators, the next rows for equestrians, then the rest divided up for young men, soldiers, and so on.


In conclusion, Augustus was looked upon as a savior of traditional Roman values. His political, social, and moral reforms helped to bring stability and security, and perhaps most importantly, prosperity to the Roman world which had been previously rocked by internal turmoil and chaos. As a result, Rome's first Emperor eventually came to be accepted as one of the gods, and he left a unified, peaceful empire that lasted for at least another 200 years before new crises emerged in the 3rd century CE.

The bloody rise of Augustus

Before his death 2,000 years ago in August AD 14, the ageing Roman emperor Augustus composed a political statement that recorded his unprecedented bid for power, half a century earlier. “At the age of 19 on my own responsibility and at my own expense I raised an army, with which I successfully championed the liberty of the republic when it was oppressed by the tyranny of a faction.”

The events to which he was referring began on the Ides of March 44 BC when Roman dictator Julius Caesar was murdered by the self-proclaimed ‘liberators’. It was only at Caesar’s funeral that it was discovered that his great-nephew Augustus – then called Caius Octavius and from an obscure family – had been named as the murdered ruler’s principal heir.

The teenager chose to interpret this legacy as full adoption, and announced that he intended to succeed not simply to Caesar’s wealth and name, but also to his high office. That was not the way politics normally worked in Rome, but these were disturbed times, with the old Republican system of elected magistrates crumbling after decades of violent competition and spells of civil war.

The young Augustus used Caesar’s money and name to start raising an army from serving or former soldiers of his charismatic ‘father’. Mark Antony (one of Caesar’s leading subordinates) was already trying to rally the same people to him and did not take his young rival seriously, dubbing him “a boy who owes everything to a name”.

A Senate urged on by the famous orator Cicero saw Antony as the big threat and feared that he was aiming to seize supreme power by force. In a political system where a man had to be in his forties before he could seek the highest offices of the state, a 19-year-old with no political record seemed to present little danger. Cicero saw a teenager at the head of legions of veteran soldiers and decided that he could be useful. They should “praise the young man, reward him, and discard him”.

Augustus’s life: a timeline

23 September 63 BC

Augustus is born with the name Caius Octavius. His father is a member of the country gentry and the first in the family to enter the Senate at Rome. His mother is Julius Caesar’s niece. Despite this, there is no reason to expect him to have an exceptional career.

15 March 44 BC

On the day Julius Caesar is murdered, Augustus is in Greece, receiving military training ahead of the dictator’s planned invasion of Parthia. A few days later, it emerges that Caesar has nominated Augustus as his principal heir.

43 BC

Having raised a private army and helped the Senate defeat his great rival Antony, Augustus leads his army back to Rome and demands to be elected consul. Soon afterwards, he joins Antony and Lepidus in the triumvirate.

36 BC

Relying heavily on the skill of his friend Agrippa, Augustus defeats the fleet of Sextus Pompey. The war has pushed Augustus to breaking point . After one defeat, he was cast ashore with a few attendants and considered suicide.

2 September 31 BC

Augustus, once again relying on Agrippa to command his forces, defeats Antony at the battle of Actium fought off the coast of Greece. Antony flees, with no hope of recovering from this disaster. Within a year, he and Cleopatra will kill themselves

16 January 27 BC

Caesar’s heir is given the name Augustus to honour him for his service to the state. He is now Imperator (or ‘generalissimo’) Caesar Augustus, a personal name without any precedent.

23 BC

Augustus falls seriously ill and is not expected to survive. He publicly hands his signet ring to Agrippa, but doesn’t name a successor to his position. He eventually recovers.

Augustus is named Father of his Country by the Senate. Later in the year scandal rocks his family when he exiles Julia (above), his only child, for serial adultery. Augustus has already adopted her two older sons with Agrippa, but both will die young, leaving Tiberius to succeed.

Three Roman legions led by Varus are wiped out by allies turned enemies among the Germanic tribes at Teutoburg Forest. It is the most serious defeat of Augustus’s career. For days he roams the palace calling out: “Quinctilius Varus, return my legions!”

19 August AD 14

Augustus dies in a family villa at Nola. It’s later rumoured that he was poisoned by his wife, Livia (below), who feared that he planned to change the succession. Augustus’s body is carried in state to Rome, and after a public funeral he is declared a god.

At first it went well, and Augustus’s veterans played the key role in defeating Antony and driving his army across the Alps. Discarding the young Augustus, however, proved difficult, for his soldiers served him and not the Senate. In the meantime Antony allied with another of Caesar’s old supporters, Lepidus, and so became stronger than ever. Augustus now decided to join them, so that all of the murdered dictator’s supporters and soldiers were on the same side – at least for the moment. They declared a triumvirate – a board of three supreme magistrates to restore the state, and effectively a joint dictatorship.

The first thing the triumvirs did was to order the murder of prominent opponents including Cicero. Marching unopposed into Rome, they posted up proscription lists with names of men who were set outside the protection of law. Anyone could kill a proscribed man, and if they brought his severed head to the authorities they would be rewarded with a share of the victim’s property, the rest going to the triumvirs to pay their army. Antony, Augustus and Lepidus traded names in a scene brought chillingly to life by Shakespeare: “These many, then, shall die, their names are pricked.”

Quite a few of the proscribed managed to escape abroad, but hundreds died. In later years there was a whole genre of stories of dramatic escapes and grim deaths, of rescue and betrayal. The senator Velleius Paterculus concluded that “…one thing, however, demands comment, that toward the proscribed their wives showed greatest loyalty, their freedmen not a little, their slaves some, their sons none”.

Opinion was less certain about which of the triumvirs was most brutal in their pursuit of the proscribed, as after the event each tried to shift the blame to his allies. Yet many were shocked that the young Augustus should have had so many enemies he wanted to kill. In the years that followed, a reputation for excessive cruelty clung to him, helped by the frequency with which impassioned pleas for mercy were met with a simple: “You must die.”

Antony and Augustus took an army to Greece and defeated two of Caesar’s murderers, Brutus and Cassius, at the battle of Philippi in 42 BC. Antony got most of the credit, both for winning the war and treating captured aristocrats and the remains of the dead with fitting respect.

The alliance between the three triumvirs was always based on self interest and came under increasing pressure in the years that followed. It narrowly survived a rebellion led by Antony’s brother Lucius against Augustus, and, after a long struggle, defeated Sextus Pompeius, the son of Julius Caesar’s former ally, son-in-law, and finally enemy, Pompey the Great. By 36 BC the triumvirate became an alliance between two when Lepidus was marginalised. Augustus kept him in comfortable captivity for the rest of his life, a gesture that mixed mercy with cruelty as it prolonged the humiliation of an ambitious man.

How did Augustus gain power?

Mark Antony was placed in charge of Rome’s provinces and allies in the eastern Mediterranean after the clash at Philippi. Augustus remained in Italy, where he carried out the task of providing the farms promised as rewards to the triumvirs’ loyal soldiers.

The estates of the proscribed were insufficient, and so more and more confiscations were arbitrarily imposed on the towns of Italy. The local gentry suffered the most, leading the poet Virgil to write of the plight of the dispossessed: “Ah, shall I ever, long years hence, look again on my country’s bounds, on my humble cottage with its turf-clad roof?… Is an impious soldier to hold these well-tilled fallows?… See where strife has brought our unhappy citizens!”

Augustus got most of the blame for the confiscations in an Italy exhausted by civil war and desperate for stability. As relations with Antony broke down, it was better to wage war against a foreign threat, and so Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, was demonised as a sinister eastern temptress who had corrupted a noble Roman, and turned him against his own people. (In 41 BC, Antony had taken the queen as a lover, renewing the affair three years later). Privately few were fooled, but publicly the ‘whole of Italy’ took an oath to follow Augustus and save Rome from this ‘threat’.

Relations between the remaining triumvirs deteriorated until, in 31 BC, the two clashed in battle at Actium in Greece. Antony was defeated and took his own life the next year.

With Antony dead, the 33-year-old Augustus faced no serious rivals and, since he took care to monopolise military force, there was no real danger of new challengers appearing. However, that did not mean that the man who had slaughtered his way to power was safe from assassins’ knives, or that it would be easy to create a stable regime.

There was little affection for Augustus, but Romans of all classes were desperate for peace, and hoped simply to be able to live without fear of proscription lists and confiscations. This security is what he gave them. His control was veiled, expressed in a way that appeared constitutional, even though the veil was thin since no one could take his powers from him or break his hold over the loyalty of the legions. What mattered was that years and then decades passed, and stability and the rule of law persisted as it had not done in living memory.

Peace and the simple virtues of an idealised and now restored past dominate the art and literature of these years. It is also no coincidence that one of the most striking monuments of the Augustan age is the Ara Pacis – the altar of peace (shown below).

The peace that Italy enjoyed (after generations of civil strife) did not mean Rome was no longer at war. For at the same time, Augustus boasted of victory after victory won over foreign rulers and peoples, often adding new territory to the empire.

Augustus presented himself as the greatest servant of the state, and defeating external enemies was a glorious means of service. He also laboured untiringly and publicly to restore good government throughout the empire, spending his days receiving petitions and resolving the problems long neglected by the inertia of the Senate under the Republic.

Rome itself – and, to a degree, communities across Italy and the provinces – was physically renewed, so that Augustus could boast that he had found the city “brick and left it marble”. There were monuments to his glory, but many of them were also practical amenities for the wider good, such as aqueducts, fountains and sewers, bath-houses for comfort, temples to restore a proper relationship with the gods who protected the Roman people, and theatres and circuses for entertainment.

7 other great rulers of Rome

The first dictator: Lucius Cornelius Sulla (c138–79 BC)

In 88 BC Sulla was the first Roman commander to turn his legions against the city of Rome and seize power by force. After fighting a war in the east, he returned in 83 BC and stormed the city a second time. He made himself dictator – turning a temporary emergency measure into the basis for long-term power – and created the first proscriptions, posting up death lists in the Forum, that named hundreds of his opponents.

The iconic general: Julius Caesar (100–44 BC)

Caesar was Augustus’s great-uncle and joined in an informal alliance with Pompey and Crassus, the two most important men in the state. In 49 BC Pompey and Caesar became rivals when the latter crossed the Rubicon and began a new civil war. Caesar won, and copied Sulla by using the dictatorship as the basis of his power. When this was made permanent, he was murdered by conspirators including Brutus and Cassius.

The unpopular heir: Tiberius (42 BC–AD 37, emperor from AD 14)

Augustus’s stepson Tiberius was not first choice as successor, but was adopted in AD 4 after the deaths of Augustus’s grandsons. By the time of Tiberius’s succession, few people were able to imagine a world without an emperor. Tiberius was unpopular and far less active than Augustus. Yet the imperial system became even more firmly established during his rule.

The bon vivant: Nero (AD 37–68, emperor from 54)

Nero was the last of the four members of Augustus’s extended family to rule. A teenager when he came to power, he was fonder of luxury and performance than government. Yet his ability to remain in power for 14 years testified to the affection for Augustus’s family and the acceptance of imperial rule as natural. In the end he lost the support of the army, followed by the Senate, and took his own life.

The outsider: Vespasian (AD 9–79, emperor from 69)

Vespasian was the fourth man to win power in a civil war that raged for over a year after Nero’s death. Neither related to Augustus nor from the old Roman aristocracy, he came from the local gentry of Italy. All of the powers accumulated by Augustus were awarded to Vespasian, and he was followed as emperor by his two sons in turn, giving the empire three decades of stability. He wasn’t loved, but he was widely respected.

The last conqueror: Trajan (AD 53–117, emperor from 98)

Trajan’s family were Roman citizens from Spain, making him the first non-Italian emperor. He was the last of the great conquerors, adding Dacia – modern-day Romania – to the empire in campaigns celebrated on Trajan’s Column still visible in Rome. In the last years of his life he invaded Parthia but most of his conquests there were abandoned by his successor, Emperor Hadrian.

The philosopher: Marcus Aurelius (AD 121–180, emperor from 161)

The last of Edward Gibbon’s ‘five good emperors’, Marcus Aurelius was an earnest man, who wrote a philosophical work, The Meditations, and tried to rule virtuously and in the style set by Augustus. His reign was beset by a series of catastrophes, with warfare and plague ravaging the empire. After Aurelius’s reign, civil war would bedevil the empire for over a century.

Life was more stable under Augustus, and for most people it was also more comfortable. No one was left in any doubt that this happy condition relied upon his continued activity, for Augustus’s name and image was everywhere. Relief at the end of civil war slowly became more or less grudging gratitude and eventually turned into genuine affection.

Time played an important part. Augustus ruled for 40 years after the death of Antony, and everyone became used to his leadership and the system he had created, while the memories of his bloody rise to power gradually faded. There was no enthusiasm to swap the present peace and prosperity for a return to the violently unpredictable decades preceding it. Honour after honour was voted to him by the Senate and people, including the title of Father of his Country.

Thanks to this reincarnation as a man of peace, Augustus – the first emperor of Rome – would for centuries also be remembered as one of the best.

Dr Adrian Goldsworthy’s book, Augustus: From Revolutionary to Emperor, is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (2014).

The History of Probation

The origin of probation can be traced to English criminal law of the Middle Ages. Harsh punishments were imposed on adults and children alike for offenses that were not always of a serious nature. Sentences such as branding, flogging, mutilation, and execution were common. During the time of King Henry VIII, for instance, no less than 200 crimes were punishable by death, many of which were minor offenses.

This harshness eventually led to discontent in certain progressive segments of English society that were concerned with the evolution of the justice system. Slowly but resolutely, in an effort to mitigate these inhumane punishments, a variety of measures were devised and adopted. Royal pardons could be purchased by the accused activist judges could refrain from applying statutes or opt for a lenient interpretation of them stolen property could be devalued by the court so that offenders could be charged with a lesser crime. Also, methods such as benefit of clergy, judicial reprieve, sanctuary, and abjuration offered offenders a degree of protection from the enactment of harsh sentences.

Eventually, the courts began the practice of "binding over for good behavior," a form of temporary release during which offenders could take measures to secure pardons or lesser sentences. Controversially, certain courts began suspending sentences.

Birth of Modern Probation

John Augustus, the "Father of Probation," is recognized as the first true probation officer. Augustus was born in Woburn, Massachusetts in 1785. By 1829, he was a permanent resident of Boston and the owner of a successful boot-making business. It was undoubtedly his membership in the Washington Total Abstinence Society that led him to the Boston courts. Washingtonians abstained from alcohol themselves and were convinced that abusers of alcohol could be rehabilitated through understanding, kindness, and sustained moral suasion, rather than through conviction and jail sentences.

In 1841, John Augustus attended police court to bail out a "common drunkard," the first probationer. The offender was ordered to appear in court three weeks later for sentencing. He returned to court a sober man, accompanied by Augustus. To the astonishment of all in attendance, his appearance and demeanor had dramatically changed.

Augustus thus began an 18-year career as a volunteer probation officer. Not all of the offenders helped by Augustus were alcohol abusers, nor were all prospective probationers taken under his wing. Close attention was paid to evaluating whether or not a candidate would likely prove to be a successful subject for probation. The offender's character, age, and the people, places, and things apt to influence him or her were all considered.

Augustus was subsequently credited with founding the investigations process, one of three main concepts of modern probation, the other two being intake and supervision. Augustus, who kept detailed notes on his activities, was also the first to apply the term "probation" to his method of treating offenders.

By 1858, John Augustus had provided bail for 1,946 men and women. Reportedly, only 10 of this number forfeited their bond, a remarkable accomplishment when measured against any standard. His reformer's zeal and dogged persistence won him the opposition of certain segments of Boston society as well as the devotion and aid of many Boston philanthropists and organizations. The first probation statute, enacted in Massachusetts shortly after this death in 1859, was widely attributed to his efforts.

Following the passage of that first statute, probation spread gradually throughout the United States. The juvenile court movement contributed greatly to the development of probation as a legally-recognized method of dealing with offenders. The first juvenile court was established in Chicago in 1899. Formalization of the intake process is credited to the founders of the Illinois juvenile court. Soon after, 30 states introduced probation as a part of the juvenile court procedure. Today, all states offer both juvenile and adult probation.

Matthew Davenport Hill, a lawyer from England is also noted to have contributed to the development of modern probation. Hill had witnessed the sentencing of youthful offenders to one-day terms on the condition that they be returned to a parent or guardian who would closely supervise them. When he eventually became the Recorder of Birmingham, a judicial post, he used a similar practice for individuals who did not seem hopelessly corrupt. If offenders demonstrated a promise for rehabilitation, they were placed in the hands of generous guardians who willingly took charge of them. Hill had police officers pay periodic visits to these guardians in an effort to track the offender's progress and keep a running account.

Probation in the United States

In the United States, particularly in Massachusetts, different practices were being developed. "Security for good behavior," also known as &ldquogood aberrance,&rdquo was much like modern bail: the accused paid a fee as collateral for good behavior. Filing was also practiced in cases that did not demand an immediate sentence. Using this procedure, indictments were "laid on file" or held in abeyance. To mitigate unreasonable mandatory penalties, judges often granted a motion to quash based upon minor technicalities or errors in the proceedings. Although these American practices were precursors to probation, it is the early use of recognizance and suspended sentence that are directly related to modern probation.

Even with the wide use of suspended sentences, the U.S. Department of Justice disapproved of its use, believing that it infringed upon executive pardoning power and therefore was unconstitutional. The matter came before the Supreme Court in Ex parte United States, 242 U.S. 27. In what became known as the Killits decision, the Supreme Court in 1916 held that federal courts did not have the power to suspend sentence indefinitely and that there was no reason or right for the courts to continue the practice. The Supreme Court suggested probation legislation as a remedy.

Establishing probation as a sentencing option in the federal courts did not happen quickly or easily. Opinion on the wisdom of doing so was sharply divided. Some federal judges were for probation, seeing it as an alternative to the sometimes harsh penalties they were compelled to impose. Other federal judges were against probation, finding it too lenient. Congress could not reach agreement on a national plan. The first bills for a federal probation law had been introduced in Congress in 1909. But it was not until 1925--and after more than 30 bills had been introduced--that one such bill became law.

The Probation Act of 1925, signed by President Calvin Coolidge, provided for a probation system in the federal courts (except in the District of Columbia). It gave the courts the power to suspend the imposition or execution of sentence and place defendants on probation for such period and on such terms and conditions as they deemed best. The Act also authorized courts to appoint one or more persons to serve as probation officers without compensation and one salaried probation officer. The first federal probation officer was appointed in 1927 in the District of Massachusetts.

Initially, the administration of federal probation was the responsibility of the Office of the Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice. Direct supervision fell to the superintendent of prisons, who was also in charge of prison industries and parole. In effect, federal probation officers answered to two authorities. Although the Attorney General set their salaries and provided for expenses such as clerical services and travel, judges appointed them. This arrangement changed in 1940, when general oversight of the probation system was transferred from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Launch of Pretrial Services

In 1974 Congress enacted the Speedy Trial Act. Title II of the Act authorized the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to establish "demonstration" pretrial services agencies in 10 judicial districts. The goal was to reduce crime by persons released to the community pending trial and to reduce unnecessary pretrial detention. The agencies were to interview each person charged with other than a petty offense, verify background information, and present a report to the judicial officer considering bail. The agencies also were to supervise persons released to their custody pending trial and to help defendants on bail locate and use community services. Five of the agencies were administered by the Administrative Office and five by boards of trustees appointed by the chief judges of the district courts.

President Ronald Reagan signed the Pretrial Services Act of 1982. The Act authorized expansion of pretrial services from the ten demonstration districts to every federal judicial district (except the District of Columbia). It granted an 18-month evaluation period for each court to decide whether to establish separate pretrial services offices or provide pretrial services through the probation office. Consequently, each court chose the form of pretrial services organization that best met its needs, considering such factors as criminal caseload and court locations. Expanding pretrial services to all districts marked a significant milestone for what was now the "federal probation and pretrial services system." Now officers were involved in the criminal justice process from the time a person was arrested on a federal charge until he or she completed community supervision.

US Probation and Pretrial Services Milestones

President Calvin Coolidge signs the Probation Act of 1925, establishing probation as a sentence in the federal courts.

The first federal probation officer, Richard McSweeney, is appointed in the District of Massachusetts.

Rise to power

Octavian's rival at this time was Mark Antony (c. 83� B.C.E. ), who had taken command of Caesar's legions, the largest Roman military units. The two men became enemies immediately when Octavian announced his intention to take over his inheritance. Antony was engaged in war against the Senate to avenge Caesar's murder and to further his own ambitions. Octavian sided with the Senate and joined in the fight. Antony was defeated in 43 B.C.E. , but the Senate refused Octavian the triumph he felt he was owed. As a result Octavian abandoned the senators and joined forces with Antony and Lepidus, another of Caesar's officers. The three men, who called themselves the Second Triumvirate (a group of three officials or government leaders in ancient Rome), defeated their opponents in 42 B.C.E. and assumed full governing power.

They then divided the empire into areas of influence. Octavian took the West Antony, the East and Lepidus, Africa. Over time Lepidus lost power, and it seemed impossible that Antony and Octavian could avoid clashing. In 32 B.C.E. Octavian declared war against Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, to whom Antony was romantically and politically tied. After a decisive naval victory in this conflict, Octavian was left as master of the entire Roman world. The following year Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide (killed themselves), and in 29 B.C.E. Octavian returned to Rome in triumph.

Who was Augustus Caesar?

Known for initiating two centuries of peace in Rome, Augustus Caesar’s rise to political power was anything but amicable.

As Rome’s first emperor, Octavian (Augustus Caesar) (63 B.C.–A.D. 14) is best known for initiating the Pax Romana, a largely peaceful period of two centuries in which Rome imposed order on a world long convulsed by conflict. His rise to power, however, was anything but peaceful.

Octavian was only 18 years old when his great-uncle Julius Caesar named him heir. After Caesar was assassinated, Octavian forged an alliance with Mark Antony, famed general under Caesar, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. Together they eliminated political opponents. Antony pursued Caesar’s assassins to Greece, defeating them at Philippi in 42 B.C.

From Greece, Antony ruled Rome’s wealthy eastern provinces. But Octavian and Antony turned from allies to adversaries. Antony entered a scandalous affair with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. He had children by Cleopatra and acknowledged Julius Caesar’s son, Caesarion, as Caesar’s true heir in defiance of Octavian’s claim. Octavian denounced Antony as a man in the thrall of a foreign queen and waged war on the couple. When their fleet was defeated by the Romans at Actium in 31 B.C., Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide. (Follow Mark Antony and Cleopatra's decadent love affair.)

Returning to Rome in triumph, Octavian added the title Augustus (meaning “sacred” or “exalted”) to his adopted surname, Caesar, and remained imperator for life. The vast Roman Empire, long contested by consuls and generals, was now firmly in the grasp of an emperor: Augustus Caesar.

Like Darius I of Persia, Augustus was an organizational genius his administrative accomplishments surpassed his military feats. He calmed citizens fearful of tyranny by preserving the republic’s institutions, including the Senate. He added senators from throughout Italy and empowered them to appoint independent proconsuls to govern Roman provinces. Augustus did maintain authority over the Senate, though, and exercised his veto power. The ultimate source of Augustus Caesar’s power was the army. He confidently halved the number of legions and settled veterans in colonies, which helped Romanize distant provinces and consolidate the empire.

Notwithstanding battles in Germany and other contentious regions, Augustus initiated a tranquil era known as the Pax Romana that held sway for generations. Instead of conflict, Rome now imposed order. Lands once plundered by Roman troops became docile provinces, subject to taxation but spared devastation unless they rebelled. Trade flourished. Cities prospered as Augustus and his successors built roads, aqueducts, baths, and amphitheaters to entertain the masses. Roman engineering urbanized provincial cities, helping transform conquered subjects into complacent Roman citizens. (Read why Rome's border walls were the beginning of its downfall.)

The Succession

Augustus suffered many illnesses, and these caused him to designate an heir early in his reign. But he had many deaths to bear and outlived his preferred choices, including his two young grandsons, and was finally forced to designate as his heir Tiberius, his third wife's son by her first marriage.

The first emperor died at Nola on Aug. 19, A.D. 14. On his deathbed, according to Suetonius, he quoted a line used by actors at the end of their performance: "Since I've played well, with joy your voices raise/ And from your stage dismiss me with your praise."


In all of Roman history there are two people that stand above the rest, Julius Caesar and Gaius Octavius (later known as Augustus). Caesar had attempted to seize control over the Roman Republic, and had successfully garnered enough power to worry the Senate. The public revered Caesar and he basked in the glory of leadership, while the Senate plotted to remove the looming threat of his tyranny. Ultimately, he ended up with 23 stab wounds procured by the Senators, some of which had been his friends. However, to the surprise of the masses Caesar had adopted his nephew Augustus in his will, making the young man his rightful heir. With the power of Caesar’s name behind him, Augustus was able to take control over the Republic and become the first successful, official emperor in Roman history. These two seemingly similar men had two completely different career outcomes which begs the question: why was Augustus successful at becoming the first emperor when Caesar had already failed before him? This question can be answered by looking at how the two came to power and the way they governed Rome during their political careers.

Marie Leibfreid (Editor)
Ahmed Mohamed
Roland Shumaker
Charles Woodruff


Augustus Caesar (born as Gaius Octavius Turinus) was the son of Atia, the niece of Julius Caesar and the adoptive son of the latter according to his last will.

After Caesar's assassination at the hands of the senate, Octavius (now known as Octavian) gained control of the Macedonian legions and begins a hunt for all those who participated in the murder of his adoptive father.

After a series of events such as creating a Second Triumvirate to kill all the conspirators of Caesar's death and divide power with his collaborators, having to marry and divorce several women, elevate his adoptive father to a divine position, and Fighting a civil war against Mark Antony and Cleopatra for control of the eastern part of the Roman territory, Octavian gained full control of Rome and was appointed by the Senate as the first emperor of the new Roman Empire.

Watch the video: Augustus: Romes Greatest Emperor (September 2022).

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