Useless But Compelling Facts – August 2012

I thought it would be fitting to have an "August" trivia contest in the middle of August, so let’s try our hands at some fun facts about Augustus Caesar. Augustus Caesar is one of the most popular leaders in history, having brought the Roman Empire to its "Golden Age." Leaving an impact on Western civilization that is still evident today, he revised the tax code, started the Praetorian Guard, the Vigiles, the first police and fire department – indeed, Jesus Christ was born during his reign – and he is widely regarded as the first Roman Emperor, although he was never proclaimed Emperor by the Roman Senate, nor ever took on that title himself. Augustus Caesar died August 19, 14 CE, at the ripe old age of 75, and it would probably be too easy to ask you what month is named after him; but let’s start with what was the month in the Roman calendar called before it was renamed "August"?

Now of course you knew that Augustus Caesar wasn’t his real name. Augustus means majestic or illustrious – a title awarded him by the Roman Senate in January of 27 BCE – and you already know Caesar was a title bestowed upon the Roman leader. Augustus Caesar had not one, but two names before that title. First, what was the name he was given at birth?

Now we also know that after 4-year-old Augustus’ (no real name still) father died, he was adopted by Julius Caesar. You might ask why, but since it’s my trivia contest, I’ll ask you to tell me: what was the young boy’s natural relationship with Julius Caesar before the adoption, and what name was he given after he was adopted by Julius Caesar (it is to this name that the title "Augustus" was added by Rome).

Now, Augustus (I’m not giving away his real name yet) was only 18 years old when Julius Caesar was assassinated ("Et tu, Brute?"), but he, Lepidus and Marcus Antonius (i.e., Mark Antony) were appointed by the Senate to govern Rome. Lepidus was removed by the Senate for trying to grab some of Augustus Caesar’s territory, and Mark Antony, who had married Augustus Caesar’s sister (I’m still not giving away his name), abandoned her and ran off to Egypt to be with Cleopatra – you remember that story! Well, with his sister deserted and his country abandoned, Augustus Caesar become sole ruler of the Roman Empire and bitter enemies with Mark Antony. Ultimately war came and Augustus Caesar’s forces defeated the combined might of Mark Antony’s legions and Cleopatra’s army at the battle of Actium in 31 BCE. Augustus was never crowned, appointed or hailed as Emperor, but the Roman Senate actually did bestow a permanent title upon him – what was it?