Page 0911

911

PART III.-THE EMPIRE.

CHAPTER LXII.-THE FIRST CAESARS.

The establishment of the Roman Empire is generally dated from the battle of

Actium, B. C. 31. This event, however, as well as the peaceable recognition

of his authority after the conquest of Egypt, was but the culmination of a

series of historical movements, which, so far as personal agency was

concerned, had their origin with Julius Caesar. As a matter of fact,

Augustus was the inheritor of a vast estate whose limits had been

circumscribed by the sword of his great-uncle, and whose fields had been

sown and orchards planted amid the tumults and agitations of the civil

wars. It now remains to trace out briefly the history of that colossal

power which, under the name of the Empire, was destined to survive in the

West for five hundred and in the East for fifteen hundred years. The

picture will be crowded with more splendid but less heroic events than

those which make up the history of the Republic.

The great fact in the new power thus established was centralization. The

civil and military authority was lodged in the hands of the Caesar. The

Empire promised peace. With the coming of tranquillity, the people became

content with the change. Even the senators learned that their remaining

rights and prerogatives were more secure when protected by the imperial

sword than when exposed to the vicissitudes of the Republic.

Augustus was prudent and politic. He declined the dictatorship, and sought

to preserve the forms and even the name of the Republic. The shadow of

liberty was exhibited to the people, and they accepted it for the

substance.

In his administration Octavianus followed as far as practicable the

outlines of the old constitution. Republican methods and precedents were

set forth and honored in the observance. Contrary to the course pursued by

Julius Caesar, Octavianus rather fostered and upheld the Senate as one of

the means of governing; and this body, in turn, conferred upon him what

powers and dignity so ever seemed necessary to the head of the state. A

revised list of senators was made out; unworthy material was eliminated,

and new members appointed to the vacancies. Nor could it be truthfully

said, in the age of Augustus, that the character of the Roman Senate was in

dignity and ability below the standard which should measure the chief

advisory body of an empire so vast and powerful. On the Kalends, the Nones,

and the Ides of each month regular meetings of the Senate were held, and

the