Why was Augustus called the first Roman Emperor

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Augustus was previously known as Octavian Caesar; he was the nephew and heir of Julius Caesar. He had defeated the forces of Marc Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium which ended a long civil war and ushered in the Pax Romana, or Roman peace. Following his victory at Actium, the Roman Senate awarded him the honorary title of Augustus. Although he had hoped to restore the old Roman Republic, he realized that this would result in further civil war; so he retained full power for himself. Rather than risk angering the Roman public by giving himself a regal title, he called himself simply Princeps Civitatus, meaning "first citizen." The title "prince" derives from this phrase. Since he had been a great military leader, the Senate awarded him the further title of Imperator, or conquerer. It is from this title that the term "Emperor" derives. Although Augustus wore simple clothes and attempted to appear as simply first among equals (primus inter pares) he retained vast power for himself, and controlled almost all facets of the Roman government. For this reason, he was the first true Emperor of Rome.