The Death of Augustus

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A slice-of-life story during the final day of Augustus' tenure as First Citizen of Rome and the early days of his stepson and adoptive son Tiberius' tenure.

Bryan McCarthy
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Chapter One

Five and seventy… A marvel! No one would have expected that Augustus would have lived to be so old with how poor his health was and how often he fell ill. For forty twelvemonths, seven months and three days had Augustus served as Rome’s First Citizen and from such a long lifespan and reign he had seen his heirs die. His first heir had been his nephew Marcus Claudius Marcellus… He died four twelvemonths into Augustus’ reign. After his death Augustus was without an heir for many twelvemonths until he named his stepson, adoptive son and son-in-law the morally and ethically lazy Tiberius his heir. Eventually, Tiberius retired from politics and Augustus’ grandson Gaius Caesar became his heir until five twelvemonths passed and Gaius died leaving Tiberius with no choice but to return to politics and become Augustus’ heir.

The legitimate sons of Augustus’ daughter Julia Major were either dead or banished but there was one illegitimate son who did live. His name was Romulus, the son of a daughter whom her father had exiled for adultery and treason. Tiberius would have had Romulus exposed had Augustus and his wife Livia, Tiberius’ mother, not stepped in with a threat of being put to death were he to do such a thing and ultimately raised the child themselves.

Now sixteen twelvemonths old, Romulus was as lean and hungry in appearance as Gaius Cassius Longinus had been. He was red of hair with ruddy skin and mismatched eyes, with the left being blue and the right green. His attire consisted of a red tunic and sandals. He had been taught mathematics, history, astrology and strategy and had grown up with a wit to him that made the family that weren’t indifferent or scornful to him smile. A common response to those who called him no true Roman was: “With Gaius Asinius Pollio having been the Last of the Romans is anyone?”

The amount of family members that were neither indifferent to scornful towards Romulus amounted to five people: his maternal grandfather Augustus, his maternal step-grandmother Livia, Tiberius’ nephews Germanicus and Claudius and Germanicus’ son Gaius, but he was two so he probably did not count. Tiberius was the only family member that was scornful towards Romulus while every other family member was indifferent to him.

In the villa of Augustus in Nola, Romulus sat in the garden reading the Iliad. He cared little for the Trojans, preferring the Greeks whom he found to be nobler with their desire to rescue Helen. Whatever sympathetic qualities the Trojan prince Hector had were completely washed away by his desire to hang Patroclus’ head from Troy’s gates and feed his body to the dogs as revenge for the death of Sarpedon of Lycia and Hector’s myriad other accomplishments of brutality, brainlessness and infrequent cowardice only further washed away Hector’s sympathetic qualities.

Augustus and Livia both sat in the garden as well, talking with one another. Augustus, although he had commissioned Virgil to write the Aeneid, did not argue with Romulus about his views of the Trojan War and neither did Livia. There was one who did however.

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