Gaius Octavius (father of Augustus)

Gaius Octavius[1] (about 100 – 59 BC) was a Roman politician. He was an ancestor to the Roman Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was the father of the Emperor Augustus, step-grandfather of the Emperor Tiberius, great-grandfather of the Emperor Claudius, and great-great grandfather of the Emperors Caligula[2] and Nero.[3] Hailing from Velitrae, he was a descendant of an old and wealthy equestrian branch of the gens Octavia. At Rome his family was part of the wealthy plebeian caste, and not being of senatorial rank, he was a novus homo ("new man"). His grandfather, Gaius Octavius, fought as a military tribune in Sicily during the Second Punic War. His father, Gaius Octavius, was a municipal magistrate who lived to an advanced age.

Gaius Octavius
Gaius Octavius, father of Augustus.jpg
Head of statue, thought to be Gaius Octavius
Bornc. 100 BC
Died59 BC
ChildrenOctavia the Elder
Octavia the Younger

Personal lifeEdit

Octavius' first wife was named Ancharia. The two had a child named Octavia the Elder. It is not known how the marriage ended, although it is possible that Ancharia died during child birth. Octavius later married the niece of Julius Caesar, Atia. How they met is not known, although Atia's family on her father's side (the Atii Balbi) lived close to Velitrae, which was the ancestral home of the Octavii. They had two children: Octavia the Younger (b. 69 BC) and Gaius Octavius (b. 63 BC), who became Roman Emperor Augustus.

Political careerEdit

Head of statue, thought to be Gaius Octavius, father of Octavian, ca. 60 BC, Munich Glyptothek

Around 70 BC, Octavius was elected quaestor. In 61 BC, he was elected praetor.[4] In 60 BC, after his term as praetor had ended, he was appointed propraetor, and was to serve as governor (praefectus pro praetor) of Macedonia. However, before he left for Macedonia, the senate sent him to put down a slave rebellion in Thurii. These slaves had previously taken part in the rebellions led by Spartacus and Catiline. Octavius' victory over the slaves in Thurii led him to give his son, then a few years old, the cognomen of "Thurinus". He then left for Macedonia and proved to be a capable administrator, governing "courageously and justly". His deeds included leading the Roman forces to victory in an unexpected battle against the Thracian Bessian tribe. Cicero had high regard for Octavius' diplomatic dealings. Because of his successful term as governor of Macedonia, Octavius won the support necessary to stand for election as consul.

In 59 BC, Octavius sailed to Rome, to stand for election as consul for 58 BC. However, he died in Nola, before arriving in Rome. His career is summarized in an inscription erected by his son on the forum he built in Rome:[5]

C(aius) Octavius C(ai) f(ilius) C(ai) n(epos) C(ai) pr[on(epos)]
pater Augusti
tr(ibunus) mil(itum) bis q(uaestor) aed(ilis) pl(ebis) cum
C(aio) Toranio iudex quaestionum
pr(aetor) proco(n)s(ul) imperator appellatus
ex provincia Macedonia
“Gaius Octavius, son, grandson and great-grandson of Gaius,
father of Augustus,
twice military tribune, quaestor, aedile of the plebs together with
Gaius Toranius, judge,
praetor, proconsul, proclaimed imperator
in the province of Macedonia”

Family tree of the Octavii RufiEdit

Cn. Octavius Rufus
q. c. 230 BC
Cn. Octavius
pr. 205 BC
C. Octavius
Cn. Octavius
cos. 165 BC
C. Octavius
tr. mil. 216 BC
Cn. Octavius
cos. 128 BC
M. Octavius
tr. pl. 133 BC
C. Octavius
Cn. Octavius
cos. 87 BC
M. Octavius
tr. pl.
C. Octavius
procos. MAC. 60 BC
L. Octavius
cos. 75 BC
Cn. Octavius
cos. 76 BC
C. Octavius (Augustus)
imp. ROM. 27 BC–AD 14
M. Octavius
aed. 50 BC

Since the last Gaius Octavius (Augustus) was adopted by his great-uncle Julius Caesar and became one of the Julii Caesares, the family's original nomen gentile was not inherited by his only daughter (i.e. Julia the Elder) and adopted sons (i.e. Gaius Caesar, Lucius Caesar, Tiberius, Agrippa Postumus), which meant the end of the Octavii Rufi's male line.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ No ancient source uses a cognomen (surname). The surname Rufus had belonged to his ancestor, Gnaeus Octavius, quaestor circa 230 BC. It was occasionally used (but more often ignored) by his descendants.
  2. ^ Caligula was a son pf Agrippina the Elder, daughter of Julia the Elder, daughter of Augustus, son of Gaius Octavius (proconsul)
  3. ^ Nero was a son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 32), son of Antonia the Elder, daughter of Octavia the Younger, daughter of Gaius Ovtavius (proconsul)
  4. ^ Broughton, TRS (1952). The magistrates of the Roman republic. Vol. 2. American Philological Association. p. 179. OCLC 470437632.
  5. ^ CIL VI, 41023


  • Suetonius - The Twelve Caesars - Augustus vs. 1-8
  • Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor; by Anthony Everitt