History vs. Augustus – Peta Greenfield & Alex Gendler

His reign marked the beginning
of one of history’s greatest empires and the end of one of its first republics. Was Rome’s first emperor a visionary leader who guaranteed
his civilization’s place in history or a tyrant who destroyed its core values? Find out in History versus Augustus. Order, order. The defendant today is Gaius Octavius? Gaius Julius Caesar/Augustus… Do we have the wrong guy? No, your Honor. Gaius Octavius, born in 63 BCE,
was the grand-nephew of Julius Caesar. He became Gaius Julius Caesar upon being named his great-uncle’s
adoptive son and heir. And he gained the title Augustus in 27 BCE when the Senate granted
him additional honors. You mean when he established
sole authority and became emperor of Rome. Is that bad? Didn’t every place have some king
or emperor back then? Actually, your Honor, the Roman people had overthrown
their kings centuries before to establish a republic, a government meant to serve the people,
not the privilege of a ruling family. And it was Octavius
who destroyed this tradition. Octavius was a model public servant. At 16, he was elected
to the College of Pontiffs that supervised religious worship. He fought for Rome in Hispania
alongside his great-uncle Caesar and took up the responsibility
of avenging Caesar’s death when the corrupt oligarchs in the Senate
betrayed and murdered him. Caesar had been a power-hungry tyrant
who tried to make himself a king while consorting with
his Egyptian queen Cleopatra. After his death, Octavius joined his general Mark Antony in starting a civil war
that tore Rome apart, then stabbed his ally in the back
to increase his own power. Antony was a fool. He waged a disastrous campaign in Parthia and plotted to turn Roman territories into personal kingdoms
for himself and Cleopatra. Isn’t that what Caesar
had been accused of? Well… So Octavius destroyed Antony
for trying to become a king and then became one himself? That’s right. You can see the megalomania even in
his adopted title – “The Illustrious One.” That was a religious honorific. And Augustus didn’t seek power
for his own sake. As winner of the civil war
and commander of the most troops, it was his duty to restore
law and order to Rome so that other factions
didn’t continue fighting. He didn’t restore the law –
he made it subordinate to him! Not true. Augustus worked to restore
the Senate’s prestige, improved food security
for the lower classes, and relinquished control of
the army when he resigned his consul post. Mere optics. He used his military influence
and personal wealth to stack the Senate in his favor, while retaining the powers of a tribune and the right to celebrate
military triumphs. He kept control of provinces
with the most legions. And if that wasn’t enough, he assumed the consul position
twice more to promote his grandchildren. He was clearly trying
to establish a dynasty. But what did he do with all that power? Glad you asked, your Honor. Augustus’s accomplishments
were almost too many to name. He established consistent
taxation for all provinces, ending private exploitation
by local tax officials. He personally financed a network of roads
and employed couriers so news and troops could travel
easily throughout the realm. And it was under Augustus that many of Rome’s famous
public buildings were constructed. The writers of the time were nearly
unanimous in praising his rule. Did the writers have any other choice? Augustus exiled plenty of people
on vague charges, including Ovid,
one of Rome’s greatest poets. And you forgot to mention the intrusive
laws regarding citizens’ personal lives – punishing adultery, restricting marriage
between social classes, even penalties for remaining unmarried. He was trying to improve the citizenry
and instill discipline. And he succeeded. His legacy speaks for itself: 40 years of internal stability, a professional army that expanded
Rome’s frontiers in all directions, and a government still remembered
as a model of civic virtue. His legacy was an empire that would go on to wage endless
conquest until it collapsed, and a tradition of military autocracy. Any time a dictator in a general’s uniform
commits atrocities while claiming to act on behalf
of “the people,” we have Augustus Caesar to thank. So you’re saying Augustus
was a good emperor, and you’re saying there’s no such thing? We’re used to celebrating
historical leaders for their achievements and victories. But to ask whether an individual should
have such power in the first place is to put history itself on trial.

Comments 100

  • For more episodes of our "History vs." series, check out this playlist: http://bit.ly/2utVYGk

  • Say BC not BCE. It's incredibly insulting!


  • this an overly-moralistic set of lectures, most historic figures arent perfect. Augustus did not overstretch the empire in fact he wanted to establish effective borders. Augustus learned from the mistakes of his Uncle, who embraced clemency to the point of allowing his future assasins to live amongst him. of course Augustus couldnt do what Julius had done, but he never went as far as Sulla, he exiled many and executed some but he kept all of this on the down low unlike sulla. the republic no longer served the public, it was no longer viable. a dictator was going to establish a monarchy, luckily for the Romans Augustus was the first. that most artful of princes, as Gibbon says, was the most cunning, clever and polished politician in world history. His ability to rule as a tyrant while simultaneously being worshipped by the populous as another Cincinatus and simply the first citizen is a far more interesting topic than examining historic figures for their moral behavior. Only Jesus and Buddha coud pass such a test.

  • I'm really enjoying this series. Unlike so many others I've watched this one seems, for the most part, to be giving both sides an equal hearing. If nothing else, this series shows that while no one is perfect we should not diminish their accomplishments.

  • What wrong with their heads

  • "Oh no"- Rome, circa 476 AD.

  • Okay ugh I can't watch this right after watching History vs Cleopatra because the guys had exchanged exact opposite opinions on either video and it's confusing

  • Augustus was exemplary.

  • I'd rather have an ambitious tyrant who seeks to improve Roman life, than a thousand corrupt senators.

  • Augustus Julius Caesar, one of the mightiest men in history, but at what cost? The death of hundreds of skilled orators, historians and philosophers through betrayal.

  • Let do other than leaders how about
    History vs Rockefeller
    History vs Thomas Edison
    History vs Walt Disney

  • Wait…which one is the right version of Augustus?

  • He was never named Gaius Julius Caesar smh

  • @mrdeangenie has got some fantastic material on YouTube!

  • 1) The Roman Republic wasn't really a democracy in any way we'd recognize today.
    2) It was horrendously corrupt.
    3) Both Julius and Octavian were populists, supporting the common people at a time they were losing their livelihoods to big farms run by the wealthy elite.
    4) The Romans were conquerors WAY before Augustus.

  • Anyone that fights for the Republic is a hero to that Republic.

  • If a leader banished a poet, A POET, you know there isn't need for a discussion if he was a tyrant or not.

  • I hate that the Ben Shapiro sounding guy is correct in this one and sometimes makes good points. 4:23 – so socialism and communism are terms dictators hide behind to establish regimes that are not socialist/communist, according to Benny Boi here, since it's all just an emulation of Augustus caesar lol. What other choice is Ben Shapiro giving us than a people's revolution, huh?

  • Didn’t Augustus put the senate back in charge when there was no war? Or am I thinking of another?

  • Augustus made it his duty to avenge Julius Ceaser, fought to bring Rome more power, fed the hungry, greatly improved their military, and justified wrongs. Suurrrrreeeeeeeee he did this to make himself a kng😒. Yeah, no. He was a blessing to Rome.

  • MeRe OpTiCs

  • Ovid deserved to be exiled.

  • Augustus was not an emperor! or at least, not an emperor as we would understand it today. he held the title imperator, but that simply meant military commander and can be applied to every roman general in history. In constitutional terms he was the leader of a principate, which is not the same thing as an empire.

  • He says punished adultery as if it is bad thing to punish such crime

  • I would love an episode on Nestor Makhno. He's begging for it.

  • Why don't you make history vs Alexander the great??

  • what part of rome did Augustus keep?

  • Cleopatra wasn’t Egyptian she was of Greek heritage

  • There appears to be a problem with the frame rate here.

  • Mmm how punishing adultery is bad?

  • >claiming that illegalizing adultery is a bad thing

  • "The people had overthrown their king, establishing a senate to serve the people"
    looks at the rampant corruption during Caesar's time
    You sure about that ? Plus every time Caesar had power, he reformed a nearly crumbling republic. And the legacy of Augustus wasn't a conquest crazy civilization, the romans were already doing that since the Republic, it was deeply engraved into their culture.

  • Long life the Roman empire

  • I love these ones continue to make these <3

  • Can;t wait for history vs trump

  • Do History vs. Julius Caesar

  • History vs Alexander the great

  • Should do a short on the story of Marius and his reforms. Or Rex Regnum

  • Put Ivan the terrible on trial

  • 2:45 That's the weirdest thing anybody would do at a court.

  • Subjectivity and anachronistic analysis.

  • Whenever wins is legal and right.

  • You should do History Vs Winston Churchill

  • Decent, although I feel that skinny lawyer undermines his own position by being insufferably dismissive and arrogant. I love how the plight of the landless poor due to slaves taking all the jobs & senators owning super estates wasn't mentioned at all- Nor were the crises that plagued Roman politics and life since the time of the Gracchi. The notion that Patrician Senators were mostly good public servants is, as you say, 'pure optics!'

    We should always delve into history and think about it critically but to remember that we are not superior to our ancestors in intelligence, only in abundance of resources.

  • "Democratic regimes may be described as those under which the people are, from time to time, deluded into the belief that they exercise sovereignty, while all the time real sovereignty resides in and is exercised by other and sometimes irresponsible and secret forces. Democracy is a kingless regime infested by many kings who are sometimes more exclusive, tyrannical, and destructive than one, even if he be a tyrant" -Benito Mussolini

  • Okay, this isn't incorrect in a way that i can criticise but pls be consist with the names you're using and whether they're latin or anglicised – you should only use one form in one video, not jump between it's confusing

  • People:- SPQR—> Sono Pazzi Questi Romani I.e. These Romans Are Fools
    Romans:- Mere Optics

  • My 68th great grandfather

  • At risk of his very life for 17 years ends civil wars and starts pax Romana. Senate was dominated by aristocracy not by the people. Remember that just his uncle Cesar introduced Acta diurna (daily public written report of the activities of the senate) before senate meeting were held at closed doors to the people of Rome.
    Primus inter pares the first to start speech and shared administration with senate and kept for himself provinces with military bases
    German guard for bodyguards
    Fiscum et Erarium separate Civil and Army finances
    Institution of the first public postal service.
    Incommensurable wealth but park for himself dining a few nuts and living without luxury moralist trying to be example citizen
    Founded 20 new cities (colonies) in France
    His greatest mistake was not to split the civil from the religious power
    Could not resist to make deifying his uncle Cesar post mortem

  • Why is he shown with blonde hair?

  • Meh.

  • 2:53 he also paid the Roman people 2000 seserces that ceases had lain out in his will, why am I bringing this up? Well Mark Antony had stolen the majority of it and failed to pay the people Caesar also relinquished his gardens to the people as a public park and even sold most of his properties to raise money to pay the people he almost ended up with no money whatsoever. During his reign he gave the people many freedoms that no other emperors in Rome ever did! He only got the powers of the tribunes to stop Antony becoming to powerful. Antony was a maniac. Augustus while power hungry was a saving grace from a falling republic. He Only made an alliance with Anthony to stop Brutus and his political allies (Which would’ve been even worse for the Republic) From getting too much power. After He defeated Brutus he turned on Anthony who was trying to consolidate his own power to stop him from taking over the republic. Octavian was likely the best candidate in all of Rome to become emperor. Anthony would of been a tyrant. Brutus would have been megalomaniac and Cassius would’ve been worse than both of them combined. Augustus was thus Rome’s best chance having a mix of Caesars military mastermind and Cicero’s intelligence. A mix making him best suited of everyone in Rome other than perhaps his friend Agrippa and the Aedile at the time Balbus.

    Sources: Octavian Rise To Power by Patrick J Parrelli
    And SPQR by Mary Beard

  • Octavian was inevitable given the long failure of the Republic. Frankly, it could’ve been far far worse than it was. And no, that one fact is entirely irrelevant to the modern period. Classical liberal politics derived something enormously more subtle and wonderful than Roman Republic could have ever conceived.

  • Put ferdinand marcus the pilipino president
    On trial.

  • the way ogastus is pronounced here makes me cringe

  • History vs Caesar

  • Tbh, the Republic is falling apart anyways…,

  • HES BAD HE DESTORYED THE LIBRARY OF ALEXANDREA . We would be so much more advanced if he didnt


  • punishing adultery….
    that should be punished tho

  • The Republic was very flawed and Augustus made rome stable.

  • History vs. Ernan qortez

    So the spanish can bow down to native Americans and apologize to them

  • This was a terribly subjective video. The creators (Peta Greenfield and Alex Gendler) show their bias and glance over important information to help enforce their personal views. This is yet one video in a sea of many that are killing Classical Studies.

  • hopefully there's a 2nd season

  • I love this kind of format it is one of those ways of learning history from both sides

  • My favourite leader of the History
    So yes, I really for Augustus

  • Augustus was never a monarch (officially). He never had authority over the Senate. The Senate just kissed his behind and were probably lazy and content with Caesar running the show.

  • I have yet to meet anyone who thinks Augustus was a villain.

  • blond Augustus? TED like Hollywood's white Cleopatra and white pharaohs LOL they depic Rome as if the barbarians had already colonize it. Reminds of that joke "ROME" HBO made. Gladiator was another movie where you could not tell apart Romans from Barbarians….
    Nordic people were not even 1% of the population of rome. And the ones that were living in rome were often slaves. Come on TED ED.

  • Sorry, I’m with Augustus. Seemed like a great leader for the time.

  • History vs Peter the Great
    History vs Louis XIV
    History vs Frederick the Great
    History vs Abraham Lincoln
    History vs Otto von Bismarck
    History vs Joseph Stalin

  • Augustus was an absolute legend. Sure he didn't actually fight his battles (he let Agrippna do that for him), but he did bring stability back to Rome after years of Civil War and he destroyed the corrupted Roman Republic. He was most likely the most hydrated Roman out there.

  • The best from of government is a benevolent king(dictator) .. problem is they are few and far between. Democracy is a popularity contest that favors extroverts.

  • Augustus eliminated a very corrupt republic and brought prosperity for Rome. They are really missing some actual information.

  • Now do, Mao Tzedung.

  • Was Augustus the most powerful person ever ?
    I would say yes , probably.

  • History Vs Caesar

  • Margaret thatcher vs history

  • Where are there the same lawyers? Are these legal companies the only two for history cases? I have so many questions

  • Hey this guy looks familiar…

  • History vs ashoka

  • A decent bit of misinformation here.

    For one, they didn't make it clear that Augustus himself denied the Augustus title, preferring to go by Princepts, or 'First Citizen'–a first amoung equals.

    Secondly, they didn't mention that Augustus exiled his own daughter because she broke one of the many laws he placed down against adultery, proving he didn't simply bend the law to his will–he was determined to follow it as well as anyone else.

    Thirdly, the generalizing statements–such as his supposed megalomania, discredit his greatness as a person. He was cruel when he needed to be but never reveled in it. He took no joy in killing others–and once all those he was forced to kill were dealt with he turned into the perfect dictator because he knew how to manage himself and his power.

    Augustus' one glaring flaw was that he couldn't see a Rome without someone like him–no one until Vespasian, Trajan and Hadrian matched his greatness, and thus his attempts to found a dynasty that would create more people like him to rule Rome was doomed to failure–as Emperor's like Vespasian, Trajan and Hadrian were from the provinces–soldiers and provincials.


  • Hey TED-ED, can you make a History VS Fidel Castro video? It would be amazing

  • Hey now I wasnt that bad, I did alot of good, unlike my pederast of an heir.

  • The Top 10 Greatest Roman Emperors
    1. Augustus
    2. Trajan
    3. Trajan
    4. Trajan
    5. Trajan
    6. Trajan
    7. Trajan
    8. Trajan
    9. Trajan

    100. Commodus

  • The republic was long gone before Caesar blew it to pieces.

  • Aaah, those were the days of olde … 👍😏


  • Oh no is the best parts

  • I know it's only 5 minutes, but this remains too superficial. Ditch the two sides arguing opposing positions, and argue for one nuanced point… And why is the judge the clueless one?

  • To be honest, it seems they misinterpret the roman republic for what we consider a modern form of republic. There was no rule of "one man, one vote", instead it was a classed system to ensure that the lowest classes don't have to much power. It was an Oligarchy at best, the senatorial class always made sure of that. Of course with the developement of the late republic this system grew more problematic and wasn't able to ensure the proper government of an empire that streatched over several continents and the mediterran sea.
    The late republic was torn apart by civil unrest due to poverty and civil wars due to the system of how legions worked.

    And bare in mind that Augustus was never able to establish a proper system for his succession and to reform the military in a way that legats aren't able to grab enough power to just claim themself emperor.

  • 1:43…that crow sound effect is my theme everytime I try to do literally anything.

  • For someone with all that power, it was rather impressive it didn't turn out worse for Rome.

  • I don't like him because he killed Cleopatra, but I like him for his actions shown in the show I Claudius

  • Let's just say some people are bad and good, especially Kim jung un

    – Anonymous

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