Three Teens Who Conquered the World

In March of 44 BC a young guy named Octavian was waiting for his great uncle in a place called Appollonia on the Adriatic Coast of Greece. He had become a trusted agent of his uncle, who was assembling Roman legions in Greece in preparation for a campaign against the Parthians in what is now Iraq.

The Pathians had recently slaughtered a couple of Roman legions led by the ultimate butthead Marcus Crassus, who invaded Iraq to advance his own military reputation, and died there along with his ill-fated legions.

Anyway, Octavian and his uncle, they were going to go and retrieve the captured golden eagles that were emblematic of these legions, little mementoes that the Romans were loathe to part with. I don’t think there’s any doubt they could have brought it off. They didn’t, though.

Octavian’s uncle Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on the floor of the Senate. Good news for the Parthians.

Octavian is at a loss what to do. The legions stationed around Appollonia, loyal to Caesar, urge him to stay with them for protection. Then Octavian learns he has been named Caesar’s heir. His mother urges him to renounce the inheritance, but Octavian, then 19 years old, met with old friends of his uncle, who were loaded, and he called on his two buddies Agrippa and Maecenas, and decided to go to Rome, alone and unarmed, to ask for his inheritance.

Agrippa, the non-aristocratic Italian was a military genius and Maecenas, from an ancient Etruscan family, was a consummate diplomat. It was a nasty, bloody business, mostly due to the stupidity and vanity of Marc Antony (and Caesar’s assassins), but these three teenagers conquered the Mediterranean World and founded an empire that lasted more than a thousand years.

I’ve just been reading a personal profile of Augustus by Anthony Everitt that does a great job with the limited sources available.