Augustus was second Emperor according to Josephus?

Aug 2011
In Antiquities book xvii second chapter, Josephus states that Augustus was the second Emperor. Two sentences later he states that Tiberius was the third. This seems a rather large error for Josephus or any contemporary to make, despite the other contradictions and likely errors in his writings. Am I missing something? Is there any other explanation than a gross error on behalf of Josephus?
Jan 2017
Republika Srpska
  • Maki


I believe Julius Caesar was considered the first emperor. For example (from book XVI, chapter 6):

"Caesar Augustus, high priest and tribune of the people, ordains thus: Since the nation of the Jews hath been found grateful to the Roman people, not only at this time, but in time past also, and chiefly Hyrcanus the high priest, under my father Caesar the emperor,"
Aug 2011
Ok, that makes sense. Obviously they didn't have the same view of delineation for The Republic versus The Empire that we now observe. Thank you for your insight.
Last edited:
Nov 2010
Ok, that makes sense. Obviously they didn't have the same view of delineation for The Republic versus The Empire that we now observe. Thank you for you insight.
It's probably more practical for the man in the street to think of Caesar as the first. Pedantic to make it Augustus and I'm not sure when it crept in to be honest.

As for the Republic v Empire thing - the Republic was an Empire too, if you think about it. There's a sort of clash between 2 meanings of an Empire:

1) Country that takes over lots of others, usually by force, creating a larger administration area
2) Area ruled by an Emperor
Sep 2011
Seems rather obvious Gaius Julius was the first Caesar, making his successor Ocatvian the second then.

Octavian otoh would be the first Augustus.

Seems a matter of nomenclature, what the Romans used, and how that has since then developed in modern languages?
Feb 2011
Emperor is a term which the Romans did not use themselves, so perhaps it is understandable if their view of 'Emperor' is not written in stone.

It has nothing to do with the amount of land held by the Roman State. As has already been stated, Rome was an Empire (by the holding of land definition) under the Republic. The term is simply trying to denote the holder of supreme power in what had become an autocratic state.

Caesar was clearly defacto Emperor, but then so was Sulla, 35 years previously. Both were Dictator for an indefinite term,.
However, the fact that Caesar effectively passed on his power to Octavian by way of his will, adoption/name and consequent support of his troops gives the impression of the commencement of a dynasty under Caesar- and so it was.

Octavian's position as 'Emperor' was put in place legally through legislation passed. As Princeps, it is considered that he founded the institution of the Principate, as the 'Emperorship' is termed by historians for the period up to Diocletian. After that it is usually termed the 'Dominate'. Nevertheless, there are claims that there were holders of the title 'Princeps Senatus' previously, including Pompey, who might have also been termed 'Emperor' defacto .
I do prefer Augustus as the first Emperor because he actually held supreme power unopposed for some of his tenure. Caesar was always contested up to his death. Also, Caesar was appointed dictator as constitutional framing for his authority. Augustus and latter Emperors did not adopt this title and used a different one (Augustus/Dominus/etc...).

Those two points to make a rather clear delimitation in my books. Certainly a bigger one than between Caesar and Sulla or some of the other 1st century BC dictators.

At the end of the day, however, it really is just a matter of nomenclature.

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