The Constitutional Settlements

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The First Constitutional Settlement

The First Constitutional Settlement occurred in 28/27 BC. During the first settlement, Octavian approached the Senate with the idea that he would return all his powers to the Senate and the people, ‘I lay down my office in its entirety and return to you all authority absolutely.’ (Dio, 53.4) 

In a sense, this was a complete scam as Octavian planned to ‘return’ his powers to the people and the Senate but in reality, Octavian wanted the Senate to give those powers back so that he can continue to have power and authority. To guarantee that this would happen, he had friends and supporters in the audience who already knew his plan. After the Senate apparently ‘begged’ Octavian to take his power back, he accepted and the first decree that he past was doubling the pay of his bodyguards so that he could guarantee that he would safe because the moment he was killed, his bodyguards would return to normal soldiers, decreasing their pay by half.

Also, besides just accepting the power back that he had before, Octavian was given the name of Augustus and he had a month named after him (August) in honour of him, and he was also given the title ‘Princeps’ which means ‘first citizen’.  Augustus was also voted to be consul every year and was given proconsular authority over half the provinces for 10 years (he appointed legates to govern these for him). Also in the legions that Augustus was governing, there would be 20 legions in his provinces and 5 in the Senate’s provinces.

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The Second Constitutional Settlement

The Second Constitutional Settlement occurred in 23 BC. After stating that there should only be ten praetors (two of which would be in charge of financial administration) Augustus went to Alban Mount and formally laid down his consulship. He then changed  (over time) the amount of consuls that there would be in a year (eventually there would be four in a year) since Augustus had been consul every year since 27 BC, limiting the chances of senators becoming consul. He then chose Lucius Sestius to replace him and then the Senate passed a resolution that Augustus would have tribunician power for life, was given the privilege of introducing before the senate at each session on whatever subject he chose, even when he wasn’t consul. He was then vote proconsul for life and was not obliged to lay it down on entering the city. He also had maius imperium proconsulare which allowed him to be more powerful then another proconsul.

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The Third Constitutional Settlement

The Third Constitutional Settlement occurred in 19 BC. In that year, Augustus again declined to take up the office after it had been kept open for him. But when it came  to selecting his replacement, the city became divided up by factions, disorders broke out and murders were committed, and so the senators decreed that a bodyguard should be appointed for Sentius, but he refused. After that, they sent two envoys to Augustus who was in Athens, each attended by two lictors. When Augustus learnt of the distress in Rome, he understood that the trouble would continue if something wasn’t done to stop it. So Augustus appointed one of the envoys, Quintus Lucretius to the consulship although he used to be on the proscribed list. After that, Augustus returned to Rome.

When he had returned, many honours were given to him because of the measures he had taken when he was abroad. Augustus declined all of these honours, except the founding of an altar to Fortuna Redux, and they decreed that the day that Augustus had returned to Rome to be a public holiday and it was to be called Augustalia. He then moved Tiberius on the ranks of praetor and allowed Drusus to stand for various offices of state five years before the normal age.

Then Augustus agreed to be elected to the position of overseer of morals for five years. He also accepted the authority of censor for the same period and that of consul for life, to the extent that he even gained the right to be attended by twelve lictors at all times and places, and to sit in the curule chair between the two men who were then serving as consuls. The laws that Augustus then passed were called the Augustan laws. 

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