Augustus of Prima Porta, first century C.E. White marble, Vatican Museums, Vatican City.
Caesar Augustus, Rome’s first and greatest emperor, ruled from 27 B.C.E – 14 C.E. Augustus was the great-nephew and heir of Julius Caesar. The Roman senate gave him divine status, naming him Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus—Emperor Caesar Exalted One Son of God. He ruled in a time of peace and stability known as the Pax Romana, or “Roman Peace.” Augustus is portrayed here as a benevolent and powerful ruler. His right arm is raised to address his legions. Augustus advocated religious tolerance, allowing other faiths to coexist with Roman polytheism. Augustus died when Jesus was a boy. Later Christians would take advantage of the Pax Romana to spread their gospel message.