Best Roman emperors and their achievements: Julius Caesar, Augustus or Constantine?


best roman emperors

Source: Image based on Marie-Lan Nguyen, Gernot Keller and Ivan Flores Casasempere´s images. If you want to use it you simply need to attribute it by linking to this page or to Thanks

The history of Rome is full of great leaders and generals, but Julius Caesar, Augustus and Constantine deserve a special mention. Which of them do you admire the most? We compare their achievements and contributions and debate who should be considered the best roman emperor.

Best roman emperors

Gaius Julius Caesar, Augustus (born Gaius Octavius) and Constantine (Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus) are three of the most salient figures in western history. These three men are clearly among the most influential emperors and political leaders in the history of Rome.  

Julius Caesar's Achievements

Julius Caesar (100 BC 44 BC) was born in the Julii patrician family and became one of the greatest military leaders in history, whose victories in the Gallic Wars allowed Rome to extend its territories to the English Channel and the Rhine. He initiated the invasion of Britain and built the first bridges across the Rhine. Julius Caesar was also instrumental in the demise of the Roman Republic and the emergence of the Roman Empire. After his victory in the civil war he was appointed "perpetual dictator". Julius Caesar is also famous for his assassination and his links with other historical figures such as Pompey, Vercingetorix, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. 

Other achievements and facts about Julius Caesar:

  • Whilst still very young, he refused to divorce his wife as requested by the famous military dictator of Rome, Sulla. As a consequence he had to flee from Rome.
  • He was successively appointed Tribune, Aiedil, Praetor and Consul.
  • Julius Caesar formed the famous Triumvirate with Crassus and Pompey. Caesar ruled the West, Crassus the East and Pompey the South.
  •  He led an army of 40,000 Roman soldiers in the expedition to Gaul and it took him 9 years to conquer it.
  • Caesar defeated the Helvetii and Suevi in 58 BC. It is estimated than 430,000 people, including women and children, were killed when Caesar defeated the Germanic armies and drove them beyond the Rhine in 55BC.
  • Caesar's armies crossed the Rhine twice in retaliation campaigns against the Suevi and the Eburones.
  • Julius Caesar invaded England twice.
  • After the death of Crassus, the tensions between Caesar and Pompey mounted, and a civil war erupted. Against the mandate of the Senate, Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his Army in order to take control of Rome. That is the time when he uttered the famous phrase "alea iacta est" (the die is cast).
  • Caesar killed the Senators who followed Pompey and defeated him in the battle of Pharsalus.
  • Caesar conducted successful campaigns in Egypt, Asia Minor, North of Africa and Hispania.
  • Caesar was a brilliant orator and author of prose.

Watch this documentary about Julius Caesar


Augustus's Achievements

Augustus (63 BC –14 AD) became the first emperor of Rome after the assassination of his great-uncle Julius Caesar. His reign initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. Augustus dramatically enlarged the Empire, annexing Egypt, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Noricum, and Raetia, expanded possessions in Africa, expanded into Germania, and completed the conquest of Hispania. He reigned for 41 years during which he reformed the Roman system of taxation, developed networks of roads, established a standing army and the Praetorian Guard, created official police and fire-fighting services for Rome, and rebuilt much of the city.

Other achievements and facts about Augustus:

  • Gaius Octavius Thurinus was adopted by his great-uncle Julius Caesar and then took the name Gaius Julius Caesar. Later the senate awarded him the honorific Augustus ("the illustrious one").
  • He formed the Second Triumvirate with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, Mark Antony and ordered the killing of all supporters of Caesar's assassins.
  • Caesar Augustus and Mark Antony defeated Brutus and Cassius in the Battle of Phillipi.
  • Lepidus was demoted after offending Augustus. Mark Antony opposed Augustus but his forces and those of his ally Cleopatra were defeated at the Battle of Actium.
  • Augustus ordered the execution of Cesarion, the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony's eldest son to prevent further threats to his rule.
  • He was elected "Imperator" and the month August was named in his honor.
  • The economy, arts and agriculture flourished during his rule. He completed an ambitious building program which had been initially planned by Julius Caesar's. It is claimed that 83 temples were built or restored in one year.
  • Augustus passed laws to increase birth rates, including incentives to families with over three children and penalized adultery and childless marriages.
  • He promoted the ideal of the superior Roman civilization and worked to expand the Roman Empire. During Caesar Augustus's reign, Northern Hispania, the Alpine regions of Raetia and Noricum, Pannonia, Illyricum were conquered. He also extended the territories in Africa to the south and east and incorporated Judea to the province of Syria.

Watch the Age of Augustus documentary 


Constantine's Achievements

Constantine "the Great" (272 AD 337 AD) was hailed as the new Augustus, senior emperor of the west, by his troops during the military campaign in Britannia. After emerging victorious from a series of civil-wars he later became the emperor of both the Western and Eastern parts of the empire. Constantine enacted many administrative, financial, social, and military reforms to strengthen the empire and established his residence in Byzantium, which he named Constantinople. Constantine legalized Christianity and became the first Christian emperor.

Other achievements and facts about Augustus:

  • Constantine was the son of a Roman military officer, Constantius Chlorus, and Helena, his consort. Helena, later Saint Helena, is credited for having had an important role in influencing the religiosity of Constantine.
  •  Constantine was educated in the court of the emperor Diocletian, where he learnt Greek and philosophy and witnessed the "Great Persecution" of Christians.
  • Constantine was proclaimed Augustus in Eboracum (York) and initially ruled over Britania, Gaul and Hispania.
  • He drove back to the north the tribes of Picts and pushed Frank invaders to the east of the Rhine. He reconstructed military bases and roads.
  • After defeating Maxentius in the Battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine became the undisputed ruler of Western Roman Empire.
  • Constantine militarily defeated his brother-in-law Licinius in the Battle of Chrysopolis and became the sole Emperor of the Roman Empire.
  • He founded the city of Constantinople in 324 AD.
  • Constantine had his son Crispus and his second wife Fausta executed for political reasons.
  • Constantine undertook important administrative reforms in order to maintain social order and cohesion in the empire.
  • Constantine professed Christianity and ended the persecutions of Christians in Rome.

Watch this History Channel documentary on Constantine the Great

Observing the history of Rome, which of the of these three leaders deserves higher praise? Which deeds and achievements made them so important? Alternatively tell us which other Roman figure can rival them in terms of legacy.

Who was the best Roman emperor: Julius Caesar, Augustus or Constantine? Vote and share your knowledge and invite other aficionados to the history of Ancient Rome to join our public discussion.

If you change your mind, you can change your vote simply by clicking on another option.

Voting results

Best Roman emperors and their achievements: Julius Caesar, Augustus or Constantine?

Join the debate

In order to join the debate you must be logged in.

Already have an account on netivist? Just login. New to netivist? Create your account for free.

Join the debate

In order to join the debate you must be logged in.

Already have an account on netivist? Just login. New to netivist? Create your account for free.

Next Article