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Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus Named as Egyptian Pharaoh on Philae Victory Stele

April 5, 2010

A new translation of a Roman victory stele, erected in April 29 BC, shows Octavian Augustus’s name inscribed in a cartouche (an oblong enclosure that surrounds a pharaoh’s name) – an honour normally reserved for an Egyptian pharaoh.

Octavian’s forces defeated Cleopatra and Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.  His forces captured Alexandria soon afterwards and Cleopatra committed suicide in 30 BC, marking the end of Egyptian rule.

Historians believe that although Octavian ruled Egypt after the death of Cleopatra, he was never actually crowned as an Egyptian pharaoh.

The stele was erected at a time when Octavian was still paying lip service to restoring the Roman Republic. He would not be named “Augustus” by the Roman Senate until 27 BC. In the years following that, he would gradually acquire more power.

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