The Roman poet Vergil lived through the tumultuous age of the Roman civil wars of the first century BC, and witnessed as the Roman republic was repeatedly torn apart by rival aristocrats. His great epic, the Aeneid, tells the story of how the Trojan hero Aeneas, ancestor of Octavian, escapes from Troy and sets out to find a new home for his people. He is guided by fate to Italy, but not all of the Italians are ready to accept the Trojans as friends, and war breaks out between newcomers and natives. This war, as it is fought between two peoples that are later to merge into the Romans, is portrayed by Vergil as a civil war. It is therefore natural to assume that his account of this war is influenced by his meditations on, and evaluation of, the civil wars he himself lived through.
On the occasion of the restoration of the republic and the assignment to Octavian of the honorary title of Augustus in 27 BC, a shield was set up in the senate house inscribed with four virtues; virtus, clementia, iustitia, and pietas. Octavian himself mentions the event proudly in his Res Gestae, and the implicit assertion is that by exercising these four virtues he had restored the republic. However, both ancient sources and modern historians agree that the young Octavian - in contrast to Julius Caesar, his adoptive father - could lay very little claim to the virtue of clementia, or clemency. Aeneas too has at times been critized for a lack of clemency. I find it intriguing that a flaw has been perceived in the characters of both Octavian and his ancestor regarding this same virtue.