After Julius Caesar claimed autocracy and posthumously set the precedent of dynastic rule, it was in essence just a generation that separated the empire from the relative beneficence of Caesar's heir, Octavian called Julius Augustus whose long reign, political networks and civil reforms were just revolutionary enough to endure and to weather future crises, from the absolutely corruption yielded by absolute power and inheritance. Octavian groomed his successors with great care in hopes of ensuring a smooth transition of power and keeping Rome's political model, social services and borders in Octavian's image—plus all in the family. His heirs-apparent, however, did not live to see through Octavian's dominion, both his natural sons who had been educated, trained and primed for leadership, and in the end, Octavian was compelled to rewrite his will to name his step-son, Tiberius—ancestor of Nero and daughter of Livia by her first marriage, as his successor. Interestingly, though Octavian himself warned against harbouring creatures of the court that held illegitimate or behind-the-scenes authority, Octavian also adopted his widowed wife Livia as his daughter, so that she might retain some of the unofficial powers that she wielded, becoming known in all circles as simply the Augusta.
The public was made to endure a long succession of madness, precocity and wantonness with only the very briefest of respites and naïve honeymoon periods after new families killed each other off. In the spirit of “the king is deal; long live the king” statues erected erected to certain regimes throughout the empire, on the streets and in temples, were often without thought for the historic record beheaded and replaced with the likeness of the new emperor—which is why archaeologists find a lot of disembodied busts and unofficially treated to purge the career of their predecessors. There was even a legislative mechanism for erasing the past, called damnatio memoriae, but this statue seemed to have been enacted only sparingly—at least as far as we know, since if it did work according to the letter of law, we would never know about it. This striking from the record was imposed on the assassins of Julius Caesar, to include the proscription on the pain of death that no one from his clan ever be called Marc Antony—although later pardoned and rescinded. After the horrors of Tiberius, Caligula (who bankrupted the empire, among other things), Nero (who is reported to have burned down Rome in order to make space for the palace he wanted to construct for himself and burned Christians for candlelit dining), the first emperor whose memory was to be condemned to oblivion was a man from Emesa (Homs) in the province of Syria called Sextus Varius Avitus Bassianus. Domitian came first but as his condemnation was spearheaded by a Senate bitter for being completely bypassed by someone who refused to recognise the charade of democracy, and this selective memory was even less potent than usual.