Augustus' great physical strength earned him the nicknames "the Strong", "the Saxon Hercules" and "Iron-Hand". He liked to show that he lived up to his name by breaking horseshoes with his bare hands and engaging in fox tossing by holding the end of his sling with just one finger while two of the strongest men in his court held the other end.
As Elector of Saxony, he is perhaps best remembered as a patron of the arts and architecture. He established the Saxon capital of Dresden as a major cultural centre, attracting artists from across Europe to his court. Augustus also amassed an impressive art collection and built lavish baroque palaces in Dresden and Warsaw.
His reigns brought Poland some troubled times. He led the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Great Northern War, which led to the Russian Empire strengthening its influence in Europe, especially within Poland. His main pursuit was bolstering royal power in the Commonwealth, characterized by broad decentralization in comparison with other European monarchies. He tried to accomplish this goal using foreign powers and thus destabilized the state.
Augustus was born in Dresden on 12 May 1670, the younger son of the Elector Johann Georg III and Anne Sophie of Denmark. As the second son, Augustus had no expectation of inheriting the electorate, since his older brother, Johann Georg IV, assumed the post after the death of their father on 12 September 1691. Augustus was well educated, and spent some years in travel and in fighting against France.