Julio-Claudians, starting with Augustus

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “In 27 B.C., Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus was awarded the honorific title of Augustus by a decree of the Senate. So began the Roman empire and the principate of the Julio-Claudians: Augustus (r. 27 B.C.–14 A.D.), Tiberius (r. 14–37 A.D.), Gaius Germanicus, known as Caligula (r. 37–41 A.D.), Claudius (r. 41–54 A.D.), and Nero (r. 54–68 A.D.). [Source: Christopher Lightfoot, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000, metmuseum.org \^/]

“During this time, Rome reached the height of its power and wealth; it may be seen as the golden age of Roman literature and arts, but it was also a period of imperial extravagance and notoriety. The Julio-Claudians were Roman nobles with an impressive ancestry, but their fondness for the ideals and lifestyle of the old aristocracy created conflicts of interest and duty. They cherished the memory of the Republic and wished to involve the Senate and other Roman nobles in the government. This proved impossible and eventually led to a decline in the power and effective role of the Senate, the elimination of other aristocrats through treason and conspiracy trials, and the extension of imperial control through equestrian officers and imperial freedmen. \^/

“The emperors' power rested ultimately on the army, of which they were commanders-in-chief, and they had to earn (as in the case of Claudius) its respect and loyalty. The army not only ensured their control in Rome but also helped maintain peace and prosperity in the provinces. Peace and prosperity were maintained in the provinces and foreign policy, especially under Augustus and Tiberius, relied more on diplomacy than military force. With its borders secure and a stable central government, the Roman empire enjoyed a period of prosperity, technological advance, great achievements in the arts, and flourishing trade and commerce. \^/

“Under Caligula, much time and revenues were devoted to extravagant games and spectacles, while under Claudius, the empire—and especially Italy and Rome itself—benefited from the emperor's administrative reforms and enthusiasm for public works programs. Imperial expansion brought about colonization, urbanization, and extension of Roman citizenship in the provinces. The succeeding emperor, Nero, was a connoisseur and patron of the arts. He also extended the frontiers of the empire, but antagonized the upper class and failed to hold the loyalty of the Roman legions. Amid rebellion and civil war, the Julio-Claudian dynasty "came to an inglorious end with Nero's suicide in 68 A.D." \^/

The system established by Augustus was put to a severe test by the character of the men who immediately followed him. Eight of the ten emperors who followed Augustus lost their positions through violence. The emperors who made up the Julian line were often tyrannical, vicious, and a disgrace to Rome. That the empire was able to survive at all is, perhaps, another proof of the thoroughness of the work done by the first emperor. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

See Separate Articles on Claudius I and Nero

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu;
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Julio-Claudian Rulers

Vitellius, the last Julio-Claudian ruler

Julio-Claudian Dynasty (27 B.C.–68 A.D.)
Augustus (27 B.C.–14 A.D.)
Tiberius (14–37 A.D.)
Gaius Germanicus (Caligula) (37–41 A.D.)
Claudius (41–54 A.D.)
Nero (54–68 A.D.)
Galba (68–69 A.D.)
Otho (69 A.D.)
Vitellius (69 A.D.)
[Source: Department of Greek and Roman Art, List of Rulers of the Roman Empire", The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004, metmuseum.org \^/]

Eight of the ten emperors who followed Augustus lost their positions through violence. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Tiberius followed the instructions left by Augustus upon his death not to undertake any expansive foreign wars. Relying more on diplomacy than military force, the empire reached an unprecedented peak of peace and prosperity. He maintained a strict economy and spent little on grandiose building projects. The most impressive sculpture begun during his reign and completed under Claudius was the Ara Pietatis, a monumental altar with classical representations that recall those on the Ara Pacis Augustae (late first century B.C.). [Source: Department of Greek and Roman Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000, metmuseum.org \^/]

“Tiberius bequeathed a great surplus to his successor, Caligula, whose enormously extravagant games and spectacles eventually emptied the imperial treasury. In matters of government, Caligula favored a monarchy of Hellenistic type and accepted elaborate honors in Rome and in the provinces. The dissemination of imperial portraiture in the provinces, in sculpture, gems, and coins, was the chief means of political propaganda in the Roman empire, and all of the Julio-Claudians subscribed to the basic imperial image established by Augustus. Even Caligula, who was obsessed with his own appearance, adhered to this formula. His reign of extravagance, oppression, and treason trials ended in his assassination in 41 A.D. \^/

“Rome prospered during the succeeding reign of Claudius (Caligula's uncle), who achieved administrative efficiency by centralizing the government, taking control of the treasury, and expanding the civil service. He engaged in a vast program of public works, including new aqueducts, canals, and the development of Ostia as the port of Rome. To the Roman empire, he added Britain (43 A.D.) and the provinces of Mauritania, Thrace, Lycia, and Pamphylia. Imperial expansion brought about colonization, urbanization, and the extension of Roman citizenship in the provinces, a process begun by Julius Caesar, continued by Augustus, slowed by Tiberius, and resumed on a large scale by Claudius. \^/

“Under the next emperor, Nero, the frontiers of the empire were successfully defended and even extended. Experienced generals, such as Corbulo and Vespasian, led triumphant campaigns in Armenia, Germany, and Britain. Nero himself was more of a dilettante, and a connoisseur and patron of the arts; his coins and imperial inscriptions are among the finest ever produced in Rome. After a great fire destroyed half of Rome in 64 A.D., he spent huge sums on rebuilding the city and a vast new imperial palace, the so-called Domus Aurea, or Golden House, whose architectural forms were as innovative as they were extravagant. Nero antagonized the upper class, confiscating large private estates in Italy and putting many leading figures to death. His tendency toward Oriental despotism, as well as his failure to keep the loyalty of the Roman legions, led to civil strife and opposition to his reign.

Jesus and the Romans

Christ on the Cross by Rubens, with some Roman soldiers nearby

Jesus was alive during the reigns of Augustus (42 B.C. - A.D. 14) and Tiberus ( 14-37). At the time of Christ, Palestine (present-day Israel) was a poorly-run, repressive Roman colony that had been conquered by Pompey in 63 B.C. After the conquest Palestine was run by a Roman-Jewish government under Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.) who enjoyed considerable autonomy and ruled in such a way that both the Romans and local population were reasonably happy despite his sometimes despotic ways.

The rulers after Herod — namely Archelaus, who inherited a third of Herod’s land, including Judea and Jerusalem — were not so good. After 10 years Roman prefects took over Archelaus’s territory. The other portions of Herod’s former lands, including Jesus’s state of Galilee remained under Jewish rule. This arrangement remained until the Roman crackdown after the Jewish revolt and the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70.

Herod the Great was a Jewish leader installed by the Romans. Regarded as puppet king of the Roman Senate, he took power in 37 B.C. and ruled until around 4 B.C. and served under Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and the Emperor Augustus. He is remembered most for building the Great Temple for the Jews in Jerusalem and ordering the death of male children in Bethlehem after Jesus was born. His son Herod Antipas was involved in Jesus’s trial. He was the ruler of Judea at time of the death of John the Baptist and Jesus.

Arrest of Jesus by the Romans

Jesus was arrested by Roman police who burst in on Jesus and his disciples as they were praying in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper. The police were led to the garden by Judas, A violent struggle ensued in which Peter drew his sword and sliced off the ear of one policeman. When Jesus was grabbed, the fighting stopped and the disciples ran away. When the Romans asked Peter if he knew Jesus, Peter denied he did (three times) just as Jesus predicted. Peter “went outside and wept bitterly.” He later repented his denial.

Judas identified Jesus before the Roman authorities by kissing him on the cheek. Judas later tried to give back the 30 pieces of silver but was haughtily refused by the priest who paid him off. He later committed suicide by hanging himself and died just before Jesus. Judas now is a universal symbol of betrayal and was later seized by Christians as a symbol of the archetypal treacherous Jew. In Germany there is law against giving children the name Judas. In the livestock trade a Judas goat is a goat that leads the other to slaughter.

arrest of Jesus

Jesus was brought to trial in Jerusalem in April in A.D. 30 or A.D. 33. He was tried twice in two separate trials. The first one was at a Jewish high court for Sanhedrin (the Jewish tribunal and ruling body). The second trial was before a Roman secular court presided over by a minor prosecutor named Pontius Pilate, who asked Jesus a few cursory questions and ordered his crucifixion. After the sentencing Pilate famously washed his hands to show the fate of Jesus was no longer a matter of which he had any control over. Jesus was then mocked, spat upon and slapped around. He was taken away by Roman guards who harassed and tortured him the night before his execution.

Pilate was the only one with the authority to order a crucifixion. He originally did not see any reason why Jesus should be executed — his crime was never clarified and Pilate said "I find no crime in him”—but he was persuaded to give Jesus a death sentence due to pressure from Jewish authorities, who considered his refusal to submit to the High Priest of the Temple as a an offense punishable by death. Jesus accepted his death and did not deny the charges, despite being tempted to. All that he said was “he known and made known by God.”

The Romans found Jesus guilty of sedition not blasphemy — a civil crime not a religious one. The men that were crucified with him were identified in some translations as “thieves.” The word can also mean “insurgents.” Jesus' condemnation by Pontius Pilate is described Matthew 27:11-24; Mark 15:1-15; Luke 23:1-25; and John 18:28-19:16.

Who was Responsible for Jesus’s Death, the Romans?

Many have blamed the death of Jesus on the Romans because the Sanhedrin (Jewish authorities) acted under Roman authority. Pilate was the only one with the authority to order a crucifixion, a public event designed to be a warning to rebels. The Romans were also the ones who tortured Jesus before his death.

The depiction of the Romans is less hostile than it could of been perhaps because the Gospels describing the events were written when Christians were under the Roman rule and they didn’t want to antagonized Roman authorities.

Some have suggested that Jesus’s refusal to defend himself in the trial gave authorities no choice but to crucify him. As time went on, the Romans were absolved of any guilt involving Jesus's death and the blame was placed on the Jews who handed him over to the Romans. Catholics say that everyone is responsible.

Augustus’s Effort to Choose a Successor

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “In 23 B.C. Augustus, ill and expecting his demise to come at any moment, gave his signet ring to his friend, general, and later M. Vipsanius Agrippa, while at the same time he entrusted the consul, Piso, with the custody of his personal papers. This was an indication, albeit somewhat ambiguous, that Augustus intended Agrippa to be the emergency successor in the event of his death in 23 B.C. . However, his hopes at that time were truly centered on the man who was then married to Julia, Augustus' daughter by his second wife (Scribonia; cf. Suet. Aug. 62 for his brief first marriage to Claudia); this was his nephew M. Claudius Marcellus, the son of Augustus' sister Octavia. The hopes for Marcellus were dashed by his untimely death at the age of 20 in 23 B.C., an event lamented by the poets (Virg. Aen. 6. 860-886), and Augustus promptly married Julia to Agrippa. So far his machinations illustrate the difficulty of separating the office of the Princeps, in this early stage, from the familial wealth and position of Caesar and Augustus. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“Julia's marriage to Agrippa started well. She gave birth to sons, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, in 20 and 17 B.C. (Dio 54. 8 and 18), then two daughters (a Julia who died young, and that Agrippina later known as the Elder), and finally in 12 B.C. another son (Agrippa Postumus). The success of this union, together with the apparently high personal regard in which Augustus held Agrippa, caused him to mark that man out as his heir apparent. In 18 B.C. Agrippa became Augustus' colleague in the tribunician power, and his prominence throughout the period is attested by his appearance on the coins; in 13 B.C. his tribunician power was renewed, and he also held imperium (maius? cf. the fragment of a Greek translation of Augustus' funeral oration for Agrippa preserved on papyrus, ZPE (1970) 226 = Sherk 12) in the provinces. Meanwhile his sons, Gaius and Lucius, were themselves singled out for special honors. Augustus adopted them himself and gave them the honorary title of principes iuventutis. The existence of Gaius and Lucius softened the blow when Agrippa, too, predeceased the princeps in 12 BC. A letter of Augustus to Gaius from A.D. 1, preserved by Aulus Gellius, included these lines: ‘I beg the gods that whatever time I have left might pass with all of us in good health and with the state in the happiest condition, and with the two of you behaving like men and succeeding to my post of honor. (Attic Nights 15.7.3) ^*^

“In 6 B.C. there was agitation at Rome for Gaius Caesar to be made consul (Dio 55.9.2) and Augustus responded, with an outward show of reluctance at the transgression of Republican limitations, by designating him consul for A.D. 1 and his brother Lucius consul for A.D. 4; Gaius was made a pontifex and Lucius an augur. A flood of coinage proclaimed their status as heirs apparent. When Lucius died in A.D. 2, there was still the hope of Gaius, but he too passed away two years later.” ^*^

Tiberius (A.D. 14-37)

Tiberus (ruled from A.D. 14-37) was known for hedonism, decadence and cruelty. The adopted stepson of Augustus, he reportedly had a servant named "Sphincter;" tossed lovers that displeased him off a 1,000-foot cliff at Capri — the island near present-day Naples — and changed laws on execution of virgins that decreed that condemned virgins should be deflowered by their executioners before their sentence was carried out.

According to Tacitus and Suetonius, Tiberus was once presented a fish from a local fisherman, who was then promptly beaten with the fish. Afterwards the fisherman commented he was glad he didn't give the large crab he caught to the emperor. Tiberus overheard this and ordered the man to be beaten with the crab. Tiberus spent his last years in a palace on Capri.

Despite this, of the four Julian emperors who succeeded Augustus, Tiberius was perhaps the ablest. He had already shown his ability as a general; and having been adopted by Augustus and associated with him in the government, he was prepared to carry out the policy already laid down. But in his personal character he presented a strong contrast to his predecessor. Instead of being generous and conciliatory, he was cruel and tyrannical to those with whom he was brought into personal relations. But we must distinguish between the way in which he treated his enemies and the way in which he ruled the empire. He had a certain sense of duty, and tried to maintain the authority which devolved upon him. If he could not accomplish this by the winning ways of Augustus, he could do it by more severe methods. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Tiberius followed the instructions left by Augustus upon his death not to undertake any expansive foreign wars. Relying more on diplomacy than military force, the empire reached an unprecedented peak of peace and prosperity. He maintained a strict economy and spent little on grandiose building projects. The most impressive sculpture begun during his reign and completed under Claudius was the Ara Pietatis, a monumental altar with classical representations that recall those on the Ara Pacis Augustae (late first century B.C.). [Source: Department of Greek and Roman Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000, metmuseum.org ]

Tiberius Under Augustus


David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “Tiberius Claudius Nero, the son of Augustus' third wife Livia by her previous marriage (her union with the princeps was childless), had been waiting in the wings. He had proven his abilities as a military commander, by reinstalling a Roman client king on the throne of Armenia (a continual point of contention between the Roman and Parthian empires), by putting down serious unrest in the province of Illyria, and then by strengthening Rome's position on the Rhine frontier. He was consul in 13 B.C. and several years later received a five year grant of the tribunician power; given that Gaius and Lucius were alive at that time, some scholars (e.g. Syme) have taken this as evidence that the tribunician power was not yet the mark of the designated successor it would later become; others prefer to believe that after the death of Agrippa Tiberius was, for a time at least, Augustus' choice to succeed him. In support of the latter position is the fact that Julia, whose sad lot in life it was to be the pawn in Augustus' chess game of succession, was married to Tiberius after Agrippa's death. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“In 6 B.C. Tiberius, with his tribunician power still in force, retired to the island of Rhodes. He left his wife Julia, with whom he had never gotten along very well, at Rome. Augustus had assigned him a new command in Armenia, and Tiberius had signalled his reluctance to undertake that command by a hunger strike. Did Augustus want Tiberius to retire to Rhodes, or was it Tiberius' own decision? B. Levick has argued that Tiberius threatened to go to Rhodes, in an attempt to bluff Augustus into calling off the honors for Gaius, and when that failed Tiberius had to make good on his threat. According to Suetonius (Tib. 10), the desire for a rest was the reason given by Tiberius to Augustus at the time of his initial request, but the real reason was that he realized Gaius and Lucius were being promoted ahead of him and he wanted to leave the field clear for them. Dio believes that Augustus was annoyed at the attempts by Lucius and Gaius to put on airs (Dio 55.9.1). He further states that Augustus' purpose in conferring the trib. pot. on Tiberius was to teach Gaius a lesson. And, he conveniently omits to mention, in his account of how Aug. refused to allow Gaius to be made consul for 5 BC, that Aug. promised Gaius the consulship in 5 years. Dio is so far from understanding the situation he is describing, that he represents Tiberius' going to Rhodes as something imposed upon him by Augustus (Dio's word at 55.9.5 is estalê meaning literally "he was sent there"). It is Suetonius who reports that Augustus complained of the decision and called it an act of desertion; in Dio's account, Augustus was complaining because Tiberius refused to go to Armenia as a commander. In short, Dio believes that Augustus first assigned Tiberius to go to Armenia; then, after it appeared that this offended Gaius, Augustus tried to placate Gaius by sending Tiberius to Rhodes as a private citizen, with the pretext that the object was to continue his education. ^*^

“Whatever the facts behind the events which led to Tiberius' retirement, it is clear that he had temporarily removed himself from the succession picture. Again according to Suetonius, Tiberius spent his time at Rhodes in true retirement, chatting with the locals, taking long walks, and avoiding contact with the Roman officials who stopped off at Rhodes on their way to destinations further East. This picture has been questioned by G. Bowersock, however; Bowersock traces out a body of evidence which indicates that Tiberius spent his time in Rhodes consolidating his base of power with a view to his eventual succession. ^*^

“Those efforts finally bore fruit in A.D. 4 when Augustus, with Gaius and Lucius both dead, recalled Tiberius from Rhodes and adopted him as his son. From that point on Tiberius' position as successor to the Principate was unchallenged. When Augustus died on August 14, A.D. 14, Tiberius was probably at his side (some ancient authors state that Tiberius arrived at Nola after Augustus died; cf. Tac. Ann. 1.5). However, there was a small obstacle present in the person of Agrippa Postumus, the third of the boys born to Julia and M. Agrippa, 26 years old in A.D. 14. Acting on written orders, the cohort assigned as the bodyguard for Agrippa Postumus put him to death; Livia, Augustus' widow, was accused of having forged the orders (her motive was obvious, since Tiberius was her son), but suspicion also fell upon Tiberius himself (Suet. Tib. 22, Tac. Ann. 1.6).

Augustus Prepares Tiberius to Be His Successor

Tiberius and Livia Aureus

Nina C. Coppolino wrote: “In 6 B.C. Tiberius was given tribunician power for life and was sent to the east to settle the throne in Armenia. At the designation of Gaius in 5 as princeps iuventutis and so as apparent sucessor of Augustus, Tiberius settled at Rhodes for eight years in so-called retirement, which may have been used to gain support in the east for his own succession. In 2 B.C. Gaius was dispatched from Rome to negotiate with the Parthians in the east. In this year Augustus was compelled to banish from Rome his own daughter, Julia, for her scandalous personal behavior, which was a great embarrassment to her father's legislative efforts at moral reform.

With Julia's departure and divorce from Tiberius, Augustus had to make his dynastic plans without the hope of any more male grandchildren, the supply of which dwindled to only Agrippa Postumus, when Lucius and Gaius died, in 2 and 4 A.D., respectively. In 2 A.D. Tiberius was recalled from Rhodes to Rome, perhaps because eastern support for his succession had surpassed Gaius'; Tiberius' consular imperium and tribunician power had run out in 1 B.C. and had not been renewed. In 4 A.D., after the death of Gaius, Augustus adopted Tiberius and Agrippa Postumus. Though Augustus preferred a Julian heir to the Claudian Tiberius, Augustus disliked the wild behavior of Agrippa Postumus and exiled him three years after his adoption. Tiberius, now adopted into the Julian line, was forced to enlarge the line further by adopting, in dynastic preference to his own son by Vipsania, his nephew Germanicus; his mother was the daughter of Augustus's sister, and Germanicus married Augustus's granddaughter, Agrippina.

“From 4 to 11 A.D. Augustus employed Tiberius in campaigns in the Balkans and Germany. In 12 Tiberius celebrated a triumph for Dalmatia and Pannonia, and Germanicus held the consulship. In 13 A.D. Tiberius was again granted proconsular imperium and tribunician power. In 14 A.D. he conducted a census with Augustus and then left Rome for a command in Illyricum.” After Augustus’s death “the armies were loyal to Tiberius, and he had the tribunician right of initiative at Rome. This hereditary system of succession was established by Augustus for centuries.”

Campaigns of Germanicus

The first duty which fell to Tiberius after he became Emperor after Augustus’s death in A.D. 14 was to gain the support of the army. The legions on the Rhine and the Danube were at first not disposed to accept his authority. Those on the Danube were soon subdued by Drusus, the son of Tiberius, who took advantage of an eclipse of the moon to appeal to the superstitious dread of the soldiers. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

“The legions on the Rhine were more determined, and desired to place their favorite general, Germanicus (a nephew of Tiberius), on the throne in place of Tiberius. But Germanicus, loyal to his chief, resisted this first attempt of the army to enthrone an emperor. To turn their minds from thoughts of treason, he planned the invasion and conquest of Germany. Three successful campaigns were made across the Rhine. \~\

“A portion of the German territory was occupied, and the lost standards of Varus were recovered. These campaigns in Germany were cut short by Tiberius, who recalled Germanicus from the Rhine, and sent him to the East to oppose the Parthians. Whether this act was inspired by envy or by wisdom on the part of Tiberius, we cannot say. After a brief and unsuccessful career in the East, Germanicus died, whether as the result of natural causes or as the result of foul play, we are also at a loss to determine.” \~\

Tiberus’s Early Reign as Emperor


Suetonius wrote: “Once relieved of fear, he at first played a most unassuming part, almost humbler than that of a private citizen. Of many high honours he accepted only a few of the more modest. He barely consented to allow his birthday, which came at the time of the Plebeian games in the Circus, to be recognized by the addition of a single two-horse chariot. He forbade the voting of temples, flamens, and priests in his honour, and even the setting up of statues and busts without his permission; and this he gave only with the understanding that they were not to be placed among the likenesses of the gods, but among the adornments of the temples.” [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) Tiberius, “De Vita Caesarum,” written A.D. 110, 2 Vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 291-401]

He “introduced a semblance of free government by maintaining the ancient dignity and powers of the Senate and the magistrates; for there was no matter of public or private business so small or so great that he did not lay it before the Senators, consulting them about revenues and monopolies, constructing and restoring public buildings, and even about levying and disbanding the soldiers, and the disposal of the legionaries and auxiliaries; finally about the extension of military commands and appointments to the conduct of wars, and the form and content of his replies to the letters of kings. He forced the commander of a troop of horse, when charged with violence and robbery, to plead his cause before the Senate. He always entered the House alone; and when he was brought in once in a litter because of illness, he dismissed his attendants.

“When certain decrees were passed contrary to his expressed opinion, he did not even remonstrate. Although he declared that those who were elected to office ought to remain in the city and give personal attention to their duties, a praetor elect obtained permission to travel abroad with the privileges of an ambassador. On another occasion when he recommended that the people of Trebia be allowed to use, in making a road, a sum of money which had been left them for the construction of a new theatre, he could not prevent the wish of the testator from being carried out. When it happened that the Senate passed a decree by division and he went over to the side of the minority, not a man followed him. Other business as well was done solely through the magistrates and the ordinary process of law, while the importance of the consuls was such that certain envoys from Africa presented themselves before them with the complaint that their time was being wasted by Caesar, to whom they had been sent. And this was not surprising, for it was plain to all that he himself actually arose in the presence of the consuls, and made way for them on the street.

“He rebuked some ex-consuls in command of armies, because they did not write their reports to the Senate, and for referring to him the award of some military prizes, as if they had not themselves the right to bestow everything of the kind. He highly complimented a praetor, because on entering upon his office he had revived the custom of eulogizing his ancestors before the people. He attended the obsequies of certain distinguished men, even going to the funeral-pyre. He showed equal modesty towards persons of lower rank and in matters of less moment.”

“Little by little he unmasked the ruler, and although for some time his conduct was variable, yet he more often showed himself kindly and devoted to the public weal. His intervention too was at first limited to the prevention of abuses. Thus he revoked some regulations of the Senate and sometimes offered the magistrates his services as adviser, when they sat in judgment on the tribunal, taking his place beside them or opposite them at one end of the platform; and if it was rumoured that any of the accused were being acquitted through influence, he would suddenly appear, and either from the floor or from the judge's a tribunal remind the jurors of the laws and of their oath, as well as of the nature of the crime on which they were sitting in judgment. Moreover, if the public morals were in any way affected by laziness or bad habits he undertook to reform them.

Crackdowns and Austerity Measures of Tiberius


Suetonius wrote: “He reduced the cost of the games and shows by cutting down the pay of the actors and limiting the pairs of gladiators to a fixed number. Complaining bitterly that the prices of Corinthian bronzes had risen to an immense figure and that three mullets had been sold for thirty thousand sesterces, he proposed that a limit be set to household furniture and that the prices in the market should be regulated each year at the discretion of the Senate, while the aediles were instructed to put such restrictions on cook-shops and eating-houses as not to allow even pastry to be exposed for sale. Furthermore, to encourage general frugality by his personal example, he often served at formal dinners meats left over from the day before and partly consumed, or the half of a boar, declaring that it had all the qualities of a whole one. He issued an edict forbidding general kissing, as well as the exchange of New Year's gifts after the Kalends of January. It was his custom to return a gift of four-fold value, and in person; but annoyed at being interrupted all through the month by those who did not have access to him on the holiday, he did not continue it. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) Tiberius, “De Vita Caesarum,” written A.D. 110, 2 Vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 291-401]

“He revived the custom of our forefathers, that in the absence of a public prosecutor matrons of ill-repute be punished according to the decision of a council of their relatives. He absolved a Roman knight from his oath and allowed him to put away his wife, who was taken in adultery with her son-in-law, even though he had previously sworn that he would never divorce her. Notorious women had begun to make an open profession of prostitution, to avoid the punishment of the laws by giving up the privileges and rank of matrons, while the most profligate young men of both orders voluntarily incurred degradation from their rank, so as not to be prevented by the decree of the Senate from appearing on the stage and in the arena. All such men and women he punished with exile, to prevent anyone from shielding himself by such a device. He deprived a Senator of his broad stripe on learning that he had moved to his gardens just before the Kalends of July [the first of July was the date for renting and hiring houses and rooms--hence "moving day"], with the design of renting a house in the city at a lower figure after that date. He deposed another from his quaestorship, because he had taken a wife the day before casting lots [to determine his province or sphere of duty] and divorced her the day after.

“He abolished foreign cults, especially the Egyptian and the Jewish rites, compelling all who were addicted to such superstitions to burn their religious vestments and all their paraphernalia. Those of the Jews who were of military age he assigned to provinees of less healthy climate, ostensibly to serve in the army; the others of that same race or of similar beliefs he banished from the city, on pain of slavery for life if they did not obey. He banished the astrologers as well, but pardoned such as begged for indulgence and promised to give up their art.

“He gave special attention to securing safety from prowling brigands and lawless outbreaks, He stationed garrisons of soldiers nearer together than before throughout Italy, while at Rome he established a camp for the barracks of the praetorian cohorts, which before that time had been quartered in isolated groups in divers lodging houses. He took great pains to prevent outbreaks of the populace and punished such as occurred with the utmost severity. When a quarrel in the theatre ended in bloodshed, he banished the leaders of the factions, as well as the actors who were the cause of the dissension; and no entreaties of the people could ever induce him to recall them.

Tiberius Suddenly Retires to Capri


Suetonius wrote: “For two whole years after becoming emperor he did not set foot outside the gates; after that he went nowhere except to the neighbouring towns, at farthest to Antium, and even that very seldom and for a few days at a time.... After being bereft of both his sons---Germanicus had died in Syria and Drusus at Rome----he retired to Campania (area around present-day Naples), and almost everyone firmly believed and openly declared that he would never come back, but would soon die there. And both predictions were all but fulfilled; for he did not return again to Rome, and it chanced a few days later that as he was dining near Tarracina in a villa called the Grotto, many huge rocks fell from the ceiling and crushed a number of the guests and servants, while the emperor himself had a narrow escape. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) Tiberius, “De Vita Caesarum,” written A.D. 110, 2 Vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 291-401]

“After traversing Campania and dedicating the Capitolium at Capua and a temple to Augustus at Nola, which was the pretext he had given for his journey, he went to Capreae, particularly attracted to that island because it was accessible by only one small beach, being everywhere else girt with sheer cliffs of great height and by deep water. But he was at once recalled by the constant entreaties of the people, because of a disaster at Fidenae, where more than twenty thousand spectators had perished through the collapse of the amphitheatre during a gladiatorial show. So he crossed to the mainland and made himself accessible to all, the more willingly because he had given orders on leaving the city that no one was to disturb him, and during the whole trip had repulsed those who tried to approach him.

“Then returning to the island, he utterly neglected the conduct of state affairs, from that time on never filling the vacancies in the decuries of the knights, nor changing the tribunes of the soldiers and prefects or the governors of any of his provinces He left Spain and Syria without consular governors for several years, suffered Armenia to be overrun by the Parthians, Moesia to be laid waste by the Dacians and Sarmatians, and the Gallic provinces by the Germans, to the great dishonour of the empire and no less to its danger.

Tiberius Indulges in Strange Sex and Weird Games

Suetonius wrote: “Having gained the licence of privacy, and being as it were out of sight of the citizens, he at last gave free rein at once to all the vices which he had for a long time ill concealed; and of these I shall give a detailed account from the beginning. Even at the outset of his military career his excessive love of wine gave him the name of Biberius, instead of Tiberius, Caldius for Claudius, and Mero for Nero. Later, when emperor and at the very time that he was busy correcting the public morals, he spent a night and two whole days feasting and drinking with Pomponius Flaccus and Lucius Piso, immediately afterward making the one governor of the province of Syria and the other prefect of the city, and even declaring in their commissions that they were the most agreeable of friends, who could always be counted on. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) Tiberius, “De Vita Caesarum,” written A.D. 110, 2 Vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 291-401]

orgy on Capri

“He had a dinner given him by Cestius Gallus, a lustful and prodigal old man, who had once been degraded by Augustus and whom he had himself rebuked a few days before in the Senate, making the condition that Cestius should change or omit none of his usual customs, and that nude girls should wait upon them at table. He gave a very obscure candidate for the quaestorship preference over men of the noblest families, because at the emperor's challenge he had drained an amphora of wine at a banquet. He paid Asellius Sabinus two hundred thousand sesterces for a dialogue, in which he had introduced a contest of a mushroom, a fig-pecker, an oyster and a thrush. Finally he established a new office, master of the imperial pleasures, assigning it to Titus Caesonius Priscus, a Roman knight.

“After retiring to Capri, where he had a private pleasure palace built, many young men and women trained in sexual practices were brought there for his pleasure, and would have sex in groups in front of him. Some rooms were furnished with pornography and sex manuals from Egypt - which let the people there know what was expected of them. Tiberius also created lechery nooks in the woods and had girls and boys dressed as nymphs and Pans prostitute themselves in the open. The place was known popularly as "goat-pri".]

“Some of the things he did are hard to believe. He had little boys trained as minnows to chase him when he went swimming and to get between his legs and nibble him. He also had babies not weaned from their mother breast suck at his chest and groin. There was a painting left to him, with the provision that if he did not like it he could have 10,000 gold pieces, and Tiberius kept the picture. It showed Atalanta sucking off Meleager. Once in a frenzy, while sacrificing he was attracted to the acolyte and could not wait to hurry the acolyte and his brother out of the temple and assault them. When they protested, he had their legs broken.

“How grossly he was in the habit of abusing women even of high birth is very clearly shown by the death of a certain Mallonia. When she was brought to his bed and refused most vigorously to submit to his lust, he turned her over to the informers, and even when she was on trial he did not cease to call out and ask her "whether she was sorry"; so that finally she left the court and went home, where she stabbed herself, openly upbraiding the ugly old man for his obscenity. Hence a stigma put upon him at the next plays in an Atellan farce was received with great applause and became current, that "the old goat was licking the does."

Tiberius’s Hatred and Abuse of His Own Family

Suetonius wrote: “He first showed his hatred of his kindred in the case of his brother Drusus, producing a letter of his, in which Drusus discussed with him the question of compelling Augustus to restore the Republic; and then he turned against the rest. So far from showing any courtesy or kindness to his wife Julia, after her banishment, which is the least that one might expect, although her father's order had merely confined her to one town, he would not allow her even to leave her house or enjoy the society of mankind. Nay more, he even deprived her of the allowance granted her by her father and of her yearly income, under colour of observance of the common law, since Augustus had made no provision for these in his will. Vexed at his mother Livia, alleging that she claimed an equal share in the rule, he shunned frequent meetings with her and long and confidential conversations, to avoid the appearance of being guided by her advice; though in point of fact he was wont every now and then to need and to follow it. He was greatly offended too by a decree of the Senate, providing that "son of Livia," as well as "son of Augustus" should be written in his honorary inscriptions. For this reason he would not suffer her to be named "Parent of her Country," nor to receive any conspicuous public honour. More than that, he often warned her not to meddle with affairs of importance and unbecoming a woman, especially after he learned that at a fire near the temple of Vesta she had been present in person, and urged the people and soldiers to greater efforts, as had been her way while her husband was alive. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) Tiberius, “De Vita Caesarum,” written A.D. 110, 2 Vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 291-401]

Livia, mother of Tiberius and wife of Augustus

“Afterwards he reached the point of open enmity, and the reason, they say, was this. On her urging him again and again to appoint among the jurors a man who had been made a citizen, he declared that he would do it only on condition that she would allow an entry to be made in the official list that it was forced upon him by his mother. Then Livia, in a rage, drew from a secret place and read some old letters written to her by Augustus with regard to the austerity and stubbornness of Tiberius' disposition. He in turn was so put out that these had been preserved so long and were thrown up at him in such a spiteful spirit, that some think that this was the very strongest of the reasons for his retirement. At all events, during all the three years that she lived after he left Rome he saw her but once, and then only one day, for a very few hours; and when shortly after that she fell ill, he took no trouble to visit her. When she died, and after a delay of several days, during which he held out hope of his coming, had at last been buried because the condition of the corpse made it necessary, he forbade her deification, alleging that he was acting according to her own instructions. He further disregarded the provisions of her will, and within a short time caused the downfall of all her friends and intimates, even of those to whom she had on her deathbed entrusted the care of her obsequies, actually condemning one of them, and that a man of equestrian rank, to the treadmill.

“He had a father's affection neither for his own son Drusus nor his adopted son Germanicus, being exasperated at the former's vices; and, in fact, Drusus led a somewhat loose and dissolute life. Therefore, even when he died, Tiberius was not greatly affected, but almost immediately after the funeral returned to his usual routine, forbidding a longer period of mourning. Nay, more, when a deputation from Ilium offered him somewhat belated condolences, he replied with a smile, as if the memory of his bereavement had faded from his mind, that they, too, had his sympathy for the loss of their eminent fellow-citizen Hector. As to Germanicus, he was so far from appreciating him, that he made light of his illustrious deeds as unimportant, and railed at his brilliant victories as ruinous to his country. He even made complaint in the Senate when Germanicus, on the occasion of a sudden and terrible famine, went to Alexandria without consulting him. It is even believed that he caused his death at the hands of Gnaeus Piso, governor of Syria, and some think that when Piso was tried on that charge, he would have produced his instructions, had not Tiberius caused them to be taken from him when Piso privately showed them, and the man himself to be put to death. Because of this the words, "Give us back Germanicus," were posted in many places, and shouted at night all over the city. And Tiberius afterwards strengthened this suspicion by cruelly abusing the wife and children of Germanicus as well.

“When his daughter-in-law Agrippina was somewhat outspoken in her complaints after her husband's death, he took her by the hand and quoted a Greek verse, meaning "Do you think a wrong is done you, dear daughter, if you are not empress?" After that he never deigned to hold any conversation with her. Indeed, after she showed fear of tasting an apple which he handed her at dinner, he even ceased to invite her to his table, alleging that he had been charged with an attempt to poison her; but as a matter of fact, the whole affair had been prearranged, that he should offer her the fruit to test her, and that she should refuse it as containing certain death. At last, falsely charging her with a desire to take refuge, now at the statue of Augustus and now with the armies, he exiled her to Pandataria, and when she loaded him with reproaches, he had her beaten by a centurion until one of her eyes was destroyed. Again, when she resolved to die of starvation, he had her mouth pried open and food crammed into it. Worst of all, when she persisted in her resolution and so perished, he assailed her memory with the basest slanders, persuading the Senate to add her birthday to the days of ill omen, and actually taking credit to himself for not having had her strangled and her body cast out on the Stairs of Mourning. He even allowed a decree to be passed in recognition of this remarkable clemency, in which thanks were offered him and a golden gift was consecrated to Jupiter of the Capitol.

Provinces Thrive While Despotism Reigns in Tiberius’s Rome

While Tiberius pursued in many respects the policy of Augustus, he adopted certain measures which showed that he had little sympathy with the “disguises of monarchy.” In the first place, he extinguished the political rights of the people by taking away from the assemblies what little legislative power had been left to them; and also by transferring to the senate the election of the regular magistrates. The popular assemblies were thus reduced to a mere shadow. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

In the next place, he gave a new meaning to the law of treason (lex maiestatis). This law had hitherto referred only to actual crimes against the state. Now it was made to include any words or conduct, looks or gestures, which could be interpreted as hostile to the emperor. This is what we call “constructive treason”; and at Rome, as in any other country where it has been tolerated, it became an instrument of despotism. Again, in order to punish his enemies, Tiberius encouraged the practice of “delation”; that is, he offered rewards to all persons who would give information regarding offenders. There thus sprang up at Rome a class of informers (delatores), who acted as professional spies, or inquisitors, to detect the enemies of the emperor. \~\

Roman Empire under Tiberius

Suetonius wrote: “Many things go to show, not only how hated and execrable he was all this time, but also that he lived a life of extreme fear and was even exposed to insult. He forbade anyone to consult soothsayers secretly and without witnesses. Indeed, he even attempted to do away with the oracles near the city, but forbore through terror at the divine power of the Praenestine lots; for though he had them sealed up in a chest and brought to Rome, he could not find them until the box was taken back to the temple. He had assigned provinces to one or two ex-consuls, of whom he did not dare to lose sight, but he detained them at Rome and finally appointed their successors several years later without their having left the city. In the meantime they retained their titles, and he even continued to assign them numerous commissions, to execute through their deputies and assistants. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) Tiberius, “De Vita Caesarum,” written A.D. 110, 2 Vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 291-401]

The cruel tyranny of Tiberius was restricted mainly to the city of Rome, and to those persons whom he suspected as his persona enemies. The provinces were relieved from this suspicion, and hence they continued to be prosperous as they had been under Augustus. Indeed, Tiberius seemed to be especially anxious regarding their welfare. Like Augustus he tried to protect them from unjust government and oppressive taxation. His favorite maxim is said to have been, “A good shepherd should shear his flock, and not flay them.” While he prosecuted his own enemies, he also brought to justice the provincial governors who were guilty of extortion. It is said that while he was hated at Rome, he was loved in the provinces. When many cities of Asia were destroyed by an earthquake, he sent to them relief in the form of money and remitted their taxes for five years. When he died, his faults were exaggerated by the Roman historians, and his virtues were extolled by the provincials. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Tiberius’s Cruelty

Suetonius wrote: “His cruel and cold-blooded character was not completely hidden even in his boyhood. His teacher of rhetoric, Theodorus of Gadara, seems first to have had the insight to detect it, and to have characterized it very aptly, since in taking him to task he would now and then call him "mud kneaded with blood." But it grew still more noticeable after he became emperor, even at the beginning, when he was still courting popularity by a show of moderation. When a funeral was passing by and a jester called aloud to the corpse to let Augustus know that the legacies which he had left to the people were not yet being paid, Tiberius had the man haled before him, ordered that he be given his due and put to death, and bade him go tell the truth to his father. Shortly afterwards, when a Roman knight called Pompeius stoutly opposed some action in the Senate, Tiberius threatened him with imprisonment, declaring that from a Pompeius he would make of him a Pompeian, punning cruelly on the man's name and the fate of the old party. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) Tiberius, “De Vita Caesarum,” written A.D. 110, 2 Vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 291-401]

“A few days after he reached Capreae and was by himself, a fisherman appeared unexpectedly and offered him a huge mullet; whereupon in his alarm that the man had clambered up to him from the back of the island over rough and pathless rocks, he had the poor fellow's face scrubbed with the fish. And because in the midst of his torture the man thanked his stars that he had not given the emperor an enormous crab that he had caught, Tiberius had his face torn with the crab also. He punished a soldier of the praetorian guard with death for having stolen a peacock from his preserves. When the litter in which he was making a trip was stopped by brambles, he had the man who went ahead to clear the way, a centurion of the first cohorts, stretched out on the ground and flogged half to death.

Tiberius on a column releif at Kom Ombo Temple in Egypt

“Not a day passed without an execution, not even those that were sacred and holy; for he put some to death even on New Year's day. Many were accused and condemned with their children and even by their children. The relatives of the victims were forbidden to mourn for them. Special rewards were voted the accusers and sometimes even the witnesses. The word of no informer was doubted. Every crime was treated as capital, even the utterance of a few simple words. A poet was charged with having slandered Agamemnon in a tragedy, and a writer of history of having called Brutus and Cassius the last of the Romans. The writers were at once put to death and their works destroyed, although they had been read with approval in public some years before in the presence of Augustus himself. Some of those who were consigned to prison were denied not only the consolation of reading, but even the privilege of conversing and talking together. Of those who were cited to plead their causes some opened their veins at home, feeling sure of being condemned and wishing to avoid annoyance and humiliation, while others drank poison in full view of the Senate; yet the wounds of the former were bandaged and they were hurried half-dead, but still quivering, to the prison.

“Every one of those who were executed was thrown out upon the Stairs of Mourning and dragged to the Tiber with hooks, as many as twenty being so treated in a single day, including women and children. Since ancient usage made it impious to strangle maidens, young girls were first violated by the executioner and then strangled. Those who wished to die were forced to live; for he thought death so light a punishment that when he heard that one of the accused, Carnulus by name, had anticipated his execution, he cried: "Carnulus has given me the slip"; and when he was inspecting the prisons and a man begged for a speedy death, he replied: "I have not yet become your friend." An ex-consul has recorded in his Annals that once at a large dinner-party, at which the writer himself was present, Tiberius was suddenly asked in a loud voice by one of the dwarfs that stood beside the table among the jesters why Paconius, who was charged with treason, remained so long alive; that the emperor at the time chided him for his saucy tongue, but a few days later wrote to the Senate to decide as soon as possible about the execution of Paconius.

“He increased his cruelty and carried it to greater lengths, exasperated by what he learned about the death of his son Drusus. At first supposing that he had died of disease, due to his bad habits, on finally learning that he had been poisoned by the treachery of his wife Livilla and Sejanus, there was no one whom Tiberius spared from torment and death. Indeed, he gave himself up so utterly for whole days to this investigation and was so wrapped up in it, that when he was told of the arrival of a host of his from Rhodes,whom he had invited to Rome in a friendly letter, he had him put to the torture at once, supposing that someone had come whose testimony was important for the case. On discovering his mistake, he even had the man put to death, to keep him from giving publicity to the wrong done him. At Capreae they still point out the scene of his executions, from which he used to order that those who had been condemned after long and exquisite tortures be cast headlong into the sea before his eyes, while a band of marines waited below for the bodies and broke their bones with boathooks and oars, to prevent any breath of life from remaining in them. Among various forms of torture he had devised this one: he would trick men into loading themselves with copious draughts of wine, and then on a sudden tying up their private parts, would torment them at the same time by the torture of the cords and of the stoppage of their water. And had not death prevented him, and Thrasyllus, purposely it is said, induced him to put off some things through hope of a longer life, it is believed that still more would have perished, and that he would not even have spared the rest of his grandsons; for he had his suspicions of Gaius and detested Tiberius as the fruit of adultery. And this is highly probable, for he used at times to call Priam happy, because he had outlived all his kindred.

Rejoicing in the Streets After Tiberius’s Death

Suetonius wrote: “The people were so glad of his death, that at the first news of it some ran about shouting, "Tiberius to the Tiber," while others prayed to Mother Earth and the Manes to allow the dead man no abode except among the damned. Still others threatened his body with the hook and the Stairs of Mourning, especially embittered by a recent outrage, added to the memory of his former cruelty.

death of Tiberius

“It had been provided by decree of the Senate that the execution of the condemned should in all cases be put off for ten days, and it chanced that the punishment of some fell due on the day when the news came about Tiberius. The poor wretches begged the public for protection; but since in the continued absence of Gaius there was no one who could be approached and appealed to, the jailers, fearing to act contrary to the law, strangled them and cast out their bodies on the Stairs of Mourning. Therefore hatred of the tyrant waxed greater, since his cruelty endured even after his death. When the funeral procession left Misenum, many cried out that the body ought rather to be carried to Atella, and half-burned in the amphitheatre; but it was taken to Rome by the soldiers and reduced to ashes with public ceremonies. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) Tiberius, “De Vita Caesarum,” written A.D. 110, 2 Vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 291-401]

“Two years before his death he had made two copies of a will, one in his own hand and the other in that of a freedman, but of the same content, and had caused them to be signed and sealed by persons of the very lowest condition. In this will he named his grandsons, Gaius, son of Germanicus, and Tiberius, son of Drusus, heirs to equal shares of his estate, each to be sole heir in case of the other's death. Besides, he gave legacies to several, including the Vestal virgins, as well as to each and every man of the soldiers and the commons of Rome, with separate ones to the masters of the city wards.

Struggle for Succession After Tiberus

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “Tiberius' own situation vis-a-vis his successor was no less delicate and dicey than his predecessor's had been. Tiberius could naturally be expected to favor his own son by Vipsania (whom he had divorced in order to marry Julia), Drusus Caesar. But he had promised Augustus that he would adopt instead his brother's son, Germanicus Caesar, who in 14 was in command of a large army on the Rhine frontier, and who was also married to Augustus' granddaughter, Agrippina the elder. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“Germanicus' death left the way clear for Tiberius' own son Drusus Caesar; it also sparked a dangerous rivalry between the emperor and the elder Agrippina, Germanicus' widow. After Drusus' death in A.D. 23, the "official" candidate for the succession was Drusus Caesar, the son of Agrippina, then 30 years old. But the enmity between Tiberius and Agrippina continued; part of the problem was that she preferred her younger son, Nero Caesar (then 29). Both of these youths disappeared from the scene after M. Aelius Sejanus, the commander of the praetorian guard, convinced Tiberius that Agrippina was plotting to murder him and replace him with Nero (it is suggestive that Drusus was allowed to remain in Rome for a year before following his mother and brother into exile). Their brother Gaius, however, who was too young to be any sort of a threat, was kept on and went to live with Tiberius in his quasi-retirement at Capri. Meanwhile Sejanus was plotting to secure the succession for himself (for his power move in consolidating the praetorian guard into one barracks, see Tac. Ann. 4.2); although Tiberius did share the consulship with him, he never granted Sejanus the tribunician power and seems never to have contemplated him as a possible candidate. ^*^

“After Sejanus fell, the victim of his own machinations, Tiberius remained in retirement at Capri. The choice of possible successors was now down to three. First, there was Germanicus' brother, Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus; but he was universally regarded as unsuitable, and he kept himself out of politics, at least as long as he could. Second, there was Tiberius' own grandson, Drusus' son Tiberius Gemellus (born A.D. 19, cf. Ann. 2.84). And third, there was Gaius, the son of the Elder Agrippina. Tiberius wavered between these latter two by making them joint heirs to his state. In the event, after his death in 37, it was decided by the praetorian guard, which picked Gaius and brought him to the senate for confirmation. The senators made no demure and even cooperated by canceling Tiberius' will. ^*^

“Four disastrous years later Gaius was dead, by a conspiracy with senatorial backing. The accession of Claudius illustrates an important stage in the development of the Principate. First, we learn from Suetonius (Claud. 10; Tacitus does not pick up until A.D. 47) that the intention of the senators had been to restore the Republic, but that this was foiled when a riotous crowd outside the Curia demanded a monarchy, and second, that the decision was not put into place quickly enough because there was opposition among the senators themselves. The point is that on the occasion, as never again in the history of the Empire, the system itself of the Principate was tested and it held fast. It had become truly institutionalized.” ^*^

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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