Dafato Team | Jul 10, 2022

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Germanicus Julius Caesar (Latin, Germanicus Iulius Caesar, May 24, 15 BC. - October 10, 19 AD) was a popular and prominent Roman general, known for his campaigns in Germania. The son of Drusus the Elder and Antonia the Younger, Germanicus was born into an influential branch of the patrician gens Claudia. The agnomen Germanicus was added to his full name in 9 BC when it was posthumously bestowed on his father in honor of his victories in Germania. In 4 AD, it was adopted by his paternal uncle, Tiberius, who succeeded Augustus as Roman emperor a decade later. As a result, Germanicus became an official member of the gens Julia, another prominent family, to which he was related on his mother's side. His connection to the Julii was further cemented through his marriage to Agrippina the Great, granddaughter of Augustus. He was also father of Caligula, maternal grandfather of Nero and elder brother of Claudius.

During the reign of Augustus, Germanicus enjoyed an accelerated political career as heir to the emperor's heir. He assumed the office of quaestor five years before the legal age in 7 A.D. He held that position until 11 A.D. and was elected consul for the first time in 12 A.D. The following year, he was appointed proconsul of Germania Inferior, Germania Superior and all of Gaul. From there, he commanded eight legions, about one-third of the entire Roman army, which he led against the Germanic tribes in his campaigns from 14 to 16 A.D. He avenged the defeat of the Roman Empire at the forest of Teutoburg and recovered two of the three legionary eagles that had been lost during the battle. In 17 AD he returned to Rome, where he received a triumph before leaving to reorganize the provinces of Asia Minor, whereby he incorporated the provinces of Cappadocia and Comagene in 18 AD.

While in the eastern provinces, he came into conflict with the governor of Syria, Cnaeus Calpurnius Pison. During their feud, Germanicus fell ill in Antioch, where he died on October 10, 19. Ancient sources attribute his death to poisoning, but this has never been proven. As a famous general, he was very popular and considered the ideal Roman long after his death. For the Roman people, Germanicus was the Roman equivalent of Alexander the Great due to the nature of his death at a young age, his virtuous character, his handsome physique and his military renown.

There is no record of Germanicus' praenomen (personal name), but he was probably called Nero Claudius Drusus after his father (conventionally called "Drusus"), or possibly Tiberius Claudius Nero after his uncle.

He took the agnomen Germanicus, posthumously given to his father in honor of his victories in Germania, at which point he nominally became head of the family in 9 B.C. By 4 A.D., Tiberius adopted him as his son and heir, and consequently, denied the agnomen Claudii and took the Julii. According to the Roman naming system, he adopted the name "Julius Caesar" while retaining his agnomen, so he became known as Germanicus Julius Caesar.After the adoption of Germanicus into the Julii, his brother Claudius became the sole legal representative of his father, so he inherited the agnomen "Germanicus" as the new head of the family.

Germanicus was born in Rome on May 24, 15 B.C., son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia the Younger, and had two younger siblings: Livilla and Claudius. His paternal grandmother, Livia Drusilla, who had divorced his grandfather, Tiberius Claudius Nero, some twenty-four years before his birth, was married to Emperor Augustus. Her maternal grandparents were the triumvir Mark Antony and Augustus' sister, Octavia the Younger. Germanicus was a key figure in the Julio-Claudian dynasty of the early Roman Empire. In addition to being the great-nephew of Augustus and nephew of the second emperor, Tiberius, his son Gaius would become the third emperor, succeeded by Germanicus' brother Claudius, and his grandson, Nero, would become the fifth emperor.

When Augustus' chosen successor, Gaius Caesar, died in 4, he briefly considered Germanicus as his heir. However, Livia convinced him to choose Tiberius, her stepson from her first marriage to Tiberius Claudius Nero. As part of the succession arrangements, Augustus adopted Tiberius on 26 June 4, but first asked him to adopt Germanicus, making him his next successor. Germanicus married Augustus' granddaughter Agrippina the Great, probably the following year, to further strengthen his ties to the imperial family. The couple had nine children: Nero Caesar; Drusus Caesar; Tiberius Julius Caesar -not to be confused with the eponymous emperor-; a child of unknown name -usually called Ignatius-; Gaius the Elder; Gaius the Younger -the future emperor "Caligula"-; Agrippina the Younger -the future empress-; Julia Drusilla; and Julia Livilla. Only six of his children came of age; Tiberius and Ignoto died as infants, and Gaius the Elder in his early childhood.

Great Illyrian revolt

Germanicus became quaestor in 7, four years before the legal age of 25. He was sent to Illyricum the same year to help Tiberius put down a revolt of the Pannonians and Dalmatians. He took with him an army of citizens and former slaves to reinforce Tiberius at Sisak, his base of operations in Illyricum. Towards the end of the year additional reinforcements arrived: three legions from Messia under Aulus Cecina Severus, and two legions with Thracian cavalry and auxiliary troops from Anatolia under Silvanus.

When Germanicus reached Pannonia, the rebels resorted to assaults from the mountain fortresses to which they had retreated. Since the Roman legions were not effective enough to stop these tactics, Tiberius deployed his auxiliary forces and divided his army into small detachments, which allowed them to cover more territory and to conduct a war of attrition against the rebels in their heavily protected positions. The Romans also began to expel rebels from the countryside, offered amnesty to tribes that laid down their arms, and implemented the scorched earth policy in an effort to starve out enemies. During this period, Germanicus' detachments were in action against the Mazaei, whom he defeated.

The revolt in Pannonia collapsed in year 8 when one of its commanders, Bato the Breucian, surrendered their leader Pinnes to the Romans and laid down his arms in exchange for amnesty. However, this was invalidated when Bato the Breucian was defeated in battle and then executed by his former ally Bato the Desiciate, which left the Pannonians divided among themselves, and consequently, the Romans were able to subdue the Breucians without battle. The pacification of the Breucians, with their large population and resources, was a significant victory for the Romans, who would be reinforced by eight cohorts of Breutian auxiliaries towards the end of the war. Bato the Desiciate withdrew from Pannonia to Dalmatia, where he occupied the Bosnian mountains and began counterattacks, most likely against the indigenous people who sided with the Romans. Later that same year, Tiberius left Lepidus in command of Siscia and Silvanus in Sirmium.

Roman forces took the initiative in year 9 and entered Dalmatia. Tiberius divided his forces into three units: one under Silvanus, which advanced southeastward from Sirmium; another commanded by Lepidus, which advanced northwestward along the Ula valley from Siscia toward Burnum; and the third led by Tiberius and Germanicus into the interior of Dalmatia. The divisions under Lepidus and Silvanus virtually exterminated the Perustians and Desiciates in their mountain strongholds. Roman forces captured several cities, and those commanded by Germanicus took Raetinum, near Seretium, although it was destroyed in a fire set by rebels during the siege, Splonum, in present-day northern Montenegro, and Seretium itself, in present-day western Bosnia. Roman forces under Tiberius and Germanicus pursued Bato to the fortress of Andretium, located near Salona, and laid siege to it. When it became clear that Bato would not surrender, Tiberius stormed the fortress and captured him. While the latter negotiated terms of surrender, Germanicus was sent on a punitive expedition through the surrounding territory, during which he forced the surrender of the fortified city of Arduba and nearby towns. He then sent a herald to subdue the remaining districts and returned with Tiberius.

Period in Rome and consulate

After a distinguished start to his military career, Germanicus returned to Rome at the end of year 9 to personally announce his victory. He was honored with the triumphal ornament, but not with a triumph, and the status, but not the office, of praetor. In addition, he was given permission to be a candidate for consul before the usual age and the right to speak first in the Senate after the consuls. According to Dion Cassius, Germanicus was a popular quaestor because he acted as an advocate both in cases of capital jurisdiction before Augustus and before lesser judges in standard quaestiones. He successfully defended, for example, a quaestor accused of murder in 10 in which the prosecutor, fearing that the jurors would find in favor of the defense out of deference to Germanicus, demanded a trial before Augustus.

In 9, three Roman legions commanded by Varus were destroyed by a coalition of Germanic tribes under Arminius at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest. As proconsul, Germanicus was sent with Tiberius to defend the empire against the Germans in 11. The two generals crossed the Rhine, made several raids into enemy territory and, in early autumn, crossed the river again. Campaigns in Germania in 11 and 12, combined with an alliance with Marbod's Marcomannic federation, prevented the Germanic coalition from crossing the Rhine and invading Gaul and Italy. In winter, Germanicus returned to Rome, where, despite never having served as aedile or praetor, he was appointed consul, along with Gaius Fonteius Capiton, by A.D. 12 after five terms as quaestor. He continued to defend the accused in court during his consulship, a popular move reminiscent of his earlier work defending the accused against Augustus. He also sought popularity by ministering the Ludi Martiales (games of Mars), as mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, in which he released two hundred lions in the Circus Maximus.

On October 23, 12, Tiberius achieved a triumph thanks to his victory over the Pannonians and Dalmatians, which he had postponed due to the defeat of Varus in the forest of Teutoburg. He was accompanied by, among other generals, Germanicus, to whom he again bestowed a triumphal ornament and a place of honor at the celebration. Unlike his adopted brother Drusus, who received no recognition other than being the son of a victor, Germanicus played a prominent role in the celebration and had the opportunity to display his consular insignia and triumphal ornaments.

Germania Commander

In 13 Augustus appointed him commander of the Rhine forces, which consisted of eight legions and represented about one-third of Rome's total military strength. The following year, in August, Augustus died and on September 17 the Senate met to confirm Tiberius as princeps. On that day the Senate also sent a delegation, which would not arrive until October, to the camp of Germanicus to send its condolences for the death of his grandfather and to grant him the imperium proconsularis.

In Germania and Illyricum, the legions mutinied. The mutineers in the Germanic lands, who were stationed in summer quarters on the border with the Ubians, were those of the Lower Rhine under Aulus Cecina: V Alaudae, XXI Rapax, I Germanica and XX Valeria Victrix. These soldiers did not receive the legates promised by Augustus and, when it became clear that Tiberius was not responding, they revolted. Consequently, Germanicus took charge of the troops in Germania, and Tiberius' son Drusus took charge of Illyricum.

The army of the Lower Rhine sought an increase in pay, the reduction of their service to 16 years instead of 20, to mitigate the hardships of their military duties, and revenge against the centurions for their cruelty. After the arrival of Germanicus, whose open and affable manners made him popular with the soldiers, they enumerated their grievances to him and attempted to proclaim him emperor, yet he remained loyal to Tiberius. When news of the mutiny reached the army of the Upper Rhine commanded by Gaius Silius, consisting of legions II Augusta, XIII Gemina, XVI Gallica and XIV Gemina, a meeting was held to address their demands. Germanicus negotiated an agreement.

To satisfy the pledge promised to the legions, Germanicus paid out of his own pocket. The eight legions received their money, even if they did not demand it, and consequently both the armies of the Lower and Upper Rhine returned to order. It seemed prudent to satisfy the armies, but Germanicus went a step further, so in an attempt to secure the loyalty of his troops, he led them on a raid against the Marsians, a Germanic people on the upper Ruhr River. Consequently, Germanicus massacred the Marsian villages he encountered and plundered the surrounding territory. Returning to his winter quarters at Castra Vetera, Germanicus' army successfully traversed the territory of the Bruttians, Tubantes and Usipetes, which lay between the Marsians and the Rhine.

Back in Rome, Tiberius established the Sodales Augustales, a priesthood of the cult of Augustus, of which Germanicus became a member. When news of his raid arrived, Tiberius commemorated his services in the Senate with elaborate but insincere praise: the proceedings gave him joy that the mutiny had been suppressed, but also anxiety over the glory and popularity that Germanicus had achieved. The Senate, in the absence of Germanicus, voted on January 1, A.D. 15, the day given by Ovid's Fastos, in favor of granting him a triumph.

For the next two years, Germanicus led his legions across the Rhine against the Germanic peoples, where he faced the forces of Arminius and his allies. Tacitus says that the purpose of these campaigns was to avenge Varus' defeat at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest and not to expand Roman territory.

In the early spring of 15 A.D., Germanicus crossed the Rhine and attacked the Cats. He sacked their capital, Mattium (now near Gudensberg), razed their agricultural fields, and returned to the Rhine. Sometime that year, he received word from Segestes, who was a prisoner of Arminius' forces and needed help. Accordingly, Germanicus' troops released him and took captive his pregnant daughter, Thusnelda, Arminius' wife. He again marched victorious and under the auspices of Tiberius, accepted the title of imperator.

Arminius called on his compatriots, the Keruscans, and the surrounding tribes for help. Germanicus coordinated a land and naval offensive, with troops marching eastward across the Rhine, and sailing from the North Sea to the Ems River with the mission of attacking the Bruttians and the Keruscans. Germanicus' forces passed through the territory of the Bruttians, where general Lucius Stertinus recovered the lost eagle of the Legio XIX from among the equipment of the locals after defeating them in battle.

Germanicus' troops marched northward and devastated the fields between the Ems and the Lippe, and penetrated as far as the Teutoburg Forest, a mountain forest in western Germany situated between these two rivers. There, Germanicus and some of his men visited the battlefield of the disastrous homonymous defeat to the forest and began to bury the remains of the Roman soldiers who had been left in the air, although after half a day's work, he cancelled the burial of the fallen soldiers in order to continue his war against the Germans. At that point, he made his way to penetrate into the heart of the territory of the Cheruscans. Somewhere that Tacitus calls pontes longi ("long causeways"), in the marshy lowlands near the Ems, Arminius' troops attacked the Romans. Arminius initially caught Germanicus' cavalry in a trap, which caused minor casualties, but the Roman infantry reinforced their flight and stopped them. The fighting lasted two days, with neither side achieving a decisive victory. Finally, Germanicus' forces withdrew and returned to the Rhine.

In preparation for this campaign, Germanicus sent Publius Vitellius and Gaius Antius to collect tribute in Gaul and ordered Silius, Anteius and Cecina to build a fleet. A fort on the Lippe called Castra Aliso was attacked and besieged, but the attackers dispersed as Roman reinforcements arrived. The Germanicans destroyed the mound and the altar dedicated to Drusus, father of Germanicus, who ordered it to be rebuilt and held games with his legions in honor of his progenitor. Germanicus then ordered the construction of new barriers and embankments to increase the security of the territory between the fort of Aliso, previously attacked, and the course of the Rhine River.

Germanicus commanded eight legions with Gallic and Germanic auxiliary units overland across the Rhine by the Ems and Weser rivers as part of his last major campaign against Arminius in 16 A.D. His forces met the latter's forces on the plains of Idistaviso, along the Weser River near modern Rinteln, where they fought a battle which, according to Tacitus, the Romans won.

the enemy was massacred from the fifth hour of the day until nightfall, and for ten miles the ground was strewn with corpses and weapons. -Tacitus (Wells, 2003, p. 206)

Arminius and his uncle Inguiomerus were wounded during the battle, but managed to escape. Roman soldiers on the front lines honored Tiberius as imperator, and raised a pile of weapons as a trophy with the names of the defeated tribes inscribed beneath them.

The sight of the Roman trophy built on the battlefield enraged the Germans, who were preparing to retreat beyond the Elbe, and they launched an attack on the Roman positions on the Angrivarian Wall, and consequently began a second battle. However, the Romans had anticipated the attack and again defeated the Germans. Germanicus declared that he wanted no prisoners, as the extermination of the Germanic tribes was the only viable conclusion he saw to the war. The victorious Romans erected a mound with the inscription: "The army of Tiberius Caesar, after totally defeating the tribes between the Rhine and the Elbe, has dedicated this monument to Mars, Jupiter and Augustus".

Germanicus sent some troops back to the Rhine, and some of them took the overland route, but most of them took the fast route and traveled by boat, so they went down the course of the Ems towards the North Sea, but, on reaching the sea, a storm broke out, which sank many of the ships and drowned many men and horses.

Germanicus then ordered Gaius Silius to march against the Catos with a mixed force of three thousand horsemen and thirty-three thousand infantry and ravage their territory, while he himself, with a larger army, invaded the Marsians for the third time and devastated their land. He forced Malovendo, the defeated leader of the Marsos, to reveal the location of another of the eagles of the three legions lost in 9. Once he got the location, he immediately sent troops to recover it, who advanced through the territory defeating any enemy they encountered.

Germanicus' success in Germania made him popular among the soldiers, as he had inflicted a major set of defeats on Rome's enemies, quelled a mutiny of Roman troops, and returned two of the lost legionary standards to the Empire, which caused his fame to increase and his popularity among the Roman people as well. Tiberius took notice and had Germanicus summoned to Rome and informed him that he would be awarded a triumph and assigned to a different command.

The effort that would have been required to conquer Germania Magna was considered too great in comparison to the low profit potential of acquiring the new territory. Rome considered this wild territory, full of forests and swamps, with little wealth compared to the territories the Empire already held. However, the campaign significantly healed the Roman psychological trauma produced by the disaster of Varus and greatly restored Roman prestige. In addition to recovering two of the three lost eagles, Germanicus fought Arminius, the leader who destroyed the three Roman legions in 9 A.D. By leading his troops across the Rhine without recourse to Tiberius, he contradicted Augustus' advice to maintain that river as the boundary of the empire, and opened to possible doubts by Tiberius about his motives for undertaking such an independent action. This error of political judgment gave Tiberius cause to polemically recall his nephew. Tacitus attributed the retreat to Tiberius' jealousy over the glory Germanicus had acquired and, with some bitterness, claims that the latter might have completed the conquest of Germania had he been granted full operational independence.

Return to Rome

Early in the year 17, Germanicus returned to the capital and celebrated his triumph on May 26. He had captured some important prisoners, but Arminius was still at large; however, Strabo, who may have been in Rome at the time, by mentioning the name of Arminius' captured pregnant wife Thusnelda, draws attention to the fact that her husband, the victor at Teutoburg Forest, had not been captured and the war, itself, had not been won. This did not, however, detract from the spectacle of his triumph; a near-contemporary calendar marks May 26 as the day "on which Germanicus Caesar was borne to the city in triumph," while coins issued under his son Gaius (Caligula) depicted him in a triumphal chariot, with the reverse inscriptions "Standards regained. Germans defeated."

His triumph included a long procession of captives that included Arminius' wife Thusnelda and their three-year-old son, among other Germanic tribesmen belonging to the defeated tribes, and replicas of mountains, rivers and battles were also displayed, and the war was considered over.

Tiberius gave money to the people of Rome on behalf of Germanicus, and the latter was scheduled to hold the consulship the following year with the emperor. As a result, in 18 A.D., Germanicus was granted the eastern part of the empire, just as Agrippa and Tiberius had received it before, when they were successors of Augustus.

Command in Asia

After celebrating his triumph, Germanicus was sent to Asia to reorganize the provinces and client kingdoms in the area, which were in such disarray that Tiberius deemed it necessary to bring in a member of the domus Augusta to set things right. Germanicus was given extraordinary command with the imperium maius over the provincial governors and military commanders of the area over which he was to operate; however, Tiberius had replaced the governor of Syria with Cnaeus Calpurnius Pison, who was meant to be his aide (adiutor), but turned out to be hostile. According to Tacitus, it was an attempt to separate Germanicus from his family troops and weaken his influence, but historian Richard Alston says that Tiberius had little reason to undermine his heir.

The year 17 proved to be a busy one for Germanicus, as he restored the temple of Spes, and presumably won a chariot race on behalf of Tiberius at the Olympic Games of that year. However, Eusebius, the main reference for this year, does not name Germanicus, and Tacitus also makes no reference to this occasion, which would have required Germanicus to make two trips to Greece in one year. Moreover, without waiting to assume his consulship in Rome, he left after his triumph before the end of 17 and sailed along the Illyrian coast on the Adriatic Sea to Greece, where he arrived at Nicopolis, near the site of the battle of Accius, and there assumed his second consulship on 18 January 18. He also visited the sites associated with his adoptive grandfather Augustus and his natural grandfather Mark Antony, before crossing the sea to Lesbos and then on to Asia Minor, where he visited the site of Troy and the oracle of Apollo Claros near Colophon. Pison left at the same time he did, but traveled directly to Athens and then to Rhodes, where he and Germanicus first met. From there, Pison departed for Syria, where he immediately began replacing officers with men loyal to him in an attempt to win the loyalty of his soldiers.

These matters settled, he traveled to Cirrus, a city in Syria between Antioch and the Euphrates, where he spent the rest of 18 in the winter quarters of Legion X Fretensis. Here Pison evidently assisted Germanicus, and quarreled because he did not send troops to Armenia when ordered to do so. Artabanus sent an envoy to Germanicus requesting that Vonones be moved farther from Armenia so as not to incite trouble there, and accordingly the latter agreed and he was moved to Cilicia, both to please the former and to insult Pison, with whom Vonones was friendly.

Then, in January 19, he went to Egypt, where he was greeted by a tumultuous reception, with the aim of alleviating a famine in the region, vital to Rome's food supply. The move annoyed Tiberius, because he had violated Augustus' order forbidding senators to enter this province without consulting the emperor and the Senate, because Egypt was an imperial province, and belonged to the emperor. Germanicus entered the province in his capacity as proconsul without first asking permission to do so. He returned to Syria in summer, where he found that Pison had ignored or revoked his orders to the cities and legions, and in consequence Germanicus ordered the latter's return to Rome, although this action was probably beyond his authority.

In the midst of this dispute, Germanicus fell ill and although Pison had retired to the port of Seleucia, he was convinced that Pison was poisoning him in some way. Tacitus reports that there were signs of black magic in Pison's house with hidden body parts and Germanicus' name inscribed on lead tablets. The latter sent Pison a letter formally renouncing his friendship (amicitia) and ended up dying soon after, on October 10 of that year. His death raised much speculation, and several sources blamed Pison, who was acting under the orders of Emperor Tiberius, however, this was never proven, and he later died while facing trial, a process recorded in the senadoconsult on Cnaeus Calpurnius Pison senior. Tacitus says that Tiberius was involved in a conspiracy against Germanicus, and that the emperor's jealousy and fear of his nephew's popularity and growing power was the real motive.

Germanicus' death in dubious circumstances greatly affected Tiberius' popularity in Rome, leading to the creation of a climate of fear in the capital itself. Also suspected of collusion in his death is the emperor's chief advisor, Sejanus, who in the 1920s would create a climate of fear in Roman nobiliary and administrative circles through the use of treason trials and the role of informers, or informers.

When Rome received the news of Germanicus' death, the people began to celebrate an iustitium before the Senate had officially declared it. Tacitus says that this shows the true grief felt by the people of Rome, and this also shows that at that time the plebs already knew the proper way to commemorate dead princes without an edict from a magistrate. At his funerals, there were no processional statues of Germanicus, but there were abundant eulogies and reminders of his good character. Moreover, Tiberius himself delivered a particular eulogy in the Senate.

The historians Tacitus and Suetonius record the funeral and posthumous honors of Germanicus. His name was placed on the Carmen Saliare, and on the curule seats which were placed with oak garlands upon them as honorary seats for the priesthood of Augustus. His ivory statue led the procession during the Circus Games; his posts as priest of Augustus and augur would be filled by members of the imperial family; the knights of Rome named a block of seats in a theater in Rome after him, and rode behind his effigy on July 15, 20.

After consulting with his family, Tiberius made his wishes known, whereupon the Senate collected the honors in a memorial decree, the Senatus Consultum de memoria honoranda Germanini Caesaris, and ordered the consuls of the year 20 to issue a public law honoring Germanicus' death, the Lex Valeria Aurelia. Although Tacitus emphasized the honors paid to him, the funeral and processions were carefully modeled after those of Gaius and Lucius, sons of Agrippa, which served to emphasize the continuation of the domus Augusta through the transition from Augustus to Tiberius. Memorial arches were built in his honor and not only in Rome, but on the Rhine frontier and in Asia, where he had ruled during his lifetime. The Rhine arch was placed next to that of his father, where soldiers had built a funerary monument in his honor. Portraits of him and his natural father were placed in the temple of Apollo on the Palatine Hill in Rome.

On the day of Germanicus' death, his sister Livilla gave birth to twins by Drusus, and in honor of her brother, named the eldest after him, however he died young. In 37, Germanicus' only remaining son, Caligula, became emperor and renamed the month of September Germanicus in honor of his father. Many Romans, in Tacitus' account, regarded Germanicus as their equivalent of Alexander the Great, and believed that he would have easily surpassed the latter's achievements had he become emperor. In the eighth book of his Natural History, Pliny relates Germanicus, Augustus, and Alexander as riding companions: when Alexander's horse Bucephalus died, he named a city, Bucephalia, in his honor. Less monumental, Augustus' horse received a burial mound, about which Germanicus wrote a poem.

Pison Trial

In Rome, it was rumored that Pison was responsible for his death. As the accusations piled up, it was not long before the well-known accuser, Lucius Fulcinius Trion, brought charges against him. The Pisones were longtime supporters of the Claudians, and had been allied with Octavian from the beginning. The Pisones' continued support and his own friendship with Pison made Tiberius hesitant to hear the case for himself. After briefly hearing both sides, Tiberius referred the case to the Senate, making no effort to hide his deep anger toward Pison. Tiberius made concessions so that the latter could summon witnesses from all social orders, including slaves, and was given more time to plead than the prosecutors, but to no avail: before the trial was over Pison died, apparently by suicide, but Tacitus supposes that Tiberius may have had him murdered before he could implicate the emperor in the death of Germanicus.

The charges brought against Pison are numerous, including.

He was convicted and punished posthumously for the crime of treason. The Senate proscribed his property, forbade mourning for him, removed his images in statues and portraits, and his name was erased from the base of one particular statue as part of his damnatio memoriae. However, in a show of clemency not unlike that of the emperor, the Senate caused Pison's property to be returned and divided equally between his two sons, with the proviso that his daughter Calpurnia was to receive one million sesterces as a dowry and another four million as personal property. His wife Placina was acquitted.

In the year 4, Germanicus wrote a Latin version of Aratus' Phaenomena, which has survived, in which he rewrites the content of the original. For example, he replaces the opening hymn to Zeus with a passage honoring the Roman emperor. He avoided writing in the poetic style of Cicero, who had translated his own version of Phaenomena, and wrote in a new style to meet the expectations of a Roman public whose tastes were shaped by "modern" authors such as Ovid and Virgil. For his work, Germanicus ranks among the Roman writers on astronomy, and his work was popular enough that scholia were written about it well into the medieval period.

Germanicus and Tiberius are often contrasted by ancient historians and poets who wrote using themes found in drama, with Germanicus playing the tragic hero and Tiberius the tyrant. The Principate's resistance is challenged in these narratives, by the emperor's jealous trepidation of competent commanders such as Germanicus. Particular attention is paid to their leadership styles, that is, their relationship with the masses. Germanicus is painted as a competent leader capable of handling the masses while Tiberius is indecisive and envious.

Despite the poetics attributed to Germanicus by ancient authors, historians such as Anthony Barrett accept that Germanicus was an able general, who fought against the Pannonians under Tiberius, quelled the Rhine mutiny and led three successful campaigns in Germania. As for his popularity, he was popular enough that the mutinous Rhine legions attempted to proclaim him emperor in 14; however, he remained loyal and led them against the Germanic tribes. Tacitus and Suetonius claim that Tiberius was jealous of Germanicus' popularity, but Barrett suggests that their claim might be contradicted by the fact that, after his campaigns in Germany, Germanicus was given command of the eastern provinces, a sure sign that he was destined to rule. According to the precedent set by Augustus, Agrippa had been given command of those same eastern provinces when he was the intended successor to the empire.

Publius Cornelius Tacitus

The Annals of Tacitus, written in the early years of the second century, are one of the most detailed accounts of Germanicus' campaigns against the Germans. The historian describes the latter as a good general, kind and temperate, and says that his early death had robbed Rome of a great ruler.

Book 1 of the Annals focuses extensively on the mutinies of the legions in Pannonia and Germany in 14. The mutinous army figures in the unpredictable anger of the Roman people giving Tiberius the opportunity to reflect on what it means to lead. It serves to contrast the "old-fashioned" values of the Republic assigned to Germanicus, and the imperial values held by Tiberius. The mood of the masses is a recurring theme, as their reactions to the fate of Germanicus are a prominent feature of the relationship between Germanicus and Tiberius well into the Annals (until Annals 3.19).

Suetonius Tranquilo

Suetonius was an equestrian who held administrative positions during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. Lives of the Twelve Caesars details a biographical history of the principality from the birth of Julius Caesar to the death of Domitian in 96. Like Tacitus, he drew on the imperial archives, as well as the histories of Aufidius Basus, Cluvius Rufus, Fabius Rusticus, and Augustus' own letters.

Suetonius' attitude toward Germanicus' personality and moral temperament is one of adoration. He devotes a good part of his Life of Caligula to Germanicus, stating that Germanicus' physical and moral excellence surpassed that of his contemporaries. Suetonius also says that the latter was a gifted writer, and that despite all these talents, he remained humble and gentle.

Because of his prominence as heir to the imperial succession, he is depicted in many works of art. He often appears in literature as the archetypal ideal Roman. His life and character have been portrayed in many works of art, including:


  1. Germanicus
  2. Germánico
  3. ^ His agnomen, "Germanicus", was a cognomen ex virtue, and would at first be a suffix at the end of his full name, and became the first part of his full name following his adoption into the Julii, as his original praenomen and nomen were removed, "Germanicus" was retained, and thus attained usage as his praenomen preceding the new additions (the nomen "Julius", and cognomen "Caesar", respectively) (Possanza 2004, p. 225).
  4. ^ Tiberius had to adopt Germanicus first because his own adoption by Augustus resulted in the loss of sui iuris, which included the legal right to adopt (Swan 2004, p. 142).
  5. ^ According to Cassius Dio, Augustus sent Germanicus to Illyricum because Tiberius' lack of activity led to suspicions that he was deliberately dragging his feet, using the pretense of war to remain under arms as long as possible.Pettinger 2012, p. 97.
  6. ^ Tacitus claims that the Romans won the battle at pontes longi (Tacitus & Barrett 2008, p. 39); however, Wells says the battle was inconclusive (Wells 2003, p. 206).
  7. Su agnomen, «Germánico», era un cognomen ex virtue, y al principio sería un sufijo al final de su nombre completo, y se convirtió en la primera parte de su nombre completo después de su adopción en los Julii, ya que sus praenomen y nomen originales fueron eliminados, «Germánico» fue retenido, y así alcanzó el uso como su praenomen que precede a las nuevas adiciones (el nomen «Julius» y el cognomen «Caesar», respectivamente). (Possanza, 2004, p. 225).
  8. Seu agnome "Germânico" era um cognomen ex virtue e seria, a princípio, um sufixo no final de seu nome completo e tornou-se a primeira parte de seu nome completo depois da adoção pelos Júlios depois que seu prenome e nome originais (e desconhecidos) terem sido removidos e os novos, o prenome "Júlio" e o nome "César", acrescentados(Possanza 2004, p. 225). Smith 1880, p. 258.
  9. ^ Hazel 2002, pag. 122; Swan 2004, pag. 143.