Annie Lee | Jul 7, 2022
Table of Content
- Origins of the family and youth (42-26 BC)
- Military career (25-7 BC)
- Removal from political life (6 BC - 4 AD)
- New military successes (4-11)
- Succession (12-14)
- History of his Principate (14-37)
- Internal policy
- Financial and Provincial Administration
- Foreign policy and military policy
- In ancient historiography
- In the Gospel and in religious tradition
- In modern and contemporary historiography
- Successive names
- Notes and references
Tiberius (Latin: Tiberius Cæsar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus), born in Rome on November 16, 42 B.C. and died in Misene on March 16, 37 A.D., was the second Roman emperor from 14 to 37 A.D. He belonged to the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
He was a descendant of the Claudia people and at birth he bore the name of Tiberius Claudius Nero, like his father. During his youth, Tiberius distinguished himself by his military talent by leading many successful campaigns along the northern border of the Empire and in Illyria, often alongside his brother Drusus I, who died in Germania.
After a period of voluntary exile on the island of Rhodes, he returned to Rome in 4 AD where he was adopted by Augustus and became the last of the emperor's potential successors, henceforth naming himself Tiberius Iulius Caesar. He then led other expeditions in Illyria and Germania to remedy the consequences of the battle of Teutoburg.
At the death of his adoptive father, on August 19, 14, he obtained the name of Tiberius Iulius Cæsar Augustus and he could officially succeed him in the function of princeps senatus because he had been associated with the government of the Roman Empire for 12 years, also holding the proconsular imperium and the tribunitian power, the two major powers of the emperors of the Principate. He set up important reforms in the economic and political fields, put an end to the policy of military expansion, limiting himself to secure the borders thanks to the action of his nephew Germanicus.
After the death of this last one and that of his son Drusus II, Tiberius supports the rise of the prefect of the prétoire Séjan. He moves away from Rome and retires on the island of Capri. When the prefect tried to seize power, Tiberius had him dismissed and assassinated. The emperor did not return to the capital, where he was hated, until his death in 37.
Caligula, son of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder, succeeded him.
Tiberius was harshly criticized by ancient historians such as Tacitus and Suetonius, but his personality has been re-evaluated by modern historians, who recognize in him a skillful and prudent politician.
Origins of the family and youth (42-26 BC)
Tiberius was born in Rome on November 16, 42 B.C. to his namesake Tiberius Claudius Nero, a Caesarian and praetor in the same year, and Livia, almost thirty years younger than her husband. Both on his father's and mother's side, he belonged to the Claudia family, an old patrician family that arrived in Rome during the first years of the Republican period and that distinguished itself during the centuries by obtaining many honors and high magistracies. From the beginning, the Claudia people was divided into many family branches, among which the one that took the cognomen Nero (which, in Sabine language, means "strong and valiant") to which Tiberius belonged. He can therefore say that he was a member of a lineage that gave birth to characters of a very high rank, such as Appius Claudius Sabinus or Appius Claudius Cæcus, who were among the defenders of the supremacy of the patricians during the Conflict of Orders.
His father was among the most fervent supporters of Julius Caesar, and after his death, he sided with Mark Antony, Caesar's lieutenant in Gaul and during the civil war, and entered into conflict with Octavian, Julius Caesar's designated heir. After the constitution of the Second Triumvirate between Octavian, Antony and Lepidus, and following the proscriptions, the disagreements between the partisans of Octavian and those of Mark Antony lead to an open conflict, the latter being always supported by the father of Tiberius. With the war of Perugia caused by the consul Lucius Antonius and Fulvia, wife of Mark Antony, the father of Tiberius joined the partisans of Mark Antony, fomenting disorders in many areas of Italy. After Octavian defeated Fulvia in Perugia and re-established his control over the Italian peninsula, Tiberius' father fled with his wife and son. The family took refuge in Naples then in Sicily, which was controlled by Sextus Pompey. From there, the family joined Achaia where the troops of Mark Antony who had left Italy were gathered.
The small Tiberius, obliged to take part in the voyage, lives a painful and animated childhood until the agreement of Brindisi which restores a precarious peace and allows the partisans of Mark Antony to return to Rome, where his father Tiberius Claudius Nero seems to have stopped any political action.
Moreover, Suetonius reports that the astrologer Scribonius, a freedman, predicted a great destiny for the young Tiberius and that he would reign but without the insignia of a king.
In 39 BC, Octavian decided to divorce his wife Scribonia, who had given him a daughter, Julia, in order to marry the mother of the young Tiberius, Livia, with whom he was sincerely in love. The marriage has also a political interest: Octavian hopes to get closer to the camp of Mark Antony, while the father of Tiberius intends, by granting his wife to Octavian, to remove the rival Sextus Pompey, who is the uncle of Scribonia. The triumvirate asks for the authorization of the college of the pontiffs for the marriage since Livia has already a child and that she expects a second one. The priests grant the marriage, by asking, as only clause, that is confirmed the paternity of the child to be born.
On January 17, 38 BC, Octavian married Livia, who after three months gave birth to a son who received the name Nero Claudius Drusus. The question of paternity, in fact, remained uncertain: some claim that Drusus was born of an adulterous relationship between Livia and Octavian, while others have welcomed the fact that the baby was conceived in only ninety days, the time elapsed between the marriage and birth. It is then admitted that the paternity of Drusus belongs to the father of Tiberius, because Livia and Octavian had not yet met when the child was conceived.
While Drusus was brought up by his mother in Octavian's house, Tiberius stayed with his father until the age of nine. In 33 BC, this one dies and it is the young child who pronounces the funeral eulogy (laudatio funebris) on the rostrum of the Roman Forum. Drusus will be the child cherished by Livia, while Tiberius will be the black sheep of his family, for cause: his very marked republican values. Tiberius finds himself in Octavian's house with his mother and his brother while tensions between Octavian and Mark Antony provoke a new conflict which ends in 31 BC with the decisive naval battle of Actium. In 29 BC, during the ceremony of the triumph of Octavian for the victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII, Tiberius precedes the victor's chariot, driving the inner left horse, while Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Octavian's nephew, rides the outer right one, and is thus in the place of honor (Augustus, who is already thinking of the succession, favors his nephew Marcellus). Tiberius directs the urban games and takes part, at the head of the team of the "greatest children", in the Ludus Troiae which take place in the circus.
At the age of fifteen, he put on the manly toga, and was thus initiated into civil life: he distinguished himself as a defender and accuser in numerous trials, and at the same time he devoted himself to learning the military art, showing particular aptitude for horseback riding. He undertook with great interest the study of Latin and Greek rhetoric and law; he frequented cultural circles linked to Augustus where both Greek and Latin were spoken. He met Maecenas who financed artists such as Horace, Virgil and Propertius. The same passion animated him for the composition of poetic texts, in imitation of the Greek poet Euphorion of Chalcis on mythological subjects, in a tortuous and archaic style, with a great use of rare and obsolete words.
Military career (25-7 BC)
If Tiberius owes a lot of his political ascension to his mother Livia, third wife of Augustus, his capacities of command and strategy cannot however be doubted: he remained undefeated during all his long and frequent campaigns, to the point of becoming, with the passing of years, one of the best lieutenants of his father-in-law.
Due to the lack of real schools that allowed for military experience, in 25 BC Augustus decided to send Tiberius, aged sixteen, and Marcellus to Hispania as military tribunes. The two young men, whom Augustus envisaged as possible successors, took part in the initial phases of the Cantabrian War, which had begun the previous year with Augustus and ended in 19 BC under the general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.
Two years later, in 23 BC, at the age of eighteen or nineteen, Tiberius was appointed quaestor of the annum, five years ahead of the traditional cursus honorum. It is a particularly delicate task since it falls to him to ensure the provisioning of corn of the town of Rome, which counts then more than one million inhabitants, of which two hundred thousand can survive only thanks to the free distribution of corn by the State. The city went through a period of famine due to a flood of the Tiber that destroyed many crops in the countryside of Latium, preventing even ships from reaching Rome with the necessary supplies.
Tiberius faced the situation with vigor: he bought, at his own expense, the wheat that the speculators had in their stores and distributed it for free. He was hailed as a benefactor of Rome. He was then in charge of controlling the ergastules, those underground places for travelers and those who sought refuge from military service, and which also served as dungeons for slaves. This time, it is not a very prestigious task, but it is also a delicate one, because the owners of these places have made themselves obnoxious to the whole population, thus creating a tense situation.
During the winter 21-20 B.C., Augustus orders to Tiberius, twenty years old, to command an army of legionnaires, recruited in Macedonia and Illyria, and to go in the East, in Armenia. Indeed, this region is of vital importance for the political balance of the whole Eastern zone, playing a role of buffer State between the Roman Empire in the west and that of the Parthians in the east, and the two want to make a vassal State of it in order to ensure the protection of the borders against their respective enemy. After the defeat of Mark Antony and the collapse of the system he imposed in the East, Armenia returned to the influence of the Parthians, which favored the accession to the throne of Artaxias II.
Augustus thus orders Tiberius to chase Artaxias whose pro-Roman Armenians ask for the removal and to impose on the throne his younger brother, pro-Roman, Tigran. The Parthians, frightened by the advance of the Roman legions, accepted a compromise and an agreement of peace was signed by Augustus arrived in the East from Samos. They restore the insignia and the prisoners which they have in their possession after the defeat of Crassus at the time of the battle of Carrhes in 53 BC. In the same way, the situation in Armenia is solved before the arrival of Tiberius and his army by the treaty of peace between Augustus and the Parthian sovereign Phraates IV: the pro-Roman party can thus take the top and agents sent by Augustus eliminate Artaxias. At his arrival, Tiberius can thus only crown Tigran who takes the name of Tigran III during a peaceful and solemn ceremony under the monitoring of the Roman legions.
On his return to Rome, the young general was celebrated with numerous parties and the construction of monuments in his honor, while Ovid, Horace and Propertius wrote verses to celebrate the enterprise. The greatest merit of the victory returns however to Augustus as commander in chief of the army: he is proclaimed imperator for the ninth time and he can announce to the Senate that Armenia becomes a vassal without decreeing its annexation. He writes in his Res Gestæ Divi Augusti (his political testament):
"While I could have made Great Armenia a province, once king Artaxias died, I preferred, following the example of our ancestors, to entrust this kingdom to Tigran, son of king Artavasde and grandson of king Tigran, through Tiberius who was then my son-in-law."
- Augustus, Res Gestæ Divi Augusti, 27.
In 19 BC, Tiberius was promoted to the rank of ex-prefect or ornamenta prætoria and could therefore sit in the Senate among the ex-prefects.
Although Augustus, after the campaign in the East, officially declared to the Senate that he was abandoning the policy of expansion, knowing that territorial extension would be excessive for the Roman Empire, he decided to conduct new campaigns to secure the borders. In 16 BC, Tiberius, recently appointed praetor, accompanied Augustus to Gaul where they spent the next three years, until 13 BC, in order to help him in the organization and direction of the Gallic provinces. The Princeps senatus is also accompanied by his son-in-law during the punitive campaign beyond the Rhine against the tribes of the Sicambres and their allies the Tenctères and the Usipètes, which, during the winter of 17-16 BC, caused the defeat of the proconsul Marcus Lollius and the partial destruction of the Legio V Alaudæ and the loss of the insignia.
In 15 B.C., Tiberius, with his brother Drusus, leads a campaign against the Rhète population, distributed between Noric and Gaul. Drusus had already previously driven out of the Italic territories the Rhetes but Augustus decided to send Tiberius in order to solve the problem definitively. The two men attacked on two fronts by an operation of encirclement of the enemy without leaving him any escape. They conceive the "operation in pincer" which they implement thanks also to the assistance of their lieutenants: Tiberius moved from Helvetia while his younger brother came from Aquileia and Tridentum, crossing the valley of the Adige and the Isarco (at their junction was built the Pons Drusi ("Drusus Bridge") near the present Bolzano) to finally go up by the Inn. Tiberius, advancing from the west, defeated the Vendeans around Basel and Lake Constance. It is in this place that the two armies meet and prepare to invade Bavaria. The joint action led by the two brothers allowed them to advance to the source of the Danube, where they won the final victory over the Vendeans.
These successes allowed Augustus to subjugate the peoples of the Alpine arc as far as the Danube, and earned him, once again, to be acclaimed imperator while Drusus, Augustus' favorite, later received a triumph for this and other victories. On the mountain, near Monaco, close to La Turbie, the trophy of Augustus is erected to commemorate the pacification from one end of the Alps to the other and to recall the names of all the subjected tribes. Nevertheless, in spite of his merits, the emperor forbade the senators to award him an honorary nickname, which Tiberius perceived as an act of malice and which still nourished his feeling of injustice.
In 13 BC, gaining the reputation of a very good commander, he was sent by Augustus to Illyria: the valiant Agrippa, who had fought for a long time against the rebellious populations of Pannonia, died as soon as he returned to Italy. The news of the death of the general causes a new wave of rebellion among the populations subjected by Agrippa, in particular Dalmatians and Breuces. Augustus entrusts to his son-in-law the task to pacify them. Tiberius, taking the command of the army in 12 BC, puts in rout the enemy forces thanks to his strategy and the cunning which he shows. He subdued the Breuces with the help of the Scordiscian tribe submitted a short time earlier by the proconsul Marcus Vinicius. He deprives his enemies of their weapons and he sells as slaves the majority of the young people after having deported them. He obtains a total victory in less than four years in particular with the assistance of great generals like Marcus Vinicius, governor of Macedonia and Lucius Calpurnius Piso. It sets up a policy of very hard repression against the defeated ones. At the same time, on the Eastern front, the governor of Galatia and Pamphylia, Lucius Calpurnius Piso, is forced to intervene in Thrace because the population, and in particular the Besses, threaten the Thracian sovereign, Rhémétalcès Ier, ally of Rome
In 11 BC, Tiberius is engaged against the Dalmatians who rebelled again, and rather quickly against Pannonia which took advantage of his absence to conspire again. The young general is thus strongly implied in the simultaneous fight against several enemy peoples, and he is obliged, on several occasions, to move from a front to the other. In 10 BC, the Dacians push beyond the Danube and make raids in the territories of Pannonia and Dalmatia. The latter, harassed by the peoples subjected to Rome, rebelled again. Tiberius, who had gone to Gaul with Augustus at the beginning of the year, was therefore forced to return to the Illyrian front, to confront and defeat them once again. At the end of the year, he could finally return to Rome with his brother Drusus and Augustus.
The long campaign is concluded, Dalmatie is from now on integrated in a permanent way in the Roman State and it undergoes the process of Romanization. It is entrusted, like imperial province, with the direct control of Augustus: an army is stationed there permanently, ready to push back all attacks along the borders and to repress possible new revolts.
Augustus avoided at first to officialize the salutatio imperatoria of which the legionaries acclaimed Tiberius (named imperator by his troops) and he refused to return the honors to his son-in-law as well as to authorize the ceremony of the triumph, against the opinion of the Senate. Tiberius was authorized to travel the Via Sacra on a chariot decorated with the insignia of triumph and to celebrate an exceptional ovation (to enter Rome in a chariot, an honor that had not yet been granted to anyone): this was a new custom which, although of lesser importance than the celebration of victory by a triumph, was nevertheless a great honor.
In 9 BC, Tiberius devoted himself entirely to the reorganization of the new province of Illyria. While leaving Rome, where he had celebrated his victorious campaign, to go to the eastern borders, Tiberius was informed that his brother Drusus, who was on the banks of the Elbe to fight against the Germans, had fallen from his horse, breaking his femur. The incident seems trivial and is thus neglected. The health of Drusus deteriorates however strongly in September and Tiberius joins him in Mogontiacum in order to comfort him, after having traversed in only one day, more than two hundred miles.
Drusus, with the news of the arrival of his brother, ordered that the legions receive him with dignity, and he died a little later in his arms. On foot, Tiberius leads the funeral procession which brings back the body of Drusus to Rome. Arriving in Rome, he delivered the eulogy (laudatio funebris) for his deceased brother in the Roman Forum while Augustus delivered his in the Circus Flaminius; Drusus' body was then cremated on the Field of Mars and placed in Augustus' mausoleum.
During the years 8-7 B.C., Tiberius goes again in Germania, sent by Augustus, to continue the work begun by his brother Drusus, after his premature death, and to fight the local populations. He thus crosses the Rhine, and the barbarian tribes, with the exception of Sicambres, make, by fear, proposals of peace which receive a clear refusal on behalf of the general, because it is useless to conclude a peace without the adhesion of the dangerous Sicambres; when those send men, Tiberius makes them massacre or deport. For the results obtained in Germania, Tiberius and Augustus still obtain the acclamation of imperator and Tiberius is named consul in 7 BC. He was able to complete the consolidation of Roman power in the region by building several structures, including the Roman camps of Oberaden (de) and Haltern, extending Roman influence to the river Weser.
Removal from political life (6 BC - 4 AD)
Pursuing family political interests, Tiberius was pushed by Augustus in 12 BC to divorce his first wife, Vipsania Agrippina, daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, whom he married in 16 BC and from whom he had a son, Julius Cæsar Drusus.
The following year, he married Julia, the daughter of Augustus, and thus his half-sister, widow of the same Agrippa. Tiberius was sincerely in love with his first wife Vipsania and he left her only with great regret. The union with Julia knows at first of love and harmony, then it deteriorates quickly after the death of their son, born in Aquileia. The attitude of Julia, surrounded by many lovers, contrasts with the character of Tiberius, particularly reserved.
In 6 B.C., Augustus decides to confer to Tiberius the tribunitian power for 5 years: his person becomes thus sacred and inviolable and that gives him the right of veto. In this way, Augustus seems to want to bring to him his son-in-law, and he can moreover put a brake on the exuberance of his young grandsons, Caius and Lucius Caesar, the sons of Agrippa, whom he adopted and who seem to be the favorites for the succession.
Despite this honor, Tiberius decided to retire from political life and leave the city of Rome to go into voluntary exile on the island of Rhodes, which had fascinated him since the time he had stayed there on his return from Armenia. Some say, like Grant, that he was indignant and dismayed by the situation; others believe that he felt Augustus' lack of consideration for him for having used him as guardian of his two grandsons, Caius and Lucius Caesar, the designated heirs, in addition to a growing uneasiness and disgust towards his new wife.
This sudden decision seems strange, because it is taken at the time when Tiberius gains many successes and whereas he is in the middle of his youth and in full health. Augustus and Livia tried in vain to retain him and the princeps raised this question in the Senate.
Tiberius, in response, decides to stop eating and fasts for four days, until he is allowed to leave the city to go wherever he wants. Ancient historians do not give a single interpretation of this curious attitude. Suetonius summarizes all the reasons that led Tiberius to leave Rome:
"Either by disgust of his wife whom he did not dare to accuse nor to repudiate, and which however he could not suffer any more, or to avoid a tiresome assiduity, and not only to consolidate his authority by the absence, but to increase it even, in the event that the republic would have need of him. Some think that, the children of Augustus being adults, Tiberius gave up to them of his own free will the second rank which he had occupied for a long time, following the example of Agrippa, who, when Marcellus had been called to the public offices, had withdrawn to Mytilene, so that his presence did not give him the air of a competitor or of a censor. Tiberius himself admitted, but later, this last motive. "
- Suetonius, Life of the Twelve Caesars, Tiberius, 10 (translated by Désiré Nisard, 1855)
Dion Cassius adds to his theses, which he enumerates all also, that "Caius and Lucius believed themselves despised; Tiberius feared their anger" or still that Augustus exiles him for plots against the young princes who are his heirs, even "that Tiberius was unhappy not to have been named Caesar".
During all the duration of his stay in Rhodes (nearly eight years), Tiberius holds a sober position, avoiding to be in the center of the attention and to take part in the political events of the island, except in one case. In fact he never used his power resulting from the tribunitian power with which he was invested. However, when in 1 B.C. he ceases to profit from it, he decides to ask the permission to see his parents again: he estimates that, even if he would take part in the politics, he could not, in any way, put in danger the primacy of Caius and Lucius Caesar. He receives a refusal and decides then to appeal to his mother who can obtain nothing other than that Tiberius is named legate of Augustus in Rhodes, and thus that his disgrace is partly hidden. He resigns himself to continue to live as a simple citizen, worried and distrustful, avoiding all those who come to visit him on the island.
In 2 BC, his wife Julia was condemned to exile on the island of Ventotene (formerly Pandataria), and his marriage to her was annulled by Augustus: Tiberius, happy with this news, tried to be magnanimous towards Julia, in an attempt to regain Augustus' esteem.
In 1 B.C., he decides to visit Caius Caesar, who has just arrived at Samos, after Augustus allotted him the proconsular imperium and charged him to carry out a mission in the East where Tigran III died. The Armenian question is reopened. Tiberius honoured him by putting aside all the rivalries and by humiliating himself, but Caius, pushed by his friend Marcus Lollius, firm adversary of Tiberius, treated him with detachment. It is only in 1 ap. J.-C., that is to say seven years after his departure, that Tiberius is authorized to return to Rome, thanks to the intercession of his mother Livia, putting an end to what was a voluntary exile: in fact, Caius Caesar, who is not any more under the control of Lollius, accused of extortion and treachery and who committed suicide to avoid a condemnation, consents to his return and Augustus, who entrusted the question to his grandson, recalls him by making him swear that he would not have been interested in any way in the government of the State.
In Rome, meanwhile, the young nobiles who support the two Caesars, developed a strong feeling of hatred towards Tiberius, and they continue to see him as an obstacle to the rise of Caius Caesar. The same Marcus Lollius, before the disagreement with Caius Caesar, offers to go to Rhodes to kill Tiberius and many others nourish the same project. On his return to Rome, therefore, Tiberius must act with much prudence, without never giving up the resolution to recover the prestige and the influence which he lost during his exile in Rhodes.
Just when their popularity reaches the highest level, Lucius and Caius Caesar die respectively in 2 and 4, not without Livia being suspected: the first one falls mysteriously sick, while the second one is killed by treason in Armenia whereas he negotiates with his enemies a peace proposal.
Tiberius, who, on his return, left his old house to settle in the gardens of Mecenes (known today as Auditorium Mecenate, perhaps decorated with garden paintings by Tiberius) and avoided participating in public life, was adopted by Augustus, who had no other heirs. The princeps, however, forces him to adopt in turn his nephew Germanicus, son of his brother Drusus, although Tiberius already has a son conceived with his first wife, Vipsania, named Julius Cæsar Drusus and younger by only one year. The adoption of Tiberius, who took the name of Tiberius Julius Cæsar, was celebrated on June 26, 4 with a great feast, and Augustus ordered the distribution to his troops of more than a million sesterces. The return of Tiberius to the supreme power gives, not only to the principate a stability, a continuity and an internal harmony but also a new impulse to the policy of Augustus as regards conquest and glory outside the imperial borders.
New military successes (4-11)
Immediately after his adoption, Tiberius was again invested with the proconsular imperium and the five-year tribunitian power and was sent by Augustus to Germania because the previous generals (Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, legate from 3 to 1 B.C. and Marcus Vinicius from 1 to 3 A.D.) had not been able to expand the area of influence previously conquered by Drusus between 12 and 9 B.C. Tiberius also wanted to regain the favor of the troops after a decade of absence.
After a triumphal journey during which he was repeatedly celebrated by the legions he had previously commanded, Tiberius arrived in Germania, where, during two campaigns conducted between 4 and 5, he permanently occupied, by new military actions, all the lands of the northern and central area between the Rhine and the Elbe. In 4, it subjects Cananefates, Chattuares and Bructères, and places under Roman domination Chérusques which had escaped from it. With the legate Caius Sentius Saturninus, he decided to advance even more in the Germanic territories and passed beyond the Weser, and in 5, he organized a large-scale operation which implied the use of ground forces and the fleet of the North Sea.
Assisted by the Cimbres, the Chauques and the Sénons, who were forced to lay down their arms and to give themselves up to the power of Rome, Tiberius can embrace in a murderous vice the formidable Lombards.
The last necessary act is that to occupy the southern part of Germania and Bohemia of the Marcomans of Marobod, in order to complete the project of annexation and to make of the Rhine with Elbe, the new border. Tiberius conceived a plan of attack implying the use of several legions when a revolt bursts in Dalmatie and in Pannonie what stops the advance of Tiberius and his legate Caius Sentius Saturninus in Moravia. The campaign, conceived as a "pincer maneuver" was a major strategic operation in which the armies of Germania (2-3 legions), Rhetia (2 legions) and Illyria (4-5 legions) had to meet at an agreed point and launch the concerted attack. The start of the revolt in Pannonia and in Dalmatia, prevents the legions of Illyria from joining those of Germania and there is the risk that Marobod allies with the rebels to march on Rome: Tiberius, which is with a few days of walk of the enemy, concludes hastily a treaty of peace with the marcoman leader and moves as fast as possible in Illyria
After fifteen years of relative peace, in 6, the whole of the Dalmatian and Pannone sector takes again the weapons against the power of Rome: the reason is the incompetence of the magistrates sent by Rome to manage the province, which set up heavy taxes. The insurrection begins in the south-eastern region of Illyria with the Dæsitiates commanded by a certain Baton, known as of "Dalmatie", which is joined by the tribe pannone of Breuces under the command of a certain Pinnes and a second Baton, known as of "Pannonia".
Because of the fear of other revolts in all the Empire, the recruitment of soldiers becomes problematic, new taxes are set up to answer the emergency. The forces implemented by the Romans are as important as during the Second Punic War: ten legions and more than eighty auxiliary units, which is equivalent to approximately one hundred to one hundred and twenty thousand men.
Tiberius sent his lieutenants in vanguard in order to clear the road of the enemies in case they had decided to march against Italy: Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus succeeded in defeating an army of 20,000 men and barricaded himself in Sisak while Aulus Cæcina Severus defended the city of Sirmium in order to avoid its capture and he repulsed Baton of Pannonia on the Drava. Tiberius arrives on the theater of the operations towards the end of the year when a great part of the territory, except for the strongholds, is in the hands of the rebels, and Thrace also enters in war at the sides of the Romans.
As in Rome, one is worried by the fact that Tiberius delays to regulate the conflict, in 7, Augustus sends Germanicus to him in quality of quaestor; the general, meanwhile, thinks of gathering the Roman armies engaged in the area along the Save river, in order to have more than ten legions. From Sirmium, Aulus Cæcina Severus and Marcus Plautius Silvanus lead the army towards Sisak, eliminating the combined forces of the rebels in a battle near the volcano swamps. After joining the army, Tiberius inflicted successive defeats on his enemies, re-establishing Roman hegemony over the Sava Valley and consolidating the conquests obtained through the construction of several forts. In anticipation of the winter, he separated the legions, keeping five with him in Sisak and sending the others to protect the borders.
In 8, Tiberius resumed the military maneuvers and defeated in August a new Pannone army. Following the defeat, Baton of Pannonia betrayed Pinnes by giving him to the Romans, but he was later captured and executed by order of Baton of Dalmatia who also took command of the Pannonian forces. A little later, Marcus Plautius Silvanus succeeds in defeating the Breuces of Pannonia who were among the first to rebel. Then begins the Roman invasion in Dalmatia, Tiberius arranges his troops to be able to launch the final attack of the following year.
In 9, Tiberius resumed the hostilities, by dividing the army into three columns and by putting Germanicus at the head of one of them. While his lieutenants put an end to the last centers of rebellion, he left for Dalmatia in search of the leader of the rebellion, Baton the Dalmatian, joining the column of the new legate Marcus Æmilius Lepidus. He joined him in the city of Andretium where the rebels surrendered, putting an end after four years to the conflict.
By this victory, Tiberius is once again acclaimed imperator and he obtains the triumph which he celebrates only a little later, whereas to Germanicus are granted the honors of the triumph (ornamenta triumphalia).
In 9, after Tiberius had successfully defeated the Dalmatian rebels, the Roman army stationed in Germania and led by Varus, was attacked and beaten in an ambush by an army led by the German Arminius while crossing the Teutoburg forest.
Three legions, made up of the most experienced men are completely annihilated, and the Roman conquests beyond the Rhine are lost because they remain deprived of an army of garrison to guard them. Augustus also fears that, after such a defeat, the Gauls and the Germans, allying themselves, march against Italy. The decision of the Marcoman sovereign Marobod is important, and it remains faithful to the pacts passed with Tibère in 6 and refuses the alliance with Arminius.
Tiberius, after having pacified Illyria, returned to Rome where he decided to postpone the celebration of the triumph in order to respect the mourning imposed by the defeat of Varus. The people would have wanted him to take a nickname, like the Pannonic (Pannonicus), the Invincible (Invictus) or the Pious (Pius), which would make it possible to remember its great companies. Augustus, for his part, rejects the request by answering that, one day, he would also take the title of Augustus, then he sends it on the Rhine in order to avoid that the Germanic enemy attacks Roman Gaul and that the provinces, hardly pacified, can revolt again in search of their independence.
Arrived in Germania, Tiberius can measure the gravity of the defeat of Varus and its consequences which prevent from envisaging a new reconquest of the grounds which go until Elbe. It adopts, consequently, a particularly careful behavior taking all the decisions with the council of war and avoiding to call upon, for the transmission of the messages, with men of the soil like interpreters. In the same way, he carefully chose the places where to set up the camps, in order to avoid any risk of being the victim of a new ambush. He set up an iron discipline for the legionnaires, punishing in a very severe way all those who transgressed the orders. By this strategy, he obtained a great number of victories and maintained the border along the Rhine by ensuring the loyalty to Rome of the Germanic peoples, among which the Batavians, the Frisians and the Chauques who lived in these places.
The succession is one of the greatest concerns of the life of Augustus. He was often afflicted with illnesses which made him fear, on many occasions, a premature death. The princeps marries in 42 BC Clodia Pulchra, daughter-in-law of Mark Antony, which he repudiates the following year to marry Scribonia and shortly after Livia.
For a few years, Augustus hoped to have as heir his son-in-law Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the son of his sister Octavia, who had married his daughter Julia in 25 BC. Marcellus was adopted but died young, two years later. Augustus then forced Agrippa to marry the young Julia, choosing as his successor his trusted friend to whom he attributed the proconsular imperium and the tribunitian power. Agrippa died before Augustus in 12 B.C., while the brothers Drusus, favorite of Augustus, and Tiberius were being promoted for their enterprises. After the premature death of Drusus, the princeps gives his daughter Julia in marriage to Tiberius, but adopts the children of Agrippa, Caius and Lucius Cæsar: these die young not without suspecting an implication of Livia. Augustus, consequently, can only adopt Tiberius, because the only other direct male descendant still alive, the son of Agrippa, Agrippa Postumus, seems brutal and devoid of all qualities, and it is for that reason sent in the island of Pianosa.
According to Suetonius, Augustus, although full of affection towards his son-in-law, often criticizes certain aspects, but he chooses to adopt him for several reasons:
"that Livia's urgings alone made him adopt Tiberius; or that his very ambition determined him to do so, so that one day such a successor would make him regret it all the more. put in the balance the vices and the qualities of Tiberius, he found that these prevailed. a very skilful general, and as the only support of the Roman people. the most valiant and the most illustrious of the generals."
- Suetonius, Life of the Twelve Caesars, Tiberius, 21 (translated by Désiré Nisard - 1855)
Tiberius, after having led the operations in Germania, celebrates in Rome the triumph, for the campaign in Dalmatie and in Pannonie of October 12. At the time of this ceremony, he prostrates himself publicly in front of Augustus, and he obtains in 13 the renewal of the tribunitian power and the imperium proconsulare maius, titles which indicate him as successor. He is raised to the effective rank of coregent with Augustus: he can administer the provinces, command the armies and exert fully the executive power, although as of his adoption, Tiberius started to take an active part in the government of the State, helping his father-in-law for the promulgation of laws and for the administration.
In 14, Augustus, from now on close to death, calls near him Tiberius on the island of Capri: the heir, who was never there, remains deeply fascinated. It is there that is decided that Tiberius will go again in Illyria to devote himself to the administrative reorganization of the province. The men set out again together to Rome, but Augustus, seized by a sudden disease, is forced to stop in his villa of Nola, the Octavianum, while Tiberius continues to Rome and leaves for Illyria, as it is agreed.
As he approaches the province, Tiberius is urgently recalled because his father-in-law, who has not moved from Nola, is now dying. According to Suetonius, the heir joined Augustus and the two had a last meeting before the death of the prince. According to other versions, on the contrary, Tiberius arrives at Nola when Augustus is already dead. Dion Cassius adds that Livia provokes the death of her husband by poisoning, so that Tiberius arrives at Nola when Augustus is already dead. Tacitus mentions a rumor that it was Livia who killed Augustus because he had recently become close to his nephew Agrippa Postumus, fearing that Tiberius' succession might be challenged. These facts are not corroborated by other historians and Augustus seems to have died of natural causes.
Tiberius announces the death of Augustus, while the news arrives of the mysterious assassination of Agrippa Postumus by the centurion in charge of his guard. Tacitus reports that the murder was ordered by Tiberius or Livia; Suetonius relates that it is not known whether the order was given by Augustus on his deathbed, or by others, and that Tiberius maintains that he is a stranger to this crime.
Fearing possible attacks on his person, Tiberius had himself escorted by soldiers, and he convened the Senate for September 17 to discuss the funeral of Augustus and the reading of his will. Augustus leaves as heirs of his patrimony Tiberius and Livia (who takes the name of Augusta), but he also makes many gifts to the people of Rome and to the legionaries present in the armies. The senators decide to carry out a solemn funeral to the deceased princeps, the body is incinerated in the Field of Mars, and they begin to ask Tiberius to assume the role and the title of his father, and thus to govern the Roman Empire. Tiberius at first refuses, according to Tacitus, wanting to be begged by the senators so that the government of the state does not seem to take an autocratic form but that the republican system remains, at least formally, intact. In the end, Tiberius accepts the offer of the Senate, before irritating the same spirits, probably having realized that there is the absolute necessity of a central authority: the body (the Empire) needs a head (Tiberius), according to the words of Gaius Asinius Gallus according to Tacitus: "the Republic, forming a single body, was to be governed by a single soul". The argument put forward by pro-Tiberius authors is more likely: they indicate that Tiberius' hesitation to take over the leadership of the state is dictated by a real modesty, rather than by a premeditated strategy, perhaps suggested by the emperor Augustus.
History of his Principate (14-37)
After the session of the Senate of September 17, 14, Tiberius became the successor of Augustus at the head of the Roman State, gathering the tribunitian power, the imperium proconsulare maius and other powers enjoyed by Augustus, and taking the title of princeps. Tiberius remained emperor for more than twenty years, until his death in 37. His first act was to ratify the divinization of his adoptive father, Augustus (Divus Augustus), as had been done previously for Julius Caesar, also confirming the legacy to the soldiers.
From the beginning of his principate, Tiberius finds himself having to live with the important prestige that Germanicus, the son of his brother Drusus that he adopted on the order of Augustus, acquires near all the people of Rome. This prestige comes from the campaigns on the northern front that Germanicus carried out to their terms what earned him the esteem of his collaborators and the legionnaires, managing to recover two of the three "legionary eagles" lost at the time of the battle of Teutoburg. His popularity was such that he could have taken power by driving out his adoptive father, whose accession to the principate was accompanied by the death of all the other relatives that Augustus had indicated as heirs, led Tiberius to give his adoptive son a particular mission in the East so as to keep him away from Rome. The Senate decides to give to the young man the imperium proconsulare maius on all the Eastern provinces. Tiberius, however, does not have any confidence in Germanicus, who in the East, would have found himself without any control and exposed to the influence of his enterprising wife Agrippina the Elder. He thus decides to place at his side a man of confidence: the choice of Tiberius is on Gnæus Calpurnius Piso who is a hard and inflexible man and who was consul with Tiberius in 7 B.C. Germanicus leaves in 18 for the East with Piso who is named governor of the province of Syria. The succession is thus not solved, the rivalry between his younger son Julius Cæsar Drusus and the elder son - legally the heir - adopted Germanicus being latent.
Germanicus, returns in Syria in 19, after having resided in Egypt during the winter. He enters in open conflict with Piso, who cancelled all the measures which Germanicus took; Piso, in response, decides to leave the province to return to Rome. Shortly after the departure of Piso, Germanicus falls sick and dies after long sufferings, in Antioch, on October 10. Before dying, Germanicus expresses his conviction to have been poisoned by Piso and addresses a last prayer to Agrippina so that she avenges his death. After the funeral, Agrippina returned to Rome with the ashes of her husband where the sorrow of all the people was great. Tiberius, to avoid expressing his feelings publicly, does not even attend the ceremony during which the ashes of Germanicus are placed in the mausoleum of Augustus. In fact, Germanicus could have died a natural death, but his growing popularity accentuates the event, which is also amplified by the historian Tacitus.
From the beginning, a suspicion is installed fed by the words pronounced by Germanicus dying which accuses Piso of having caused his death by poisoning him. Thus, the rumor of a participation of Tiberius spreads, almost as the instigator of the assassination of Germanicus, having chosen personally to send Piso in Syria. When Piso is judged, accused of having committed, also, many offences, the emperor holds a very moderate speech in which he avoids taking position for or against the condemnation of the governor. Piso could not be prosecuted for a poisoning that appeared impossible to prove even for the accusers, and the governor, certain of being condemned for other crimes he had committed, decided to commit suicide before a verdict was reached.
The popularity of Tiberius was diminished by this episode because Germanicus was much loved. Tacitus writes of him, one hundred years after his death :
"the popular spirit and the affable manners of the young Caesar contrasted wonderfully with the air and the language of Tiberius, so haughty and so mysterious
- Tacitus, Annals, I, 33 (trans. Jean-Louis Burnouf, 1859)
The two characters have very different ways of doing things: Tiberius stands out for his coldness, reserve and pragmatism, while Germanicus stands out for his popularity, simplicity and fascination. Ronald Syme argues that it is likely that Tiberius chose Piso as his confidant, giving him a secreta mandata ("confidential orders") to avoid that the young age of the heir to the throne could lead Germanicus to a useless and costly war against the Parthians. The situation, however, escapes to Piso, probably because of frictions between the wives of the imperial legate and the holder of the proconsular imperium, so that the enmity between the two degenerates into open conflict. The death of Germanicus does nothing but give a negative aspect to the character of the princeps in the historiography.
If it is unlikely that Tiberius ordered the death of Germanicus, this tragic event definitely accentuates the climate of suspicion which reigns between the emperor and those close to Agrippina the Elder. The latter federated around her the friends of Germanicus, powerful aristocrats. She will do everything to prepare her elder sons for the succession of Tiberius.
The death of Germanicus opens the way of succession to the only natural son of Tiberius, Julius Cæsar Drusus, who has, until then, accepted a minor role compared to his cousin Germanicus. He is only one year younger than the deceased and he is also intelligent, as it appears clearly in the way he faces the revolt in Pannonia.
Meanwhile, Séjan, appointed prefect of the prétoire at the sides of his father in 16, quickly succeeds in gaining the confidence of Tiberius. At the sides of Drusus, favorite for the succession, is added the character of Séjan who acquires a great influence on the work of Tiberius: the prefect of the praetorium, who shows a reserve in all points similar to that of the emperor, is in fact animated by a strong desire of power, and he aspires to become the successor of Tiberius. Séjan also sees his power growing enormously when the nine praetorian cohorts are gathered in the city of Rome, near the Viminale gate.
Between Séjan and Drusus a situation of rivalry is established, and the prefect starts to think of the possibility of assassinating Drusus and the other possible successors of Tiberius. He seduces the wife of Drusus, Livilla, and has a relation with her. Shortly afterwards, in 23, Drusus died of poisoning, and the public suspects, without any foundation, that Tiberius might have ordered Drusus' murder, but it seems more likely that Livilla alone was involved.
Eight years later, Tiberius learns that his son has been murdered by his daughter-in-law Livilla and her advisor in whom he placed all his trust, Séjan.
Tiberius is once again, at the age of 64 years, without heir, because the twins of Drusus, born in 19, are too young, and that one of them died shortly after his father. He chooses to propose as successor the young sons of Germanicus who were adopted by Drusus and that he places under the protection of the senators. Séjan has, then, more and more power, so that he hopes to become emperor after the death of Tiberius. He began a series of persecutions against the children and the wife of Germanicus, Agrippina, then against the friends of Germanicus and many of them were forced into exile or chose suicide, to avoid condemnation.
Tiberius, saddened by the death of his son and exceeded by the hostility of the population of Rome, decides to withdraw first in Campania in 26, then in Capri the following year, on the advice of Séjan, never to return in Rome. He was already sixty-seven years old and it is probable that the desire to move away from Rome already tempted him for some time.
It seems that after having seen his son die, he spoke about his resignation. He can no longer bear to see people around him who remind him of Drusus, without forgetting the proximity of Livia, who has become unbearable for him. A disfiguring disease increases his susceptibility but his withdrawal is a very serious mistake, although he continues to manage the problems of the Empire from Capri.
The prefect of the praetorium, meanwhile, taking advantage of the full confidence of the emperor, took control of all political activities, becoming the undisputed representative of the imperial power. He also succeeded in convincing the princeps to concentrate all the nine praetorian cohorts, previously divided between Rome and the other Italian cities, in Rome (in the barracks of the Praetorian Guard) at his disposal, while Tiberius left Rome.
Tiberius, however, keeps himself informed of the political life of Rome, and he regularly receives notes which inform him of the discussions carried out in the Senate. He can, thanks to the creation of a true postal service, express his point of view, and he is also able to give orders to his emissaries in Rome. The distance of Tiberius from Rome leads to a progressive reduction of the role of the Senate to the profit of the emperor and Séjan.
The prefect of the praetorium begins to persecute his opponents, accusing them of lèse-majesté in order to eliminate them from the political scene. This situation leads to the creation of a climate of generalized suspicion which, in its turn, provokes new rumours on the participation of the emperor in the numerous political lawsuits brought by Séjan and his collaborators. In 29, when Livia which, with its authoritative character, always influenced the government, dies at the age of 86 years, its son refuses to return to Rome for the funerals and prohibits its divinization. Séjan can proceed, without being disturbed, with a series of actions against Agrippina and her elder son Nero Iulius Cæsar who is accused in particular of attempts of subversion, what is worth to him to be condemned to the confinement on the island of Ponza where he dies of hunger in 30. Agrippina, accused of adultery, was expelled to the island of Pandataria where she died in 33.
The project of Séjan has precisely for objective to ensure the succession of the emperor. After having eliminated the direct descendants of Tiberius, the prefect is now the only candidate to the succession, and he tries in vain to become relative of the emperor by his marriage with the widow of Drusus, Livilla. He begins to aim at the attribution of the tribunitian power which would have officially allowed his following nomination as emperor, making him thus sacred and inviolable, and he obtains, in 31, the consulate with Tiberius. At the same time, the widow of Nero Claudius Drusus, Antonia Minor, made herself the spokeswoman of the feelings of a great part of the senatorial class and denounced in a letter to Tiberius all the intrigues and the acts of blood of which Séjan, who was ordering a conspiracy against the emperor, was responsible.
Tiberius, alerted, decides to depose the powerful prefect and he organizes a clever maneuver with the help of the prefect of Rome Macron.
In order not to arouse suspicions, the emperor named Séjan pontiff, promising to give him as soon as possible the tribunitian power. At the same time, Tiberius leaves the load of consul what obliges Séjan to give up there also. On October 17 31 finally, Tiberius, names secretly prefect of the prétoire and chief of the urban cohorts the prefect of Rome, Macron. He sends him to Rome with the order to agree with Lacon, prefect of the vigils, and with the new consul designated Publius Memmius Regulus, in order to convene the next day the Senate in the temple of Apollo, on the Palatine mount. Thus, Tiberius obtains the support of the urban cohorts and the vigils against a possible reaction of the praetorians in favour of Séjan.
When Séjan arrives at the Senate, he is informed by Macron of the arrival of a letter of Tiberius announcing the attribution of the tribunitian power. Thus, while Séjan, jubilant, takes place among the senators, Macron, remained outside the temple, moves away the praetorians of guard, replacing them by the vigils of Lacon. Then, entrusting the letter of Tiberius to the consul so that he reads it in front of the Senate, he joined the barracks of the Praetorian Guard to announce his nomination as prefect of the praetorium.
In this letter, deliberately very long and very vague, Tiberius evokes various subjects, sometimes praising Séjan, sometimes criticizing him, and at the end only, the emperor accuses the prefect of treason, ordering his removal and his arrest. Séjan, dismayed by the unexpected turn of events, is immediately taken away, chained by the guards and shortly after summarily judged by the Senate which met in the temple of Concord: he is condemned to death and damnatio memoriæ.
The sentence was carried out the same night in the prison of Tullianum by strangulation, and the body of the prefect was left to the population which dragged it in the streets of the city. Following the measures taken by Séjan against Agrippine and the family of Germanicus, the people developed a strong aversion towards the prefect. The Senate declared October 18 a public holiday and ordered the erection of a statue to Liberty.
A few days later, the three young sons of the prefect were brutally strangled in the prison of Tullianum. His ex-wife, Apicata, committed suicide after having sent a letter to Tiberius revealing the faults of Séjan and Livilla on the occasion of the death of Drusus. Livilla is judged, and to avoid a certain condemnation, she lets herself die of hunger. After the death of Séjan and his family, a series of trials against the friends and collaborators of the deceased prefect causes their condemnation to death or forces them to commit suicide.
Tiberius spent the last part of his reign on the island of Capri, surrounded by men of knowledge, lawyers, writers and even astrologers. He had twelve houses built and then lived in the one he preferred, the Villa Jovis. Tacitus and Suetonius tell us that in Capri, Tiberius gave free rein to his vices, abandoning himself to his unbridled desires, but it seems more likely that Tiberius maintained his customary reserve, avoiding excesses as he always did, without neglecting his duties towards the state and continuing to work in its interest.
After the fall of Sejan, the question of succession resurfaced, and in 33, Drusus Iulius Cæsar, the greatest of the children of Germanicus remaining alive, died of hunger after having been condemned to confinement in 30 following an accusation of having conspired against Tiberius.
When Tiberius, in 35, deposited his will, he could only choose among three possible successors, and included only his grandson Tiberius Gemellus, son of Julius Caesar Drusus, and his grandnephew Caligula, son of Germanicus. Remain thus excluded from the will, the brother of Germanicus, Claude, who is regarded as unsuitable for the role of princeps because of his physical weakness and doubts on his mental health. The favorite to the succession seems to be immediately the young Caius, more known under the name of Caligula, because Tiberius Gemellus, also suspected to be the son of Séjan (because of his adulterous relations with the wife of Drusus, Livilla), has ten years less: two sufficient reasons not to leave him the principate. The prefect of the praetorium Macron shows sympathy towards Caius, gaining by all means his confidence.
If Antonio Spinosa adheres to the thesis of suffocation, modern historians, G. P. Baker, Gregorio Maranon, Ernst Kornemann (de), Paul Petit reject the theory of assassination. G. P. Baker emitted a hypothesis which would explain the rumour of smothering: Macron or another person, finding Tiberius on the ground at the foot of his bed, would have drawn on him a cover, in a gesture of protection or decency.
The Roman people reacted with great joy to the news of Tiberius' death, celebrating his passing. Many monuments celebrating the emperor's undertakings were destroyed, as well as many statues representing him. Some tried to have the body cremated in Misene, but his remains were transported to Rome, where he was cremated on the Field of Mars and buried, amidst insults, in the mausoleum of Augustus on April 4, guarded by the Praetorians.
While the deceased emperor received a modest funeral, on March 29, Caligula was acclaimed princeps by the Senate.
Tiberius does not distinguish himself for his tendencies to the renovation. During his reign, he showed a strict respect of the Augustan tradition, trying to apply all the instructions of Augustus. His goal was to preserve the Empire, to ensure internal and external peace while consolidating the new order and avoiding that it takes the characteristics of a dominion. To implement his plan, he used collaborators and numerous personal advisors who were officials who had followed him during the long and numerous military campaigns that lasted almost forty years. It should be added that the administration of the State during the first years of its reign is recognized, by all, as excellent by its good sense and its moderation. Tacitus appreciates the capacities of the new princeps at least until the death of his son Drusus which takes place in 23.
The same thing applies for the relations between Tiberius and the senatorial nobilitas which are however different from those which had been established with Augustus. The new emperor seems different from his father-in-law by his merits and his ascendancy, this one having put an end to the civil wars, brought peace to the Empire and consequently obtained a great authority. Tiberius had to base the relationship between the princeps and the senatorial nobility on a moderatio which increased the power of both, superimposing the traditional hierarchical order. It establishes a clear distinction between the honors intended for the alive emperors and the worship of those died and deified. In spite of these measures which contribute to maintain alive the "republican fiction", there is not lack of members of the senatorial class to firmly oppose his work. But Tiberius during the first years, following the model of Augustus, sincerely seeks cooperation with the Senate, often attending its meetings, respecting the freedom of discussion, also consulting it on issues that he is able to solve by himself and increasing the administrative functions of the Senate. He argued that "the princeps must serve the Senate" (bonum et salutarme principem senatui servire debere).
The magistracies retained their dignity and the Senate, which Tiberius often consulted before making decisions in all fields, was favoured by most of the measures: Even if it was customary for the emperor to signal certain candidates for the magistracy, the elections continued to take place, at least formally, by the assembly of the comices centuriates. Tiberius decides to put an end to the custom, and the senators have the privilege of the election of the judges. In the same way, Tiberius decides to allocate to the senators the task of judging the senators themselves, or the knights of high rank who were guilty of serious crimes like murder or treason; the senators are also charged to judge without the intervention of the emperor the work of the governors of province; finally, is entrusted to the Senate the jurisdiction in the religious and social field in all Italy.
During the period of his stay in Capri, Tiberius, in order to prevent that the Senate takes measures which are not convenient for him, in particular with regard to the many trials of lese-majesty led by Séjan, decides that any decision adopted by the Senate must be applied only ten days later, so that he can control, in spite of the distance, the work of the senators.
Tiberius reformed, at least in part, the Augustan organization against celibacy, emphasizing the lex Papia Poppaea: without abolishing the provisions of his father-in-law, he appointed a commission to reform the organization and to make the penalties less severe, starting with bachelors or those who, although married, had no children. Measures were adopted to curb luxury and to guarantee the morality of customs.
Among the most important measures was the adoption of the lex de Maiestate, which provided for the prosecution and punishment of all those who offended the majesty of the Roman people. On the basis of such a vague law, are considered guilty those who are responsible for a military defeat, a sedition or who have mismanaged the administration. The law, which came into force after being repealed, became a tool in the hands of the emperor, the Senate, and in particular the prefect Sejan, to criminalize political opponents. Tiberius, however, repeatedly opposed these political judgments, urging judges to act honestly.
Financial and Provincial Administration
Tiberius was excellent in financial management, leaving a considerable surplus in the state coffers at his death. To cite only a few examples, the property of king Archelaus of Cappadocia became imperial property as well as several Gallic mines of his wife Julia, a silver mine of the Ruthenians, a gold mine of a certain Sestus Marius confiscated in Hispania in 33, and others. He entrusted the administration of state property to particularly competent officials, whose office only ended with age.
He also knew how to choose competent administrators, and he took particular care of the government of the provinces. The governors who obtained good results and who distinguished themselves for their honesty and competence received, as a reward, the extension of their mandate. Tacitus sees in this practice the will of the indecisive Tiberius to transfer to the governors the concern for the management of the provinces and to avoid that people could take advantage of the benefits of their office of high magistrate. The collection of taxes in the provinces was entrusted to the knights, who organized themselves into auction companies. Tiberius avoided the imposition of new taxes on the provinces and thus avoided the risk of revolts. He also built roads in Africa, in Hispania (especially in the North-West), in Dalmatia and in Mesia up to the gates of Iron, along the Danube, and others were repaired as in Narbonne Gaul.
Foreign policy and military policy
Tiberius remained faithful to Augustus' consilium coercendi intra terminos imperii ("advice not to move back the boundaries of the Empire"), that is, the decision to keep the borders of the Empire unchanged. He tried to protect the internal territories and to ensure their tranquility, and he worked only for changes necessary for security. He succeeded in avoiding unnecessary wars or military expeditions with the repercussions on public expenses that one can imagine and by placing greater trust in diplomacy. He removed kings and governors who had proved unfit for office and sought to ensure greater efficiency in the administrative system. The only territorial modifications concern the East when with the death of the kings customers, Cappadocia, Cilicia and Commagene are incorporated into the borders of the Empire. All the revolts which follow, during its long principate which lasts 23 years, are choked in blood by its generals, like that of Tacfarinas and Musulames of 17 to 24, in Gaul by Julius Florus and Julius Sacrovir in 21 or still in Thrace with the king client of Odryses around 21.
During the reign of Tiberius, the military forces were deployed with the following arrangement: the protection of Italy was entrusted to two fleets, that of Ravenna and Cape Misene, and Rome was defended by nine Praetorian cohorts that Sejan had gathered in a camp on the outskirts of the city and three urban cohorts. The north-west of Italy was guarded by a fleet off the coast of Gaul composed of ships that Augustus had captured at Actium. The rest of the forces were stationed in the provinces with the aim of guaranteeing the borders and suppressing possible internal revolts: eight legions were deployed in the Rhine region to protect against Germanic invasions and Gallic revolts, three legions were in Hispania, and two in the provinces of Egypt and Africa where Rome could also count on the help of the kingdom of Mauretania. In the East, four legions are distributed between Syria and the Euphrates. In Eastern Europe, finally, two legions were stationed in Pannonia, two in Mésie to protect the borders of the Danube, and two in Dalmatia. Small fleets of triremes, cavalry battalions and auxiliary troops recruited among the inhabitants of the provinces, were distributed throughout the territory so that they could intervene wherever the need was felt.
As far as foreign policy along the northern borders was concerned, Tiberius followed an approach of maintaining and consolidating a wall against the Germans along the Rhine by putting an end, a few years after his accession to the throne, to the unproductive and dangerous military operations that Germanicus had undertaken in the years 14-16. Tacitus, who admired Germanicus and had little sympathy for Tiberius, blamed the princeps' decision on his jealousy of his nephew's success. Tiberius recognizes to him the merit to have restored the prestige of the Roman Empire near the Germans, it considers on the contrary and rightly, that a new attempt to establish the border on Elbe would lead to a move away from the policy of Augustus which Tiberius regards as a præceptum as well as with a significant increase in the military expenditure and the obligation to engage a campaign in Bohemia against Marobod, king of the Marcomans. Tiberius does not consider it necessary nor useful. The internal dissensions within the Germanic tribes give place to a war between Chattes and Chérusques then with another between Arminius and Marobod until this last is exiled in 19, whereas the first is assassinated (in 21). Scullard estimates, indeed, that this decision is motivated and moreover judicious.
In 14, while the revolt of the legions in Pannonia was in progress, the men stationed at the Germanic border rebelled, causing acts of violence and massacres. Germanicus, who was then at the head of the army in Germania and who benefited from much prestige, took charge of calming the situation, personally confronting the seditious soldiers. Those ask, as their comrades of Pannonia, the reduction of the duration of the military service and the increase of the pay. Germanicus decides to grant them the leave after twenty years of service and to include all the soldiers of reserve who fought during sixteen years, exempting them from all obligations except to push back the enemy attacks. It doubles, at the same time, the inheritance to which they are entitled, according to the will of Augustus. The legions, which had recently learned of the death of Augustus, assured the general of their support if he wished to take power by force, but he refused, showing respect for his adoptive father Tiberius, and great firmness. The revolt, which affects a great number of the legions stationed in Germania, is difficult to repress and ends with the massacre of many rebellious legionnaires. The measures taken by Germanicus to satisfy the requirements of the legions are officialized later by Tiberius which allots the same allowances to the legionnaires of Pannonia.
Germanicus, after having regained control of the situation, decides to organize an expedition against the Germanic peoples who have learned the news of the death of Augustus and the rebellion of the legions. They could decide to launch a new attack against the Empire. Germanicus entrusts a part of the legions to the lieutenant Aulus Cæcina Severus then he attacks the tribes of Bructères, Tubantes and Usipètes that he beats clearly, accompanying his victories of numerous massacres. He attacks the Marses obtaining nine victories and pacifying the region west of the Rhine. In this way, he is able to prepare for 15 an expedition to the east of the great river by which he would have avenged Varus and slowed down any expansionist will of the Germans.
In 15, Germanicus crosses the Rhine with the lieutenant Aulus Cæcina Severus who defeats again the Marses while the general obtains a broad victory on the Cats. The prince of Chérusques, Arminius, who had beaten Varus with Teutobourg, incites all the Germanic people to the revolt by asking them to fight the Roman invaders. It is even formed a small pro-Roman party led by the father-in-law of Arminius, Ségeste, which offers its assistance to Germanicus. This one goes towards Teutobourg where he finds one of the legionary eagles lost during the battle, six years earlier. He gives the funeral honors to the dead whose remains remained without burial.
Germanicus decides to pursue Arminius in order to confront him during a battle, the Germanic prince attacks the cavalry squadrons that Germanicus sends in advance, sure to be able to surprise the enemy. The whole army of the legionnaires is then obliged to intervene to avoid a new disastrous defeat. Germanicus decides to return west of the Rhine with his men. Whereas he is on the way of the return near the pontes longi, Aulus Cæcina Severus is attacked and beaten by Arminius what forces him to withdraw in his camp. The Germans, convinced to be able to overcome the legions, attack the camp but they are severely beaten in their turn and Aulus Cæcina Severus can lead his legions safe and sound west of the Rhine.
Although having gained an important victory, Germanicus is conscious that the Germans are still able to reorganize themselves and he decides, in 16, to engage a new campaign whose objective is to definitively annihilate the population between the Rhine and the Elbe. To join without problem the enemy territories, it makes prepare a fleet which must lead the legions until the mouth of river Amisia. In a short time, it gathers more than one thousand boats, light and fast, able to transport many men, but also equipped with machines of war for the defense. The Romans hardly landed in Germania that the tribes of the place, gathered under the command of Arminius, prepare to face the invaders and meet to fight near the river Weser (battle of Idistaviso). The men of Germanicus, much better prepared than their enemies, confronted the Germans and won a crushing victory. Arminius and his men retreated near the Angrivarian valley and suffered another defeat against the Roman legionaries. The people living between the Rhine and the Elbe are thus eliminated. Germanicus leads his troops back to Gaul, but on the way back, the Roman fleet is dispersed by a storm and suffers many losses. The incident gives hope to the Germans to reverse the fate of the war, but the lieutenants of Germanicus take the top on their enemies.
Although Rome was not able to extend its area of influence, the limit set by the Rhine protected it from a possible Germanic revolt and a major event put an end to the rebellions: in 19, after having defeated the pro-Roman king of the Marcomans, Marobod, Arminius died, betrayed and killed by his companions who aspired to power.
In the East, the political situation, after a period of relative calm following the agreements between Augustus and the Parthian sovereigns, is transformed into confrontation because of internal disorders, Phraates IV and his children die in Rome whereas Augustus still reigns. The Parthians thus ask that Vononès, son of Phraatès, sent previously like hostage, can return in the East in order to go up on the throne as the last member still alive of the arsacid dynasty. The new king, foreign with the local traditions, shows himself unpleasant with the Parthians and it is overcome and driven out by Artaban III, and takes refuge in Arménie. There, the kings imposed by Rome on the throne having died, Vononès is thus chosen as new sovereign but Artaban makes pressure on Rome so that Tiberius destitutes the new Armenian king. The emperor, to avoid having to undertake a new war against the Parthians, makes arrest Vonès by the Roman governor of Syria.
The death of the king of Cappadocia, Archelaos, who came to Rome to pay homage to Tiberius, that of Antiochos III, king of Commagene, and Philopator, king of Cilicia, come to disturb the situation in the East. The three States, which are vassals of Rome, are in a strong context of political instability that the disagreements between the parties pro-Roman and the defenders of the autonomy increase.
The difficulty of the situation in the East makes a Roman intervention necessary. Tiberius, in 18, sent his adopted son, Germanicus, who was named consul and who was granted the imperium proconsolaris maius on all the Eastern provinces. At the same time, the emperor appointed a new governor of the province of Syria, Gnæus Calpurnius Piso, who had been consul with Tiberius in 7 BC. The kingdom of Armenia remained without a sovereign after the destitution of Vononès, also, after his arrival in the East, Germanicus confers the office of king, with the consent of the Parthians, to Zénon son of the sovereign of Pontus Polémon I. It is crowned in Artachat. Germanicus imposes that Commagene falls under the competence of a praetor, while preserving its formal autonomy, that Cappadocia is transformed into province and that Cilicia is included in the province of Syria.
He receives an ambassador of the Parthian king Artaban who is ready to confirm and to renew the friendship and the alliance of the two empires. As a sign of homage to the Roman power, Artaban decides to visit Germanicus on the banks of Euphrates, and asks, in exchange, that Vononès is driven out of Syria where he is located since his arrest, being suspected of fomenting discord. Germanicus agrees to renew the bonds of friendship with the Parthians, and consents to the expulsion of Vonès which bound friendship with the governor Piso. The ex-king of Armenia is thus confined in the town of Pompeiopoli in Cilicia where he dies shortly after, killed by Roman horsemen whereas it tries to escape, after having avoided, by adapted measures, a famine which develops since Egypt with catastrophic consequences.
The reorganization set up by Germanicus in the East guarantees peace until 34: this year, king Artaban of Parthia, is convinced that Tiberius, from now on old, will not oppose, since Capri, the installation of his son Arsace on the throne of Armenia after the death of Artaxias. Tiberius decides to send Tiridate, descendant of the arsacid dynasty held in hostage in Rome, to dispute the Parthian throne of Artaban and he supports the installation of Mithridate, brother of the king of Iberia, on the throne of Armenia. Mithridate, with the help of his brother Pharsman, succeeds in seizing the throne of Armenia: the servants of Arsace, corrupted, kill their master, the Iberians invade the kingdom and beat, allying themselves with the local populations, the army of the Parthians directed by Orode, son of Artaban.
Artaban, fearing a massive intervention of the Romans, refuses to send more troops against Mithridate and gives up his claims on the kingdom of Armenia. At the same time, the hatred that Rome foments among the Parthians towards king Artaban forces him to leave the throne and to withdraw while the throne passes to the Arsacid Tiridate. After a reign of one year of Tiridate, Artaban gathers a great army and marches against Arsacid who takes refuge in Rome, where he is forced to withdraw, and Tiberius must accept that Parthia is governed by a king hostile to the Romans.
In 17, the Numidian Tacfarinas, who had served in the auxiliary troops of the Roman army, gathered a large troop around him, and later became the leader of the Berber population living in the desert areas near the Western Sahara. He organized an army to raid and try to destroy the Roman domination and attracted to his side the Mauritanians led by Mazippa. The proconsul of Africa Marcus Furius Camillus, hastens to march against Tacfarinas and his allies, for fear that the rebels refuse to engage in battle, and he defeats them clearly, obtaining the insignia of triumph.
The following year, Tacfarinas resumed hostilities, launching a series of attacks and raids against villages and accumulating a large amount of booty. He surrounded a cohort of Roman army which he managed to defeat. The new proconsul, Lucius Apronius who succeeded Camillus, sent the veteran corps against Tacfarinas who was defeated. The Numidian then undertook a guerrilla tactic against the Romans, but after some successes, he was again beaten and pushed back into the desert.
After a few years of peace, in 22, Tacfarinas sends ambassadors to Rome to ask Tiberius for the possibility to reside permanently on the Roman territories for him and his men. The Numidian threatened to start a new war if Tiberius did not accede to his request. The emperor considers Tacfarinas' threat as an insult to the power of Rome, and orders to lead a new offensive against the Numidian rebels. The commander of the Roman army, the new proconsul Quintus Junius Blæsus, decided to adopt a strategy similar to that adopted by Tacfarinas in 18: he divided his army into three columns, with which he could repeatedly attack the enemy and force him to withdraw. The success seems to be definitive, so that Tiberius agrees to proclaim Blæsus imperator.
The war against Tacfarinas only ends in 24. Despite all the defeats he suffered, the Numidian rebel continued to resist and decided to lead an offensive against the Romans. He besieged a small town, but was immediately attacked by the Roman army and forced to retreat. Many rebel leaders were captured and killed. The cavalry battalions and the light cohorts, reinforced also by the men sent by king Ptolemy of Mauritania, launched out in pursuit of the fugitives. These allies of the Romans decide to enter in war against Tacfarinas because this last one attacked their kingdom. Joined, the Numidian rebels engage a new battle but they are hard defeated. Tacfarinas, certain of the final defeat, threw himself on the enemy ranks and died under the blows, which put an end to the revolt.
In 21, some inhabitants of Gaul, dissatisfied with the fiscal policy (in particular the taxation of tribute), entered into rebellion under the leadership of Julius Florus and Julius Sacrovir. The two organizers of the revolt, a member of the tribe of Trevires and the other of that of Aedui, have the Roman citizenship (received by their ancestors for services rendered to the State) and know the Roman political and military systems. In order to put all the assets on their sides, they try to extend the revolt to all the Gallic tribes, undertaking many voyages and winning to their cause the Belgian Gaul.
Tiberius tries to avoid a direct intervention of Rome, but, when the Gauls enrolled in the auxiliary troops make defection, the Roman legions march against Florus and beat him near the Ardennes. The chief of the Trevirians, seeing that his army has no other possibility than to flee, commits suicide. Without a leader, the Trevirians abandon the rebellion.
Julius Sacrovir then took the general command of the rebellion and gathered around him all the tribes still ready to fight against Rome. Near Autun, he was attacked by the Roman army and beaten. In order not to fall into the hands of his enemies, he decides to commit suicide as well as his most faithful collaborators.
After the death of those capable of organizing the revolt, it ends without the slightest tax reduction.
In 14, the legions hardly took their quarters in the area of Illyria that they learn the death of Augustus. A revolt breaks out fomented by the legionaries Percennius and Vibulenus. They hope to start a new civil war from which they will draw important incomes and, at the same time, they want to improve the conditions in which the soldiers live, asking for a reduction of the years of military service, and that their daily salary is raised to a denarius. Tiberius, recently arrived at the power, refuses to intervene personally and sends to the legions his son Drusus with some Roman citizens and two cohorts prétoriennes with Séjan, son of the prefect of the prétoire Lucius Seius Strabo. Drusus put an end to the revolt by eliminating the leaders Percennius and Vibulenus and by a repression against the rebels. The legionnaires benefited from concessions only after those granted by Germanicus to the legions of Germania.
On the sector of Illyria, Tiberius obtains, in 15, that the senatorial provinces of Achaia and Macedonia are joined to the imperial province of Mésie, extending the mandate of the governor Caius Poppeus Sabinus (who remains in function 21 years, from 15 to 36.
Even in Thrace, the situation of quietude of the time of Augustus ends after the death of king Rhémétalcès, ally of Rome. The kingdom is divided into two parts, which are shared between the son and the brother of the deceased king, Cotys VIII and Rhescuporis III. Cotys receives the area close to the coast and the Greek colonies. Rhescuporis, that wild and uncultivated of the interior, exposed to hostile attacks of the neighboring people. Rhescuporis decides to monopolize the lands of his nephew and carries out against him a series of violent actions. In 19, Tiberius, in an attempt to prevent a new war which would probably have required the intervention of the Roman troops, sends emissaries to the two Thracian kings in order to support the opening of peace negotiations. Rhescuporis does not give up his ambition, he makes imprison Cotys and takes possession of his kingdom then asks that Rome recognizes its sovereignty on all Thrace. Tiberius invites Rhescuporis to join Rome to justify the arrest of Cotys. The Thracian king refused and killed his nephew. Tiberius sends then at Rhescuporis the governor of Mésie Lucius Pomponius Flaccus who, old friend of the Thracian king, convinces him to go to Rome. Rhescuporis is judged and condemned to a sentence of confinement for the murder of Cotys, and he dies a little later while he is in Alexandria. The kingdom of Thrace is divided between Rhémétalcès II, son of Rhescuporis which openly opposed the plans of his father, and the very young children of Cotys, Cotys IX then Rhémétalcès III, in the name of which the proprator Titus Trebellenus Rufus is named regent.
The ancient historiographical tradition, represented mainly by Suetonius and Tacitus, often forgets the military undertakings that Tiberius carried out under Augustus and the political measures taken during the first period of his principate to take into account, in particular, only the criticisms and the calumnies that the enemies poured on Tiberius, which gave a rather negative description. Tiberius, on the other hand, did nothing to repel the criticism and suspicion, probably unfounded, because of his withdrawn, melancholic and suspicious personality. He succeeded in preventing, by his firm management, ordered and respectful of the rules established by Augustus, that the work of this last one has a temporary character and is lost. He managed, in fact, during his reign to ensure the continuity of the system of principate, and to avoid that the situation degenerates into civil war, by modifying the way of governing Rome and its provinces, as it had happened during the civil wars between Caius Marius and Sylla, Julius Caesar and Pompey or Mark Antony and Octavian.
In ancient historiography
Tiberius is described by Tacitus (in the Annals) as a tyrant who encouraged denunciation as a system, and rewarded informers even if they were employed to preach falsehood with favors of all kinds. The last years of Tiberius' government are described by Tacitus as dark years, when one could be judged for merely speaking ill of the emperor, if one could testify to it. Even at the political level, Tacitus strongly criticizes the softness that characterized the foreign policy of Tiberius' last years: the emperor, in fact, accepted, in his opinion, the affront made by the Parthians, and refused to extend Rome's authority over the great eastern empire. Here is the judgment which Tacitus relates after the account on the death of Tiberius:
"Honorable in his life and reputation, as long as he was a private man or commanded under Augustus; hypocritical and skilful in counterfeiting virtue, as long as Germanicus and Drusus came into being; mixed up in good and evil until the death of his mother; monster of cruelty, but hiding his debaucheries, as long as he loved or feared Séjan, he precipitated himself at the same time in the crime and the infamy, when, free of shame and fear, he did not follow any more but the inclination of his nature. "
- Tacitus, Annals, VI, 51 (trans. Jean-Louis Burnouf, 1859)
Tacitus' judgment of Tiberius is considered unreliable: the historian feels the need to explain every action of the emperor by the desire to hide his intentions, and gives credit for Tiberius' skillful actions to his collaborators. Tacitus' state of mind is that of a writer who denounces the principate system and regrets the old republican system. Tacitus paints a portrait of Tiberius' physique, denouncing the emperor's debauchery, which he abandoned to unbridled desire. The historian briefly describes his appearance:
"His tall stature was gaunt and bent, his forehead bald, his face strewn with malignant tumors, and often all covered with plasters."
- Tacitus, Annals, IV, 57 (trans. Jean-Louis Burnouf, 1859)
Even Suetonius provides, in the third book of his "Life of the Twelve Caesars", a portrait of Tiberius that is negative. Tiberius' youthful endeavors are summarized in a few chapters, while the account of the period from his accession to the throne to his death occupies a large space. Suetonius, as usual, analyzes in detail the behavior of the emperor and evokes first of all his virtue:
"Freed from fear, he behaved at first with great moderation, and almost like a private individual. Of the many glittering honors that were offered to him, he accepted only the least, and in small numbers. He had such an aversion for flattery, that he never allowed any senator to accompany his litter. When he was spoken about in a too flattering way, in a conversation or in a sustained speech, he did not hesitate to interrupt, to take back and to change at once the expression. Somebody called him a master: he told him not to do this affront to him anymore. He was insensitive to insulting remarks, bad rumors and defamatory verses spread against him and his people, and he often said that in a free state, the language and the spirit should be free. He was all the more remarkable that, by his deference and respect towards each and everyone, he himself had almost exceeded the limits of politeness.
- Suetonius, Life of the Twelve Caesars, Tiberius, 26-29 (translated by Désiré Nisard, 1855)
The defects that the biographer attributes to Tiberius seem much more numerous:
"In solitude and far from the eyes of the city, he gave free rein to all the vices that he had hitherto poorly concealed. I will make them all known from their origin. At his military beginnings, his great passion for wine made him call Biberius instead of Tiberius, Caldius, instead of Claudius, Mero instead of Nero. In his retreat of Caprée, he had imagined rooms furnished with benches for secret obscenities. It is there that groups of girls and young libertines, gathered on all sides, and the inventors of monstrous voluptuousnesses which he called "spintries", formed between them a triple chain, and thus prostituted themselves in his presence to revive by this spectacle his extinct desires. It is supposed that he accustomed boys from the most tender age. Stingy and miserly, he never gave wages to those who accompanied him on his journeys or expeditions; he limited himself to distributing food to them. His insensitive and cruel nature was apparent from his childhood. Soon he gave himself up to all kinds of cruelty. He had no lack of subjects. He persecuted first the friends of his mother, then those of his grandsons and his daughter-in-law, finally those of Séjan, and even their simple acquaintances. It was especially after the death of Séjan, that he put the height of his fury.
"I'll be brief: listen. Bloody inhuman, You can only inspire horror in your mother."
"Of your reign, Caesar, Saturn is not proud: By you his golden century will always be iron."
"What! without paying the cens (really! it is very convenient), You think you are a knight, poor exile of Rhodes?"
- Suetonius, Life of the Twelve Caesars, Tiberius, 59 (trans. Nisard, 1855)
On the numerous facts of blood for which one suspects the participation of Tiberius:
"See the cruel Sylla intoxicated with murder, See Marius triumphing over his enemies, See Antony stirring up internecine wars, And with his bloody hand heaping ruins, Whoever from exile passes to the supreme rank, Found his power only in streams of blood."
- Suetonius, Life of the Twelve Caesars, Tiberius, 59 (translated by Désiré Nisard, 1855)
Suetonius also provides a portrait of Tiberius' physique, which is similar to Tacitus', but more extensive and detailed:
"Tiberius was large, robust and of a size above the ordinary. He had broad shoulders and a broad chest, and all his limbs were well proportioned from head to toe. His left hand was more agile and stronger than the right. His joints were so strong that he could pierce a freshly picked apple with his finger, and with a flick of his wrist he could wound a child or even an adult on the head. His complexion was white, his hair a little long behind his head and falling on his neck, which was a family custom. His face was beautiful, but often dotted with pimples. His eyes were very large, and, surprisingly, he could see in the night and in the darkness, but only when they opened after sleep and for a short time; then his sight became dim. He walked with a stiff and bent neck, a stern face, usually silent. Tiberius enjoyed unaltered health for most of his reign, although from the age of thirty he governed it at his own discretion, without recourse to the remedies or advice of any physician."
- Suetonius, Life of the Twelve Caesars, Tiberius, 68 (translated by Désiré Nisard, 1855)
While Dion Cassius provides a negative description of Tiberius, other authors, among them Velleius Paterculus, Flavius Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Valerius Maximus, Seneca, Strabo and Tertullian, give a positive image of him and they do not allude to the villainy that the emperor would have shown during his presence in Capri.
In the Gospel and in religious tradition
In the New Testament, Tiberius is mentioned only once in a chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, which states that John the Baptist began his public preaching in the fifteenth year of Tiberius' reign. The gospels refer to Cæsar or the emperor, with no further clarification to indicate the reigning Roman emperor. The relationship between Tiberius and the Christian religion has been the subject of historiographical investigation: some hypotheses, supported by Tertullian, mention an alleged message from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius concerning the crucifixion of Jesus. The emperor is said to have discussed the matter in the Senate and to have proposed the promulgation of a law forbidding the persecution of the disciples of Jesus. Nothing is known about the emperor's attitude towards Christians, no official action was taken, but it is certain that the followers of Jesus were never persecuted under Tiberius' reign.
Tiberius, who was tolerant towards all cults except the Chaldean and Jewish ones, never trusted in religion while he devoted himself to astrology and future forecasts:
"He was all the less concerned with the gods and religion, as he had applied himself to astrology and believed in fatalism."
- Suetonius, Life of the Twelve Caesars, Tiberius, 69 (translated by Désiré Nisard - 1855)
In modern and contemporary historiography
Modern historiography has rehabilitated the character of Tiberius, denigrated by the main historians of his time, lacking that communication proper to his predecessor Augustus, although being of a threatening nature, dark and suspicious. His discretion associated with his shyness is not with his advantage. The constant disinterest shown by Augustus towards him gives him the impression to have been adopted only by a fallback. And when he becomes princeps, he is now disenchanted, disillusioned and embittered.
The emperor was recognized for his great abilities. From his youth in the service of Augustus, Tiberius showed great political intelligence in the resolution of numerous conflicts, and he succeeded in obtaining numerous successes on the military level, demonstrating a great mastery in military strategy. In the same way, one recognizes the validity of the choices operated during the first years of its reign, until the moment of its departure for Capri and the death of Séjan. Tiberius knew how to avoid employing the Roman forces in wars with the uncertain outcome beyond its borders while managing to create a system of vassal states which guaranteed the safety of the borders. In economic policy, he was able to implement a wise policy of cost containment that led to the restoration of the state coffers without resorting to new taxes. He proved to be a skilful administrator with unquestionable organizational skills who fully adhered to the policies of his predecessor. His tragedy was that he was drawn, because of his innate sense of duty, into a role for which he was not suited, a role which he had not sought, and which instead required skills different from his own. His tragedy is that he realized this too late.
More controversial is the analysis of Tiberius' behavior during the long retreat to Capri, and there is still no universally shared interpretation: the information left by Tacitus and Suetonius generally appears to be distorted or not corresponding to reality. It remains possible that the emperor gave free rein to his vices during his stay on the island, but it is unlikely that, after distinguishing himself by a moderate behavior, he gave in to the excesses described by historians. It is admitted that the demonization of Tiberius, who becomes a monster both in behavior and physically in Tacitus and Suetonius, is related to the lack of adherence to reality of the two historians: on the one hand, Suetonius, eager to tell all the scabrous details, on the other hand, Tacitus, regretting the republican system.
Among the researchers who, in the course of their work, rehabilitated the character of Tiberius, we find Amedeo Maiuri, Santo Mazzarino (it), Antonio Spinosa, Axel Munthe, Paolo Monelli (it), Giovanni Papini and Maxime Du Camp. Voltaire also commented in a positive way the work of the emperor.
When he died in 37, Tiberius held the following title:
According to Suetonius, Tiberius said from time to time: Oderint, dum probent ("Let them hate me, provided they approve of me."), a phrase borrowed from the tragedy Atreus by Lucius Accius. This is sometimes considered as a motto of the emperor, whose original form in the tragedy would be rather Oderint, dum metuant ("Let them hate me, provided they fear me."). Tiberius toned down the violence somewhat by replacing metuant with probent, unlike Caligula who, according to Suetonius, made the original form his motto.
Notes and references
: document used as a source for the writing of this article.
- Longtemps, certains auteurs ont cru que Tibère était né dans la ville aurunce de Fondi où sa grand-mère possédait une villa. Il naît, comme le témoignent les actes officiels, en réalité à Rome sur le mont Palatin, dans la maison de ses ancêtres.
- Suétone, Vie des douze Césars, Tibère, 5 indique que certains auteurs, contredisant les documents officiels, racontent que Tibère est né en 43 av. J.-C. ou 41 av. J.-C.
- ^ A lungo si è creduto che Tiberio fosse nato nella città aurunca di Fondi, dove la nonna possedeva una villa. Nacque in realtà, come testimoniano i Fasti e gli atti ufficiali, a Roma sul Palatino, nell'antica casa degli avi. Cionondimeno, Tiberio mantenne un forte legame con l'area di Fondi (Svetonio, Tiberio, 5; Spinosa 1991, p. 16; Champlin 2013, p. 204).
- ^ Svetonio riferisce che alcuni autori, contraddicendo i documenti ufficiali, raccontarono che Tiberio fosse nato nel 43 o nel 41 a.C. (Svetonio, Tiberio, 5).
- ^ Tuttavia, la natura dell'incarico ricoperto dal giovane Tiberio non appare chiarissima, se esso fosse quaestor Ostiensis o quaestor consulis, per poi divenire quaestor Caesaris (Levick 1999, p. 20; Seager 2005, pp. 12 e 213; Badian 1974, p. 172)
- ^ Probabilmente in funzione di legatus Augusti pro praetore. Sebbene sia stata avanzata l'ipotesi che il giovane Tiberio abbia agito come proconsole con imperium indipendente, non è possibile confermare nessuna ipotesi a causa del silenzio delle nostre fonti (Levick 1999, p. 26; Vervaet 2020, p. 130; Sawiński 2021, pp. 52 e 73)
- Dietmar Kienast: Augustus. Prinzeps und Monarch. 3., durchgesehene und erweiterte Auflage. Darmstadt 1999, S. 130.
- Waltraud Jakob-Sonnabend: Tiberius auf Rhodos: Rückzug oder Kalkül? In: Charlotte Schubert, Kai Brodersen (Hrsg.): Rom und der griechische Osten. Festschrift für Hatto H. Schmitt zum 65. Geburtstag. Stuttgart 1995, S. 113–116.
- Johann-Sebastian Kühlborn: Das Römerlager bei Anreppen. In: Ders. (Hrsg.): Germaniam pacavi – Germanien habe ich befriedet. Archäologische Stätten augusteischer Okkupation. Münster 1995, S. 130–144.
- Klaus-Peter Johne: Das Stromgebiet der Elbe im Spiegel der griechisch-römischen Literatur. In: Ernst Baltrusch, Morten Hegewisch, Michael Meyer, Uwe Puschner and Christian Wendt (Hrsg.): 2000 Jahre Varusschlacht. Geschichte-Archäologie-Legenden. Berlin u. a. 2012, S. 25–58, hier: S. 41.
- El nomen Iulius aparece en ciertas inscripciones latinas (CIL VI 31207) (CIL II 1660), pero está ausente en todas sus monedas.
- Levick, Barbara (1999). Tiberius the Politician. Routledge. pp. 61-81. ISBN 0-415-21753-9 «Los poderes de Tiberio caducaron a la muerte de Augusto, requirieron una redefinición y fueron entregados el 17 de septiembre.»
- H. H. Scullard (1982) From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68. Methuen. p. 269. ISBN 9781136783876
- Academiæ Litterarum Regiæ Burussicæ (1863). Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum: Consilio et Auctoritate (I). Berolini Apud Georgium Reimerum. p. 324 y 377. ISBN 9783110013917
- a b Suetonio, Vidas de los doce césares, Tiberio, 1.