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The future emperor Tiberius was born Tiberius Claudius Nero on the 16th of November in the year 42 BC.He was the son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla.It is on his mothers side that connections can be made to the great republican families like the Drusilli. He was the eldest of two children by five years and his brother , Drusus the Elder, would grow up to be the father of the future emperor Claudius and his nobel brother Germanicus.
In 39 BC his mother ,Livia, had caught the attention of the powerful Octavian.At this time Livia was pregnant with her youngest son and Octavius made Tiberius Claudius divorce her. Tiberius was only three years old when his mother married the future emperor .This marriage meant that Tiberius would now be a member of the imperial family so even if he did not become emperor he would still rise to important polititical positions.
At the age of nine years,Tiberius made his first ever public appearance when he delivered the eulogy at his fathers funeral in 39 BC .A few years later ,in 29 BC, Tiberius took part in Octavians triumph because of his great sucees at Actium. In the triumph, Tiberius rode along side his step father in his victory chariot .Two years later, he recieved the Toga Virilis or the gown of manhood. When he was seventeen years old, Augstus made him a quaestor and he was able to stand for the consolship five years before the law allowed.
In the year 20 BC, he commanded one of Augstus's greatest sucesses. This sucess was the return of the Roman Legionary Eagles by the Parthains who were a powerful neighbour of Rome.The Eagles had been lost numerous times over the preceeding years by Marcus Licinius Crassus,Decidius Saxa and Mark Antony.
Following his successful recapture of the Eagles from the Parthians,Tiberius served as a soldier with his brother Drusus fighting the barbarian tribes on the Rhine and Danube.Following his time in the army , Tiberius was made govenor of the province of Transalpine Gaul in 19BC for one year before returning to Rome.
Upon his return,he married Vispania Agrippina ,who was the daughter of Marcus Agrippa, in 20 BC. Tiberius loved his new wife dearly and it was plain to see that they were very happy together and she later bore him a son named Drusus.It is often said that this was the happiest period of his life.However, in 12 BC, the close friend of Augustus, Agrippa died. He was the husband of Augustus's daughter Julia, and Augustus forced Tiberius to divorce Vispania to marry Julia out of millitary convience. Tiberiuswas very distraught over losing his wife whom he loved dearly and his marriage to Julia was not a very happy one .Julia bore Tiberius only one son who died soon after birth and there were no other children made between the two.
At this time in his life, Tiberius was not in very good terms with Augustus who never really favored him even though Tiberius had grown up into an able and intelligent man. As a result of Augstus's disfavour with him,Tiberius became bitter and suspicious of the children of Julia ,Gaius and Lucius Caesar, because Augustus had them marked out for the succession. Tiberius felt that he was nothing more than a caretaker to the two boys and that his marriage to Julia was one of political convience for Augustus.
To add to his sorrow ,Tiberius' brother Drusus died in 9 BC while on a campaign due to complications from a broken leg. Upon hearing of his brothers injury , Tiberius rode nonstop to by horse for three days to be with him and arrived in time to have Drusus die in his arms. Tiberius led the funeral procession back to Rome and remained solumn the whole way.
These tensions with the emperor did not keep him from doing his job and he continued to serve Augustus faithfully. In 12 BC and 6 BC he had recieved commissions in Pannonia and Germany. Also, in 7 BC, Tiberius was awarded Tribunal power and was given a command in the East. Some people believe that Augstus intentionally sent Tiberius away because of his disfavour toward the bitter man. A year later, Tiberius was granted his second term as consol after which he went into seclusion on the island of Rhodes.
In 6 BC Tiberius announced that he was withdrawing from public life and went into a voluntary exile on the island of Rhodes. This move was meant as a kind of act of disrespect towards Augustus (and probably to get away from Julia as well). Drusus had died in 9BC and Gaius and Lucius were still too young to assume imperial power. This meant that if Augustus were to die , the principate might be destroyed or someone other than a descendant of Augustus might head it because he had no sucessors except Tiberius who looked like he was retiring from any public life.
His time in Rhodes may have had an adverse effect on the personality of Tiberius. During the time he spent there he became even more withdrawn and antisocial. It is during this exile that Tiberius started to turn in on himself and started developing a hatred and distrust of people.
The irritation that Augustus had for Tiberius was becomming very evident as he refused Tiberius permission to return to Rome. Also, in 1 BC, the powers which Tiberius held ran out and were not renewed by Augstus. This made Tiberius believe that he was out of favour with Augustus and that he had been marked for death. Just the opposite happened and Tiberius was recalled from Rhodes in 2 AD to take a more active role in the government after a total of eight years in exile.
Upon his return to Rome it was clearly evident that Tiberius was the sucessor of Augstus because he recieved grants of pro consular power as well as Tribunal power and in 13 AD his consular power was made co extensive with that of Augustus.With this sharing of the power, Tiberius was co emperor to Augustus and when Augustus died on 14 AD the continuation of the princeps was inevitable.
This type of power transfer had never occoured before in Rome and neither the senators or Tiberius knew what to do. In an attempt to play the reluctant new head of state like Augustus did, Tiberius told the senate that he was too old at age 56 to take the full reigns of power and asked if he could only take some of the imperial offices. This scheme backfired miserably as the senate was confused because they did not know how to read his behaviour. However, Tiberius finally gave in to the senate's request and took all imperial titles except Augustus.
This little incident foreshadowed how Tiberius would later conduct affairs with the senate. He would always scare and confuse the senators throughout his reign because he had hoped that they would act on his desires rather than on his explicit requests.
His opinion of the senate as it struggled to understand his strange ways of ruling was not high. It is said that he referred to the senators as "men fit to be slaves."
Immediately after the news of the death of Augustus and the ascention of Tiberius reached the Rhine and Danube frontiers, the soldiers stationed there broke out in riots. They looked upon the death of Augustus as a perfect opportunity to voice their complaints about the terms and conditions of their service to the new princeps. Men complained that they were poor in war booty, that their pay was too low and were made to serve even after their period of service had ended. These riots soon turned into full blown rebellions in the hope that they would get better conditions from Tiberius.
Tiberius handled this situation with prudence and firmness. He sent his son Drusus to Pannonia on the Danube along with two praetorian cohorts and the corps of Germans who the emperors personal bodyguards. Also,Drusus was accompanied by many high ranking officials namely L.Aelius Sejanus who was one of the Praetorian Prefects. The rebellion in Pannonia was mainly
due to the attitude of the officer in command ,Junius Blaesus. Upon the death of Augustus he had weakened all discipline which gave the troops the idea that something special had occoured. As a result,looting and violence were rampant. Drusus quieted this revolt by using the fear the soldiers had of a lunar eclipse that had just occoured to make their solidarity crumble. He told them it was a sign that the gods were displeased .Tiberius promptly punished those who were involved. The soldiers took the harsh punishment they recieved and the fact that it was raining heavilly at the time as a sign of devine punishment and quickly became obidient.
Tiberius' stepson ,Germanicus, was in command when the Rhine mutiny broke out and his situation was more serious that the one Drusus had faced.Germanicus was a great general and was a man of great charm and manner and his soldiers were completly devoted to him. The soldiers on the Rhins demanded the same conditions that the soldiers on the Danube demanded and they demanded that Germanicus should be made emperor. Germanicus ,upon hearing of this revolt, appealed to the men to remain loyal to Tiberius. He gave the soldiers an emotional speech in which he told about the past millitary triumps of Tiberius and his great achivements with the legions in Germany. The influence of Germanicus had a temporary calming effect on the soldiers but they soon mutinied again. Once again Germanicus appealed to the emotions of the troops.
Germanicus had married Agrippina the Elder who was the daughter of Julia and the granddaughter of Augstus. Agrippina and their young son ,Gaius, were present in the camp when the second revolt broke out. Gaius was the darling of the troops and they gave him the nickname Caligula because they used to parade him around in little army boots or Caliga. Germanicus knew that the little boy helped to arouse moral so he used that to his advantage. He had decided that it was no longer safe for Agrippina and Gaius to remain in the camp so he made arrangements for them to leave immediately. This act upset the troops greatly because they felt ashamed that their general did not trust them with his wife and child and so stopped the revolt.
The rebellions were crushed and the soldiers gave their oath to Tiberius. However,these rebellions did not secure any results for the soldiers since the pay rate remained the same as it had been under Augustus and the period of service was extended again by Tiberius to twenty years
Apart from his stale relationship with the senate and the Rhine mutinies,the first few year of Tiberius's reign went well. He followed the plans Augstus had for the sucession and favored Germanicus over his natural son ,Drusus,for the sucession. On request of the emperor, Germanicus was given pro consular power and was put in command of the prime millitary zone in Germany and crushed a rebellion there. After a campaign against the German barbarians, Germanicus was recalled to Rome in 17 AD where he became consol with Tiberius.After his term as consol,Germanicus was sent east by Tiberius where he later died in 19 AD.
Just before he died,Germanicus had accused the govenor of Syria ,Calpurnius Piso of poisioning him .The widow of Germanicus, Agrippina,publically charged Piso with Germanicus's murder and she believed that there were more people nvolved in the conspiracy. Piso was a good friend of Tiberius and he believed that he would get some help from the emperor. He was wrong and during the trial Tiberius let the senate decide everything with no opinion from himself and ,as a result, Piso ater commited suicide.
Upon Germanicus's death, Tiberius started grooming Drusus as heir to the throne. This strained the emperors relations with Agrippina as she beleived that Tiberius was directly responsible for her husbands death because of his jealousey and fear of Germanicus.When the people of Rome heard of the loss, they were grief stricken and also had their suspicions about the emperors innocence.
Tiberius knew about this discontent among the people and so decided he needed an advisor to expose any threats to his life and power.The man he chose for this job was Aelius Sejanus. Sejanus was born in Etruria and had shared the office of Praetorian Prefict with his father until the later was promoted to Prefect of Egypt. Sejanus had his own ambitions and wiggled his way into the emperors affections.
Under the influence of Sejanus,treason trials became widespread and he had informants everwhere waiting to catch anyone who said even one blasphemy against the emperor, even if it was not serious. Tiberius relied so much on the opinions and actions of Sejanus that he had statues and monuments of him erected all over Rome. Tiberius is even said to have stated of Sejanus that he is the partner of my labours." As a result of Sejanus and the treason trials ,Tiberius became even more feared and hated in Rome and ,as a result, went into a self imposed exile on the small island of Capri in 26 AD.
Sujanus wanted to marry into the imperial family so he could be closer to the reigns of power. To accomplish this he romanced Tiberius's niece ,Livilla, who was currently married to Drusus. He had asked the emperor if he could marry her the year before he left for Capri but Tiberius refused.
When he left for Capri, Tiberius left Sejanus in charge in Rome and he beacme the chief link between the city and the emperor. With the absence of the emperor Sejanus was free to release his fury on his enemies. He immediately inflicted his fury on Agrippina and her two eldest sons ,Drusus and Nero, as well as Tiberius's son and Livilla's husband ,Drusus .By now, Sejanus was at the height of his power and was almost emperor himself.
The power of Sejanus could not possibly last forever and he was finally brought down from his high place. Tiberius had sent a letter from Capri to the senate at Rome. In this letter he started praising Sejanus and at the very end denounced him as a traitor nd demanded his arrest. The Praetorian Guard ,which was formerely under the control of Sejanus secretly changed command to Q. Sutorius Macro, summarly arrested and executed Sujanus and his family. Livilla was killed and all friends and followers of
Sejanus were eiether put to death,sent to prison or commited suicide. Some sources say that Antonia ,whom Tiberius truly trusted came across a note of Livilla's explaining Sejanus's plans and relayed it to Capri.
The problems with Sejanus appeared to have depressed the aging emperor because he was betrayed by the one person he thought he could trust and his withdrawl from public life seemed to be more complete during these years.The emperor still kept in touch with Rome through correspondance but the empire was mainly being run smoothly due to the administration of Augustus.It is believed that he indulged in numerous depravities and gross sexual acts during his final years and that he got pleasure from watching people be tortured and executed.
With the deaths of Germanicus, Drusus and even Sujanus, all of Tiberius's planned heirs were gone. He had living with him during his final years the young Gaius who he was hinting would be his sucessor with his grandson Tiberius Gemellus. Tiberius died in a villa in Misenum at the age of 78 years. He died a sick depraved and untrusting man and was refused devine honours from the senate and mobs demanded that he be thrown in the Tiber river like all criminals were at the time.
Tiberius's Governing Policy
Rome did not fight in any wars during the reign of Tiberius so he was able to devote all his time to the governing of the empire. He paid special atention to the governing of the provinces in particullar to taxation. He made sure that he did not give the provinces new burdens and that they were safe from the rapacity of their greedy govenors. As a result of this wise rule, Tiberius was liked and respected within the provinces as he kept the provincial armies disciplined and made the boundries safe. As well he left a very full treasury upon his death and a good economy. However, this good economy was unpopular in Rome as he spent no great amount of money on games nor erected no great buildings. Also,he displeased the senate by taking away their dignity. Under Augustus the senate had the outward apppearance of power but Tiberius took that away and he did nothing to all to gain the affection of the people
Rome did not fight in any wars during the reign of Tiberius so he was able to devote all his time to the governing of the empire. He paid special atention to the governing of the provinces in particullar to taxation. He made sure that he did not give the provinces new burdens and that they were safe from the rapacity of their greedy govenors. As a result of this wise rule, Tiberius was liked and respected within the provinces as he kept the provincial armies disciplined and made the boundries safe.
As well he left a very full treasury upon his death and a good economy. However, this good economy was unpopular in Rome as he spent no great amount of money on games nor erected no great buildings. Also,he displeased the senate by taking away their dignity. Under Augustus the senate had the outward apppearance of power but Tiberius took that away and he did nothing to all to gain the affection of the people