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Tiberius became Augustus' stepson when the emperor married Livia in 38 B.C. Augustus forced Tiberius to divorce the wife he loved and to marry his daughter Julia. Tiberius hated his new wife and escaped her by going into voluntary exile at Rhodes in 6 B.C. After the deaths of the other possible successors, he was recalled in 2 A.D. and groomed to succeed Augustus, which he did on 19 August 14. The empire thrived under Tiberius; however, his reign was marred by a conspiracy to rule by his Praetorian Praefect Sejanus and by his descent into paranoia near the end of his reign. Tiberius moved to Capri in 26, and ruled from there until his natural death on 16 March 37.
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TICAESARAVGFTRPOTXV (TIBERIUS AND AUGUSTUS)
Gold aureus C
Gold quinarius R4
Silver denarius C 3.69 grams
Sestertius with his head R3
Sestertius without his head R1
As and Dupondius
Rome, Caesarea, Lugdunum, Samosata(?).
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Tiberius, emperor of Rome from A.D. 14 to 37. His full name was Tiberius Claudius Nero and after his adoption by Augustus Tiberius Iulius Caesar (Augustus). He was the son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia, and was born on the 16th of November, B.C. 42, before his mother married Augustus.
Tiberius was tall and strongly made, and his health was good. His face was handsome, and his eyes large. He was carefully educated, and became well acquainted with Greek and Latin literature, his master in rhetoric being Theodorus of Gadara. Though not without military courage, as his life shows, he had a great timidity of character, and was of a jealous and suspicious temper; and these qualities rendered him cruel after he had acquired power. There can be little doubt that his morose reserve and his dissimulation had been increased, if not created, by his relations to Augustus. As emperor the difficulties of his position, and the influence of Livia and still more of Seianus, increased his tendency to jealousy and suspicion of all who seemed rivals or dangerous from their popularity. The system of espionage and delation (delatores) once begun could only increase with each act of tyranny and cruelty, till his rule became a veritable reign of terror.
Authorities on Tiberius' life
Yet in reading his history, especially the tales of his monstrous and incredible licentiousness, it must be recollected that Tacitus and Suetonius both wrote with a strong bias against him and his rule, and were ready to accept as true the worst scandals which were handeddown. If Velleius was prejudiced in the other direction, it is at least right to adopt some part of his less unfavourable portrait and to imagine that the old age of Tiberius was not so absolutely contradictory of his youth as it is sometimes made to appear. The cruelty of his rule applied only to Rome. The testimony of Iosephus and Philo shows that his provincial government was just and lenient.
Early lifeIn B.C. 11, Augustus compelled Tiberius, much against his will, to divorce his wife, Vipsania Agrippina, and to marry Iulia, the widow of Agrippa, and daughter of the emperor, with whom Tiberius, however, did not long live in harmony. Tiberius was thus brought into still closer contact with the imperial family; but as Gaius and Lucius Caesar, the grandsons of Augustus, were still living, the prospect of Tiberius succeeding to the imperial power seemed very remote. He was employed on various military services. In 20, he was sent by Augustus to restore Tigranes to the throne of Armenia. It was during this campaign that Horace addressed one of his epistles to Iulius Florus (I. 12.), who was serving under Tiberius. In 15, Drusus and his brother Tiberius were engaged in warfare with the Raeti, and the exploits of the two brothers were sung by Horace (Carm. IV 4, 14.). In 13, Tiberius was consul with Publius Quinctilius Varus. In 11, while his brother Drusus was fighting against the Germans, Tiberius conducted the war against the Dalmatians and against the Pannonians. Drusus died in 9, owing to a fall from his horse. On the news of the accident, Tiberius was sent by Augustus to Drusus, whom he found just alive. Tiberius returned to the war in Germany, and crossed the Rhine. In 7 he was consul a second time. In 6 he obtained the tribunicia potestas for five years, but during this year he retired with the emperor's permission to Rhodes, where he spent the next seven years. Tacitus says that his chief reason for leaving Rome was to get away from his wife, who treated him with contempt, and whose licentious life was no secret to her husband; probably, too, he was unwilling to stay at Rome when the grandsons of Augustus were attaining years of maturity, for there was mutual jealousy between them and Tiberius. He returned to Rome A.D. 2.
He was relieved from one trouble during his absence, for his wife Iulia had been banished to the island of Pandataria (B.C. 2), and he never saw her again. After the deaths of Lucius Caesar (A.D. 2) and Gaius Caesar (A.D. 4), Augustus adopted Tiberius, with the view of leaving to him the imperial power; and at the same time he required Tiberius to adopt Germanicus, the son of his brother Drusus, though Tiberius had a son Drusus by his wife Vipsania. From the year of his adoption to the death of Augustus, Tiberius was in command of the Roman armies, though he visited Rome several times. He was sent into Germany A.D. 4. He reduced all Illyricum to subjection A.D. 9; and in A.D. 12 he had the honour of a triumph at Rome for his German and Dalmatian victories.
Beginning of his reign
On the death of Augustus at Nola, on the 19th of August, A.D. 14, Tiberius, who was on his way to Illyricum, was immediately summoned home by his mother, Livia. He assumed the imperial power without any opposition, affecting all the while a great reluctance. He began his reign by putting to death Postumus Agrippa, the surviving grandson of Augustus, and he alleged that it was done pursuant to the command of the late emperor. When he felt himself sure in his place, he began to strengthen the principate. He took from the popular assembly the election of the magistrates, and transferred it to the Senate. The news of the death of Augustus roused a mutiny among the legions in Pannonia, which was quelled by Drusus, the son of Tiberius. The armies on the Rhine under Germanicus showed a disposition to reject Tiberius, and if Germanicus had been inclined to try the fortune of a campaign, he might have had the assistance of the German armies against his uncle. But Germanicus restored discipline to the army by his firmness, and maintained his fidelity to the new emperor. The first year of his reign was marked by the death of Iulia, whom Augustus had removed from Pandataria to Rhegium. The death of Germanicus in the East, in A.D. 19, relieved Tiberius from all fear of a rival claimant to the throne; and it was believed by many that Germanicus had been poisoned by order of Tiberius.
After the death of GermanicusFrom this time Tiberius began to indulge with less restraint in his love of tyranny, and many distinguished senators were soon put to death on the charge of treason against the emperor (laesa maiestas). Notwithstanding his suspicious nature, Tiberius gave his complete confidence to Seianus, who for many years possessed the real government of the State. This ambitious man aimed at the imperial power. In 23, Drusus, the son of Tiberius, was poisoned by the contrivance of Seianus. Three years afterwards (26) Tiberius left Rome, and withdrew into Campania. He never returned to the city. He left on the pretext of dedicating temples in Campania, but the real cause was probably his dislike to Rome, where he knew that he was unpopular; and Seianus was only too anxious to encourage any feeling which would keep the emperor at a distance from the city. That Tiberius went because he wished to hide his licentiousness in this place of retirement may be set down as a silly invention, for Rome was not a place where licentiousness was hated. He took up his residence (27) in the island of Capreae, at a short distance from the Campanian coast.
Death of Livia; Rise and fall of SejanusThe death of Livia (29), the emperor's mother, released Tiberius from one cause of anxiety. He had long been tired of her, because she wished to exercise authority, and one object in leaving Rome was to be out of her way. Livia's death gave Seianus and Tiberius free scope, for Tiberius never entirely released himself from a kind of subjection to his mother, and Seianus did not venture to attempt the overthrow of Livia's influence. The destruction of Agrippina and her children was now the chief purpose of Seianus; but he finally got from Tiberius (31) the reward that was his just desert, an ignominious death. The death of Seianus was followed by the execution of his friends; and for the remainder of the reign of Tiberius, Rome continued to be the scene of tragic occurrences. Tiberius died on the 16th of March, 37, at the villa of Lucullus, in Misenum. He was seventy-eight years of age, and had reigned twenty-two years.
He was succeeded by Caligula, the son of Germanicus, but, according to Tacitus, he had himself appointed no successor (Tac., Ann. VI 46.), though he had appointed Gaius the heir of his private property ( Suet., Tib. 76.) in conjunction with Tiberius Gemellus, whom Gaius afterwards put to death. On the other hand, Iosephus has a story of Tiberius committing the Empire to Gaius (Flav. Ioseph., Ant. Iud. XVIII 6, 9.). Tiberius did not die a natural death. It was known that his end was rapidly approaching, and having had a fainting-fit, he was supposed to be dead. Thereupon Gaius came forth and was saluted as emperor; but he was alarmed by the intelligence that Tiberius had recovered and called for something to eat. Gaius was so frightened that he did not know what to do; but Macro, the prefect of the Praetorians, with more presence of mind, gave orders that a quantity of clothes should be thrown on Tiberius, and that he should be left alone (Tac., Ann. V 50; Cass. Dio, LVIII 28.). Suetonius mentions a suspicion that Tiberius was poisoned at the last by Gaius (Suet., Tib. 73; Cal. 12.). Tiberius wrote a brief commentary of his own life, the only book that the emperor Domitian studied (Suet., Tib. 67; Dom. 20.), and also Greek poems, and a lyric poem on the death of Lucius Caesar (Suet., Tib. 70.).
Views on Tiberius as ruler and man
Tiberius, both as a ruler and as a man, has not lacked defenders in modern times, among them Dean Merivale in his Romans under the Empire (1865); Edward Spencer Beesly, Catiline, Clodius, and Tiberius (1878); and S. Baring-Gould, The Tragedy of the Caesars, vol. I. (1892). For the adverse view see Marie Louis A. Gaston Boissier, L'Opposition sous les Césars (1875) (L'opposition sous les Césars, in Revue des deux mondes 85 (1870), pp. 488-512.). For the general history of his reign see E. Pasch, Zur Kritik der Geschichte des Kaisers Tiberius, Altenburg, 1866; A. Stahr, Tiberius, Berlin, 18732; H. Schiller, Geschichte der römischen Kaiserzeit (Gotha, 1883); and L. Freytag, Tiberius und Tacitus, Berlin, 1870. See also the essay prefixed to H. Furneaux's Annales, vol. I. (1884).
References and further reading
Tiberius became the stepson of Augustus when the emperor married Livia in 38 BC. Augustus forced to him to divorce the wife he loved and marry Augustus' daughter Julia. He hated his new wife and escaped her by going into voluntary exile in Rhodes in 6 B.C. After the deaths of the other possible successors, he was recalled in 2 A.D. and groomed to succeed Augustus, which he did on 19 August 14. The empire thrived under Tiberius; however, his reign was marred by a conspiracy to rule by his Praetorian Praefect Sejanus and by his descent into paranoia near the end of his reign. Tiberius moved to Capri in 26, and ruled from there until his natural death on 16 March 37.