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The Julio Claudian Historical and Portraiture Page - Joe Geranio 


Augustus as Pontifex Maximus Ruled from 27 B.C. - 14 A.D.

Early life

Augustus was born in Rome (or Velletri) on September 23, 63 BC with the name Gaius Octavius.[2] His father, of the same name, came from a respectable but undistinguished family of the equestrian order and was governor of Macedonia.[3]

Shortly after Octavius 's birth, his father gave him the cognomen of Thurinus, possibly to commemorate his victory at Thurii over a rebellious band of slaves. His mother, Atia, was the niece of Julius Caesar, soon to be Rome 's most successful general and Dictator. Octavius spent his early years in his grandfather 's house near Veletrae (modern Velletri).

In 59 BC, when he was four years old, his father died. He was brought up by his mother and his stepfather, Lucius Marcius Philippus.[4]

In 52 or 51 BC, Octavius delivered the funeral oration for his grandmother Julia, elder sister of Caesar.[5] He donned the toga virilis four years later,[6] and was elected to the College of Pontiffs.[7] According to Nicolaus of Damascus, Octavius wished to join Caesar 's staff for his campaign in Africa but gave way when Atia protested.[8] The following year, 46 BC, she consented for him to join Caesar in Hispania, where he planned to fight the forces of Pompey, Caesar 's enemy who was already dead by then, but he fell ill and was unable to travel.

When he had recovered, he sailed to the front, but was shipwrecked; after coming ashore with a handful of companions, he made it across hostile territory to Caesar 's camp, which impressed his great-uncle considerably.[6] Velleius Paterculus reports that Caesar afterwards allowed the young man to share his carriage.[9] When back in Rome, Caesar deposited a new will with the Vestal Virgins, naming Octavius as the prime beneficiary.[10]

Rise to power

When Caesar was killed on the Ides of March (the 15th) 44 BC, Octavius was in Apollonia, Illyria, studying and undergoing military training. Rejecting the advice of some army officers to take refuge with the troops in Macedonia, he sailed to Italia. After landing at Lupiae near Brundisium, he learnt of the contents of Caesar 's will.[11] Having no legitimate children alive (his daughter Julia had died in 54 BC), Caesar had adopted his great-nephew Octavius as his son and main heir. Owing to his adoption, Octavius assumed the name Gaius Julius Caesar. Roman tradition dictated that he also append the surname Octavianus (Octavian) to indicate his biological family; however, no evidence exists that he ever used that name. Mark Antony later charged that Octavian had earned his adoption by Caesar through sexual favours, though Suetonius describes Antony 's accusation as political slander.[12] Octavian began to bolster his personal forces with Caesar 's veteran legionaries, gathering support by emphasizing his status as heir to Caesar.[13] Only eighteen years old, he was consistently underestimated by his rivals for power.

Arriving at Rome, Octavian found the consul Mark Antony, Caesar 's former colleague, in an uneasy truce with the dictator 's assassins. He failed to persuade Antony to relinquish Caesar 's money to him, but managed to win support from Caesarian sympathisers during the summer.[14] In September, the Optimate orator Marcus Tullius Cicero began to attack Antony in a series of speeches; with opinion in Rome turning against him and his year of consular power nearing its end, Antony attempted to take control of Cisalpine Gaul, which had been assigned as part of his province, from Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus, one of Caesar 's assassins. Octavian meanwhile built up a private army in Italy by recruiting Caesarian veterans, and won over two of Antony 's legions.[15] Antony was now besieging Decimus Brutus at Mutina. Encouraged by Cicero, the Senate granted Octavian imperium (commanding power), which made his command of troops legal, and sent him to relieve the siege along with Hirtius and Pansa, the consuls for 43 BC.[16] In April 43, Antony 's forces were defeated at the Battles of Forum Gallorum and Mutina, forcing Antony to retreat to Transalpine Gaul. However, both consuls were killed, leaving Octavian in sole command of their armies.[17]

The senate attempted to give command of the consular legions to Decimus Brutus, but Octavian refused to surrender them. In July, an embassy from Octavian entered Rome and demanded that he receive the consulship. When this was refused, he marched on the city with eight legions. He encountered no military opposition, and was elected consul with his relative Quintus Pedius as colleague. Meanwhile, Antony formed an alliance with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, another leading Caesarian.[18]

Octavian, Antony and Lepidus formed a junta called the Second Triumvirate, an explicit grant of special powers lasting five years and supported by law, unlike the unofficial First Triumvirate of Gnaeus Pompey Magnus, Julius Caesar and Marcus Licinius Crassus.[19] The triumvirs then set in motion proscriptions in which 300 senators and 2,000 equites were deprived of their property and, for those who failed to escape, their lives (going beyond a simple purge of those allied with the assassins, and probably motivated by a need to raise money to pay their troops[20]).

On January 1 42 BC, the Senate recognised Caesar as a divinity of the Roman state, "Divus Iulius". Octavian was able to further his cause by emphasizing the fact that he was Divi filius, "son of a divinity".[21] Antony and Octavian then marched against Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius, who had fled to Greece. After two battles at Philippi in Macedonia, the Caesarian army was victorious and Brutus and Cassius committed suicide (42 BC). After the battle, a new arrangement was made between the members of the Second Triumvirate: while Octavian returned to Rome, Antony went to Egypt where he allied himself with Queen Cleopatra VII, who was the former lover of Julius Caesar and mother of Caesar 's infant son, Caesarion. Lepidus went on to govern Hispania and the province of Africa.

Octavian, governing in Italy, busied himself taking lands from Italians and giving them to triumvirate veteran soldiers. This caused political and social unrest. Octavian asked for a divorce from Clodia Pulchra, the daughter of Fulvia and her first husband Publius Clodius Pulcher. Since his marriage with Clodia was never consummated, he returned her to her mother with a letter informing her that he was returning her in "mint" condition. Fulvia, Mark Antony 's wife, decided to take action. Together with Lucius Antonius, Mark Antony 's brother, she raised eight legions in Italy to fight for Antony 's rights against Octavian. The army occupied Rome for a short time, but eventually retreated to Perusia (modern Perugia). Octavian besieged Fulvia and Lucius Antonius in the winter of 41 BC–40 BC, starving them into surrender. Fulvia was exiled to Sicyon, where she died of a sudden illness, while Antony was en route to meet her. Octavian and Scribonia, whom Octavian married after divorcing Clodia, conceived Octavian 's only natural child, Julia, who was born the same day that he divorced Scribonia to marry Livia Drusilla.

While in Egypt, Antony had been conducting an affair with Cleopatra VII of Egypt that resulted in three children, Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene II and Ptolemy Philadelphus. Aware of his deteriorating relationship with Octavian, Antony left Cleopatra. Fulvia 's death allowed for the two triumvirs to effect a reconciliation. Octavian gave his sister, Octavia Minor, in marriage to Antony in 40 BC. During their marriage, Octavia gave birth to two daughters (known as Antonia Major and Antonia Minor). In 37 BC, Antony deserted Octavia and went back to Egypt to be with Cleopatra. The Roman dominions were then divided between Octavian in the West and Antony in the East.

While Antony occupied himself with military campaigns against the Parthians and a romantic affair with Cleopatra, Octavian built a network of allies in Rome, consolidated his power, and spread propaganda implying that Antony was becoming less than Roman because of his preoccupation with Egyptian affairs and traditions. The situation grew more and more tense, and finally, in 32 BC, the senate officially declared war on "the Foreign Queen", to avoid the stigma of yet another civil war. It was quickly decided: in the bay of Actium on the western coast of Greece, after Antony 's men began deserting, the fleets met in a great battle in which many ships were burned and thousands on both sides were slain. Octavian defeated his rivals who then fled to Egypt. He pursued them, and after another defeat, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra also committed suicide after her upcoming role in Octavian 's Triumph was "carefully explained to her", and Caesarion was "butchered without compunction". Octavian supposedly said "two Caesars are one too many" as he ordered Caesarion 's death.[22] This demonstrates a key difference between Julius Caesar and Octavian—while Caesar had demonstrated clemency in his victories, Octavian most certainly did not.

Octavian becomes Augustus

Augustus as a magistrate.The Western half of the Roman Republic territory had sworn allegiance to Octavian prior to Actium in 31 BC, and after Actium and the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra, the Eastern half followed suit, placing Octavian in the position of ruler of the Republic. Years of civil war had left Rome in a state of near-lawlessness, but the Republic was not prepared to accept the control of Octavian as a despot. At the same time, Octavian could not simply give up his authority without risking further civil wars amongst the Roman generals, and even if he desired no position of authority whatsoever, his position demanded that he look to the well-being of the City and provinces. Marching into Rome, he forced the Roman Senate to name him consul; as such, he was now legally in command of the legions of Rome, although he had given up his personal armies.

First settlement

In 27 BC, Octavian officially returned power to the Roman Senate and offered to relinquish his own military supremacy over Egypt.

Reportedly, the suggestion of Octavian 's stepping down as consul led to rioting among the Plebeians in Rome.[citation needed] A compromise was reached between the Senate and Octavian 's supporters, known as the First Settlement. Octavian was given proconsular authority over the Western half and Syria — the provinces that, combined, contained almost 70% of the Roman legions.

The Senate also gave him the titles Augustus and Princeps. Augustus, from the Latin word Augere, "to increase," was a title of religious rather than political authority. According to Roman religious beliefs, the title symbolized a stamp of authority over humanity, and in fact nature, that went beyond any constitutional definition of his status. Additionally, after the harsh methods employed in consolidating his control, the change in name would also serve to separate his benign reign as Augustus from his reign of terror as Octavian. Princeps translates to "first-citizen" or "first-leader". It had been a title under the Republic for those who had served the state well; for example, Pompey had held the title.

In addition, Augustus was granted the right to hang the "corona civica" ', the "civic crown" made from oak, above his door, and have laurels drape his doorposts. This crown was usually held above the head of a Roman general during a Triumph, with the individual holding the crown charged to continually repeat "memento mori" ("Remember, you are mortal"), to the triumphant general. Additionally, laurel wreaths were important in several state ceremonies, and crowns of laurel were rewarded to champions of athletic, racing, and dramatic contests. Thus, both the laurel and the oak were integral symbols of Roman religion and statecraft; placing them on Augustus 's doorposts was tantamount to declaring his home the capital. However, it must be noted that none of these titles, or the Civic Crown and laurels, granted Octavian any additional powers or authority; for all intents and purposes the new Augustus was simply a highly-honored Roman citizen, holding the consulship within the city and acting as proconsul in territories abroad.

The actions of the Roman Senate in regards to Octavian were quite unusual. However, this was not the same body of patricians that had assassinated Caesar. Both Antony and Octavian had purged the Senate of suspect elements and planted it with their loyal partisans. It remains unknown how free a hand the Senate had in these transactions or what backroom deals were made, if any.

Second settlement

The Via Labicana Augustus - Augustus as pontifex maximus.In 23 BC, Augustus renounced the consulship, but retained his consular imperium, leading to a second compromise between Augustus and the Senate known as the Second Settlement. Augustus was granted the power of a tribune (tribunicia potestas), though not the title, which allowed him to convene the Senate and people at will and lay business before it, veto the actions of either the Assembly or the Senate, preside over elections, and the right to speak first at any meeting. Also included in Augustus ' tribunician authority were powers usually reserved for the Roman censor; these included the right to supervise public morals and scrutinize laws to ensure they were in the public interest, as well as the ability to hold a census and determine the membership of the Senate. No Tribune of Rome ever had these powers, and there was no precedent within the Roman system for combining the powers of the Tribune and the Censor into a single position, nor was Augustus ever elected to the office of Censor. Julius Caesar had been granted similar powers, wherein he was charged with supervising the morals of the state, however this position did not extend the Censor 's ability to hold a census and determine the Senate 's roster. Whether censorial powers were granted to Augustus as part of his tribunician authority, or he simply assumed these responsibilities, or, as Augustus indicates in his Res Gestae, he somehow retained consular authority, is still a matter of debate. In addition to tribunician authority, Augustus was granted sole imperium within the city of Rome itself: all armed forces in the city, formerly under the control of the Prefects and consuls, were now under the sole authority of Augustus. Additionally, Augustus was granted imperium proconsulare maius, or "imperium over all the proconsuls" (literally: greater proconsular authority), which translated to the right to interfere in any province and override the decisions of any governor. With maius imperium, Augustus was the only individual able to receive a triumph as he was ostensibly the head of every Roman army.

Many of the political subtleties of the Second Settlement seem to have evaded the comprehension of the Plebeian class. When, in 22 BC, Augustus failed to stand for election as consul, fears arose once again that Augustus, seen as the great "defender of the people", was being forced from power by the aristocratic Senate. In 22, 21, and 19 BC, the people rioted in response, and only allowed a single consul to be elected for each of those years, ostensibly to leave the other position open for Augustus.[23] Finally, in 19 BC, the Senate voted to allow Augustus to wear the consul 's insignia in public and before the Senate, with an act sometimes known as the Third Settlement. This seems to have assuaged the populace; regardless of whether or not Augustus was actually a consul, the importance was that he appeared as one before the people.

With these powers in mind, it must be understood that all forms of permanent and legal power within Rome officially lay with the Senate and the people; Augustus was given extraordinary powers, but only as a proconsul and magistrate under the authority of the Senate. Augustus never presented himself as a king or autocrat, once again only allowing himself to be addressed by the title princeps. On March 6 12 BC, after the death of Lepidus, he additionally took up the position of pontifex maximus, the high priest of the collegium of the Pontifices, the most important position in Roman religion.[24]

Later Roman Emperors would generally be limited to the powers and titles originally granted to Augustus, though often, in order to display humility, newly appointed Emperors would often decline one or more of the honorifics given to Augustus. Just as often, as their reign progressed, Emperors would appropriate all of the titles, regardless of whether they had actually been granted by the Senate. The Civic Crown (which later Emperors took to actually wearing), consular insignia, and later the purple robes of a Triumphant general (toga picta) became the imperial insignia well into the Byzantine era, and were even adopted by many Germanic tribes invading the former Western empire as insignia of their right to rule.


Almost immediately after the First Settlement, Augustus fell ill. By 26 BC, Augustus had become bedridden, and the problem of succession came to the forefront. Augustus himself passed his signet ring and government documents to his close friends, Marcus Agrippa and Maecenas respectively. While Augustus recovered enough to make short trips and public appearances by 24 BC, and was certainly fully recovered by 23 BC, his illness seems to have brought the issue to the forefront of Augustus ' plans.

Noted Augustan historian Ronald Syme argues that indications pointed toward his sister 's son Marcellus, who had been married to Augustus ' daughter Julia the Elder. Other historians dispute this, instead indicating a preference for Marcus Agrippa, who was arguably the only one of Augustus 's associates who could have controlled the legions. After the death of Marcellus in 23 BC, Augustus married his daughter to Agrippa. This union produced five children, three sons and two daughters: Gaius Caesar, Lucius Caesar, Vipsania Julia, Agrippina the Elder, and Postumus Agrippa, so named because he was born after Marcus Agrippa died. Shortly after the Second Settlement, Agrippa was granted tribunician power and seems to have administered the eastern half of the empire from Samos in the Cyclades.

Augustus ' intent to make Gaius and Lucius Caesar his heirs was apparent when he adopted them as his own children, and personally ushered them into their political careers by serving as consul with each. Augustus also showed favor to his stepsons, Livia 's children from her first marriage, Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus and Tiberius Claudius, granting them military commands and public office, and seeming to favor Drusus after granting him a triumph after subjugating a large portion of Germany.

After Agrippa died in 12 BC, Livia 's son Tiberius was ordered to divorce his own wife and marry Agrippa 's widow, Augustus 's daughter. Tiberius shared in Augustus ' tribune powers, but shortly thereafter went into retirement, reportedly wanting no further role in politics. A somewhat apocryphal tale tells of Augustus 's various attempts to convince Tiberius to return, even going so far as to pretend to have fallen ill and be on his deathbed; Tiberius reportedly responded by anchoring his vessel off the coast of Ostia until word had reached him that Augustus would be well, then sailing straightway for Rhodes. After the early deaths of both Lucius and Gaius in 2 and 4 respectively, and the earlier death of his brother Drusus (9 BC), Tiberius was recalled to Rome, where he was adopted by Augustus on the condition that he, in turn, adopt Germanicus, continuing the tradition of presenting at least two generations of heirs to Augustus 's powers.

On August 19, AD 14, Augustus died, and Tiberius was named his heir. His famous last words were "Did you like the performance?"-referring to the play-acting and regal authority that he had put on as emperor. The only other possible claimant, Postumus Agrippa, had been banished by Augustus, and was put to death around the same time. Who ordered his death is unknown, but the way was clear for Tiberius to assume his stepfather 's powers.

Augustus ' legacy

The famous Augustus of Prima PortaAugustus was deified soon after his death, and both his borrowed surname, Caesar, and his title Augustus became the permanent titles of the rulers of Roman Empire for fourteen centuries after his death, in use both at Old Rome and New Rome. In many languages, caesar became the word for emperor, as in German (Kaiser) and in Russian (Tsar). The cult of the Divine Augustus continued until the state religion of the Empire was changed to Christianity in the 4th century following the Edict of Milan. Consequently, there are many excellent statues and busts of the first, and in some ways the greatest, of the emperors. Augustus ' mausoleum also originally contained bronze pillars inscribed with a record of his life, the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, which had also been disseminated throughout the empire upon his death.

Many consider Augustus to be Rome 's greatest emperor; his policies certainly extended the empire 's life span and initiated the celebrated Pax Romana or Pax Augusta. He was intelligent, decisive, and a shrewd politician, but he was not perhaps as charismatic as Julius Caesar, and was influenced on occasion by his third wife, Livia (sometimes for the worse). Nevertheless, his legacy proved more enduring.

In looking back on the reign of Augustus and its legacy to the Roman world, its longevity should not be overlooked as a key factor in its success. As Tacitus wrote, the younger generations alive in AD 14 had never known any form of government other than the Principate.[25] Had Augustus died earlier (in 23 BC, for instance), matters might have turned out differently. The attrition of the civil wars on the old Republican oligarchy and the longevity of Augustus, therefore, must be seen as major contributing factors in the transformation of the Roman state into a de facto monarchy in these years. Augustus ' own experience, his patience, his tact, and his political acumen also played their parts. He directed the future of the empire down many lasting paths, from the existence of a standing professional army stationed at or near the frontiers, to the dynastic principle so often employed in the imperial succession, to the embellishment of the capital at the emperor 's expense. Augustus ' ultimate legacy was the peace and prosperity the empire enjoyed for the next two centuries under the system he initiated. His memory was enshrined in the political ethos of the Imperial age as a paradigm of the good emperor, and although every emperor adopted his name, Caesar Augustus, only a handful, such as Trajan, earned genuine comparison with him. His reign laid the foundations of a regime that lasted for 250 years.

Revenue reforms

Probably Augustus 's most important legacy from the standpoint of its impact on the subsequent success of the Empire was his reform of Rome 's public revenue system. Three of these reforms, in particular, are considered to have had substantial beneficial effects on both the fairness of the tax system and its effects on the Empire 's economic prosperity.

The first reform was to bring a much larger portion of the Empire 's expanded land base under consistent, direct taxation from Rome, instead of exacting varying, intermittent, and somewhat arbitrary tributes from each local province, as Augustus 's predecessors had done. This reform greatly increased Rome 's net revenue from its territorial acquisitions, stabilized its flow, and regularized the financial relationship between Rome and the provinces, rather than provoking fresh resentments with each new arbitrary exaction of tribute.

The second and equally important reform was the abolition of private tax farming and its replacement with salaried civil service tax collectors. The tax farmers had gained great infamy for their depredations, as well as great private wealth, by winning the right to tax local areas. Rome 's revenue was the amount of the successful bids, and the tax farmers ' profits consisted of any additional amounts they could forcibly wring from the populace with Rome 's blessing. The more rapacious the tax farmer, the more he could afford to bid on the next area, and the more onerous the people 's tax burdens became. Lack of effective supervision, combined with tax farmers ' desire to maximize their profits, had produced a system of arbitrary exactions that was often barbarously cruel to taxpayers, widely (and accurately) perceived as unfair, and very harmful to investment and the economy. Its abolition was an enormous relief to the people, and perhaps more than any other factor explains not only the Empire 's great prosperity for the next two centuries, but also Augustus 's great personal popularity during his lifetime.

The third reform, the use of Egypt 's immense land rents to finance the Empire 's operations, resulted from Augustus 's conquest of Egypt and the shift to a Roman form of government. As it was effectively considered Augustus 's private property rather than a province of the Empire, it became part of each succeeding emperor 's patrimonium. The highly productive agricultural land of Egypt yielded enormous revenues that were available to Augustus and his successors to pay for public works and military expeditions, as well as bread and circuses for the population of Rome. The diversion of this land rent to Rome 's coffers was probably even beneficial to the Egyptian economy and people, as Rome provided better infrastructure and public administration in return for the money than the pharaohs had ever done.


The month of August (Latin Augustus) is named after Augustus; until his time it was called Sextilis (named so because it had been the sixth month of the original Roman calendar and the Latin word for six was sex). Commonly repeated lore has it that August has 31 days because Augustus wanted his month to match the length of Julius Caesar 's July, but this is an invention of the 13th-century scholar Johannes de Sacrobosco. Sextilis in fact had 31 days before it was renamed, and it was not chosen for its length (see Julian calendar). According to a senatus consultum quoted by Macrobius, Sextilis was renamed to honour Augustus because several of the most significant events in his rise to power, culminating in the fall of Alexandria, fell in that month.

Building projects

Augustus boasted that he 'found Rome brick and left it marble '. Although this did not apply to the Subura slums, which were still as rickety and fire-prone as ever, he did leave a mark on the monumental topography of the centre and of the Campus Martius, with the Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace) and monumental sundial, whose central gnomon was an obelisk taken from Egypt, the Temple of Caesar, the Forum of Augustus with its Temple of Mars Ultor, and also other projects either encouraged by him (eg Theatre of Balbus, Agrippa 's construction of the Pantheon) or funded by him in the name of others, often relations (eg Portico of Octavia, Theatre of Marcellus). Even his own mausoleum was built before his death to house members of his family.


Bowersock, G. W. (1990). "The Pontificate of Augustus", in Kurt A. Raaflaub and Mark Toher (eds.): Between Republic and Empire: Interpretations of Augustus and his Principate. Berkeley: University of California Press, 380–394. ISBN 0-520-08447-0.
Green, Peter (1990). Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age, Hellenistic Culture and Society. Berkeley, CA; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-05611-6 (hbk.); ISBN 0-520-08349-0 (pbk.).
Scullard, H. H. [1959] (1982). From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68, 5th edition, London; New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02527-3 (pbk.).
Syme, Ronald (1939). The Roman Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280320-4 (pbk.). The classic revisionist study of Augustus

Further reading

Between Republic and Empire: Interpretations of Augustus and His Principate, edited by Kurt A. Raaflaub and Mark Toher. Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993 (paperback, ISBN 0-520-08447-0).
The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus (Cambridge Companions to the Ancient World). Edited by Karl Galinsky. Cambridge, MA; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005 (hardcover, ISBN 0-521-80796-4; paperback, ISBN 0-521-00393-8).
Eck, Werner; Takács, Sarolta A. The Age of Augustus. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003 (hardcover, ISBN 0-631-22957-4); 2004 (paperback, ISBN 0-631-22958-2).
Everitt, Anthony. Augustus: The Life of Rome 's First Emperor. New York: Random House, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 1-4000-6128-8). As The First Emperor: Caesar Augustus and the Triumph of Rome. London: John Murray, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0719554942).
Reviewed by Alex Butterworth in The Guardian, December 23, 2006.
Galinsky, Karl. Augustan Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998 (paperback, ISBN 0-691-05890-3).
Jones, A.H.M. "The Imperium of Augustus", The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 41, Parts 1 and 2. (1951), pp. 112–119.
Jones, A.H.M. Augustus. London: Chatto & Windus, 1970 (paperback, ISBN 0-7011-1626-9).
Osgood, Josiah. Caesar 's Legacy: Civil War and the Emergence of the Roman Empire. New York: Cambridge University Press (USA), 2006 (hardback, ISBN 0-521-85582-9; paperback, ISBN 0-521-67177-9).
Reinhold, Meyer. The Golden Age of Augustus (Aspects of Antiquity). Toronto, ON: Univ of Toronto Press, 1978 (hardcover, ISBN 0-89522-007-5; paperback, ISBN 0-89522-008-3).
Southern, Pat. Augustus (Roman Imperial Biographies). New York: Routledge, 1998 (hardcover, ISBN 0-415-16631-4); 2001 (paperback, ISBN 0-415-25855-3).
Zanker, Paul. The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Thomas Spencer Jerome Lectures). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1989 (hardcover, ISBN 0-472-10101-3); 1990 (paperback, ISBN 0-472-08124-1).

Geranio, Joe - Portraits of Caligula: The Seated Figure? Vol. XX, No. 1 (1997) Society for Ancient Numismatics

Geranio, Joe - Portraits of Caligula: The Seated Figure? Vol. 21, No. 9 . (2007) The Celator


Princeps Tiberius Ruled from 14-37 A.D.

Tiberius Caesar Augustus, born Tiberius Claudius Nero (November 16, 42 BC – March 16 AD 37), was the second Roman Emperor, from the death of Augustus in AD 14 until his own death in 37. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced his father and was remarried to Octavian Augustus in 39 BC. Tiberius would later marry Augustus ' daughter Julia the Elder (from an earlier marriage) and even later be adopted by Augustus and by this act he became a Julian. The subsequent emperors after Tiberius would continue this blended dynasty of both families for the next forty years; historians have named it the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

Tiberius Claudius Nero is recognized as one of Rome 's greatest generals, whose campaigns in Pannonia, Illyricum, Rhaetia and Germania laid the foundations for the northern frontier. But he came to be remembered as a dark, reclusive, and sombre ruler (tristissimus hominum – 'the gloomiest of men ', by one account[1]), who never really desired to be emperor. After the death of Tiberius ' son Drusus in 23, the quality of his rule declined and ended in a terror. In 26, Tiberius exiled himself from Rome and left administration largely in the hands of his unscrupulous Praetorian Prefects Lucius Aelius Sejanus and Quintus Naevius Sutorius Macro. Caligula, Tiberius ' adopted grandson, succeeded the Emperor on his demise.

Early life

Tiberius Claudius Germanicus Augustus Nero was born on 16 November 42 BC to Tiberius Nero and Livia Drusilla, in Rome.[2] In 39 BC, his mother divorced his biological father and remarried Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus shortly thereafter, while still pregnant with Tiberius Nero 's son. Shortly thereafter in 38 BC his brother, Nero Claudius Drusus, was born.

Little is recorded of Tiberius 's early life. In 32 BC, Tiberius made his first public appearance at the age of nine, delivering the eulogy for his biological father.[3] In 29 BC, both he and his brother Drusus rode in the triumphal chariot along with their adoptive father Octavian in celebration of the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at Actium.[3] In 26 BC, Augustus became gravely ill, and his possible death threatened to plunge the Roman world into chaos again. Historians generally agree that it is during this time that the question of Augustus 's heir became most acute, and while Augustus had seemed to indicate that Agrippa and Marcellus would carry on his position in the event of his death, the ambiguity of succession became Augustus 's chief problem.

In response, a series of potential heirs seem to have been selected, among them Tiberius and his brother, Drusus. In 24 BC, at the age of seventeen, Tiberius entered politics under Augustus 's direction, receiving the position of quaestor,[4] and was granted the right to stand election for praetor and consul five years in advance of the age required by law.[5] Similar provisions were made for Drusus.

Civil and military career

Shortly thereafter Tiberius began appearing in court as an advocate,[6] and it is presumably here that his interest in Greek rhetoric began. In 20 BC, Tiberius was sent East under Marcus Agrippa. The Parthians had captured the standards of the legions under the command of Marcus Crassus (53 BC), Decidius Saxa (40 BC), and Mark Antony (36 BC).[5] After several years of negotiation, Tiberius lead a sizable force into Armenia, presumably with the goal of establishing Armenia as a Roman client-state and as a threat on the Roman-Parthian border, and Augustus was able to reach a compromise whereby these standards were returned, and Armenia remained a neutral territory between the two powers.[5]

After returning from the East in 19 BC, Tiberius was married to Vipsania Agrippina, the daughter of Augustus 's close friend and greatest general, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa,[7] appointed praetor, and sent with his legions to assist his brother Drusus in campaigns in the west. While Drusus focused his forces in Gallia Narbonensis and along the German frontier, Tiberius combated the tribes in the Alps and within Transalpine Gaul. In 16 BC he discovered the sources of the Danube, and soon afterwards the bend of the middle course. Returning to Rome in 13 BC, Tiberius was appointed as consul, and around this same time his son, Julius Caesar Drusus, was born.

Agrippa 's death in 12 BC elevated both Tiberius and Drusus in regards to the succession. Tiberius, on Augustus 's request, divorced Vipsania and married Julia the Elder, Augustus 's daughter and Agrippa 's widow.[7] This event seems to have been the breaking point for Tiberius; the marriage between him and Julia was never a happy one, and produced only a single child which died in infancy.[7] Reportedly, Tiberius once ran into Vipsania again, and proceeded to follow her home crying and begging forgiveness;[7] soon afterwards, Tiberius met with Augustus, and steps were taken to ensure that the two would never meet again. Tiberius continued to be elevated by Augustus, and after Agrippa 's death and his brother Drusus 's death in 9 BC, seemed the clear candidate for succession. As such, in 12 BC he received military commissions in Pannonia and Germania; both areas highly volatile and both areas key to Augustan policy. He returned to Rome and was consul for a second time in 7 BC, and in 6 BC was granted tribunician power (tribunicia potestas) and control in the East,[8] all of which mirrored positions that Agrippa had previously held. However, despite these successes and despite his advancement, Tiberius was not happy.

Retirement to Rhodes

Remnants of Tiberius ' villa at Sperlonga, a Roman resort midway between Rome and Naples.In 6 BC, Tiberius, on the verge of accepting command in the East and becoming the second most powerful man in Rome, suddenly announced his withdrawal from politics and retired to Rhodes. The precise motives for Tiberius 's withdrawal are unclear.[9] Historians have speculated a connection with Augustus 's grandchildren Gaius and Lucius, whom Augustus had adopted, and were being elevated along the same political path that both Tiberius and Drusus had been. Tiberius thus was an interim solution; he would hold power only until Lucius and Gaius came of age, and then be swept aside. The promiscuous, and very public, behavior of his unhappily married wife, Julia, may have also played a part;[8] indeed Tacitus calls it Tiberius ' intima causa, his innermost reason for departing for Rhodes, and seems to ascribe the entire move to a hatred of Julia and a longing for Vipsania.[10] Tiberius had found himself married to a woman he loathed, who publicly humiliated him with nighttime escapades in the Forum, and forbidden to see the woman he had loved.

Whatever Tiberius 's motives, the withdrawal was almost disastrous for Augustus 's succession plans. Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar were still in their early teens, and Augustus, now 57 years old, had no immediate successor. There was no longer a guarantee of a peaceful transfer of power after Augustus 's death, nor a guarantee that should the position of Princeps survive his family, and therefore his families allies, would hold power over it.

Somewhat apocryphal stories tell of Augustus pleading with Tiberius to stay, even going so far as to stage a serious illness; Tiberius 's response was to anchor off the shore of Ostia until word came that Augustus had survived, then sailing straightway for Rhodes.[11] Tiberius reportedly discovered the error of his ways and requested to return to Rome several times; each time Augustus refused the request.

Heir to Augustus

With Tiberius 's departure, succession rested solely on Augustus ' two young grandsons, Lucius and Gaius Caesar. The situation became more precarious in AD 2 with the death of Lucius; Augustus, with perhaps some prompting from Livia, allowed Tiberius to return to Rome as a private citizen and nothing more.[12] In AD 4, Gaius was killed in Armenia and, to paraphrase Tacitus, Augustus had no other choice but to turn to Tiberius.[13][14]

The death of Gaius in AD 4 initiated a flurry of activity in the household of Augustus. Tiberius was adopted as full son and heir along with the young Postumus Agrippa, the third son of Julia the Elder and Marcus Agrippa. In turn, Tiberius was required to adopt his nephew, Germanicus, the son of his brother Drusus and Augustus ' niece Antonia Minor.[13][15] Along with his adoption, Tiberius received tribunician power as well as a share of Augustus 's maius imperium, something that no one else had ever shared.[16] In AD 7, Postumus was disowned by Augustus and banned to the island of Planasia, to live in solitary confinment.[17][18] Thus, when in AD 13, the powers held by Tiberius were made equal, rather than second, to Augustus 's own powers, he was for all intents and purposes a "co-princeps" with Augustus, and in the event of the latter 's passing, would simply continue to rule without an interregnum or possible upheaval.

Augustus died in AD 14, at the age of seventy-six. He was buried with all due ceremony and, as had been arranged beforehand, deified, his will read, and Tiberius confirmed as his sole surviving heir.[19]

Early reign

While the reality of Tiberius 's position as the new Princeps could not be denied, the ceremonial aspect of the transference of power was something that neither the Senate, nor indeed Tiberius, knew how to handle. The Senate convened on 18 September, ostensibly to validate Tiberius 's position as Princeps and, as it had done with Augustus before, extend the powers of the position to him. Tacitus gives what can only be thought of as a full account of the proceedings. Tiberius already had the administrative and political powers of the Princeps, all he lacked were the titles- Augustus, Pater Patriae, and the Civic Crown (a crown made from laurel and oak, in honor of Augustus having saved the lives of Roman citizens). Tiberius, however, attempted to play the role of Augustus, that is of the reluctant public servant who wants nothing more than to serve the state, and ended up throwing the entire affair into confusion. Rather than humble, he came across as derisive; rather than seeming to want to serve the state, he seemed obstructive.[20] He cited his age as a reason why he could not act as Princeps, stated he did not wish the position, and then proceeeded to ask for only a section of the state. The Senate, thoroughly confused, asked which part of the state he would like. Finally, one senator cried, "Sire, for how long will you allow the State to be without a head?"[21] Tiberius finally relented and accepted the powers voted to him, though according to Tacitus and Suetonius he refused to bear the titles Pater Patriae, Imperator, and Augustus, and declined the most solid emblem of the Princeps, the Civic Crown and laurels.[22]

This meeting seems to have set the tone for Tiberius 's entire rule. He seems to have wished for the Senate and the state to simply act without him; his direct orders were vague, inspiring debate more on what he actually meant than on passing his legislation.[23] In his first few years, Tiberius seems to have wanted the Senate to act on its own,[24] rather than as a servant to his will as it had been under Augustus; according to Tacitus, Tiberius derided the Senate as "men fit to be slaves".[25]

Rise and fall of Germanicus

Problems arose quickly for the new Princeps. The legions posted in Pannonia and in Germania had not been paid the bonuses promised them by Augustus, and after a short period of time, when it was clear that a response from Tiberius was not forthcoming, mutinied.[26] Germanicus and Tiberius 's son, Drusus, were dispatched with a small force to quell the uprising and bring the legions back in line. Rather than simply quell the mutiny however, Germanicus rallied the mutineers and led them on a short campaign across the Rhine into Germanic territory, stating that whatever booty they could grab would count as their bonus.[27] Germanicus 's forces smashed across the Rhine and quickly occupied all of the territory between the Rhine and the Elbe. Additionally, Tacitus records the capture of the Teutoburg forest and the reclaiming of standards lost years before by Publius Quinctilius Varus,[28] when four Roman legions had been ambushed by a band of Germans. In the face of inaction by Tiberius, Germanicus had managed to deal a significant blow to Rome 's enemies, quell an uprising of troops, and once again return lost standards to Rome, actions that placed the young Germanicus in a clear "Augustan" light when compared with befuddled Tiberius.

After being recalled from Germania,[29] Germanicus celebrated a triumph in Rome in AD 17,[28] the first full triumph that the city had seen since Augustus 's own in 29 BC. As a result, in AD 18 Germanicus was granted control over the eastern part of the empire, just as both Agrippa and Tiberius had received before, and was clearly the successor to Tiberius.[30] Germanicus survived a little over a year before dying, accusing Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, the governor of Syria, of murdering him.[31] The Pisones had been longtime supporters of the Claudians, and had allied themselves with the young Octavian after his marriage to Livia, the mother of Tiberius; Germanicus 's death and accusations indicted the new Princeps. Piso was placed on trial and, according to Tacitus, threatened to implicate Tiberius.[32] Whether the governor actually could connect the Princeps to the death of Germanicus will never be known; rather than continuing to stand trial when it became evident that the Senate was against him, Piso committed suicide.[33][34]

Tiberius seems to have tired of politics at this point. In AD 22, he shared his tribunician authority with his son Drusus,[35] and began making yearly excursions to Campania that reportedly became longer and longer every year. In AD 23, Drusus mysteriously died,[36][37] and Tiberius seems to have made no effort to elevate a replacement. Finally, in AD 26, Tiberius retired from Rome altogether to the island of Capri.[38]

Tiberius in Capri, Sejanus in Rome

Roman aureus depicting Tiberius, with Livia as Pax shown on the reverse. Struck in AD 36.Lucius Aelius Sejanus had served the imperial family for almost twenty years when he became Praetorian Prefect in AD 15. As Tiberius became more embittered with the position of Princeps, he began to depend more and more upon the limited secretariat left to him by Augustus, and specifically upon Sejanus and the Praetorians. In AD 17 or 18, Tiberius had trimmed the ranks of the Praetorian guard responsible for the defense of the city, and had moved it from encampments outside of the city walls into the city itself,[39] giving Sejanus access to somewhere between 6000 and 9000 troops. The death of Drusus elevated Sejanus, at least in Tiberius 's eyes, who thereafter refers to him as "my partner". Tiberius had statues of Sejanus erected throughout the city,[40][41] and Sejanus became more and more visible as Tiberius began to withdraw from Rome altogether. Finally, with Tiberius 's withdrawal in AD 26, Sejanus was left in charge of the entire state mechanism and the city of Rome.

Sejanus 's position was not quite that of successor; he had requested marriage in AD 25 to Tiberius 's niece, Livilla,[42] though under pressure quickly withdrew the request.[43] While Sejanus 's Praetorians controlled the imperial post, and therefore the information that Tiberius received from Rome and the information Rome received from Tiberius,[44] the presence of Livia seems to have checked his overt power for a time. Her death in AD 29 changed all that.[45] Sejanus began a series of purge trials of Senators and wealthy equestrians in the city of Rome, removing those capable of opposing his power as well as extending the imperial (and his own) treasury. Germanicus 's widow and two of her sons were arrested and exiled in AD 30 and later all died in suspicious circumstances.[46]

In 31, Sejanus held the consulship with Tiberius in absentia,[47] and began his play for power in earnest. Precisely what happened is difficult to determine, but Sejanus seems to have covertly attempted to court those families who were tied to the Julians, and attempted to ingratiate himself with the Julian family line with an eye towards placing himself, as an adopted Julian, in the position of Princeps, or as a possible regent.[47] Livilla was later implicated in this plot, and was revealed to have been Sejanus 's lover for a number of years.[48] The plot seems to have involved the two of them overthrowing Tiberius, with the support of the Julians, and either assuming the Principate themselves, or serving as regent to the young Tiberius Gemellus or possibly even Gaius Caligula. Those who stood in his way were tried for treason and swiftly dealt with.

However, what is clear from the record is that when Sejanus finally did fall, the purges that ensued under Tiberius were almost all aimed at supporters of the Julians. In AD 32 Sejanus was summoned to a meeting of the Senate, where a letter from Tiberius was read condemning Sejanus and ordering his immediate execution. Sejanus was tried, and he and several of his colleagues were executed within the week.[49]

Rome then erupted into even more extensive trials. Whereas Tiberius had been hesitant to act at the outset of his reign, now, towards the end of his life, he seemed to do so without compunction. The Senatorial ranks were decimated. Hardest hit were those families with political ties to the Julians. Even the imperial magistracy was hit, as any and all who had associated with Sejanus or could in some way be tied to his schemes were summarily tried and executed, their properties seized by the state.[50] As Tacitus vividly describes,

Executions were now a stimulus to his fury, and he ordered the death of all who were lying in prison under accusation of complicity with Sejanus. There lay, singly or in heaps, the unnumbered dead, of every age and sex, the illustrious with the obscure. Kinsfolk and friends were not allowed to be near them, to weep over them, or even to gaze on them too long. Spies were set round them, who noted the sorrow of each mourner and followed the rotting corpses, till they were dragged to the Tiber, where, floating or driven on the bank, no one dared to burn or to touch them. The force of terror had utterly extinguished the sense of human fellowship, and, with the growth of cruelty, pity was thrust aside.[50]
Meanwhile, with Tiberius in Capri, rumors abounded as to what exactly he was doing there. Suetonius records livid tales of sexual perversity and cruelty, of sado-masochism and pederasty, and most of all his paranoia.[51] While perhaps sensationalized, the stories at least paint a picture of how Tiberius was perceived by the Roman people, and what his impact on the Principate was during his 23 years of rule.

Final years

The Death of Tiberius by Jean-Paul Laurens, depicting the Roman emperor about to be smothered under orders of Naevius Sutorius Macro.The affair with Sejanus and the final years of treason trials permanently damaged Tiberius ' image and reputation. After Sejanus 's fall, Tiberius 's withdrawal from Rome was complete; the empire continued to run under the inertia of the bureaucracy established by Augustus, rather than through the leadership of the Princeps. He became utterly paranoid,[52] and reportedly spent a great deal of time brooding over the death of his son. Meanwhile, Suetonius records a short invasion by Parthia and incursions by tribes from Dacia and from across the Rhine by several Germanic tribes.[53]

Nothing was done to either secure or indicate how his succession was to take place; the Julians and their supporters felt his full wrath, his own sons and immediate family were dead. There seemed to be a vague nod to Gaius "Caligula", the sole surviving son of Germanicus, as well as his own grandson Tiberius Gemellus,[54] but nothing certain, and there was only a half-hearted attempt at the end of his life to make Gaius an honorary quaestor.[55]

Tiberius died in Misenum on March 16, AD 37, at the age of 77.[56] Tacitus records that upon the news of his death the crowd rejoiced, only to become suddenly silent upon hearing that he had recovered, and rejoiced again at the news that Caligula had smothered him.[57] This is not recorded by other ancient historians and is most likely apocryphal, but it can be taken as an indication of how the senatorial class felt towards the Emperor at the time of his death. In his will, Tiberius had left his powers jointly to Caligula and Tiberius Gemellus[58][59]; Caligula 's first act on becoming Princeps was to void Tiberius ' will and have Gemellus executed.[59]

Tiberius 's downfall was not his abuse of power but his refusal to use it. His withdrawn nature, especially in comparison with Augustus 's openness, immediately made him a disliked figure. The Senate had been functioning under the directorship of the Principate for almost 50 years; most Senators had gained their position and hoped to advance further by courting Imperial favor. Tiberius 's attempt to restore some share of administration to the Senate thus met with failure; the Senate no longer knew how to rule independent of the Princeps. Tiberius seemed uninterested in the role set for him to play, and his rule and his reputation suffered. The administration of the Imperial sector of the government increased during this time, but how much this is due to direct action by Tiberius rather than his freedmen advisors cannot be determined. In the end, Tiberius perhaps is a model of how power can be abused by its lack of use.


The tribute penny mentioned in the Bible is commonly believed to be a Roman denarius depicting Tiberius. It is difficult not to feel conflicted about Tiberius. Were he to have died prior to AD 23, he might have been hailed as an exemplary ruler. Despite the overwhelmingly negative characterization left by Roman historians, Tiberius left the imperial treasury 20 times richer than when he inherited it. Rather than embark on costly campaigns of conquest, he chose to strengthen the existing empire by building additional bases, using diplomacy as well as military threats, and generally refraining from getting drawn into petty squabbles between competing frontier tyrants. The result was a stronger, more consolidated empire.

The Gospels record that during Tiberius ' reign, Jesus of Nazareth preached and was executed under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. In the Bible, Tiberius is mentioned by name only once, in Luke 3:1, stating that John the Baptist entered on his public ministry in the fifteenth year of his reign. Many references to Caesar (or the emperor in some other translations), without further specification, actually refer to Tiberius.

Similarly, the "Tribute Penny" referred to in Matthew 22:19 and Mark 12:15 is popularly thought to be a silver denarius coin of Tiberius.

The town Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee was named in Tiberius 's honour by Herod Antipas.

Tiberius in fiction

Tiberius has been represented several times in fiction, both in literature and in film and television, though often as a peripheral character in the central storyline. The most widely known modern representation is in the novel I, Claudius by Robert Graves, and the consequent BBC television series adaptation, where he is portrayed by George Baker. In addition, Tiberius has prominent roles in Ben-Hur (played by George Relph in his last starring role), and Caligula (played by Peter O 'Toole).

In the Command and Conquer universe, the tiberium resource is, according to Kane, named after Tiberius. Others in the game say it is named after the Tiber river, where it was first discovered.

^ Pliny the Elder, Natural Histories XXVIII.5.23
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 5
^ a b Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 6
^ Velleius Paterculus, Roman History II.94
^ a b c Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 9
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 8
^ a b c d Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 7
^ a b Cassius Dio, Roman History LV.9
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 10
^ Tacitus, Annals I.53
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 11
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 13
^ a b Tacitus, Annals I.3
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 15
^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LV.13
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 16
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 15
^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LV.32
^ Tacitus, Annals I.8
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 24
^ Tacitus, Annals I.12, I.13
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 26
^ Tacitus, Annals III.32, III.52
^ Tacitus, Annals III.35, III.53, III.54
^ Tacitus, Annals III.65
^ Tacitus, Annals I.16, I.17, I.31
^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LVII.6
^ a b Tacitus, Annals II.41
^ Tacitus, Annals II.26
^ Tacitus, Annals II.43
^ Tacitus, Annals II.71
^ Tacitus, Annals III.16
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 52
^ Tacitus, Annals III.15
^ Tacitus, Annals III.56
^ Tacitus, Annals, IV.7, IV.8
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 62
^ Tacitus, Annals IV.67
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 37
^ Tacitus, Annals IV.2
^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LVII.21
^ Tacitus, Annals IV.39
^ Tacitus, Annals IV.40, IV.41
^ Tacitus, Annals IV.41
^ Tacitus, Annals V.3
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 53, 54
^ a b Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 65
^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LVII.22
^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LVIII.10
^ a b Tacitus, Annals VI.19
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 43, 44, 45
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 60, 62, 63, 64
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 41
^ Tacitus, Annals VI.46
^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LVII.23
^ Tacitus, Annals VI.50, VI.51
^ Tacitus, Annals VI.50
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 76
^ a b Cassius Dio, Roman History LIX.1

Joe counting hair curls, pincers, etc.......... from profile.   The Gettty Caligulan head is fantastic for showing agreement on Caligula ' Vesta aes (bronze coins).  See example below.  Remember; these portraits are found without inscribed statue bases if that was the case and numismatics are the key for helping ID these wonderful Julio Claudian portraits. 

Princeps Gaius Caligula- Ruled from:  37-41 A.D.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (August 31, 12 – January 24, 41), more commonly known by his nickname Caligula, was the third Roman Emperor and a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, ruling from 37 to 41. Known for his extreme extravagance, eccentricity, depravity and cruelty, he is remembered as a despot. He was assassinated in 41 by several of his own guards. The Lives of the Caesars by Roman historian Suetonius gives the most popular account of his reign.

The surviving sources tend to focus upon aneotes of Caligula 's cruelty and alleged insanity. To that extent these sources, in particular Suetonius, are sensationalist and biased resulting in a matter of controversy among modern scholars. Tacitus is often considered to be the most objective Roman historian of this period; unfortunately his account of the reign of Caligula has been lost.

Caligula was born as Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus on August 31, 12, at the resort of Antium. He was the third of six surviving children born to Augustus 's adopted grandson, Germanicus, and Augustus ' granddaughter, Agrippina the Elder. Germanicus was the son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia Minor. Agrippina was the daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder. Gaius ' brothers were Nero and Drusus as well as Tiberius and Gaius Julius, who died young. His sisters were Julia Livilla, Drusilla and Agrippina the Younger. Gaius was also nephew to Claudius (the future Emperor).

Gaius ' father, Germanicus, was a grandson to Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia, Augustus 's third wife, as well as an adoptive grandson of Augustus himself. Germanicus was a prominent member of the Julio-Claudian family and was revered as son of one of the most beloved generals of the Roman Empire. Agrippina was a granddaughter of Augustus and Scribonia. She was considered a model of the perfect Roman woman.

Early life

As a boy of just two or three, Gaius accompanied his parents on military campaigns in the north of Germania and became the mascot of his father 's army.[1] The soldiers were amused whenever Agrippina would put young Gaius in a miniature soldier 's uniform, including boots and armor; and he was soon given his nickname 'Caligula ', meaning "Little (Soldier 's) boots" in Latin, after the small boots he wore as part of his uniform.[2]

The question of succession had arisen several times during the life of Augustus, leading to accusations of intrigue within the family. Caligula 's father, Germanicus, was believed by many to have been Augustus ' preferred successor, though at the time of Augustus ' death he was too young to assume the role of Princeps. As a result, Augustus had promoted Tiberius, with the caveat that Tiberius in turn adopt Germanicus. After a successful campaign in Germania and a Triumph in Rome, Germanicus was sent east to distance him from Roman politics; and he died on October 10, 19, claiming to have been poisoned by agents of Tiberius. Relations between his mother and Tiberius deteriorated rapidly amid accusations of murder and conspiracy. The adolescent Caligula was sent to live first with his great-grandmother, and Tiberius ' mother, Livia, in 27, possibly as a hostage. Following Livia 's falling-out with Tiberius and her death two years later, he was returned to his Julian relatives and remanded to his grandmother Antonia.[3] During this period Caligula had little outside contact; his sole companions were his three sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla, and Julia Livilla. Later, Caligula 's accusers would focus on this close relationship, accusing the Emperor of having engaged in incest with all three, but especially Drusilla. Suetonius in particular writes a great deal about these supposed acts.[4]

In 31, Caligula was remanded to the personal care of Tiberius on Capri until the death of Tiberius and the ascension of Caligula in 37.[3] By this time, Caligula was already in favor with Tiberius. Suetonius writes of extreme perversions happening on Capri,[5] as Tiberius was without the people who had managed, in Rome, to keep him in line (Augustus, Livia, his brother Drusus, and his best friend Nerva), so he felt free to indulge in any perversion he desired. Whether this is true or not is hard to say. Unpopular Emperors, such as Tiberius and Caligula, may not have had the whole truth written about them, and gossip is common throughout ancient texts.

At this time, Tiberius ' Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus, was extremely powerful in Rome and began forming his own alliances against the Emperor 's rule and his possible successors, attempting to court the supporters of the Julian line.[6] Treason trials were frequent events, as Tiberius in his old age was growing increasingly paranoid and began to rely increasingly upon his friend Sejanus, who had once saved his life.[7] These trials were the main lever Sejanus used to strengthen his position and dispose of any opposition.

From a very early age Caligula learned to tread very carefully. According to both Tacitus and Suetonius, he surpassed his brothers in intelligence, and was an excellent natural actor, recognizing danger when other members of his family could not.[8] Caligula survived when most of the other potential candidates to the throne were destroyed. His mother Agrippina was banished to the tiny island of Pandataria, where she starved herself to death. His two oldest brothers, Nero and Drusus, also died. Nero was banished to the island of Ponza, while Drusus ' body was found locked in a dungeon with stuffing from his mattress in his mouth, apparently eaten to keep off the hunger pangs.[9][10]

Suetonius writes of Caligula 's servile nature towards Tiberius and his indifferent nature towards his dead mother and brothers. By his own account, Caligula mentioned years later that this servility was a sham in order to stay alive, and on more than one occasion he very nearly killed Tiberius when his anger overwhelmed him.[11] An observer said of Caligula: "Never was there a better servant or a worse master!"[3][8] Caligula proved to have a flair for administration and won further favor with the ailing Tiberius by carrying out many of his duties for him. At night, Caligula would inflict torture on slaves and watch bloody gladiatorial games with glee, implying strong sadism.[12] In 33, Tiberius gave Caligula the position of honorary quaestorship, the only form of public service Caligula would hold until his reign.[13]

Early reign

When Tiberius died on March 16, 37, his estate and the titles of the Principate were left to Caligula and Tiberius ' own grandson, Tiberius Gemellus, who were to serve as joint heirs. Tacitus writes that the Prefect of the Praetorian Guard Naevius Sutorius Macro smothered Tiberius with a pillow to hasten Caligula 's accession, much to the joy of the Roman people.[14] Suetonius even suspects that Caligula may have carried out the killing himself.[11] Backed by Macro, Caligula had Tiberius ' will with regards to Tiberius Gemellus declared null and void on grounds of insanity, but otherwise carried out Tiberius ' wishes.[15]

Caligula accepted the powers of the Principate as conferred by the Senate, and entered Rome on March 28 amid a crowd that hailed him as "our baby" and "our star".[16] Caligula is described as the first Emperor who was admired by everyone in "all the world, from the rising to the setting sun."[17] It was also said by Suetonius that over one-hundred and sixty thousand animals were sacrificed during three months of public rejoicing to usher in his reign.[18] Philo describes the first seven months of Caligula 's reign as completely blissful.[19]

His first acts were said to be generous in spirit, though likely political in nature. He granted bonuses to the Praetorian Guards, destroyed Tiberius ' treason papers, declared that treason trials were a thing of the past, recalled exiles, and helped those who had been harmed by the Imperial tax system. He also banished sex offenders from the empire. He was also known to put on lavish spectacles for the public, such as gladiator battles. These acts initially won him favor from the public. Furthermore, he revived free elections for the populace and re-opened the annals of the empire that had been closed under his predecessor Tiberius.[20]

Caligula was loved by many for being the beloved son of the popular Germanicus,[21] but also because he was not Tiberius.[22] Moreover, he was, unlike Tiberius, a direct blood descendant of Augustus and a relative of Julius Caesar. He was also a great-grandson of Mark Antony.

On becoming Emperor, Caligula performed a spectacular stunt.[23] He ordered a temporary floating bridge to be built using ships as pontoons, stretching for over two miles from the resort of Baiae to the neighboring port of Puteoli. It was said that the bridge was to rival that of Persian King Xerxes ' crossing of the Hellespont. He then proceeded to ride his favorite horse, Incitatus, across, wearing the breastplate of Alexander the Great. This act was in defiance of Tiberius ' soothsayer Thrasyllus of Mendes prediction that he had "no more chance of becoming Emperor than of riding a horse across the Bay of Baiae".


Following an auspicious start to his reign, Caligula fell seriously ill in October of 37. Philo is the sole historian to describe this illness[24], though Cassius Dio mentions it in passing.[25] Philo claims that Caligula 's increased bath-taking, drinking and sex after becoming Emperor caused him to catch the virus. It was said that the entire empire was paralyzed with sadness and sympathy over Caligula 's affliction. Caligula completely recovered from this illness, but Philo highlights it as a turning point in the reign of Caligula.

Some modern historians have theorized that this physical illness contributed to a later mental illness. Howard Hayes Scullard remarks that Caligula "emerged [from his sickness] as a monster of lust and diabolical cruelty." [26]

There is some debate as to when Caligula 's change occurred. Many authors, including Michael Grant (The Twelve Caesars, 1975) and Donna W. Hurley (An Historical and Historiographical Commentary on Suetonius ' "Life of C. Caligula", 1993), state that the real break between Caligula and the Senate, and thereafter his extravagant behaviour, did not occur until 39. Though the exact cause of the argument between the young Caesar and the Senate is unclear, what sources remain seem to indicate that the Emperor had demanded a triumph and had been refused by the Senate. What is clear is that in 39 Caligula removed and replaced the Consuls without consulting the Senate, and publicly humiliated several Senators by forcing them to run alongside his chariot in their full robes. It is from this point on that there is a marked change in the biography of his life; the young man previously hailed as "our star" and "our baby" by the Roman people became a despotic tyrant.

Political achievements

Roman aureus depicting Caligula, c 40, with Germanicus shown on the reverse.

Caligula 's reign was short and surviving sources record few of Caligula 's political achievements. During his reign, Mauretania was annexed and reorganized into two provinces. Herod Agrippa was appointed governor of Judaea. Several riots took place in Alexandria and other eastern cities between Jews and Greeks that were quelled. Caligula had harbours at Rhegium and Sicily improved and had grain imports from Egypt increased. He had public works completed, temples built and walls repaired. Caligula was also reluctantly described by sources as an excellent speaker, very persuasive and generally popular with the Roman people.

Surviving sources also record few of his political blunders. Those that are highlighted and used as evidence of insanity and tyranny are his military activities on the northern frontier, his religious policy and his tax policy. His northern campaigns are derided, with accounts of Gauls dressed up as Germanic tribesmen at his triumph, and Roman troops ordered to collect sea-shells as "spoils of the sea" and indicative of his victory against Neptune. Numerous theories and suggestions have been put forth to attempt to explain these actions as anything other than those of a mad-man, the most reasonable suggestion being that Caligula went north to invade Britannia and win where even Julius Caesar had been forced to retreat. His troops seem to have had a different campaign in mind, and upon arriving at the shores of the English Channel, the troops refused to go further, hence Caligula ordered them to collect sea-shells as their reward for the "campaign" that they refused to embark upon. Once again, however, due to the lack of sources, what precisely occurred and why is a matter of debate even among the primary sources for Caligula 's reign.

Ruins of the temple of Castor and Pollux in the Forum Romanum. Ancient resources as well as recent archeological evidence suggest that, at one point Caligula had the palace extended to annex this structure.Caligula 's religious policy was a firm departure from the policy of his predecessors. Under Augustus, the Cult of the Deified Emperor had been established and promoted, especially in the western empire, and was generally the first organization established in any new Roman colony. Augustus proclaimed on multiple occasions that he was not himself personally divine; instead the Cult centered around his numen, his personal spirit, and gens, the collective spirit of his family and ancestors. After Augustus, Tiberius seems to have had little interest in the Cult, and its promulgation and expansion seems to have been on a local level and driven by local magistrates, rather than from a central organizational structure. Caligula expanded this Cult on an unprecedented scale. The temple of Castor and Pollux on the Forum was linked directly to the Imperial residence on the Palatine and dedicated to Caligula himself [1] [2]; he would appear here on occasions, dressed and presenting himself as a god, and demanding that those in his presence adopt sycophantic methods of acknowledging him. The nature of the Cult of the Deified Emperor changed from honoring the spirits around the Emperor to direct worship of Caligula himself. Likewise, Caligula 's policies affected religious practice in the whole of the Empire, not just those practices associated with the Cult. The heads of the statues of many of the gods throughout Rome and the empire were replaced with Caligula 's head, including many of the female statues, and Caligula demanded that he be worshipped as an embodiment of these gods, similar to the Hellenistic ruler-cults.

Caligula 's tax policy is also criticized heavily by sources. Caligula attempted to levy tax on law suits, prostitution and marriage.

Eastern policy

Caligula and other Emperors ' desire to be worshipped was at odds with Jewish monotheism in the first century. Philo said that Caligula "regarded the Jews with most especial suspicion, as if they were the only persons who cherished wishes opposed to his."[27]

On his accession in 37, he made his good friend, Herod Agrippa, the governor of territories Batanaea and Trachonitis.

In 38, Caligula ordered the prefect, Aulus Avilius Flaccus, to erect statues of the Emperor in Jewish synagogues. Riots broke out in Alexandria and Flaccus was removed.

In 39, Agrippa accused Herod Antipas, the governor of Galilee and Peres, of planning a rebellion against Roman rule with the help of Parthia. Herod Antipas confessed and Caligula exiled him. Agrippa was rewarded with his territories and now controlled most of Judea.[28]

Riots again erupted in Alexandria in 40, this time between Jews and Greeks. Jews were accused of not honoring the Emperor.[29] Also, disputes occurred in the city of Jamnia. Jews were angered by the erection of an altar to Caligula and destroyed it.[30] Angered, Caligula ordered the erection of a statue of himself in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem.

Fearing civil war if the order were carried out, it was delayed for nearly a year by the governor of Syria, Publius Petronius. Agrippa finally convinced Caligula to reverse the order.[31]


Renaissance picture of Caligula.

Outlandish stories cluster about the raving Emperor, illustrating his excessive cruelty, multiple and peculiar sexual escapades (both heterosexual and homosexual, at least as claimed by Suetonius, Cal. 36), or disrespect toward tradition and the Senate. Suetonius [4] describes his incestuous relationships with all three of his sisters, his selling to the highest bidder the wives of high-ranking Senate members during sexual orgies, his laughable military campaigns in the north, and his habit of roaming the halls of his palace at night ordering the sun to rise. He also named his horse, Incitatus, as a priest and gave it a house to reside in, complete with a marble stable, golden manger, and jeweled necklaces; and he later spoke of appointing it Consul to the Senate.

He is said to have opened a brothel in his palace and had a habit of taking Senate members ' wives with him to his private bedroom during social functions, while the husbands could merely look on as they left together. He would then recount the sexual acts he performed with the wives for all to hear, including their husbands. (This seems to spring from a remark he made about the performance in bed by a sister to his third wife, Lollia Paulina, whom he had had a relationship with before he married Lollia. Present at the dinner was the husband of Lollia 's sister, Valerius Asiaticus, who conceived a grudge against Caligula and eventually conspired against him.)

He is described as aloof, arrogant, egotistical, and is generally portrayed as insane. He is said to have cried "I wish the Roman people had but a single neck" when an arena crowd applauded a faction he opposed. [32] It is also said that when there were not enough convicts to fight lions and tigers in arena, he threw in some spectators. When he found out about one plot on his life, he supposedly ordered the conspirators killed "by numerous small wounds, so they may feel they are dying." Suetonius wrote that he often uttered "Let them hate me, so long as they fear me", and described this as a familiar line of the tragic poet (Accius); however, Suetonius also attributes the utterance of this line to Tiberius.

The hull of one of two ships recovered from Lake Nemi during the 1930s. This massive vessel served as an elaborate floating palace to the emperor.He declared himself a living god. He had a causeway constructed between the Palatine and the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline (reportedly to allow easy consultation between the two "divinities"), and expanded the imperial palace onto the forum itself and into the temple of Castor and Pollux, where Caligula would appear in the style of various gods and "hold court". He is reportedly responsible for movement of the temple of Jupiter at Olympia to the Capitoline, including the famed statue of Jupiter and the "black stone" of Jupiter. He is also said to have made it a crime to look down on him from above, and not to leave him everything in a will.

Caligula was also said to be incredibly self-indulgent, dramatic proof of which has been found with the discovery of two sunken ships at the bottom of Lake Nemi. These two ships are among the largest vessels in the ancient world. The smaller of the ships was designed as a temple dedicated to Diana. The larger ship was essentially an elaborate floating palace that counted marble floors and plumbing among its amenities, the sole role of which was to satisfy Caligula 's increasingly hedonistic behavior.

Assassination and aftermath

Caligula 's actions as Emperor were described as being especially harsh to the Senate, the nobility and the equestrian order. According to Josephus, these actions led to at least three failed conspiracies against Caligula that were thwarted by the Praetorian Guard.[33] Eventually, a successful murder was planned by officers within the Praetorian Guard itself led by Cassius Chaerea. The plot is described as having been planned by three men, but many in the Senate, army and equestrian order were said to have been informed of it.[34]

According to Josephus, Chaerea had political motivations for the assassination.[35] Suetonius, on the other hand, claims Caligula called Chaerea derogatory names.

According to Suetonius and Josephus, Caligula 's praetorian prefect Cassius Chaerea had received a wound, presumably to his groin, in his service to the previous Emperors.[36] Caligula had often mocked Chaerea for this wound, setting the watchword for the day as "Priapus" (a Roman god of fertility typically depicted with a large erection) or "Venus" whenever Chaerea was on duty. According to Josephus, the reason for the choice of watchword and its association with Chaerea 's injury had become "famous over the city".

On January 24, 41, Chaerea and other guardsmen accosted Caligula while he was addressing an acting troupe of young men during a series of games and dramatics held for the Divine Augustus. Chaerea requested the watchword from Caligula; Josephus records that it was another slight against Chaerea, though Suetonius states that it was simply "Jupiter". Suetonius records two versions; in the first, Chaerea struck Caligula from behind while he was addressing the boys, and in the second, Chaerea responded to the watchword with "So be it!" and attacked. After the first blow, Caligula cried for help, prompting the other assassins to strike as well; Suetonius records a total of 30 wounds, some through the genitals, and Josephus credits the Praetorian Aquila with having delivered the killing blow. Another assassin sought out and stabbed Caligula 's wife Caesonia and killed their infant daughter, Julia Drusilla, by smashing her head against a wall.[37] By the time Caligula 's loyal Germanic guard responded, the Emperor was already dead. The Germanic guard, stricken with grief and rage, responded with a rampaging attack on the assassins, conspirators, innocent senators and bystanders alike.[38]

The Senate attempted to use Caligula 's death as an opportunity to restore the Republic. [39] Chaerea attempted to convince the military to support the Senate. [40] The military, though, remained loyal to the office of the Emperor. The grieving Roman people assembled and demanded that Caligula 's murderers be brought to justice, while Caligula 's uncle Claudius was spirited out of the city to a nearby Praetorian camp.[41] Claudius became Emperor after procuring the support of the Praetorian guard and ordered the execution of Chaerea and any other known conspirators involved in the death of Caligula. [42]


Recent sources are divided in attempting to ascribe a medical reason for Caligula 's behavior, citing as possibilities encephalitis, epilepsy or meningitis. Cassius Dio described Caligula having a "brain fever". Suetonius said that Caligula suffered from "falling sickness" and "mental infirmity." Philo of Alexandria reports it was nothing more than a nervous breakdown, as Caligula was not used to the pressures of constant attention after being out of the public eye for most of his life. Rome waited in horror, praying that their beloved Emperor would recover. He became better, but his reign took a sharp turn. The death of Gemellus and of Silanus, Caligula 's father-in-law, took place right after Caligula recovered.

The question of whether or not Caligula was insane remains unanswered. Philo, author of Legatio ad Caium ("On Embassy to Caius") and leader of a delegation sent to Caligula to seek relief from persecution by Alexandrian Greeks, claimed that the Emperor was no more than a vicious jokester.

However, given Caligula 's unpopularity among the surviving sources, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. In addition to those recounted above, there are many famous stories attesting to his bizarre behavior as Emperor: as a punishment to the Jews for their destruction of an imperial altar in Jamia he wanted to erect a statue of himself in Jerusalem (his good friend Herod Agrippa stopped it), his amusement with shutting down the granaries and starving the citizens, his hobby of watching executions as he ate, and labeling himself a "god". According to Suetonius, he "often sent for men whom he had secretly killed, as though they were still alive, and remarked off-handedly a few days later that they must have committed suicide". Interesting enough, Seneca, a contemporary who – typical for Seneca – after Caligula 's death painted him in the darkest colours, says nothing about Caligula 's rumoured incestuous relations with his sisters, and Seneca should have known since he was on close terms with both surviving sisters of Caligula, Agrippina the younger and Julia Livilla. Regardless of the validity of any of these aneotes, historians tend to agree that Caligula was extremely unqualified and unprepared to be Emperor.

Alternative views

The lack of a full account of Caligula 's reign, and the hyperbolic nature of the records that do remain, create several problems for historical analysis. It must be noted that, except for Philo 's Embassy to Caius and mention in Josephus ' Antiquities of the Jews,[43] all historical writings regarding Caligula are authored by Romans of senatorial rank, a class of individuals whose power had been severely checked by the growth of the Principate. Additionally, in Roman political culture, sexual perversity was often presented hand in hand with poor government.[citation needed] Suetonius accuses Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero all of sexually perverse behaviour, and also heavily criticizes many of the administrative aspects of these emperors ' rules. Therefore, much of what is recorded about Caligula, especially that coming from Suetonius, must be taken with a grain of salt.

Bust of Caligula, 1st century.It is known that in 39 there was a political break between Caligula and the Senate, and it is from this point forward that Caligula 's reign takes on a decidedly despotic tone. The purges of Tiberius had removed from the Senate some of the staunchest supporters of the Julian line, of which Caligula was a prominent member. Caligula was thus presented with a Senate that, at best, offered half-hearted support. Additionally, the absence of Tiberius for much of his reign meant that the Senate, previously docile after almost 50 years under Augustus, had been forced to take up much of the administrative apparatus of the Empire once again. Caligula was thus faced with an uncooperative Senate that was once again beginning to rule the Empire as it had before Caesar and Augustus.

The position of the Princeps was an elaborate facade that required the most powerful man in Rome to act as if he were nothing more than a concerned citizen and magistrate under the Senate 's supervision. Caligula, faced with an uncooperative Senate, seems to have quickly tired of this charade and decided to act indiscriminately with the powers given to him as Princeps. The vast financial reserves that Tiberius had left behind were quickly spent and the imperial treasury emptied by the end of Caligula 's brief reign. His reign saw the expansion of the imperial court and imperial palace into the Forum itself. Imperial duties and responsibilities that Tiberius had returned to the Senate were reclaimed as rights of the Princeps, and the powers of the Senate were further restricted. Perhaps modeling his rule after the Hellenistic monarchs, Caligula sought to make himself the center of all religious activity.

In essence, Caligula sought to take the Principate to its next logical step: a divine monarchy; however, the complexities of Roman society and Roman politics demanded that the facade of the "first-citizen" be continued. Suetonius compares Caligula to Julius Caesar; in the mind of the Roman Senate, the delicately balanced Principate had become little more than the tyranny it had rid itself of a century before. Thus, much of the sensational accusations leveled at Caligula could be viewed as politically motivated attacks against his character and his memory. It must be kept in mind that the records that we have of Caligula were all written by his political opponents, those most damaged by his attempt to enforce his absolute authority.

In popular culture

Main article: Caligula in popular culture

See also
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^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula 9
^ "Caligula" is formed from the Latin word caliga, meaning soldier 's boot, and the diminutive infix -ul.
^ a b c Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula 10
^ a b Suetonius, Life of Caligula 24
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 43, 44, 45
^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LVIII.4, LVIII.5
^ Tacitus, Annals IV.59
^ a b Tacitus, Annals VI.20
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 54
^ Tacitus, Annals VI.23
^ a b Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula 12
^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula 11
^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LVII.23
^ Tacitus, Annals VI.50
^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LIX.1
^ Suetonius, Life of Gaius 13
^ Philo From Embassy to Gaius, II.10
^ Suetonius, Life of Caligula 14; Philo mentions widespread sacrifice, but no estimation on the degree, Philo, From Embassy to Gaius, II.11
^ Philo, From Embassy to Gaius, II.13
^ Suetonius, Life of Caligula 15–21
^ Suetonius, Life of Gaius 13
^ Philo, From Embassy to Gaius, I
^ Suetonius, Life of Gaius 19
^ Philo, ' 'On the Embassy to Gaius ' ' II–III
^ Cassius Dio, ' 'Roman History ' ' Book 59.10
^ Scullard, H.H. ' 'From the Gracchi to Nero: a history of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68 ' '
^ Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius XVI
^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.7
^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.8.1
^ Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius XXX
^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.8.1
^ "Utinam populus Romanus unam cervicem haberet!" As quoted in The Lives of the Caesars Caesars: Gaius by Suetonius.
^ Josephus Antiquities of the Jews XIX.1.6; Suetonius, Life of Caligula 56
^ Josephus Antiquities of the Jews XIX.1.10
^ Josephus Antiquities of the Jews XIX.1.6
^ Suetonius, Life of Gaius 56, Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 19.52
^ Suetonius, Life of Gaius 59
^ Josephus Antiquities of the Jews XIX.1.15; Suetonius, Life of Caligula 58
^ Josephus Antiquities of the Jews XIX.2
^ Josephus Antiquities of the Jews XIX.4.4
^ Josephus Antiquities of the Jews XIX.2.20; Tacitus, Annals XI.1
^ Josephus Antiquities of the Jews XIX.3.1
^ Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, chapters 6-8

Geranio, Joe - Portraits of Caligula: The Seated Figure? Vol. XX, No. 1  (1997)  Society for Ancient Numismatics 

Geranio, Joe - Portraits of Caligula: The Seated Figure? Vol. 21, No. 9 . (2007) The Celator 


Princeps Claudius Ruled From:  41-54 A.D.

Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (August 1, 10 BC – October 13, 54) (Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus before his accession) was the fourth Roman Emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, ruling from January 24, 41 to his death in 54. Born in Lugdunum in Gaul (modern-day Lyon, France), to Drusus and Antonia Minor, he was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italia.

Claudius was considered a rather unlikely man to become emperor. He was reportedly afflicted with some type of disability, and his family had virtually excluded him from public office until his consulship with his nephew Caligula in 37. This infirmity may have saved him from the fate of many other Roman nobles during the purges of Tiberius ' and Caligula 's reigns. His very survival led to his being declared emperor after Caligula 's assassination, at which point he was the last adult male of his family. Despite his lack of political experience, Claudius proved to be an able administrator and a great builder of public works. His reign saw an expansion of the empire, including the conquest of Britain. He took a personal interest in the law, presided at public trials, and issued up to twenty edicts a day; however, he was seen as vulnerable throughout his rule, particularly by the nobility. Claudius was constantly forced to shore up his position—resulting in the deaths of many senators. Claudius also suffered head truama as a young boy. He also suffered tragic setbacks in his personal life, one of which led to his murder. These events damaged his reputation among the ancient writers. More recent historians have revised this opinion.

Claudius ' affliction and personality

The historian Suetonius describes the physical manifestations of Claudius ' affliction in relatively good detail.[1] His knees were weak and gave way under him and his head shook. He stammered and his speech was confused. He slobbered and his nose ran when excited. The Stoic Seneca states in his Apocolocyntosis that Claudius ' voice belonged to no land animal, and that his hands were weak as well;[2] however, he showed no physical deformity, as Suetonius notes that when calm and seated he was a tall, well-built figure of dignitas.[3] When angered or stressed, his symptoms became worse. Historians agree that this improved upon his accession to the throne.[4] Claudius himself claimed that he had exaggerated his ailments to save his own life.[5]

The modern diagnosis has changed several times in the past century. Prior to World War II, infantile paralysis (or polio) was widely accepted as the cause. This is the diagnosis used in Robert Graves ' Claudius novels, first published in the 1930s. Polio does not explain many of the described symptoms, however, and a more recent theory implicates cerebral palsy as the cause, as outlined by Ernestine Leon.[6] Tourette syndrome is also a likely candidate for Claudius ' symptoms.[7]

On the personal front, the ancient historians describe Claudius as generous and lowbrow, a man who cracked lame jokes, laughed uncontrollably, and lunched with the plebs.[8] They also paint him as bloodthirsty and cruel, overly fond of both gladiatorial combat and executions, and very quick to anger (though Claudius himself acknowledged this last trait, and apologized publicly for his temper).[9] To them he was also overly trusting, and easily manipulated by his wives and freedmen.[10] But at the same time they portray him as paranoid and apathetic, dull and easily confused.[11] The extant works of Claudius present a different view, painting a picture of an intelligent, scholarly, well-read, and conscientious administrator with an eye to detail and justice. Thus, Claudius becomes an enigma. Since the discovery of his "Letter to the Alexandrians" in the last century, much work has been done to rehabilitate Claudius and determine where the truth lies.

Family and early life

Claudius was born Tiberius Claudius Drusus on August 1, 10 BC, in Lugdunum, Gaul, on the day of the dedication of an altar to Augustus. His parents were Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia, and he had two older siblings named Germanicus and Livilla. Antonia may have had two other children as well, but these died young.

His maternal grandparents were Mark Antony and Octavia Minor, Caesar Augustus ' sister. His paternal grandparents were Livia, Augustus ' third wife, and Tiberius Claudius Nero. During his reign, Claudius revived the rumor that his father Drusus was actually the illegitimate son of Augustus.

In 9 BC, Drusus unexpectedly died, possibly from an injury. Claudius was then left to be raised by his mother, who never remarried. When Claudius ' afflictions became evident, the relationship with his family turned sour. Antonia referred to him as a monster, and used him as a standard for stupidity. She seems to have passed her son off on his grandmother Livia for a number of years.[12] Livia was little kinder, and often sent him short, angry letters of reproof. He was put under the care of a "former mule-driver"[13] to keep him disciplined, under the logic that his condition was due to laziness and a lack of will-power. However, by the time he reached his teenage years his symptoms apparently waned and his family took some notice of his scholarly interests. In 7, Livy was hired in to tutor him in history, with the assistance of Sulpicius Flavus. He spent a lot of his time with the latter and the philosopher Athenodorus. Augustus, according to a letter, was surprised at the clarity of Claudius ' oratory.[14] Expectations were raised as to his future.

A sestertius of Claudius. The obverse image is of Spes (Hope) Augusta, first issued to commemorate the birth of his son in 41.In the end, it was his work as a budding historian that destroyed his early career. According to Vincent Scramuzza and others, Claudius began work on a history of the Civil Wars that was either too truthful or too critical of Octavian.[15] In either case, it was far too early for such an account, and may have only served to remind Augustus that Claudius was Antony 's descendant. His mother and grandmother quickly put a stop to it, and this may have proved to them that Claudius was not fit for public office. He could not be trusted to toe the existing party line. When he returned to the narrative later in life, Claudius skipped over the wars of the second triumvirate altogether. But the damage was done, and his family pushed him to the background. When the Arch of Pavia was erected to honor the imperial clan in 8, Claudius ' name (now Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus after his elevation to paterfamilias of Claudii Nerones on the adoption of his brother) was inscribed on the edge—past the deceased princes, Gaius and Lucius, and Germanicus ' children. There is some speculation that the inscription was added by Claudius himself decades later, and he originally did not appear at all.[16]

When Augustus died in 14, Claudius—then twenty-three—appealed to his uncle Tiberius to allow him to begin the cursus honorum. Tiberius, the new emperor, responded by granting Claudius consular ornaments. Claudius requested office once more and was snubbed. Since the new emperor was not any more generous than the old, Claudius gave up hope of public office and retired to a scholarly, private life.

Despite the disdain of the imperial family, it seems that from very early on the general public respected Claudius. At Augustus ' death, the equites, or knights, chose Claudius to head their delegation. When his house burned down, the Senate demanded it be rebuilt at public expense. They also requested that Claudius be allowed to debate in the senate. Tiberius turned down both motions, but the sentiment remained. During the period immediately after the death of Tiberius ' son, Drusus, Claudius was pushed by some quarters as a potential heir. This again suggests the political nature of his exclusion from public life. However, as this was also the period during which the power and terror of the Praetorian Sejanus was at its peak, Claudius chose to downplay this possibility.

After the death of Tiberius the new emperor Caligula recognized Claudius to be of some use. He appointed Claudius his co-consul in 37 in order to emphasize the memory of Caligula 's deceased father Germanicus. Despite this, Caligula relentlessly tormented his uncle: playing practical jokes, charging him enormous sums of money, humiliating him before the Senate, and the like. According to Cassius Dio, as well a possible surviving portrait, Claudius became very sickly and thin by the end of Caligula 's reign—most likely due to stress.[17]

Accession as emperor

On January 24, 41, Caligula was assassinated by a broad-based conspiracy (including Praetorian commander Cassius Chaerea and several Senators). There is no evidence that Claudius had a direct hand in the assassination, although it has been argued that he knew about the plot—particularly since he left the scene of the crime shortly before the event.[18] However, after the deaths of Caligula 's wife and daughter, it became apparent that Cassius intended to go beyond the terms of the conspiracy and wipe out the imperial family. In the chaos following the murder, Claudius witnessed the German guard cut down several uninvolved noblemen, including friends of his. Concerned for his survival, he fled to the palace to hide himself. According to tradition, a Praetorian named Gratus found him hiding behind a curtain and suddenly declared him imperator.[19] A section of the guard may have planned in advance to seek out Claudius, perhaps with his approval. They reassured him that they were not one of the battalions looking for revenge. He was spirited away to the Praetorian camp and put under their protection.

The depiction of the goddess Pax-Nemesis, representing subdued vengeance, would be used on the coins of many later emperors.The Senate quickly met and began debating a change of government, but this eventually devolved into an argument over which of them would be the new Princeps. When they heard of the Praetorians ' claim, they demanded that Claudius be delivered to them for approval, but he refused, rightly sensing the danger that would come with complying. Some historians, particularly Josephus,[20] claim that Claudius was directed in his actions by the Judean King Herod Agrippa. However, an earlier version of events by the same ancient author downplays Agrippa 's role[21] — so it is not known how large a hand he had in things. Eventually the Senate was forced to give in and, in return, Claudius pardoned nearly all the assassins.

Claudius took several steps to legitimize his rule against potential usurpers, most of them emphasizing his place within the Julio-Claudian family. He adopted the name "Caesar" as a cognomen — the name still carried great weight with the populace. In order to do so, he dropped the cognomen "Nero" which he had adopted as paterfamilias of the Claudii Nerones when his brother Germanicus was adopted out. While he had never been adopted by Augustus or his successors, he was the grandson of Octavia, and so felt he had the right. He also adopted the name "Augustus" as the two previous emperors had done at their accessions. He kept the honorific "Germanicus" in order to display the connection with his heroic brother. He deified his paternal grandmother Livia in order to highlight her position as wife of the divine Augustus. Claudius frequently used the term "filius Drusi" (son of Drusus) in his titles, in order to remind the people of his legendary father and lay claim to his reputation.

Because he was proclaimed emperor on the initiative of the Praetorian Guard instead of the Senate — the first emperor thus proclaimed — Claudius ' repute suffered at the hands of commentators (such as Seneca). Moreover, he was the first Emperor who resorted to bribery as a means to secure army loyalty. This is not entirely how it seems. Tiberius and Augustus had both left gifts to the army and guard in their wills, and on the death of Caligula the same would have been expected, even if no will existed. Claudius remained grateful to the guard, however, issuing coins with tributes to the praetorians in the early part of his reign.

Expansion of the empire

Under Claudius, the empire underwent its first major expansion since the reign of Augustus. The provinces of Thrace, Mauretania, Noricum, Pamphylia, Lycia, and Judea were annexed during his term. The most important conquest was that of Britannia.

In 43, Claudius sent Aulus Plautius with four legions to Britain (Britannia) after an appeal from an ousted tribal ally. Britain was an attractive target for Rome because of its material wealth — particularly mines and slaves. It was also a safe haven for Gallic rebels and the like, and so could not be left alone much longer. Claudius himself traveled to the island after the completion of initial offensives, bringing with him reinforcements and elephants. The latter must have made an impression on the Britons when they were used in the capture of Camulodunum. He left after 16 days, but remained in the provinces for some time. The Senate granted him a triumph for his efforts, as only members of the imperial family were allowed such honors. Claudius later lifted this restriction for some of his conquering generals. He was granted the honorific "Britannicus" but only accepted it on behalf of his son, never using the title himself. When the British general, Caractacus, was finally captured in 50, Claudius granted him clemency. Caractacus lived out his days on land provided by the Roman state, an unusual end for an enemy commander, but one that must have calmed the British opposition.

Claudius conducted a census in 48 that found 5,984,072 Roman citizens, an increase of around a million since the census conducted at Augustus ' death. He had helped increase this number through the foundation of Roman colonies that were granted blanket citizenship. These colonies were often made out of existing communities, especially those with elites who could rally the populace to the Roman cause. Several colonies were placed in new provinces or on the border of the empire in order to secure Roman holdings as quickly as possible.

Judicial and legislative affairs

Claudius personally judged many of the legal cases tried during his reign. Ancient historians have many complaints about this, stating that his judgments were variable and sometimes did not follow the law.[22] He was also easily swayed. Nevertheless, Claudius paid detailed attention to the operation of the judicial system. He extended the summer court session, as well as the winter term, by shortening the traditional breaks. Claudius also made a law requiring plaintiffs to remain in the city while their cases were pending, as defendants had previously been required to do. These measures had the effect of clearing out the docket. The minimum age for jurors was also raised to 25 in order to ensure a more experienced jury pool.

Claudius also settled disputes in the provinces. He freed the island of Rhodes from Roman rule for their good faith and exempted Troy from taxes. Early in his reign, the Greeks and Jews of Alexandria sent him two embassies at once after riots broke out between the two communities. This resulted in the famous "Letter to the Alexandrians," which reaffirmed Jewish rights in the city but also forbade them to move in more families en masse. According to Josephus, he then reaffirmed the rights and freedoms of all the Jews in the empire.[23] An investigator of Claudius ' discovered that many old Roman citizens based in the modern city of Trento were not in fact citizens. The emperor issued a declaration that they would be considered to hold citizenship from then on, since to strip them of their status would cause major problems. However, in individual cases, Claudius punished false assumption of citizenship harshly, making it a capital offense. Similarly, any freedmen found to be impersonating knights were sold back into slavery.

Numerous edicts were issued throughout Claudius ' reign. These were on a number of topics, everything from medical advice to moral judgments. Two famous medical examples are one promoting Yew juice as a cure for snakebite, and another promoting public flatulence for good health. One of the more famous edicts concerned the status of sick slaves. Masters had been abandoning ailing slaves at the temple of Aesculapius to die, and then reclaiming them if they lived. Claudius ruled that slaves who recovered after such treatment would be free. Furthermore, masters who chose to kill slaves rather than take the risk would be charged with murder.

Public works

Claudius embarked on many public works throughout his reign, both in the capital and in the provinces. He built two aqueducts, the Aqua Claudia, begun by Caligula, and the Anio Novus. These entered the city in 52 and met at the famous Porta Maggiore. He also restored a third, the Aqua Virgo.

He paid special attention to transportation. Throughout Italy and the provinces he built roads and canals. Among these was a large canal leading from the Rhine to the sea, as well as a road from Italy to Germany — both begun by his father, Drusus. Closer to Rome, he built a navigable canal on the Tiber, leading to Portus, his new port just north of Ostia. This port was constructed in a semicircle with two moles and a lighthouse at its mouth. The construction also had the effect of reducing flooding in Rome.

The port at Ostia was part of Claudius ' solution to the constant grain shortages that occurred in winter, after the Roman shipping season. The other part of his solution was to insure the ships of grain merchants who were willing to risk traveling to Egypt in the off-season. He also granted their sailors special privileges, including citizenship and exemption from the Lex Papia-Poppaea, a law that regulated marriage. In addition, he repealed the taxes that Caligula had instituted on food, and further reduced taxes on communities suffering drought or famine.

The last part of Claudius ' plan was to increase the amount of arable land in Italy. This was to be achieved by draining the Fucine lake, which would have the added benefit of making the nearby river navigable year-round. A tunnel was dug through the lake bed, but the plan was a failure. The tunnel was not large enough to carry the water, and crooked, which caused it to back up when opened. The draining of the lake was not a bad idea, and many other emperors and potentates considered it, including the emperors Hadrian and Trajan, and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the Middle Ages. It was finally achieved by the Prince Torlonia in the 19th century. He expanded the Claudian tunnel to three times its original size.

Claudius and the Senate

Because of the circumstances of his accession, Claudius took great pains to please the Senate. During regular sessions, the emperor sat amongst the Senate body, speaking in turn. When introducing a law, he sat on a bench between the consuls in his position as Holder of the Power of Tribune (The emperor could not officially serve as a Tribune of the Plebes as he was a Patrician, but it was a power taken by previous rulers). He refused to accept all his predecessors ' titles (including Imperator) at the beginning of his reign, preferring to earn them in due course. He allowed the Senate to issue its own bronze coinage for the first time since Augustus. He also put the imperial provinces of Macedonia and Achaea back under Senate control.

Claudius set about remodeling the Senate into a more efficient, representative body. He chided the senators about their reluctance to debate bills introduced by himself, as noted in the fragments of a surviving speech:

"If you accept these proposals, Conscript Fathers, say so at once and simply, in accordance with your convictions. If you do not accept them, find alternatives, but do so here and now; or if you wish to take time for consideration, take it, provided you do not forget that you must be ready to pronounce your opinion whenever you may be summoned to meet. It ill befits the dignity of the Senate that the consul designate should repeat the phrases of the consuls word for word as his opinion, and that every one else should merely say 'I approve ', and that then, after leaving, the assembly should announce 'We debated '."[24]

It is not known whether this plea had any effect on discourse.

In 47 he assumed the office of Censor with Lucius Vitellius, which had been allowed to lapse for some time. He struck the names of many senators and equites who no longer met qualifications, but showed respect by allowing them to resign in advance. At the same time, he sought to admit eligible men from the provinces. The Lyons Tablet preserves his speech on the admittance of Gallic senators, in which he addresses the Senate with reverence but also with criticism for their disdain of these men. He also increased the number of Patricians by adding new families to the dwindling number of noble lines. Here he followed the precedent of Lucius Junius Brutus and Julius Caesar.

Despite this, many in the Senate remained hostile to Claudius, and many plots were made on his life. This hostility carried over into the historical accounts. As a result, Claudius was forced to reduce the Senate 's power for efficiency. The administration of Ostia was turned over to an imperial Procurator after construction of the port. Administration of many of the empire 's financial concerns was turned over to imperial appointees and freedmen. This led to further resentment and suggestions that these same freedmen were ruling the emperor.

Several coup attempts were made during Claudius ' reign, resulting in the deaths of many senators. Appius Silanus was executed early in Claudius ' reign under questionable circumstances. Shortly after, a large rebellion was undertaken by the Senator Vinicianus and Scribonianus, the governor of Dalmatia and gained quite a few senatorial supporters. It ultimately failed because of the reluctance of Scribonianus ' troops, and the suicide of the main conspirators. Many other senators tried different conspiracies and were condemned. Claudius ' son-in-law Pompeius Magnus was executed for his part in a conspiracy with his father Crassus Frugi. Another plot involved the consulars Lusiius Saturninus, Cornelius Lupus, and Pompeius Pedo. In 46, Asinius Gallus, the grandson of Asinius Pollio, and Statilius Corvinus were exiled for a plot hatched with several of Claudius ' own freedmen. Valerius Asiaticus was executed without public trial for unknown reasons. The ancient sources say the charge was adultery, and that Claudius was tricked into issuing the punishment. However, Claudius singles out Asiaticus for special damnation in his speech on the Gauls, which dates over a year later, suggesting that the charge must have been much more serious. Asiaticus had been a claimant to the throne in the chaos following Caligula 's death and a co-consul with the Statilius Corvinus mentioned above. Most of these conspiracies took place before Claudius ' term as Censor, and may have induced him to overlook the Senatorial rolls. The conspiracy of Gaius Silius in the year after his Censorship, 48, is detailed in the section discussing Claudius 's third wife, Messalina. Suetonius states that a total of 35 senators and 300 knights were executed for offenses during Claudius ' reign.[25] Needless to say, the necessary responses to these conspiracies could not have helped Senate-emperor relations.

The Secretariat and centralization of powers

Claudius was hardly the first emperor to use freedmen to help with the day-to-day running of the empire. He was, however, forced to increase their role as the powers of the Princeps became more centralized and the burden larger. This was partly due to the ongoing hostility of the senate, as mentioned above, but also due to his respect for the senators. Claudius did not want free-born magistrates to have to serve under him, as if they were not peers.

The secretariat was divided into bureaus, with each being placed under the leadership of one freedman. Narcissus was the secretary of correspondence. Pallas became the secretary of the treasury. Callistus became secretary of justice. There was a fourth bureau for miscellaneous issues, which was put under Polybius until his execution for treason. The freedmen could also officially speak for the emperor, as when Narcissus addressed the troops in Claudius ' stead before the conquest of Britain. Since these were important positions, the senators were aghast at their being placed in the hands of former slaves. If freedmen had total control of money, letters, and law, it seemed it would not be hard for them to manipulate the emperor. This is exactly the accusation put forth by the ancient sources. However, these same sources admit that the freedmen were loyal to Claudius.[26] He was similarly appreciative of them and gave them due credit for policies where he had used their advice. However, if they showed treasonous inclinations, the emperor did punish them with just force, as in the case of Polybius and Pallas ' brother, Felix. There is no evidence that the character of Claudius ' policies and edicts changed with the rise and fall of the various freedmen, suggesting that he was firmly in control throughout.

Regardless of the extent of their political power, the freedmen did manage to amass wealth through their positions. Pliny the Elder notes that several of them were richer than Crassus, the richest man of the Republican era.[27]

Religious reforms and games

Claudius, as the author of a treatise on Augustus ' religious reforms, felt himself in a good position to institute some of his own. He had strong opinions about the proper form for state religion. He refused the request of Alexandrian Greeks to dedicate a temple to his divinity, saying that only gods may choose new gods. He restored lost days to festivals and got rid of many extraneous celebrations added by Caligula. He reinstituted old observances and archaic language. Claudius was concerned with the spread of eastern mysteries within the city and searched for more Roman replacements. He emphasized the Eleusinian mysteries which had been practiced by so many during the Republic. He expelled foreign astrologers, and at the same time rehabilitated the old Roman soothsayers (known as haruspices) as a replacement. He was especially hard on Druidism, because of its incompatibility with the Roman state religion and its proselytizing activities. It is also reported that at one time he expelled the Jews from Rome, probably because the appearance of Christianity had caused unrest within the Jewish community.[28] Claudius opposed proselytizing in any religion, even in those regions where he allowed natives to worship freely. The results of all these efforts were recognized even by Seneca, who has an ancient Latin god defend Claudius in his satire.[29]

Claudius performed the Secular games, marking the 800th anniversary of the founding of Rome. Augustus had performed the same games less than a century prior. Augustus ' excuse was that the interval for the games was 110 years, not 100, but his date actually did not qualify under either reasoning. Claudius also presented naval battles to mark the attempted draining of the Fucine lake, as well as many other public games and shows.

Death, deification, and reputation

The general consensus of ancient historians was that Claudius was murdered by poison — possibly contained in mushrooms — and died in the early hours of October 13, 54. Accounts vary greatly. Some claim Claudius was in Rome[30] while others claim he was in Sinuessa.[31] Some implicate either Halotus, his taster, Xenophon, his doctor, or the infamous poisoner Locusta as the administrator of the fatal substance.[32] Some say he died after prolonged suffering following a single dose at dinner, and some have him recovering only to be poisoned again.[30] Nearly all implicate his final wife, Agrippina, as the instigator. Agrippina and Claudius had become more combative in the months leading up to his death. This carried on to the point where Claudius openly lamented his bad wives, and began to comment on Britannicus ' approaching manhood with an eye towards restoring his status within the royal family.[33] Agrippina had motive in ensuring the succession of Nero before Britannicus could gain power. In modern times, some authors have cast doubt on whether Claudius was murdered or merely succumbed to illness or old age.[34] Some modern scholars claim the universality of the accusations in ancient texts lends credence to the crime.[35] Claudius ' ashes were interred in the Mausoleum of Augustus on October 24, after a funeral in the manner of Augustus.

The Aqua Claudia aqueduct runs next to it, and the Colosseum sits adjacent.Claudius was deified by Nero and the Senate almost immediately.[36] Those who regard this homage as cynical should note that, cynical or not, such a move would hardly have benefited those involved, had Claudius been "hated", as some commentators, both modern and historic, characterize him. Many of Claudius ' less solid supporters quickly became Nero 's men. Claudius ' will had changed it shortly before death to either recommend Nero and Britannicus jointly or perhaps just Britannicus, who would be considered a man in a few months. Agrippina had sent away Narcissus shortly before Claudius ' death, and now murdered the freedman. The last act of this secretary of letters was to burn all of Claudius ' correspondence—most likely so it could not be used against him and others in an already hostile new regime. Thus Claudius ' private words about his own policies and motives were lost to history. Just as Claudius has criticized his predecessors in official edicts (see below), Nero often criticized the deceased emperor and many of Claudius ' laws and edicts were disregarded under the reasoning that he was too stupid and senile to have meant them.[37] This opinion of Claudius, that he was indeed an old idiot, remained the official one for the duration of Nero 's reign. Eventually Nero stopped referring to his deified adoptive father at all, and realigned with his birth family. Claudius ' temple was left unfinished after only some of the foundation had been laid down. Eventually the site was overtaken by Nero 's Golden House.[38]

The Flavians, who had risen to prominence under Claudius, took a different tack. They were in a position where they needed to shore up their legitimacy, but also justify the fall of the Julio-Claudians. They reached back to Claudius in contrast with Nero, to show that they were good associated with good. Commemorative coins were issued of Claudius and his natural son Britannicus—who had been a friend of the emperor Titus. When Nero 's Golden House was buried, the Temple of Claudius was finally completed on Caelian Hill.[39] However, as the Flavians became established, they needed to emphasize their own credentials more, and their references to Claudius ceased. Instead, he was put down with the other emperors of the fallen dynasty.

The main ancient historians Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio all wrote after the last of the Flavians had gone. All three were senators or equites. They took the side of the Senate in most conflicts with the princeps, as well as the senator 's views of the emperor. This resulted in biases, both conscious and unconscious. Suetonius lost access to the official archives shortly after beginning his work. He was forced to rely on second-hand accounts when it came to Claudius (with the exception of Augustus ' letters which had been gathered earlier) and does not quote the emperor. Suetonius painted Claudius as a ridiculous figure, belittling many of his acts and attributing the objectively good works to his retinue.[40] Tacitus wrote a narrative for his fellow senators and fit each of the emperors into a simple mold of his choosing.[41] He wrote Claudius as a passive pawn and an idiot—going so far as to hide his use of Claudius as a source and omit Claudius ' character from his works.[42] Even his version of Claudius ' Lyons tablet speech is edited to be devoid of the emperor 's personality. Dio was less biased, but seems to have used Suetonius and Tacitus as sources. Thus the conception of Claudius as the weak fool, controlled by those he supposedly ruled, was preserved for the ages.

As time passed, Claudius was mostly forgotten outside of the historian 's accounts. His books were lost first, as their antiquarian subjects became unfashionable. In the second century, Pertinax, who shared his birthday, became emperor, overshadowing any commemoration of Claudius. In the third century, the emperor Claudius II Gothicus usurped his name. When Claudius Gothicus died, he was also deified, replacing Claudius in the Roman pantheon.

Marriages and personal life

Claudius ' love life was unusual for an upper-class Roman of his day. As Edward Gibbon mentions, of the first fifteen emperors, "Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was entirely correct"—the implication being that he was the only one not to take men or boys as lovers. Gibbon based this on Suetonius ' factual statement that "He had a great passion for women, but had no interest in men."[43] Suetonius and the other ancient authors actually used this against Claudius. They accused him of being dominated by these same women and wives, of being uxorious, and of being a womanizer.

Claudius married four times. His first marriage, to Plautia Urgulanilla, occurred after two failed betrothals (The first was to his distant cousin Aemilia Lepida, but was broken for political reasons. The second was to Livia Medullina, which ended with the bride 's sudden death on their wedding day). Urgulanilla was a relation of Livia 's confidant Urgulania. During their marriage she gave birth to a son, Claudius Drusus. Unfortunately, Drusus died of asphyxiation in his early teens, shortly after becoming engaged to the daughter of Sejanus. Claudius later divorced Urgulanilla for adultery and on suspicion of murdering her sister-in-law Apronia. When Urgulanilla gave birth after the divorce, Claudius repudiated the baby girl, Claudia, as the father was one of his own freedmen. Soon after (possibly in 28), Claudius married Aelia Paetina, a relation of Sejanus. They had a daughter, Claudia Antonia. He later divorced her after the marriage became a political liability (although Leon (1948) suggests it may have been due to emotional and mental abuse by Aelia).

In 38 or early 39, Claudius married Valeria Messalina, who was his first cousin once removed and closely allied with Caligula 's circle. Shortly thereafter, she gave birth to a daughter Claudia Octavia. A son, first named Tiberius Claudius Germanicus, and later known as Britannicus, was born just after Claudius ' accession. This marriage ended in tragedy. The ancient historians allege that Messalina was a nymphomaniac who was regularly unfaithful to Claudius — Tacitus states she went so far as to compete with a prostitute to see who could have the most sexual partners in a night[44] — and manipulated his policies in order to amass wealth. In 48, Messalina married her lover Gaius Silius in a public ceremony while Claudius was at Ostia. Sources disagree as to whether or not she divorced the emperor first, and whether the intention was to usurp the throne. Scramuzza, in his biography, suggests that Silius may have convinced Messalina that Claudius was doomed, and the union was her only hope of retaining rank and protecting her children.[45] The historian Tacitus suggests that Claudius 's ongoing term as Censor may have prevented him from noticing the affair before it reached such a critical point.[46] Whatever the case, the result was the execution of Silius, Messalina, and most of her circle. Claudius made the Praetorians promise to kill him if he ever married again.

Despite this declaration, Claudius did marry once more. The ancient sources tell that his freedmen pushed three candidates, Caligula 's former wife Lollia Paulina, Claudius 's divorced second wife Aelia, and Claudius 's niece Agrippina the younger. According to Suetonius, Agrippina won out through her feminine wiles.[47] The truth is likely more political. The coup attempt by Silius probably made Claudius realize the weakness of his position as a member of the Claudian but not the Julian family. This weakness was compounded by the fact that he did not have an obvious adult heir, Britannicus being just a boy. Agrippina was one of the few remaining descendants of Augustus, and her son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (later known as Nero) was one of the last males of the imperial family. Future coup attempts could rally around the pair, and Agrippina was already showing such ambition. It has been suggested in recent times that Senate may have pushed for the marriage to end the feud between the Julian and Claudian branches.[48] This feud dated back to Agrippina 's mother 's actions against Tiberius after the death of her husband Germanicus, actions which Tiberius had gladly punished. In any case, Claudius accepted Agrippina, and later adopted the newly mature Nero as his son.

Nero was made joint heir with the underage Britannicus, married to Octavia and heavily promoted. This was not as unusual as it seems to people acquainted with modern hereditary monarchies. Barbara Levick notes that Augustus had named his grandson Postumus Agrippa and his stepson Tiberius joint heirs.[49] Tiberius named his great-nephew Caligula joint heir with his grandson Tiberius Gemellus. Adoption of adults or near adults was an old tradition in Rome when a suitable natural adult heir was unavailable. This was the case during Britannicus ' minority. S.V. Oost suggests that Claudius looked to adopt one of his sons-in-law to protect his own reign.[50] Possible usurpers could note that there was no adult to replace him. Faustus Sulla, married to his daughter Antonia, was only descended from Octavia and Antony on one side — not close enough to the imperial family to prevent doubts (that didn 't stop others from making him the object of a coup attempt against Nero a few years later). Besides which, he was the half brother of Messalina, and at this time those wounds were still fresh. Nero was more popular with the general public as the grandson of Germanicus and the direct descendant of Augustus.

Scholarly works and their impact

Claudius wrote copiously throughout his life. Arnaldo Momigliano[51] states that during the reign of Tiberius — which covers the peak of Claudius ' literary career — it became impolitic to speak of republican Rome. The trend among the young historians was to either write about the new empire or obscure antiquarian subjects. Claudius was the rare scholar who covered both. Besides the history of Augustus ' reign that caused him so much grief, his major works included an Etruscan history and eight volumes on Carthaginian history, as well as an Etruscan Dictionary and a book on dice playing. Despite the general avoidance of the imperatorial era, he penned a defense of Cicero against the charges of Asinius Gallus. Modern historians have used this to determine both the nature of his politics and of the aborted chapters of his civil war history. He proposed a reform of the Latin alphabet by the addition of three new letters, two of which served the function of the modern letters W and Y. He officially instituted the change during his censorship, but they did not survive his reign. Claudius also tried to revive the old custom of putting dots between different words (Classical Latin was written with no spacing). Finally, he wrote an eight-volume autobiography that Suetonius describes as lacking in taste.[52] Since Claudius (like most of the members of his dynasty) heavily criticized his predecessors and relatives in surviving speeches,[53] it is not hard to imagine the nature of Suetonius ' charge.

The Claudian letters

Unfortunately, none of the actual works survive. They do live on as sources for the surviving histories of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Suetonius quotes Claudius ' autobiography once, and must have used it as a source numerous times. Tacitus uses Claudius ' own arguments for the orthographical innovations mentioned above, and may have used him for some of the more antiquarian passages in his annals. Claudius is the source for numerous passages of Pliny 's Natural History.[54]

The influence of historical study on Claudius is obvious. In his speech on Gallic senators, he uses a version of the founding of Rome identical to that of Livy, his tutor in adolescence. The detail of his speech borders on the pedantic, a common mark of all his extant works, and he goes into long digressions on related matters. This indicates a deep knowledge of a variety of historical subjects that he could not help but share. Many of the public works instituted in his reign were based on plans first suggested by Julius Caesar. Levick believes this emulation of Caesar may have spread to all aspects of his policies.[55] His censorship seems to have been based on those of his ancestors, particularly Appius Claudius Caecus, and he used the office to put into place many policies based on those of Republican times. This is when many of his religious reforms took effect and his building efforts greatly increased during his tenure. In fact, his assumption of the office of Censor may have been motivated by a desire to see his academic labors bear fruit. For example, he believed (as most Romans) that his ancestor Appius Claudius Caecus had used the censorship to introduce the letter "R"[56] and so used his own term to introduce his new letters.

Claudius in fiction

Claudius has been represented several times in ficton, both in literature and in film and television. The most famous modern representation is in the novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves, and the consequent BBC television series adaptation.


^ Suet. Claud. 30.
^ Seneca Apocolo. 5, 6.
^ Suet. Claud. 30.
^ Suet. Claud. 31.
^ Suet. Claud. 38.
^ Leon (1948).
^ The Imperial Gene. www.mentalhealth.com/mag1/p5m-tor1.html.
^ Suet. Claud. 5, 21, 40; Dio Rom. Hist. LX 2, 5, 12, 31.
^ Suet. Claud. 34, 38. Tacitus Ann. XII 20.
^ Suet. Claud. 29. Dio Rom. Hist. LX 2, 8.
^ Suet. Claud. 35, 36, 37, 39, 40. Dio Rom. Hist. LX 2, 3.
^ Dio Hist. LX 2
^ Suet. Claud. 2. Suet Claud. 4 indicates the reasons for choosing this tutor, as outlined in Leon (1948).
^ Suet. Claud. 4.
^ Scramuzza (1940) p. 39.
^ Stuart (1936).
^ Dio Rom. Hist. LX 2. Suhr (1955) suggests that this must refer to before Claudius came to power.
^ Major (1992)
^ Josephus Antiquitates Iudiacae XIX. Dio Rom. Hist. LX 1.
^ Josephus Ant. Iud. XIX.
^ Josephus Bellum Iudiacum II, 204–233.
^ Suet. Claud. 15. Dio Rom. Hist. LXI 33.
^ Josephus Ant. Iud. XIX, 287.
^ English translation of Berlin papyrus by W.D. Hogarth, in Momigliano (1934).
^ Suet. Claud. 29.
^ Tac. Ann. XII 65. Seneca Ad Polybium.
^ Pliny Natural History 134.
^ There is some debate about what actually happened. It is reported by Suetonius and in Acts (18:2), Cassius Dio minimizes the event and Josephus—who was reporting on Jewish events—does not mention it at all. Some scholars hold that it didn 't happen, while others have only a few missionaries expelled for the short term.
^ Seneca Apocolo. 9.
^ a b Suet. Claud. 44
^ Tac. Ann. XII 66
^ Accounts of his death: Suet. Claud. 43, 44. Tac. Ann. XII 64, 66–67. Josephus Ant. Iud. XX 148, 151. Dio Rom. Hist. LX 34. Pliny Natural History II 92, XI 189, XXII 92.
^ Suet. Claud. 43
^ Scramuzza (1940) pp. 92–93 says that tradition makes every emperor the victim of foul play, so we can 't know if Claudius was truly murdered. Levick (1990) pp. 76–77. raises the possibility that Claudius was killed by the stress of fighting with Agrippina over the succession, but concludes that the timing makes murder the most likely cause.
^ Levick (1990); also as opposed to the murder of Augustus, which is only found in Tacitus and Dio where he quotes Tacitus. Suetonius, an inveterate gossip, doesn 't mention it at all.
^ Suet. Nero 9
^ Suet. Nero 33
^ Levick (1990)
^ Levick (1990)
^ Scramuzza, p. 29
^ Vessey (1971)
^ Griffin (1990). Ann. XI 14 is a good example. The digression on the history of writing is certainly Claudius ' own argument for his new letters, and fits in with his personality and extant writings. Tacitus makes no attribution.
^ Suet. Claud. 33.
^ Tac. Ann. XI 10. Also Dio Rom. Hist. LXI 31, and Pliny Nat. Hist. X 172.
^ Scramuzza (1940) p. 90. Momigliano (1934) pp. 6–7. Levick (1990) p. 19.
^ Tac. Ann. XI. 25, 8.
^ Suet. Claud. 26.
^ Scramuzza (1940) pp. 91–92. See also Tac. Ann. XII 6, 7; Suet. Claud. 26.
^ Levick (1990) p. 70. See also Scramuzza (1940) p. 92.
^ Oost (1958).
^ Momigliano (1934) pp. 4–6.
^ Suet. Claud. 41.
^ See Claudius ' letter to the people of Trent (linked below), in which he refers to the "obstinate retirement" of Tiberius. See also Josephus Ant Iud. XIX, where an edict of Claudius refers to Caligula 's "madness and lack of understanding."
^ See Momigliano (1934) Chap. 1, note 20 (p. 83). Pliny credits him by name in Book VII 35.
^ Levick (1978).
^ Ryan (1993) refers to the historian Varro 's account of the introduction

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