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E&D 2: The Succession Problem and Tiberius

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James Corke-Webster

on 2 February 2016

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Transcript of E&D 2: The Succession Problem and Tiberius

reluctance is persistent
retirement to Campania, ultimately Capri
Villa Jovis
(1 of 12?)
a major, self-sufficient site
site of his infamous monstrosities
to ‘restore’ former republican system?
shame about appearance & lack of social skills?
annoyed with his mother? (Tac.)
to ‘indulge in his vices’ ?
due to Sejanus' influence?

emperor no longer visible
difficult to contact, petition etc.
difficult to judge mood in Rome & make views known
neglect of affairs of state?
these are
son of equestrian from Volsinii
not a senator but nevertheless powerful
father held important equestrian offices
consolidated role of Praetorians
had been 9 cohorts 1000 men each; consolidated
gained personal trust of Tiberius [post-death Drusus]
attempts to marry into imperial family (Livilla, Germanicus & Drusus Jr.'s widow)
holds consulship with Tiberius (AD 31)
not followed traditional
angling for imperial seat?
recognised by Tiberius as ‘partner of my labours’
[targeted] insult to the elite - power outside traditional circles

also the treason trials
laws on
: vagueness permitted it to be widely used
63 trials in 22 years
increase in numbers & increase informers & denouncers suggests political motivation as well as genuine cases
who suffer [self-inflicted]

Sejanus' downfall (AD31):
conspiracy vs. Tiberius?
Tiberius conspiracy vs Sejanus ?
or/and influence of traditional elite faction?
again, importance of Senatorial agency at this stage
The Succession Problem and Tiberius
The first act of the new principate was the slaughter of Postumus Agrippa, unawares and unarmed
, whom a centurion, despite bracing himself in spirit, dispatched only with difficulty. Tiberius did not speak about the matter in the Senate: he was pretending there were orders from his father, in which he had written in advance to the tribune assigned to the guard that the latter should not hesitate in putting Agrippa to death whenever he himself consummated his final day.
Now there is no doubt that Augustus had often made savage complaints about the young man’s behaviour and had ensured that his exile was sanctioned by a Senate’s decision
; but he never hardened himself to execute any of his own relatives, nor was it credible that death had been inflicted on his grandson for the sake of his stepson’s security: more likely, Tiberius and Livia - the former through dread, the latter through stepmotherly hatred - had speeded the slaughter of a suspected and resented young man."

"May it be my privilege to establish the State in a firm and secure position, and reap from that act the fruit that I desire; but only if I may be called the author of the best possible government, and
bear with me the hope when I die that the foundations which I have laid for the State will remain unshaken

Life of Augustus
"While this was going on,
Augustus went to Sicily in order to settle affairs in that island and elsewhere as far as Syria
While Agrippa was thus occupied,
Augustus, after arranging various matters in Sicily and making Roman colonies of Syracuse and certain other cities, crossed over into Greece
Cassius Dio 54.6.1/54.7.1
Gaius Claudius Marcellus
42 BC: birth, son of Augustus’ sister Octavia
25 BC: marries Augustus’ daughter Julia (Elder)
24 BC: member Senate & given praetorian rank
23 BC: gives famous games as
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
37 BC: first consulship, Augustus’ main admiral/general
23 BC: leaves for the East with proconsular
21 BC: marries Augustus’ daughter Julia
18 BC: receives tribunician powers for 5 years
also number his tribunician years
16 BC: returns to the Eastern provinces
13 BC:
tribunician powers renewed
imperium maius
puts down rebellion in Pannonia
12 BC: death
AR Denarius (3.67 gm). Rome mint. Struck 13 BC.
"[--- --- ---] the tribunician power for five years in accordance with a decree of the Senate was given to you when the Lentuli were consuls [i.e. 18 BC]; and again this power for another five-year period was granted when the consuls were Tiberius Claudius Nero [i.e. Tiberius] and Publius Quintilius Varus [i.e. 13 BC], your sons-in-law. And into whatever provinces the republic of the Romans should ever summon you, it had been sanctioned in a law that your power was to be not less than that of any other magistrate in those provinces. However, you were elevated to the supreme height of power [i.e. tribunician power] by our zeal and by your own excellent qualities through the consent of all men [--- --- ---] [transl. R.K. Sherk]."

Greek papyrus of Augustus’ funeral oration for Agrippa (ZPE 5 (1970), p.226):
Gaius & Lucius Caesar
20 BC: birth of Gaius Caesar
17 BC: birth of Lucius Caesar
both sons of Agrippa and Julia
5 BC: Gaius assumes
toga virilis
designated consul for AD 1
princeps iuventutis
by the equestrian order
2 BC: similar honours for Lucius
[In both years, Augustus assumed consulship (last two) to introduce his adoptive sons to the Senate]
1 BC: Gaius marries Livia Julia (12 years old)
daughter of Drusus the Elder & Antonia
leaves for the East; rivalry with Tiberius’ supporters
AD 1: Gaius assumes consulship
AD 2: Lucius dies at Marseilles
AD 4: Gaius dies in Lycia


He never commended his sons to the people without adding “if they are worthy.”
He always lamented bitterly that whenever these youths appeared, the whole people stood up and applauded.”

Life of Augustus
Niggeler Collection no1076: reverse of aureus from 2 BC, showing Gaius and Lucius and identifying them as ‘sons of Augustus, consuls designate, leaders of youth’
Agrippa Postumus
12 BC: birth
younger brother Gaius & Lucius
after the death of Agrippa
AD 4: adopted by Augustus
AD 7: exiled
AD 14: death
Tiberius? [Augustus]

Tiberius Claudius Nero
42 BC: birth, eldest son of Livia & Tiberius Claudius
16-15 BC: campaigns in Alps w/ his brother Drusus
13 BC: first consulship
12-9 BC: leads four campaigns in Balkans
natural successor to Agrippa after his death in 12BC
11 BC: marries Augustus’ daughter Julia (widow of Marcellus & Agrippa)
8 BC: campaigns in Germany [celebrates triumph one year later]
6 BC: receives tribunician powers for 5 years
voluntary (?) retirement to Rhodes
ruins Augustus' careful planning - turns to Gaius & Lucius
2 BC: wife Julia exiled for alleged adultery
AD 2: returns to Rome

AD 4: after death of Gaius, adopted by Augustus [same time Agrippa Postumus]
adopts Germanicus, son of brother Drusus (died in 9 BC)
receives tribunician powers for 10 years
immediately after death of Agrippa - not automatic]
campaigns again in Germany
AD 10-11: reorganises German frontier (after Varus’ defeat in AD 9);
celebrates a second triumph in AD 12
AD 13: receives
imperium maius
and renewed tribunician powers
i.e. only now fully replaced Agrippa - painstaking steps
AD 14: named as main heir, together w/ Livia in Augustus’ will
bust of Agrippa Postumus in the Musei Capitolini
Cf. RIC 165a: denarius from the Lyon mint from 15 BC: obverse showing head of Augustus; reverse showing Tiberius and Drusus (?) offering olive branches to Augustus following their victories on the Danube and the Rhine frontiers
"He had made a will in the consulship of Lucius Plancus and Gaius Silius on the 3rd day before the Nones of April, a year and 4 months before he died, in two note-books, written in part in his own hand and in part in that of his freedmen Polybius and Hilarion. These the Vestal virgins, with whom they had been deposited, now produced, together with three rolls, which were sealed in the same way.
All these were opened and read in the senate. He appointed as his chief heirs Tiberius, to receive two-thirds of the estate, and Livia, one-third; these he also bade assume his name.
His heirs in the 2nd degree were Drusus, son of Tiberius, for one-third, and for the rest Germanicus and his three male children. In the 3rd grade he mentioned many of his relatives and friends"
Life of Augustus
"Prayers were then redirected toward Tiberius, and
he for his part began to talk variously about the magnitude of command and his own limitations
: only the divine Augustus had been mentally capable of such a great undertaking on his own; having himself been summoned by Augustus for partnership in his cares, he had learned by experience how steep, how exposed to fortune, was the burden of ruling everything. Accordingly, in a community supported by such numbers of illustrious men, it should not be the case that they tendered all things to a single individual: several would more easily carry out the responsibilities of state by sharing the labours.
More in such a speech was impressive than credible; and Tiberius’ words, even on matters which he was not for concealing, were - whether by nature or habit - always weighed and dark; but on that occasion, when he was striving to hide his feelings deep down, their extra complication led to uncertainty and ambiguity.
"There was, however, in one respect what might be called a struggle in the state, as, namely, the Senate and the Roman people wrestled with Caesar (i.e. Tiberius) to induce him to succeed to the position of his father, while
he on his side strove for permission to play the part of a citizen on a parity with the rest rather than that of a princeps
. At last he was prevailed upon rather by reason than by the honour, since he saw that whatever he did not undertake to protect was likely to perish.
He is the only man to whose lot it has fallen to refuse the principate for a longer time, almost, than others had fought to secure it
. [... ... ...] The res publica soon reaped the fruit of its wise course in desiring Tiberius, nor was it long before it was apparent what we should have had to endure had our request been refused, and what we had gained in having it granted"
Velleius Paterculus,
History of Rome
bust of a young Tiberius in the British Museum

when Augustus dies, Tiberius obvious candidate
only one alive?!
the obvious choice on basis his record too - skills / grooming
heir & head of the family
Augustus doesn't need to name successor or pass on powers
Tiberius already has most of them (tribunician and proconsular powers)
first things he does:
summon the Senate (w/ tribunician power)
issues orders to legions (w/ greater proconsular imperium)
however, doesn't have imperium within Rome
powers need to be confirmed by senate
oath of loyalty to emperor by army lapses & needs to be renewed:
revolt of troops in Germany, suppressed by Drusus & Germanicus

attempted to co-opt the senate into a partnership: or was this
did not adopt many of the titles of Augustus – e.g. pater patriae
cut expenditure on public spectacle, building and other benefactions
modest size of palace and imperial estates
responsive to issues such as food shortages
possible to put a positive spin on much of his reign
- why the negative reputation?
consider the nature of our sources

"This was the condition of City affairs when
mutiny befell the Pannonian legions, not from any novel causes except that it was a change of princeps which offered the license for disruption and, resulting from civil war, the hope of prizes
"During the course of almost the same days, and from the same causes,
the German legions were disrupted - all the more violently, given their greater numbers
, and with
high hopes that Germanicus Caesar would be unable to suffer the command of another and would entrust himself to the legions
, who would handle everything by their own force."

having long considered and quite frequently postponed his plan, Caesar at last withdrew into Campania
, in a show of dedicating temples to Jupiter at Capua and to Augustus at Nola, but fixed upon living far from the city. As to the reason for his retirement, although I have followed the majority of authors and ascribed it to the practices of Sejanus, nevertheless, because he spent six continuous years in similar seclusion after bringing about the latter’s slaughter,
I am often moved to ask whether it is more realistically ascribed to the man himself, concealing his savagery and lust by his location
, though he exhibited them in his deeds. There were those who believed that
in his old age he had become sensitive also to his outward appearances. For he possessed a tall, round-shouldered, and abnormally slender figure, a head without a trace of hair, and an ulcerous face generally variegated with plasters
; while, in the seclusion of Rhodes, he had acquired the habit of avoiding company and taking his pleasures by stealth. The statement is also made that
he was driven into exile by the imperious temper of his mother, whose partnership in his power he could not tolerate, while it was impossible to cut adrift one from whom he held that power in fee
But Caesar had now dedicated the temples in Campania, and, although he had warned by edict that no one should interrupt his peace, and converging townsfolk were kept away by the deployment of soldiery,
he nevertheless detested the municipalities and colonies and everything situated on the mainland, so he hid himself away on the island of Capri
, detached as it is from the tip of the Surrentine promontory by a three-mile strait.

Under Tiberius Caesar there was such a common and universal frenzy for bringing charges of treason, that it took a heavier toll of the lives of Roman citizens than any civil war
; it seized upon the talk of drunkards, the frank words of jesters; nothing was safe - anything served as an excuse to shed blood, and there was no need to wait out the fate of the accused since there was but one outcome."

On Benefits
"Tiberius advanced his minister Sejanus to the highest place of authority,
not so much from any real regard for him, as that by his base and sinister practices he might circumvent the children of Germanicus and so establish as heir apparent to the empire his own grandson by Drusus

Life of Tiberius
"This was the man whom Tiberius,
because of the similarity of their characters, attached to himself, elevating him to the rank of praetor, an honour that had never yet been accorded to one of like station
[i.e. to someone who did not belong to the Senatorial class]; and he made him his adviser and assistant in all matters."

Cassius Dio,
Roman History
Roman As, 31AD SPAIN, Bilbilis.
RV: Augusta Bilbilis Ti(berius) Caesar L(ucius) Aelio Seiano
Laureate head right / COS in wreath. RPC I 398; Burgos 196.
Tiberius. As. Bilbilis mint. L. Aelius Sejanus, praetorian consul. Struck AD 31.
TI • CAESAR • DIVI • AVGVSTI • F • AVGVSTVS•, laureate head right / MV (ligate) • AV(ligate)GVSTA • BILBILIS • TI • CÆSARE • V [L ÆL]IO • [SEIAN]O, large COS within wreath. RPC I 398; NAH 1079-80; SNG Copenhagen 620.
"Begotten at Vulsinii, his father being Seius Strabo (a Roman equestrian), in his early youth he was a regular follower of C. Caesar (grandson of Divine Augustus) and
rumoured to have offered the sale of illicit sex to the rich and prodigal Apicius
; later, by various means,
he shackled Tiberius to such an extent that the latter, dark as he was to others, was rendered uniquely unguarded and unprotected in respect of Sejanus himself
- this not so much by artfulness (indeed it was by the same means that he was vanquished) as by
the anger of the gods against the Roman cause
, for whose extermination he alike thrived and fell."
Tacitus, Annals 4.1.2
He increased the influence (previously limited) of the prefecture by gathering into a single camp the cohorts scattered across the City
, so that they would receive commands simultaneously and, given both the number of the resulting hard core and their sight of one another, there would be a rise in their own confidence and in the dread of everyone else. He pretended that a dispersed soldiery acted recklessly; if some emergency occurred, he said, a concerted rescue would offer better help; and they would behave more strictly if the rampart were set up at some distance from the allurements of the City."
"The mighty Sejanus is crackling. Then, from the face regarded as number two in the whole of the world, come pitchers, basins, saucepans and piss-pots. Frame your door with laurels; drag a magnificent bull, whitened with chalk, to the Capitol.
They’re dragging Sejanus along by a hook for all to see. Everyone’s jubilant.
‘Look, what lips he had! What a face! You can take it from me that I never cared for the fellow. But what was the charge that brought him down? Who informed, who gave him away, what witnesses proved it?’ ‘Nothing like that. A large, long-winded letter arrived from Capri.’ ‘Fine ... I ask no more."
"By decree of the senate my name was included in the Salian hymn, and it was enacted by law that my person should be sacred in perpetuity and that
so long as I lived I should hold the tribunician power
Res Gestae
"When Augustus was consul for the eleventh time, with Calpurnius Piso,
he fell so ill once more as to have no hope of recovery; at any rate, he arranged everything as if he were about to die
, and gathered about him the magistrates and the foremost senators and knights.
He did not, to be sure, appoint a successor, although all were expecting that Marcellus would be preferred for this position
, but after talking with them awhile about the public affairs, he gave Piso the list of the forces and of the public revenues written in a book, and handed his ring to Agrippa"
Cassius Dio,
Roman History
"This he did later; at the time, after being restored to health,
he brought his will into the senate and desired to read it, by way of showing people that he had left no successor to his realm
; but he did not read it, for none would permit it."

Cassius Dio,
Roman History
problems of theory and practice
how to pass on powers without admitting dynasty/royalty?
his successors dropping like flies
solves the first with the Second Settlement of 23BC
crystallised by his illness - doesn't/can't appoint a successor
imperium proconsulare maius
legal right to intervene on behalf state even where not in control]
granted to Augustus for 10- or 5-year periods
voted by the Senate to succeeding emperors at their accession; then ratified by a
tribunicia potestas
for life
tribune's vote over all legislation
to summon the People to assembly
veto right against other magistrates’ acts, laws and Senatorial Decrees
hardly uses either except to number his years by it
official powers without the (voted) office
magistracies are annual & collegial & restricted
tribunicia potestas
held alone
not connected to province or magistracy
new powers are transferable

"In the consulship of Marcus Vinucius and Quintus Lucretius, and afterwards in that of Publius and Gnaeus Lentulus, and a third time in that of Paullus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Tubero, when the Senate and the Roman people unanimously agreed that I should be elected overseer of laws and morals, without a colleague and with the fullest power, I refused to accept any power offered me which was contrary to the traditions of our ancestors.
Those things which at that time the senate wished me to administer I carried out by virtue of my tribunician power. And even in this office I five times received from the senate a colleague at my own request.
Res Gestae
Pan & goat (Pompeii; Naples Archaeological Museum)
"He had many bedchambers hung with pictures and statues representing figures in the most lascivious attitudes, and furnished with the books of Elephantis, that none might want a pattern for the execution of any filthy project that was prescribed him.
He arranged in the woods and groves, here and there, recesses for the gratification of lust; where, within caves and hollow rocks, young persons of both sexes indulged their passions in the disguise of little Pans and nymphs; insomuch that he was publicly termed, by an abuse of the name of the island, Caprineus. For the name of Capri has a double meaning and signifies also a goat


At Capreae they still point out the scene of his executions
, from which
he used to order that those who had been condemned after long and exquisite tortures be cast headlong into the sea before his eyes
, while a band of marines waited below for the bodies and broke their bones with boathooks and oars, to prevent any breath of life from remaining in them."


returning to the island, he utterly neglected the conduct of state affairs
, from that time on never filling the vacancies in the decuries of the knights, nor changing the tribunes of the soldiers and prefects or the governors of any of his provinces. He left Spain and Syria without consular governors for several years, suffered Armenia to be overrun by the Parthians, Moesia to be laid waste by the Dacians and Sarmatians, and the Gallic provinces by the Germans, to the great dishonour of the empire and no less to its danger."

Velleius Paterculus
Roman History
in 2 books

published in AD 30
served in the army under Tiberius
II.94-131 on Tiberius (23 BC onwards)
heavily biased in favour of Tiberius (‘court flatterer’)


written in early 2nd C AD
I-VI on Tiberius (AD 14-37)
a critique of imperial rule / monarchy
and suppression of the Senate

Even his edict, convening the Fathers to the senate-house was issued simply beneath the tribunician title which he had received under Augustus
. It was a laconic document of very modest purport:— "He intended to provide for the last honours to his father, whose body he could not leave — it with was the one function of the state which he made bold to exercise."
Yet, on the passing of Augustus he had given the watchword to the praetorian cohorts as Imperator
; he had the sentries, the men-at-arms, and the other appurtenances of a court; soldiers conducted him to the forum, soldiers to the curia; he dispatched letters to the armies as if the principate was already in his grasp; and nowhere manifested the least hesitation, except when speaking in the senate
"When, however,
by virtue of his tribunician power, he had convened the senate and had begun to address it
, he suddenly groaned aloud, as if overcome by grief, and with the wish that not only his voice, but his life as well might leave him, handed the written speech to his son Drusus to finish. Then bringing in the will of Augustus, he had it read by a freedman, admitting of the signers only such as were of the senatorial order, while the others acknowledged their seals outside the House."

Life of Augustus

at this stage, the interaction of emperor with Senate seems most important
because this is still how power is made... and unmade
but also because they control the memorialisation process
"And because of this the senate voted that Augustus should be tribune for life and gave him the private of bringing before the senate at each meeting any one matter at whatever time he liked, even if he were not consul at the time; they also permitted him to hold once and for all and for life the office of proconsul, so that he had neither to lay it down upon entering the pomerium nor to have it renewed again, and they gave him in the subject territory authority superior to that of the governor in each instance.
As a result both he and the emperors after him gained a certain legal right to use the tribunician power as well as their other powers; for the title of tribune itself was taken neither by Augustus nor by any other emperor.
Cassius Dio 53.32
"Presently he broke out into every form of cruelty, for which he never lacked occasion, venting it on the friends and even the acquaintances, first of his mother, then of his grandsons and daughter-in-law, and finally of Sejanus. After the death of Sejanus he was more cruel than ever, which showed that his favourite was not wont to egg him on, but on the contrary gave him the opportunities which he himself desired. Yet
in a brief and sketchy autobiography which he composed he had the assurance to write that he had punished Sejanus because he found him venting his hatred on the children of his son Germanicus
. Whereas in fact he had himself put one of them to death after he had begun to suspect Sejanus and the other after the latter's downfall."

Life of Tiberius
"Now Sejanus was growing greater and more formidable all the time, so that the senators and the rest looked up to him as if he were actually emperor and held Tiberius in slight esteem.
When Tiberius learned this, he did not treat the matter lightly or disregard it, since he feared they might declare his rival emperor outright
. He did nothing openly, to be sure, for Sejanus had completely won over the entire Pretorian guard and had gained the favour of the senators, partly by the benefits he conferred, partly by the hopes he inspired, and partly by intimidation: he had furthermore made all the associates of Tiberius so completely his friends that they immediately reported to him absolutely everything the emperor either said or did, whereas no one informed Tiberius of what Sejanus did."
Cassius Dio 58.4.-3
When Sejanus was plotting revolution
, although he saw the man's birthday publicly celebrated and his golden statues honoured everywhere, yet it was with difficulty that he at last overthrew him, rather by craft and deceit than by his imperial authority."
Life of Tiberius
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