Tiberius Claudius Nero CaesarTiberius Claudius Nero Caesar was born in Rome on November 16, 42 BC. Four years after his birth his mother divorced his father and married Octavian. Tiberius was a descendant of the Claudian family who moved to Rome shortly afterthe foundation of the city. The Claudians did not respect others who were notof noble ancestry. After Tiberius was four he was raised to be a loyal servant of Augustus. Tiberius is associated with Augustus for 22 years.
Augustus had Tiberiuscarefully educated. Augustus later forced Tiberius to dissolve his happymarriage to Vipsania Agrippina and marry Augustus’ daughter Julia. This wasarranged to better the chance of succession of a descendant of Augustus to takepower. The plan did not work because they did not get along and soon livedseparately. For this reason Tiberius retired to the island of Rhodes where hedevoted himself to study for seven years.
When Tiberius returned to Rome in AD26, Julia had been banished for adultery. The death of both of Augustus’grandsons within two years led him to adopt Tiberius as his son and heir. Tiberius then went into active service in northern Germany against theMarcomanni. Tiberius succeeded in securing the northern border with thedangerous German tribes.Order now
Tiberius made two more marches into the heart ofGermany. On his return to Rome he was awarded a triumph, the highest officialtribute that was given to honor a victorious warrior. Augustus died in AD 14 and Tuberius assumed sole power of the wholeRoman empire. Tiberius was a large, strong man, and very tall. He had a fairskin complexion that was sometimes subjected to outbreaks of skin disease.
According to Suetonius, he wore his hair long in the back. This was an oldfashioned style for the time. Perhaps it was adopted in memory of hisdistinguished ancestry. Tiberius remained in excellent health most of his life. He was formal in manner but it was reported that he indulged in heavy drinkingand sexual activity.
He was also well educated in Latin and Greek literature. He also had a strong devotion to astrology. Tiberius took the throne at the age of fifty-six. This was during thelife of Jesus Christ. Although he assumed actual power, he did so unwillinglyand refused most of the titles that the senate offered him.
Many people believethat Tiberius was reluctant to become an autocrat. Tiberius began to take firmsteps against foreign beliefs because he thought they were a threat totraditional Roman values. He expelled followers of the Egyptian and Jewishreligions from Rome and banished astrologers. Tiberius believed in astrologyhimself but probably feared a possible conspiracy inspired by horoscopes. Tiberius established a central camp for the Praetorian guard in Rome sothe military could be quickly called to put down civilian violence.
Civilianriots were common because of the large population of unemployed that wereprovided for by the public dole. Lucius Aelius Sejanus was in charge of thesetroops and that gave him an enormous amount of potential power. He aspired tomarry Livia Julia, Tiberius daughter, and worked to increase the emperor’s fearand distrust of other members of his Tiberius family. In AD 26 Tiberius leftRome and withdrew to Campania, and the following year went to the island ofCapri. Tiberius left Rome under the power of Sejanus. Finally realizing thatSejanus was trying to seize the imperial power he sent a carefully worded letterto the senate.
The senate read the letter while the unsuspecting Sejanus sat inthe senate chamber. Tiberius bitterly condemned Sejanus. Quick action was thentaken to execute Sejanus and his family. Incidents such as this one gaveTiberius a bad name with the people of Rome and the senate. Tiberius continuedto rule Rome and the empire from the isolation of Capri. Tiberius oftenconfused and baffled the senate with his letters.
The senate was frequentlyunable to interpret his mysterious messages. Tiberius continued to live at Capri. His character was weakened byyears of hard work, worry and intense pressure. According to Suetonius heengaged in a series of perversions.
Tiberius grew into a very paranoid andsuspicious man. Since he had outlived his son he decided that his nephew Gaiuswould succeed him. Tiberius died on March 16, AD 37 near Naples. Some believehe was smothered by the prefect of the Praetorian Guard.
Instead of mourningthere was celebration. His body was not cremated until April 3. Tiberius wasnot deified during his lifetime or after his death. People take different sides when reflecting on Tiberius rule. Somebelieve that on the whole he was a fairly good emperor.
He was able to maintainpeace at home and security along the borders. Tiberius seems to have been anable soldier and administrator who retained the republican form of government asmuch as possible. He did improve civil service, the economy and kept the armyhighly disciplined. Few doubt the fact that after Sejanus death Tiberius becamesuspicious and vengeful.
Others feel that Tiberius was cruel and a tyrant. Tacitus was one ofTiberius greatest critics. His writings portrayed a completely evil ruler whoused unlimited power to destroy his enemies. However Tacitus was a believer inthe republic style of rule and hated the empire that replaced it. Tacitusversion of history is what most people remember because of his brilliantwritings.
Some maintain more of a middle ground when reflecting on his reign. They feel Tiberius had great military and political abilities. He often usedthese to benefit Rome and provided effective rule for the empire for many years. However the series of plots against him, the hostility of the upper classes, andoverwork caused drastic changes in his personality.
The job of ruling theentire Roman Empire was too great a job for any one man to handle.English