Tiberius Booklet 2

The Senate

Seats in the senate were held for life unless members were found guilty of serious misconduct. It served as an advisory body to the consuls and it had the power to veto resolutions of people’s assembly if the latter acted against the senate’s advice.

Augustus, a conservative, preferred to maintain the Republican format so long as it was efficient. Running the empire was also an enormous task and therefore the emperor depended on their help. Despite sharing the workload, power was not divided and the emperor had overall authority. Under Augustus, the senate therefore retained the power to:

·       Hold the annual magistracies (see cursus honorum) and chief military positons. Especially important was the fact that Augustus maintained the glory of the consulship which was a stepping stone to governing important provinces like Africa and Asia. This maintained a career ladder and competition.

·       Control of the treasury.

·       Administer the more peaceful provinces.

·       The Praetorship continued to be the prerequisite for entry into the senate.

They could also:

·       Vote honours upon the emperor and act as his advisory body.

·       Have the right to choose the new princeps (in theory) and either honour or condemn him after his death.

However Augustus made the following changes:

·       Reduced the number of senators to 600 (removing the “orcus men” who had bribed their way into the senate following Caesar’s death).

·       Introduced a monetary qualification of 1 million sesterces to enter the senate.

·       Enabled worthy men of the equestrian order to enter and personally assisted some with the monetary qualification.

·       Increased fines for non-attendance and forbade senators to leave Italy without permission.

·       Reduced the number of sessions to 2 a month to allow senators to allow senators to carry out their duties.

·       After 5BC, shortened the length of consulship from 1 year to 6 months to allow more senators the chance to hold this position.

·       The senate, sitting with the two consuls, formed one of two new criminal courts, trying important political cases and those involving senators and other prominent people.


We are now going to look at Tiberius’ relations with the Senate. Reda the summary notes the follow as well as Suetonius #27-#33, that you have been given and use a highlighter to indicate those areas where:

a.       The Senate was given more power and influence.

b.       The power and influence of the senate was kept more or less the same.

c.        Power of the senate was reduced or taken away.

Summary Notes on Tiberius and the Senate

1.       Tiberius attempted to uphold the traditional rights of the senate, treating it with dignity and as a partner in running the Empire.

a.       “In the first place public business – and the most important private business – was transacted in the senate. Among its chief men, there was freedom of discussion; their lapses into servility were arrested by the emperor himself. His conferments of office took into consideration birth, military distinction and civilian eminence and the choice manifestly fell on the worthiest men. The consuls and praetors maintained their prestige. The lesser offices, too, each exercised their proper authority. Moreover, with the exception of the treason court, the laws were duly enforced.”

                                                               i.      Tacitus, Annals page 160


2.       Tiberius even sought the aid of the senate on matters which were not its concern (he appears to have ben genuinely hesitant about the responsibility of handling the empire).

a.       “[…] asking for advice in every matter that concerned the national revenue, the allocation of monopolies, and the construction of repair of public buildings. He actually consulted them about the drafting or disbanding of troops, the stationing of legions and axillaries, the extension of military commands, the choice of generals to conduct particular campaigns and how to answer particular letters from foreign potentates.”

                                                               i.      Suetonius, Tiberius, 30


3.       He showed courtesy and respect when addressing not only individual senators but the House as a whole, and stood in the presence of the consuls.

a.       “Tiberius made a habit of always allowing the consuls the initiative as though the Republic still existed.”

                                                               i.      Tacitus, Annals, page 35


4.       He refused any titles which the nobility might find offensive such as “imperator” and “father of his country”, as well as refusing to have a month named after him or temples constructed in his honour. He also hated flattery.

a.       “He vetoed all bills for the dedication of temples and priests to his divinity and reserved the right to sanction even the setting up of his statues and buss… such was his hatred of flatterers that he refused to let senators approach his litter, whether in greeting or on business… [and] if anyone, either in conversation or a speech, spoke to him in too fulsome terms, Tiberius would interrupt and sternly correct the phrase.”

                                                               i.      Suetonius, Tiberius, 26-7


5.       He enlarged and developed some of the senate’s duties. Under Tiberius, the senate became practically the only legislative bod after AD14, as he transferred the election of magistrates to it from the People’s Assembly.


6.       He followed Augustus’ example of commenting candidates for election but he did it on a smaller scale and so competition in the senate for official positions became a real contest, without the opportunity for bribery that had occurred in the assembly. Tiberius never overrode the normal electoral system.


7.       Under Tiberius the senate became the chief criminal court, particularly for treason trials.


8.       In theory, the senate retained wide powers over the provinces and the state treasury.


9.       Tiberius increased the administrative duties of the senate.


10.   Tiberius was keen to retain worthy men and therefore was inclined to help them financially with the property qualification, although not if their poverty was due to their own extravagance. He objected strongly when a young nobleman, Marcus Hortensius, who had been given one million sesterces by Augustus to marry and have a family, asked for assistance from the floor of the senate.

a.       “If every poor man is to come here… and start requesting money for his children, the applicants will never be satisfied and the nation’s finances will collapse.”

                                                               i.      Tacitus, Annals, page 95


11.   He invited the senate to discuss provincial petitions from delegations of Ephesians and Magnesians and from many other cities. He was therefore allowing the senate to participate in decision making, such as choosing a governor of Arica. The senate however could not decide and had requested Tiberius to make the choice (he wrote a letter to the senate complaining about this) but when he suggested two names, Lepidus and Blaesus, the senate (according to Tacitus) chose Blaesus as he was Sejanus’ uncle.


12.   Tiberius encouraged the senate to be independent, and on a few occasions it did overrule him.

a.       “If decrees were passed in defiance of his wishes, he abstained from complaint” and once, when a motion was being voted on, “he went into a minority lobby and not a soul followed him.”

                                                               i.      Suetonius, Tiberius, 31


13.   However Tacitus complains that the servility of the senators increased under Tiberius. It is possible this servility was due to the fact Tiberius’ character appeared threatening and senators never really knew what he was thinking (and he often spoke quite cryptically). Senators therefore preferred not to take chances by speaking their minds, even more so because there was no clear definition of treason.

a.       “All ex-consuls, most ex-praetors, even many junior senators completed with each other’s offensively sycophantic proposals.”

                                                               i.      Tacitus, Annals, page 150


14.   There were some individual cases of independence from the senate e.g. the distinguished lawyer, Marcus Antisus Labeo, but this won him no imperial favours and his political career suffered as a result (never achieving more than the Praetorship). Another example of independent speech came from Aulua Cremutius Cordus, who was accused of praising Brutus in his History and of referring to Cassius as the “last of the Romans.” He defended himself bravely, pointing out that Julius Caesar and Augustus had not condemned writers for their words but when he concluded his defence and left the senate he committed suicide (condemnation was certain as the prosecutors were Sejanus’ men). The senate ordered Cremutius’ books to be burnt, showing the depths to which they had sunk.


15.   Tiberius dependence on Sejanus (Prefect of the Praetorian Guard) caused fear amongst the senate. Sejanus interfered in public business and influenced the decisions of both Tiberius and the senate. He also began a series of prosecutions of senators who had shown any friendship to the family of Germanicus. Therefore senators feared for their own safety.


a.       “[…] sought relief in flattery. Though assembled to consider some unrelated business, they voted the erection of altars to Mercy and Friendship – the latter to be flanked by statues of Tiberius and Sejanus.”

                                                               i.      Tacitus, Annals, page 194


16.   Relations with the senate deteriorated further once Tiberius had retired to Capri. The once proud senators begged that Tiberius or Sejanus make an appearance in Rome, but when neither did, senators and knights flocked to Campania “anxiously regarding Sejanus” (Tacitus, Annals, page 194( they waited for an interview but were denied access to him and returned to Rome.

Discussion Point: Tacitus takes a detailed interest in the relationship between Tiberius and the Senate. Why might this be? Using your knowledge of Tacitus not down what would apply to this (source analysis).

How bad do you think Tiberius’ relationship with the senate actually was during his rule?             (20 marks, June 2012)

How far was the senate able to exercise real power during Tiberius’ reign?
(20 marks, June 2010)


Tiberius and Rome

The main sourced for the period (Suetonius and Tacitus) portray Tiberius as hated by most ordinary Romans. One reason for this was that under Augustus and beforehand during the Republic, citizens of the city were used to acts of generosity from politicians, who in turn sought popularity and support (a common historical term for this phenomenon is “Bread and Circuses”). It is true that under Tiberius, there were fewer gladiatorial shows (for entertainment) and public works e.g. Aqueducts (which provided employment as well as beautifying the city). Yet Tiberius, perhaps due to his harsh background, did not seek to court popularity in this was. Ge was nonetheless an able administrator, and under his reign Rome benefitted in numerous ways.

Positive aspects of Tiberius’ treatment of Rome

Negative aspects of Tiberius’ treatment of


Rome had excellent civil administration under Tiberius, who focused on continuing Augustus’ arrangement as much as possible.


Tiberius was unpopular in Rome. He was blunt, overly serious, morose, suspicious and insecure. He lacked charm, and had a cryptic manner of speech.


Tiberius alleviated food shortages. His foreign and provincial policy largely ensured that the grain supply to Rome was secure.


Tiberius cut public expenditure to protect the finances of the empire and ensure political stability. However, the urban plebeians who wished for/benefitted from gladiatorial shows and building programmes, resented this greatly.


Tiberius maintained law and order in the city through a city prefect, and took measured to safeguard the countryside form brigandage.


Tiberius’ retirement to Capri gave Sejanus huge political influence over the city, which was resented by all classes of Roman society.


He gave substantial relief to help victims of amphitheatre tragedy and a fire on the Aventine.



Tiberius reduced the Sales Tax on traded goods.



Tiberius chose the officials in charge of overseeing Rome’s administration carefully.



Tiberius often helped individual senators financially in order to retain their service for the state. He gave one senator, Celer, one million sesterces. However, he had little time for senators whose poverty was due to their own extravagance. When Marcus Hortensius, asked the senate for help, having already been given 1 million sesterces by Augustus, Tiberius initially asked the senate to reject him. Due to the senate’s silence, Tiberius compromised by offering 200’000 sesterces for each of Hortensius’ children.


Tiberius and Rome extension questions

1.       On balance, do you view Tiberius’ administration of Rome as largely beneficial or negative? Provide analysis of the evidence to back up your opinion. (4 marks)

a.       Overall his administration was largely beneficial to Rome. Whilst he wasn’t very popular with the Plebs for hosting minimal gladiatorial events, he did kee Rome safe from brigandage, and made sue the food shortages were alleviated, which would have prevents rebellions. Similarly he prevented bankrupting Rome by cutting public expenditure, therefore sacrificing his own popularity for the good of Rome.

2.       Why do you think that Tiberius’ overall administration of the city was disliked by most contemporary Roman citizens? Explain your answer (2 marks)

a.       He was mainly disliked as he reduced the number of gladiatorial events. Similarly as the sales tax was cut, there was less money to spend on public works projects – this contrasts with Augustus who held many events and increased the number of building projects.

3.       Why do you think it was important for Tiberius to maintain the support of the city of Rome, not only the senate and the equestrian orders but the urban plebeians too? (2 marks)

a.       If he did not maintain support from the Plebs by alleviating the food shortage, they would likely rebel which could cause problems for Tiberius, and possibly result in his downfall. He would also have to please the equestrians as they could pose a threat to him, being members of the Praetorian Guard, and being allowed to carry weapons in Rome.


Tiberius and Religion

The Imperial Cult

·       Tiberius was never deified (made a god), either in his lifetime or after his death. His predecessor Augustus had, having been voted “Divine Honours” by the senate. Tiberius actively refused to be worshipped as a living god, an honour the senate offered him, until his death in AD37. He allowed only one temple to be built in his honour during his reign, at Smyrna (modern day Israel).

·       That said, Tiberius maintained the Imperial cult, insofar that he continued to uphold the divinity of Augustus. This meant that the future Julio-Claudian emperors (Caligula and Claudius in particular) would be able to claim divine status also. During is reign he dedicated temples to Augustus, such as at Nola in Italy. Suetonius claimed that during Tiberius’ reign it became a capital offence to beat a slave or change his clothes near the state of Augustus, or to carry a coin bearing his head into a brothel or toilet.

·       During the Maiestas (treason) Trials, Tiberius ensured that any serious offence given to Augustus was considered reasonable against his divinity. However, Tiberius made it very clear that neither insults against himself or mother Livia were treasonable. When the knight Flanius was accused of blasphemy for having sold a statue of Augustus as part of his property, Tiberius rubbished the charge on the grounds that “Augustus had not been voted divine honours in order to ruin Roman citizens”.

·       Like Caesar and Augustus before him, Tiberius held the position of Pontifex Maximus. This made him the most prominent priest in the Empire, in addition to his power as Emperor he was also head of the Roman Pantheon of Gods. This includes traditional gods such as Jupiter, Diana and Minerva. However Gods were often integrated into this from other cultures, and most importantly past emperors were added – Caesar, Augustus, Claudius and Livia were all deified.


Tiberius’ Personal Religious Attitudes

·       Suetonius tells us that, as a younger man, Tiberius demonstrated considerable piety and humility towards the Gods.

o   “He (Tiberius) forbad temples, flamens, or priests to be appointed for him, as likewise the erection of any statues and effigies for him, without his permission; and this he granted only on the condition that they should not be placed among the images of the gods, but only among the ornaments of the houses”.

·       Tacitus noted that Tiberius repaired or restored temples that had fallen into disrepair in the reign of Augustus, such as the temples of Ceres and Janus.

·       In his later life, Suetonius claims that Tiberius had little respect for religion, but was superstitious, addicted to astrology and persuaded that everything depended on fate, wearing a laurel crown during lightning storms because he believed it protected him

Foreign Cults

·       In the city of Rome itself, Suetonius tells us that Tiberius prohibited all worship of foreign cults, “forcing converts to these to burn their vestments and sacred utensils”.

·       In response to the increasingly active Jewish community, in AD19 he ordered all young Jewish men to join the Roman army. All the rest of the city’s Jewish population was banished from Rome under pain of slavery if they returned.

·       He also expelled astrologers and worshippers of the Egyptian Goddess Isis. Tacitus wrote that the senate even executed several though apparently permitted them to stay in return for a promise that they would cease their practises.

·       That said, he maintained a close relationship with the astrologer Thrasyllus, who he had taken into his family and had known since his exile in Rhodes.

·       Tiberius oppressed the Druids in Gaul: this caused sever discontent.


Tiberius and Frontier Policy

Tiberius followed Augustus’ advice to avoid an extension of the empire beyond its present frontiers except where it was necessary for security, such as in the east. He strengthened the eastern frontiers by “astute diplomacy without warfare” and limited annexations of client-kingdoms, which Augustus had implied was acceptable once they were sufficiently Romanised. Tiberius paid particular attention to improving the discipline of the troops on the frontiers and to maintain the economy in the forced after the initial mutinies in Germany and Pannonia in AD14.

The Rhine

·       The northern frontier was maintained at the Rhine after Germanicus’ attempts to extend it to the Elbe were curtailed by Tiberius.

·       His belief that the rebellious tribes just beyond the Rhine could be “left to their own internal disturbances” was justified when some years later, after the Romans had gone, national/tribal rivalries turned the German tribes against each other.


The Danube

·       Tiberius used a number of methods to secure the Danubian frontier. He hired a native leader to use the Suebi and Marcomanni (Germanic Tribes) to keep watch on the Upper Danube.

·       He strengthened the middle Danube region by combining the previous senatorial provinces of Achaea and Macedonia with Moesia under the competent imperial legate, Poppaeus Sabinus, who was left in charge of this large province for twenty years.

·       The Lower Danube are had been divided by Augustus between two Thracian kings. As a result of the trouble between them, during which one of them was killed, Tiberius replaced them and appointed a Roman resident to supervise the new kings. There was continuous trouble in this area until 46, when it was finally organised as a province,

The East

·       Germanicus was sent to the east in AD17 to settle the question of kingship in Armenia, where he appointed Ataxias III to the throne.

·       The client-kingdoms of Cappadocia and Commagene were annexed, and Cicilia was added to Syria.

·       Later, Tiberius installed a new king of Parthia.


·       The only serious frontier trouble spot for Tiberius was in Africa. Tacfarinas, a Numidian and once member of the Roman army, trained his troops in Roman tactics. He carried out a successful guerrilla campaign on the province of Africa for seven years (17-23).

·       In 21, Julius Blaesus (Sejanus’ uncle) was put in command and succeeded in breaking the back of the insurrection. In two years peace returned to the province.


The Gallic Revolt


In addition to unrest in Africa, Tiberius also faced a minor revolt in Gaul. The local population faced an ever increasing burden of debt to Roman creditors. Tiberius in his religion policy was also heavily repressing the Druids in the region. Two tribes – the Treviri led by Julius Florus and the Aedui led by Julius Sacrovir led a revolt against the Romans.

Both Sacrovir and Florus were ethnic Gauls but the deeds of their ancestors and their service to Rome had earned their families Roman citizenship, so both were Romanised. They both agreed that Florus should incite the tribes in Belgae to rebel against Roman rule and Sacrovir the Gallic tribes further south.

The Revolt

The Rebellion spread slowly at first but eventually spread to many tribes, Tacitus reports that 64 tribes revolted. Sacrovir managed to capture the capital Augustdunum. Gaius Silius, the governor of Upper Germania was given the task of putting the revolt down.

Silius quickly defeated Aedui at Augustdunum and Sacrovir committed suicide shortly thereafter. Tiberius then wrote to the senate advising them out the outbreak and termination of the rebellion. He also gave excuses that he tasked his generals with dealing with this as he and Drusus were needed to provide central leadership to the whole empire.

Task – Source Analysis – Tacitus and Speeches. One of Tacitus’ favourite literary techniques is the use of speeches to emphasise his point and often re-enforce his political views.

What does the below speech tell you about the Roman Empire and Tiberius’ administration – according to Tacitus?

“Germanicus’ death has demoralised the Romany army!’ they cried (Gallic conspirators). “Besides, look at the contrast between your strength and Italy’s weakness, Think of the unwar-like population of Rome. How the army needs us provincials! This is an ideal opportunity to regain independence.” (Tacitus, III, 41)

“Was Sacrovir too’ they inquired (Roman citizens) ‘going to appear before the senate for treason? Here at last are men to put a forcible stop to these bloodthirsty imperial letters – and even war is a welcome change from the miseries of peace!” (Tacitus, III, 45)

Tiberius and the Provinces

Public Provinces – those which had been under Roman rule for a long time and were relatively peaceful. These were administered by the Senate. (Remember though that the Emperor had maius Imperium)

Imperial Provinces – Those which had recently been subdued or were more unruly and barbaric. These “armed” provinces were under the control of the Emperor. They could be transferred to Senatorial control after a period.

Notice that the most important provinces were governed by Equestrians e.g. Egypt.

Provincial Petitions to Tiberius

Tiberius, according to Tacitus, “allowed the senate a shadow of its ancient power by inviting it to discuss provincial treaties”. This involved representatives of the various provinces, mainly form the east, coming to the senate to ask Rome for favours, to complain against neighbours or had governors, or to generally seek Rome’s backing for various actions.

Tacitus implies that Tiberius did not truly seek the Senate’s advice on foreign policy matters: it is true that generally Tiberius made such decisions on his own authority. It could be argued that the emperor wished for an appearance of legitimacy in how he handed foreign petitions. However, it seems difficult to believe that Tiberius, who appears to have wished to expand the senate’s influence on the matters of government (at least early on), would have had the senate hear provincial petitions if he intended to ignore all their advice.

Discussion Point: Do you agree or disagree with Tacitus’ interpretation of the senate hearing provincial treaties?

Tacitus gives the following reasons for the provincial petitions:

1.       Too many people in Greek cities were escaping punishment due to overly-generous rights of sanctuary in religious temples.

2.       This meant that temples were filled with slaves, debtors and even those suspected of murder.

3.       Previous attempts to deal with this problem had caused serious unrest.

4.       Therefore the cities were requested to submit their charters and their representatives to investigation in Rome.

Cities came to argue their case, based on past services to Rome or due to the religious significance of their temples. Tacitus noted that “it was a splendid sight… to see the senate investigating privileges conferred by its ancestors… and it was free, as of old, to confirm or amend”.

The following cities made petitions through representatives:


·       Argued that the gods Apollo and Diana were born in their city.

·       Therefore they deserved to preserve the rights of sanctuary in their temple.


·       Argued that Rome had formerly given the city rights of asylum at one of their temples.

·       Julius Caesar had confirmed this.

·       They were honoured by Augustus for having been loyal against the Parthian invasion.


·       Argued that many Roman generals recognised and respected rights of temples.

The senate, according to Tacitus, got bored, as the “local rivalries proved wearisome”. Other cities continued to protest that their sanctuaries deserved recognition, and in the case of Crete, they asked for and received a statue of the divine Augustus. Decrees were then passed, and bronze tablets were ordered to be placed in temples.

Tacitus notes in his Annals that he only mentions praiseworthy or scandalous proposals made in the Senate at this time, as he argues that “it is the historian’s foremost duty to ensure that merit is recorded, and the confront evil words and deeds with the fear of posterity’s denunciations”. He argued that the senate had by this time become so slavish that even Tiberius himself used to leave the senate house, muttering in Greek “Men fit to be slaves”.

The Positive Aspects of Tiberius’ Provincial Policy

1.       Tiberius maintained strict discipline of troops in the provinces and secured the frontiers by diplomacy of possible, by war only if necessary.

2.       Special attention was paid to the choice of governors; he retained many governors at their posts for extended periods, to increase efficiency e.g. Gaius Poppaeus Sabinus was governor of the Danube for 20 years.

3.       Tiberius sought to maintain justice not only for provincials but also for Roman citizens: the people of Cyzicus were deprived of their liberty for abusing Roman citizens.

4.       Imperial legates were strictly supervised in order to avoid oppression; prosecutions of governors and procurators charged with extortion were swift.

5.       Infrastructure such as road-building was established to improve communications across the empire, and new settlements in Syria, Spain, Salmatia and Pannonia,

6.       Generous provision was given to provincial cities during disasters, e.g. the earthquake in Sardis (AD17). Tiberius promised it ten million sesterces and remitted all taxation by the treasury or its imperially controlled branches for five years.

7.       Tiberius avoided interfering in senatorial provinces, but kept a close eye on their administration.

8.       He gave provincial assemblies (governments) larger degrees of autonomy.

9.       He did not encourage worship of himself in the provinces, reminding the senate “I am a human, performing human tasks”.

10.   He checked the over-taxation caused by the equestrian tax companies and protected very rich provinces such as Egypt from excessive taxation.

The Negative Aspects of Tiberius’ Provincial Policy

1.       There was a brief rebellion in Gaul in AD21 due, according to Tacitus, to the burden of debt owed to Roman creditors. An added grievance may have been Tiberius’ persecution of the Druids.

2.       Tiberius’ policy of leaving governors in office for long periods in order to benefit the provincials fell down when he made a poor judgement about a governor. Pontius Pilatus was governor f Judea for 10 years (26-36), provoking the locals unnecessarily when imperial standards were brought into Jerusalem: it took the governor of Syria Vitellius to placate the Jews when Pilate was sent to Rome for trial.

3.       The senate resented his guidance and control over the provinces through his use of imperial legates, and were particularly affronted when he encroached on the senatorial sphere by refusing to permit a change of proconsuls for Africa and Asia and keeping the same men there for 6 years.



Tiberius and Imperial Women

Tacitus, in attempting to condemn Tiberius, appears to highlight the intrigues of Livia in his work. The popular image of Livia, as defined by Robert Graves’ representation of her in “I, Claudius” (based heavily on Suetonius) s of an arch-schemer who effectively ruled the empire until her death, first through Augustus and then Tiberius/ While this is most likely an exaggeration of her influence, there is doubt that from the outset of the Julio Claudian era that the women of the imperial family were major players in the constant power-struggle of the imperial court.

Julia the Elder: Daughter of Augustus. Married for the third time to Tiberius after previous attempts to secure a successor by Augustus failed. She played little part in the politics of the era, becoming instead notorious for her numerous affairs. Banished by Augustus for adultery to an isolated island, later allowed to live in Rhegium but died in poverty after Tiberius supposedly cut offer her allowance.

Livia: Augustus’’ wife (the Augusta) and Tiberius’ mother. According to Tacitus, Tiberius wanted the senate to clearly choose him as emperor because he didn’t want it to appear that he had “wormed his way in… by the intrigues of an old man’s wife”. Livia is described by both Suetonius and Tacitus as having significant influence on Tiberius until her death in AD29. Tiberius has reserved “a deep seated deference of Livia” throughout her life, which Tacitus infers to discredit Tiberius but that may well indicate Tiberius’ dutiful nature as a son. She was involved in the alliance with her grand-daughter Livilla (both being manipulated by Sejanus_ in bringing down Agrippina the Elder.

Agrippina: Wife of Germanicus, Tiberius’ adopted son. She was praised by Tacitus in particular and Suetonius as a model Roman woman, and often as the last true ancestor of Augustus’ bloodline. While in Germany during the mutiny at the outset of Tiberius’ reign, she refused to be sent away by Germanicus, ”reminding him that she was of Augustus’ divine bloodline and would live up to it”. After Germanicus’ death, Agrippina became bitter against Tiberius, convinced he had been behind her husband’s death. She ignored Germanicus’ advice to avoid antagonising those in power, forming a party of supporters for her three sons. These actions, and her constant hectoring of Tiberius, resulted in the fall of her party and the death of her sons Nero and Drusus Caesar. Her last son Caligula would survive to be the next emperor. She was described by Tacitus as having “no feminine weakness. Intolerant of rivalry thirsting for power, she had a man’s preoccupations”.

Livilla: Wife of Drusus, Tiberius’ natural son. She was seduced by Sejanus, who was hungry for power and sought to intermarry with the imperial family. She plotted with her grandmother to bring down Agrippina. Tiberius refused Sejanus’ request to marry her and instead offered Livilla’s daughter. She died shortly after Sejanus’ fall, either through execution or suicide. The historian Cassius Dio states that her mother, Antonia Minor, locked her in a room until she starved to death.


Tiberius and His Family (Later on in Reign)


Full name

Livia Drusilla (changed to Julia Augustus in AD14)

Dates and place of birth

30 January in 58BC, Rome


Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus



Aufidius Lurco

Married to

Tiberius Claudius Nero





Political Influence

Had her own finances

Had her own circle of clients

Key events involved in

Possibly involved in the deaths of Postumus, Gaius, Lucius, Agrippa and Agrippina

Championed Drusus and Tiberius for promotion

Death: How


Death: Where


Death: When

28th September 29AD aged 87

What impact did this have on Tiberius?

He never returned to Rome

Sejanus lost any restricting influence – Heightened the reign of terror


Agrippina the Elder

Full name

Vipsania Agrippina

Dates and place of birth

14BC, Rome


Marcus Agrippa and Julia the Elder


Augustus and Scribonia

Married to

Germanicus, son of Drusus the Elder

Reasons for the marriage

Strengthens Germanicus’ claim to the princeps


Gaius Caligula, Drusus Caesar, Nero Caesar, Agrippina the Younger, Julia Drusilla, Julia Livilla

Political influence

Key role in prosecuting Piso

Built up a part of supports for her sons so that they would become emperor – Agrippina’s party

Death: How

Self-starvation or having been starved to death

Tacitus also states that she lost an eye during her imprisonment awaiting charge by the Senate

Death: Where


Death: When


Death: Why

False charges of planning to take sanctuary beside a statue of Augustus

What impact did this have on Tiberius?

Tiberius had her name slandered after her death

Had the senate make her birthday a day of ill-omens in the Roman calendar



Tiberius’ Last Days and Death

·       Tiberius died on 16 March 37AD at Misenum, probably of disease and old age, aged 77-78.

·       Suetonius writes that he may have been smothered, or poisoned slowly by Caligula, or denied food, or died of natural causes.

·       Tacitus records that on hearing of the death, the crowd rejoiced, only to become silent upon hearing he had recovered, and rejoiced again after hearing Macro (who had replaced Sejanus as Prefect of the Praetorian Guard and Caligula had smothered him).

·       Suetonius also states that people ran about crying “may the earth… and the infernal gods, allow him no abode in death but among the wicked”, and wanted to drag his body on a hook down the Gemonian steps.

·       These accounts were most likely a reflection of how much the senatorial class hated him, rather than an accurate depiction of his unpopularity among all Romans.

That said, we can be sure that Tiberius was unpopular among many by the end of his reign:

·       The Senate refused to vote him divine honours.

·       Mobs filled the streets of Rome shouting “To the Tiber with Tiberius!” – A method usually used for disposing of the corpses of criminals.

·       He was cremated, and is ashes were laid in the mausoleum of Augustus.

·       In his will, Tiberius left his powers jointly to his grandsons Gemellus and Caligula.


The Strengths and Weaknesses of Tiberius’ Reign

Strengths of Tiberius’ reign

Weaknesses of Tiberius’ reign

Continuation of Augustus’ arrangements as much as possible.


Excellent civil administration:

·       Alleviated food shortages.

·       Maintained law and order in the city through the city prefect.

·       Gave substantial relief to help victims on an amphitheatre tragedy and a fire on the Aventine.

·       Supervised carefully the empire’s revenue.

·       Cut down public expenses – erected few public buildings and reduced gladiatorial shows.

·       Took measures to safeguard the countryside from brigandage.

·       Reduced sales tax.

·       Chose officials carefully.


Attempt to work with the senate:

·       Took no exceptional honours.

·       Upheld traditional rights.

·       Treated it with respect.

·       Consulted it.

·       Extended its administrative and legal functions.


Provincial and frontier policies:

·       Maintained peace and prosperity.

·       Settled disputes in provinces fairly.

·       Gave extensive tax relief after earthquake damage.

·       Built roads and bridges.

·       Built public buildings in provinces.

·       Chose best men wherever possible.

·       Maintained through discipline, loyalty and efficiency in armies.

Servility of senators – little co-rule, dependence on Tiberius.


Treason trials and growing numbers of delatores.


Crisis as a result of Germanics’ death.


Influence of Sejanus and elimination of members of imperial family.


Retirement of Tiberius to Capri – alienation of senate.


Vengeance taken on Sejanus’ supporters.


Gaius given no training for public life – contributed to the difficulties of his reign.


Praetorian Guard conscious of increased power – repercussions for future influence on succession.