Emperor Tiberius

Early Life

He was born ‘Tiberius Claudius Nero’ on 16 November 42BC.

Tiberius was the stepson of Augustus and the son of his third wife Livia.

Augustus became very involved in Tiberius’ life when he was nine following the death of his father.

The first public appearance of Tiberius had been at his father’s funeral in 32BC where he delivered the eulogy (speech).

In 29BC he also rode, along with his brother Drusus, and Octavian (Augustus) on the Triumphal Chariot in the celebration following the defeat of Marc Antony and Cleopatra.

As Tiberius grew up Augustus sent him on many missions to gain experience of government and he fought and won many battles.

When returning to Rome in 19BC Tiberius married Vipsania Agrippina, the daughter of Augustus’ great friend Marcus Agrippa. It is believed that this was a happy marriage.

At this time Tiberius was appointed Praetor (Government Official). He was then sent on further military campaigns by Augustus.

When he returned in 13BC, he was appointment Consul.

In 11BC Augustus insisted that Tiberius divorce Vipsania and marry his own daughter Julia the Elder. This was not a happy marriage and was to be the turning point in his relationship with Augustus.

In 6BC Tiberius was very unhappy and he quit politics, left Rome and went to live on the Island of Rhodes.

This angered Augustus and he banned Tiberius from returning to Rome to visit his mother.

The heirs to Augustus’ reign would be his grandsons Gaius and Lucius.

Lucius died in 2AD. Following this, Augustus relented and allowed Tiberius to return to Rome. With the death of Gaius in 4AD, Augustus adopted Tiberius as his son and heir. He also insisted that Tiberius adopt his eighteen year old nephew Germanicus and make him Tiberius’ heir.

Many believe Livia was involved in the deaths of Lucius and Gaius as she was determined that her son should become Emperor.

Emperor 14AD – 37AD

Tiberius became Emperor in 14AD following the death of Augustus.

His rule was very positive at the start and he improved Rome’s financial position, however he was a reluctant ruler. It is believed that he never wished to be Emperor.

Tiberius was unpopular with the Senate and seemed to want them to rule without him. When he did give direct orders, these were not clear for the Senate to act upon and they spent most of their time debating on what the orders actually meant.

In 26AD Tiberius moved to the Island of Capri, never to return to Rome. He left the rule of Rome to Lucius Aelius Sejanus who was the Pretorian Prefect and head of the Praetorian Guard (Royal Guard).

Tiberius became aware that Sejanus had set about killing all possible heirs to the throne. He therefore had Sejanus arrested and executed. His body was dragged through the streets of Rome and thrown into the Tiber.

The Roman successor would now be Caligula, the surviving son of Germanicus who had died in 19AD.

Tiberius ruled for 23 years, he died on 16 March 37AD at the age of 78. He had always been a reluctant Emperor and he is remembered as a miserable and reclusive tyrant.

Pliny the Elder called him ‘tristissimus hominum’, the gloomiest of men.

Speculation still exists on whether Tiberius died naturally or was murdered.

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