Birthday: November 16, 42 BC
Died At Age: 78
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Tiberius Claudius Nero,
Born in: Rome, Italy
Famous as: Roman Emperor
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Julia the Elder (m. 11 BC), Vipsania Agrippina (m. 19 BC)
father: Tiberius Claudius Nero
mother: Livia Drusilla
children: Germanicus, Julius Caesar Drusus
Died on: March 16, 37
place of death: Misenum
City: Rome, Italy
Who was Tiberius?
Tiberius was a long-serving Roman Emperor who was also known for his military achievements. Born to an aristocratic household, he was fourth in line to the throne and was entrusted with considerable responsibilities from a very young age. Initially assigned to administrative affairs, Tiberius soon developed into a formidable military leader. He commanded a series of successful campaigns in various parts of Europe and outside, and held important administrative positions in between the military campaigns. Even with all the success, he was never happy mainly due to the estrangement from his first wife Vipsania. At the height of his power, he shocked everyone by retiring to Rhodes, forsaking all his responsibilities. But the untimely deaths of the heirs to the throne, resulted in not only Tiberius’ return to Rome, but also his return to the positions of power which he had never held before. His subsequent rule was marked by indecision and indifference on his part, and made him unpopular with the masses. Just like before, he again started shirking his responsibilities and left Rome again, leaving his trusted ally Sejanus in charge. He still had considerable powers and wielded them to execute Sejanus and his associates on the charges of treason. Tiberius might not have been the best Roman emperor, but he fared far better than his successors, who plunged Rome into anarchy and decadence.
Childhood & Early Life
Tiberius was born on 16 November 42 BC, to politician Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla in Rome. His parents divorced in 39 BC and his mother then married the emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.
At the age of twelve, he rode in a chariot with his father Octavian to celebrate the victory over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium.
In 24 BC, under the emperor Augustus, seventeen-year-old Tiberius was appointed as a ‘quaestor’, a public official for financial affairs.
He operated as a public prosecutor and successfully convicted Fannius Caepio and Varro Murena of high treason. He was also involved in other administrative affairs like regulating grain supply and inspecting slave barracks.
In his first military campaign, he led forces to Armenia and crowned Tigranes as the emperor and also accompanied Augustus to free Roman standards from the Parthians.
On his return from the east, he was appointed a ‘praetor’, an army commander. Next, he was sent to subdue the Gauls. He returned to Rome in 19 BC and was granted the position of consul.
He was commissioned to fight battles in Germany in 12 BC. He captured about 40,000 prisoners and then relocated them to Gaul.
He returned to Rome in 7 BC and again served as the ‘Consul’. The next year, he was bestowed the ‘tribunician power’, which substantially increased his influence.
In 6 BC, Tiberius and general Gaius Sentius Saturninus successfully invaded the Germanic tribe of ‘Marcomanni’ through two-pronged attacks.
In 2 AD, Tiberius returned from a self-imposed exile in Rhodes, without the powers he held before. However, he was reinstated to his authority after two years following the death of Augustus’ grandson Gaius in Armenia. Augustus also adopted Tiberius as his full son and heir.
In 12 AD, he was conferred the administrative powers equalling those of the emperor. Two years later, Augustus died and Tiberius, as his heir, became the sole ruler.
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Accession & Reign
The initial years of reign were difficult for Tiberius as the Senate did not trust him. He tried to project himself as a reluctant and unselfish ruler, but this did more harm than good to his reputation.
He carried out several reforms during this period. He controlled excesses, disallowed Egyptian and Jewish cults, banished astrologers, subdued riots and removed the right of sanctuary.
Soon after his ascendency, two northern legions in ‘Pannonia’ and Germania began mutinies. Tiberius sent his nephew Germanicus, whom he had also adopted, to suppress the revolts. Germanicus combined forces with the rebels and made further conquests in Germania.
Post Germanicus’ triumphs, Tiberius gave him control of the eastern provinces. But in 19 AD, Germanicus died from poisoning under mysterious circumstances.
In the following years, Tiberius vested many powers in the long-serving Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus, and his own involvement in matters of state kept reducing, due to his indifference. He did not perform his civic duties and went on long excursions annually. Finally, he left Rome and moved to Capri in 26 AD, leaving Sejanus as the sole ruler.
Sejanus’s quest for more power led him to conspire to overthrow Tiberius and ruthlessly execute his competitors. Upon getting abreast with Sejanus’s doings, Tiberius, from Capri, arranged for his execution in 31 AD. He also punished everyone who was associated with Sejanus.
In his will, Tiberius declared both Caligula, his adopted grandson and Tiberius Gemellus, his biological grandson as heirs.
Before his accession, Tiberius led an army into Armenia to convert it to a Roman client-state, and hence end the threats at the borders. He was able to forge a compromise by which, the standards were returned to the Romans and Armenis was allowed to remain as a free state. He personally oversaw the crowning of King Tigranes.
In a campaign in Germany in 12 BC, Tiberius came out victorious and took about 40,000 prisoners. He then released these prisoners and relocated them to new lands in Gaul.
He annexed Marcomanni by allying with general Gaius Sentius Saturninus. While Tiberius attacked from the east, General Gaius attacked from the west. The Romans won the battle easily. But before Tiberius could subjugate the Marcomanni, he was called to Germania.
Personal Life & Legacy
Tiberius married Vipsania Agrippina, the daughter of Augustus’s close friend, General Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. He had one son from this marriage, ‘Drusus Julius Caesar’. Agrippa died in 12 BC and the following year, Augustus forced Tiberius to divorce Vipsania and marry Agrippa’s widow, Julia.
Tiberius was deeply unhappy with his second marriage as he still pined for Vipsania and his misery was compounded by Julia’s flagrant and licentious behaviour. The marriage finally ended in 2 BC with Julia’s exile.
After his accession as the emperor, his reign was unstable as he was indecisive. His instructions were not clear and he was neither popular with the Senate, nor with the people. His son’s untimely death in 23 AD made him even more withdrawn.
In 37 AD, he contacted an illness while travelling in Campania and was taken to Misenum for treatment, but died there on 16 March 37 AD, at the age of 78.
This Roman Emperor was a powerful yet reluctant ruler, who twice went on self-imposed exiles, abandoning all his powers in search for solitude.