The reign of Tiberius (b. 42 B.C., d. A.D. 37,
emperor A.D. 14-37) is a particularly important one
for the Principate, since it was the first occasion
when the powers designed for Augustus alone were
exercised by somebody else. [] In contrast to the
approachable and tactful Augustus, Tiberius emerges
from the sources as an enigmatic and darkly complex
figure, intelligent and cunning, but given to bouts
of severe depression and dark moods that had a great
impact on his political career as well as his
personal relationships. His reign abounds in
contradictions. Despite his keen intelligence, he
allowed himself to come under the influence of
unscrupulous men who, as much as any actions of his
own, ensured that Tiberius's posthumous reputation
would be unfavorable; despite his vast military
experience, he oversaw the conquest of no new region
for the empire; and despite his administrative
abilities he showed such reluctance in running the
state as to retire entirely from Rome and live out
his last years in isolation on the island of Capri.
His reign represents, as it were, the adolescence of
the Principate as an institution. Like any
adolescence, it proved a difficult time.
Early life (42-12 B.C.)
Tiberius Claudius Nero was born on 16 November 42
B.C. to Ti. Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. Both
parents were scions of the gens Claudia which had
supplied leaders to the Roman Republic for many
generations. Through his mother Tiberius also
enjoyed genealogical connections to prominent
Republican houses such as the Servilii Caepiones,
the Aemilii Lepidi, and the Livii Drusi. From his
birth, then, Tiberius was destined for public life.
But during his boyhood the old Republican system of
rule by Senate and magistrates, which had been
tottering for decades, was finally toppled and
replaced by an autocracy under the able and
ambitious Octavian (later named Augustus). It proved
fateful for Tiberius when, in 39 B.C., his mother
Livia divorced Ti. Claudius Nero and married
Octavian, thereby making the infant Tiberius the
stepson of the future ruler of the Roman world.
Forever afterward, Tiberius was to have his name
coupled with this man, and always to his detriment.
Tiberius's early life was relatively uneventful,
even if the times were not. In 32 B.C, as civil war
loomed between Antony and Octavian, Tiberius made
his first public appearance at the age of nine and
delivered the eulogy at his natural father's
funeral. In the years following the battle of Actium
in 31 B.C., as Augustus secured his position at the
head of the state, Tiberius grew to maturity and
took his first real steps in public life. In 29 B.C.
he took part in Augustus's triumph for the Actium
campaign, riding on the left of Augustus in the
triumphal chariot. Two years later he assumed the
gown of manhood (toga virilis) and Augustus led him
into the forum. Three years after that, at the age
of 17, he became a quaestor and was given the
privilege of standing for the praetorship and
consulship five years in advance of the age
prescribed by law. He then began appearing in court
as an advocate and was sent by Augustus to the East
where, in 20 B.C., he oversaw one of his
stepfather's proudest successes. The Parthians, who
had captured the eagles of the legions lost in the
failed eastern campaigns of M. Crassus (53 B.C.),
Decidius Saxa (40 B.C.), and Mark Antony (36 B.C.),
formally returned them to the Romans. Tiberius may
have received a grant of proconsular power (imperium
proconsulare) to carry out this mission, but, if so,
the sources do not mention it. After returning from
the East, Tiberius was granted praetorian rank and,
in 13 B.C., he became consul. Between his
praetorship and consulship he was on active duty
with his brother, Drusus Claudius Nero, combatting
Alpine tribes; he also was governor of Gallia Comata
for one year, probably in 19 B.C. His personal life
was also blessed at this time by a happy marriage to
Vipsania Agrippina, the daughter of Augustus's
longstanding friend and right-hand man, M. Vipsanius
Agrippa. The marriage probably took place in 20 or
19 B.C. When he was consul, his wife produced a son,
Determining the significance of all these offices,
delegations, and the marriage to Vipsania largely
depends on what view is taken of Augustus's efforts
for the succession. In one sense, Tiberius's early
career was an entirely natural one for a young man
so close to the center of power; it would have been
more remarkable had he stayed at home. Tiberius's
career, however, cannot be so easily divorced from
the larger context of the Augustan succession. The
issue is a major one and hotly contentious. []For
the present, it is worth noting that Augustus, in
his arrangements for the succession, appears to have
indulged a Republican instinct for favoring his
immediate family and accordingly focused his
attentions on the Julii. First, his nephew Marcellus
was favored. Following this young man's premature
death in 23 B.C., Augustus used his daughter Julia
to tie his friend M. Vipsanius Agrippa into his
family by marriage. The union, solemnized in 21
B.C., was a fertile one and produced two sons within
four years, both of whom Augustus adopted in a
single ceremony in 17 B.C. Modern scholarship has
puzzled over these labyrinthine arrangements, in
which there seems no place for the stepsons,
Tiberius and Drusus. The best explanation is that
Augustus's succession scheme was a flexible one,
comprising a pool of princes from which the emperor
could draw in the event of emergencies -- a wise
counsel, as matters turned out. On this view,
Tiberius's early career was not insignificant, but
his position was not as elevated and evidently
favored as that of Agrippa, now the heir-apparent,
and the boys, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, who seemed
marked out to succeed in the third generation.
Whatever personal ambitions Tiberius had, or his
mother Livia had for him, were to be utterly
subordinated to Augustus's wish to see a Julian at
the helm of the Principate. As it was, fate was on
The Heir to Augustus: The First Attempt and the
"Retirement" to Rhodes (12 B.C-A.D. 2)
Agrippa died in 12 B.C. Tiberius, on Augustus's
insistence, divorced Vipsania and married Agrippa's
widow, Julia. The union was not a happy one and
produced no children. Tiberius had been happily
married to Vipsania and, following an embarrassing
display in public, he was ultimately forbidden by
Augustus even to see her. Nevertheless, Tiberius's
elevation in his stepfather's succession scheme
continued. He received important military
commissions in Pannonia and Germany between 12 and 6
B.C. and proved very successful in the field. He was
consul for the second time in 7 B.C., and, in 6
B.C., he was granted tribunician power (tribunicia
potestas) and an extensive commission in the East
[]. In essence, Tiberius had replaced Agrippa as
Augustus's successor. He was Julia's husband, the
leading general in the state, and he enjoyed a share
of the emperor's power. Everything seemed settled,
until the darker side of Tiberius's personality
Without warning, in 6 B.C. Tiberius -- the visible
heir to Augustus -- announced his withdrawal from
public life and went to live on Rhodes with some
personal friends and an astrologer, Thrasyllus. His
reasons for doing so have fueled intense speculation
in ancient and modern sources. [] Whatever his
motivation, the move was not only a snub to
Augustus, but it was also highly inconvenient to the
latter's succession plans. Gaius and Lucius Caesar
were still too young to assume the heavy
responsibilities of the Principate, and Augustus now
had no immediate successor to assume power and see
the boys to maturity, since Tiberius's brother
Drusus had died of an illness in 9 B.C. If anything
should befall Augustus now, the Principate might be
washed away or, if it should continue, his family's
position at the head of it was placed in jeopardy.
Finally, and not the least concern, there was the
danger that an imperial prince removed from
Augustus's ambit could afford a focus for
conspiracy. [] Whatever had been Augustus's
opinion of Tiberius to this point, henceforward he
seems to have had little patience with, or affection
for him. Something of Augustus's irritation is
revealed by his repeated refusal to allow Tiberius
to return to Rome after the latter realized the
delicacy of his position on Rhodes; and this in
spite of pressure brought to bear on Augustus by his
influential and persuasive wife, Livia. When
Tiberius's powers ran out in 1 B.C. they were not
renewed, and his situation became even more
precarious. According to the sources, he was
expecting a ship bearing the order for his death.
When the ship arrived in A.D. 2, however, it brought
quite different tidings. []
The Heir to Augustus: The Second Attempt (A.D. 2-14)
Tragedy worked for the benefit of Tiberius. In A.D.
2 Lucius Caesar died of an illness at Massilia.
Augustus, resistant to the idea of allowing Tiberius
to return, finally yielded to the requests of Livia
and Gaius Caesar on his behalf. Tiberius returned to
Rome and lived in the political wilderness until,
unexpectedly, Gaius Caesar died of a wound received
during a siege in Armenia. []Augustus,
devastated, was left without his adoptive sons and,
more importantly, without an heir and successor. His
careful planning for the succession had come to
nothing. In the crisis, he turned once more to
Tiberius. The wayward prince was summoned from
private life and adopted as Augustus's son. Also
adopted by Augustus was Agrippa Postumus, the third
son of Julia and Agrippa. Tiberius, despite having a
natural son, was required to adopt his nephew,
Germanicus, the son of his brother Drusus and
married to M. Antony's daughter, Antonia. Once more,
these complicated manoeuvres surrounding the
succession have generated scholarly debate, but the
best interpretation seems to be that Augustus was
re-establishing a slate of candidate princes, with
Tiberius at its head and the others as potential
substitutes in the event of disaster. Tiberius's
forced adoption of Germanicus appears to have been
Augustus's attempt to mark out the succession in the
third generation of the Principate. For through
Germanicus lay the only route for a Julian to the
purple: Germanicus's children would have Augustus's
blood in their veins. Augustus's continued coldness
toward Tiberius is suggested in the melancholic
comment in his will about these arrangements, echoed
in the Res Gestae: "Since cruel fate has robbed me
of my sons, Gaius and Lucius ..." []
From A.D. 4 to 14 Tiberius was clearly Augustus's
successor. When he was adopted, he also received
grants of proconsular power and tribunician power;
and in A.D. 13 his proconsular power was made
co-extensive with that of Augustus. [] In
effect, Tiberius was now co-princeps with Augustus
so that when the latter finally died on 19 August
A.D. 14, Tiberius's position was unassailable and
the continuation of the Principate a foregone
conclusion. After 55 years living at the behest of
his stepfather, Tiberius finally assumed the mantle
of sole power.
Accession and Early Reign (A.D. 14 - 23)
The accession of Tiberius proved intensely awkward.
After Augustus had been buried and deified, and his
will read and honored, the Senate convened on 18
September to inaugurate the new reign and officially
"confirm" Tiberius as emperor. Such a transfer of
power had never happened before, and nobody,
including Tiberius, appears to have known what to
do. Tacitus's account is the fullest. Tiberius came
to the Senate to have various powers and titles
voted to him. Perhaps in an attempt to imitate the
tact of Augustus, Tiberius donned the mask of the
reluctant public servant -- and botched the
performance. Rather than tactful, he came across to
the senators as obdurate and obstructive. He
declared that he was too old for the
responsibilities of the Principate, said he did not
want the job, and asked if he could just take one
part of the government for himself. The Senate was
confused, not knowing how to read his behavior.
Finally, one senator asked pointedly, "Sire, for how
long will you allow the State to be without a head?"
Tiberius relented and accepted the powers voted to
him, although he refused the title "Augustus."
In fact, that first meeting between the Senate and
the new emperor established a blueprint for their
later interaction. Throughout his reign, Tiberius
was to baffle, befuddle, and frighten the Senators.
He seems to have hoped that they would act on his
implicit desires rather than on his explicit
requests. Again, this behavior may have been an
attempt to imitate Augustus's careful and tactful
use of auctoritas, but, if so, it backfired and
became a pathetic charade. Tiberius's opinion of the
revered body as it struggled with his oblique
approach to rule was not high: "Men fit to be
There was trouble not only at Rome, however. The
legions posted in Pannonia and in Germany, the most
powerful concentration of troops in the empire, took
the opportunity afforded by Augustus's death to
voice their complaints about the terms and
conditions of their service. Matters escalated into
an all-out mutiny that was only repressed by the
direct intervention of Tiberius's sons, Germanicus
and Drusus. There was bloodshed at both locations,
but in Germanicus's sector, Germany, there was
particularly chaotic disorder and frightful scenes
of mayhem. []
Despite his difficult relationship with the Senate
and the Rhine mutinies, Tiberius's first years were
generally good. He stayed true to Augustus's plans
for the succession and clearly favored his adopted
son Germanicus over his natural son, Drusus.
(Agrippa Postumus, also adopted by Augustus in A.D.
4, had suffered demotion and exile in A.D. 6-7, and
upon Augustus's death he was murdered;
responsibility for the crime remains obscure.) On
Tiberius's request, Germanicus was granted
proconsular power and assumed command in the prime
military zone of Germany, where he suppressed the
mutiny there and led the formerly restless legions
on campaigns against Germanic tribes in A.D. 14-16.
After being recalled from Germany, Germanicus
celebrated a triumph in Rome in A.D. 17. In the same
year, he was granted imperium maius over the East
and, in A.D. 18, after being consul with Tiberius as
his colleague , he was sent East, just as Tiberius
himself had been almost four decades earlier.
Unfortunately for Tiberius, Germanicus died there in
A.D. 19 and, on his deathbed, accused the governor
of Syria, Cn. Calpurnius Piso, of murdering him.
Piso was a long-time friend of Tiberius and his
appointee to the Syrian governorship, so suspicion
for Germanicus's death ultimately came to rest at
the palace door. When Germanicus's widow, Agrippina
(the Elder), returned to Italy carrying her popular
husband's ashes, she publicly declared Piso guilty
of murder and hinted at the involvement of more
hidden agents. Piso was put on trial in the Senate,
where he expected some help from his friend,
Tiberius. Instead, Tiberius sat statue-like and let
the proceedings take their course. In Tacitus's
account, Piso realized his peril and threatened to
make public certain documents that would embarrass
the emperor. The ploy failed and Piso committed
suicide; the documents were never made public.
Recently, a remarkable inscription has been found in
Spain, containing the text of the "Senatorial Decree
concerning Cn. Piso, Senior." It largely
corroborates Tacitus's account, including
Germanicus's death-bed accusation of Piso. But
naturally, in this "official" account, there is no
mention of Tiberius's alleged involvement in
Germanicus' death. []
With Germanicus dead, Tiberius began elevating his
own son Drusus to replace him as the imperial
successor. Relations with Germanicus's family were
strained, but they were to reach a breaking point
when Tiberius allowed a trusted advisor to get too
close and gain a tremendous influence over him. That
advisor was the Praetorian Prefect, L. Aelius
Sejanus, who would derail Tiberius's plans for the
succession and drive the emperor farther into
isolation, depression, and paranoia.
Sejanus (A.D. 23-31)
Sejanus hailed from Volsinii in Etruria. He and his
father shared the Praetorian Prefecture until A.D.
15 when the father, L. Seius Strabo, was promoted to
be Prefect of Egypt, the pinnacle of an equestrian
career under the Principate. Sejanus, now sole
Prefect of the Guard, enjoyed powerful connections
to senatorial houses and had been a companion to
Gaius Caesar on his mission to the East, 1 B.C. -
A.D. 4. Through a combination of energetic
efficiency, fawning sycophancy, and outward displays
of loyalty, he gained the position of Tiberius's
closest friend and advisor. One development that
favored Sejanus was the concentration of all nine
cohorts of Praetorian Guardsmen into a single camp
at Rome. Augustus had billeted these troops
discretely in small towns around Rome, but now
Tiberius -- undoubtedly with Sejanus's
encouragement, perhaps even at his suggestion --
brought them into the city, probably in A.D. 17 or
18. Sejanus, therefore, commanded some 9,000 troops
within the city limits. As Sejanus's public profile
became more and more pronounced, his statues were
erected in public places, and Tiberius openly
praised him as "the partner of my labors." But
Sejanus had his own ideas. []
According to Tacitus, Sejanus's first subversive act
was the seduction of Tiberius's daughter-in-law,
Livilla, at the time married to Drusus, Tiberius's
son. Drusus, it seems, resented Sejanus's influence
over his father so the Prefect, in conjunction with
Livilla, poisoned him in A.D. 23. [] There
followed a series of attacks on Agrippina's friends,
mostly played out in the courts in the guise of
charges of treason (maiestas) but, in Tacitus's
account, actually the work of Sejanus. []
Then, in A.D. 25, Sejanus asked Tiberius for
permission to marry Livilla, Drusus's widow.
Tiberius refused. This setback for Sejanus was
offset the following year, when the ageing emperor
withdrew from Rome to live on Capri; he was never to
return to the city. Tiberius was most probably
encouraged in his decision to retire by Sejanus, who
now became the chief vehicle of access to the
emperor. With Tiberius absent, Sejanus vented his
full fury against Agrippina's family, whose demise
he had been plotting for some time. In rapid
succession Agrippina and her eldest son, Nero
Caesar, and eventually also Drusus Caesar, who had
been involved in his brother's downfall, were
arrested, convicted, and imprisoned. By A.D. 31
Sejanus had reached the pinnacle of his power and
was effectively emperor himself. The sources paint a
grimly comic picture of senators lining up to pay
respects to a man they considered their social
What exactly Sejanus was aiming at remains a matter
of intense debate. []The Prefect's attacks
against Agrippina and his proposal to marry Drusus's
widow, Livilla, suggest that he was attempting to
follow the precedent of Agrippa, that is, an
outsider who became the emperor's successor through
a combination of overt loyalty, necessity, and a
family alliance forged by marriage. Tiberius,
perhaps sensitive to this ambition, rejected
Sejanus's initial proposal to marry Livilla in A.D.
25, but later put it about that he had withdrawn his
objections so that, in A.D. 30., Sejanus was
betrothed to Livilla's daughter (Tiberius'
granddaughter). The Prefect's family connection to
the Imperial house was now imminent. In A.D. 31
Sejanus held the consulship with the emperor as his
colleague, an honor Tiberius reserved only for heirs
to the throne. Further, when Sejanus surrendered the
consulship early in the year, he was granted a share
of the emperor's proconsular power. When he was
summoned to a meeting of the Senate on 18 October in
that year he probably expected to receive a share of
the tribunician power; with that he would, after
all, have become Tiberius's Agrippa. []
But in a shocking and unexpected turn of events, the
letter sent by Tiberius from Capri initially praised
Sejanus extensively, and then suddenly denounced him
as a traitor and demanded his arrest. Chaos ensued.
Senators long allied with Sejanus headed for the
exits, the others were confused -- was this a test
of their loyalty? what did the emperor want them to
do? -- but the Praetorian Guard, the very troops
formerly under Sejanus's command but recently and
secretly transferred to the command of Q. Sutorius
Macro, arrested Sejanus, conveyed him to prison, and
shortly afterwards executed him summarily. A
witch-hunt followed. Sejanus's family was arrested
and executed; Livilla perished; followers and
friends of Sejanus were denounced and imprisoned, or
tried and executed; some committed suicide. All
around the city, grim scenes were played out, and as
late as A.D. 33 a general massacre of all those
still in custody took place. []
Tiberius himself later claimed that he turned on
Sejanus because he had been alerted to Sejanus's
plot against Germanicus's family. This explanation
has been rejected by most ancient and modern
authorities, since Sejanus's demise did nothing to
alleviate that family's troubles: Agrippina remained
under house arrest, Drusus was still housed in the
Palatine's basement, and both died violently within
three years of the Prefect's fall. Tiberius is also
said to have discovered Sejanus's part in his own
son's death in A.D. 23; the source of this
information, however, is suspect (see n. []).
Possibly, in the highly charged atmosphere
surrounding Sejanus's fall, the news acted as a
catalyst, but its truth cannot be verified. Whatever
the precise reasons, Sejanus's career and demise,
and that of those around him, was an object lesson
in the dangers of imperial politics. To achieve
power under the emperors, the ambitious needed to
get close to the source, but getting too close could
lead to catastrophe, for both the aspirant and any
who rode his coattails. []
The Last Years (A.D. 31-37)
The Sejanus affair appears to have greatly depressed
Tiberius. A close friend and confidant had betrayed
him; whom could he trust anymore? His withdrawal
from public life seemed more complete in the last
years. Letters kept him in touch with Rome, but it
was the machinery of the Augustan administration
that kept the empire running smoothly. Tiberius, if
we believe our sources, spent much of his time
indulging his perversities on Capri. He also became
all but paranoid in his dealings with others and
spent long hours brooding over the death of his son,
Drusus, which had now been revealed to him as the
work of his "friend" Sejanus; all who were
implicated, he had executed in barbaric fashion. As
a result, no measures were taken for the succession,
beyond vague indications of favor to his nephew
Gaius (Caligula) and his grandson Tiberius Gemellus.[]
Tiberius died quietly in a villa at Misenum on 16
March A.D. 37. He was 78 years old. There are some
hints in the sources of the hand of Caligula in the
deed, but such innuendo can be expected at the death
of an emperor, especially when his successor proved
so depraved. The level of unpopularity Tiberius had
achieved by the time of his death with both the
upper and lower classes is revealed by these facts:
the Senate refused to vote him divine honors, and
mobs filled the streets yelling "To the Tiber with
Tiberius!" (in reference to a method of disposal
reserved for the corpses of criminals). []
Tiberius and the Empire
Three main aspects of Tiberius's impact on the
empire deserve special attention: his relative
military inertia; his modesty in dealing with offers
of divine honors and his fair treatment of
provincials; and his use of the Law of Treason (maiestas).
At the meeting of the Senate in September A.D. 14
when Augustus's will was read, another document was
produced. It was a sort of posthumous "State of the
Empire" address that listed all the resources, army
postings, etc. of the state. Part of the document
urged future rulers to leave things as they were,
and not to expand the empire further. This so-called
"Testament of Augustus" appears to be the basic
reason why Tiberius did not expand the empire,
though the authenticity of the "Testament" itself
has divided scholars. Nevertheless, throughout his
reign, Tiberius embarked on no major wars of
conquest, although he did order punitive campaigns
against the Germans across the Rhine in A.D. 14-16;
the suppression of a Gallic national revolt under
Julius Sacrovir in A.D. 21-22; and the suppression
of a persistent guerilla war in North Africa under
Tacfarinas in A.D. 17-24. Tiberius seemed adept at
choosing provincial governors, with some notable
exceptions, and his diplomatic management of
potentially disruptive instabilities in Armenia was
exemplary -- no Roman intervention in force was
In general, Tiberius dealt fairly and well with the
provincials. The emperor's absence from Rome hardly
affected the majority of the empire's population,
for whom the emperor was already a shadowy and
distant figure. His generally sound choices of
provincial governors have already been noted. When
the provincials overstepped themselves and offered
Tiberius divine honors, or other tributes that
struck him as excessive, he declined to accept.
Tacitus and Suetonius infer hypocrisy, but there is
no reason to suspect that the lugubrious emperor was
not acting in good faith in abiding by Augustus's
precedent, which was always a paramount concern for
One area of administration where Tiberius did
diverge from Augustan practice was his increasingly
frequent invocation of the treason law (maiestas) to
attack his enemies. Since his working relationship
with the Senators was not a good one, repression was
a convenient method in dealing with them. This
legislation was one of Sejanus's chief tools, but
Tiberius himself used it liberally. Dozens of
Senators and equites are on record as having fallen
to it. It was a precedent followed in later years by
emperors more tyrannical still than Tiberius had
ever been. []
It is all but inevitable that any historical
assessment of Tiberius will quickly devolve into a
historiographical assessment of Tacitus. So
masterful is Tacitus's portrayal of his subject, and
so influential has it been ever since, that in all
modern treatments of Tiberius, in attempting to get
at the man, must address the issue of Tacitus's
historiographical methods, his sources, and his
rhetoric. The subject is too vast to address here,
but some points are salient. Tacitus's methods,
especially his use of innuendo and inference to
convey notions that are essentially editorial
glosses, makes taking his portrayal of Tiberius at
face value inadvisable. Further, his belief in the
immutable character of people -- that one's
character is innate at birth and cannot be changed,
although it can be disguised -- prevents him from
investigating the possibility that Tiberius evolved
and developed over his lifetime and during his
reign. Instead, Tacitus's portrayal is one of
peeling back layers of dissimulation to reach the
"real" Tiberius lurking underneath. []
Overall, Tiberius's reign can be said to show the
boons and banes of rule by one man, especially a man
as dark, awkward, and isolated as Tiberius. For the
people of the provinces, it was a peaceful and
well-ordered time. Governors behaved themselves, and
there were no destructive or expensive wars. In the
domestic sphere, however, the concentration of power
in one person made all the greater the threat of
misbehavior by ambitious satellites like Sejanus or
foolish friends like Piso. Furthermore, if the
emperor wished to remain aloof from the mechanics of
power, he could do so. Administrators, who depended
on him for their directions, could operate without
his immediate supervision, but their dealings with a
man like Sejanus could lead to disaster if that man
fell from grace. As a result, although he was not a
tyrant himself, Tiberius's reign sporadically
descended into tyranny of the worst sort. In the
right climate of paranoia and suspicion, widespread
denunciation led to the deaths of dozens of Senators
and equestrians, as well as numerous members of the
imperial house. In this sense, the reign of Tiberius
decisively ended the Augustan illusion of "the
Republic Restored" and shone some light into the
future of the Principate, revealing that which was
both promising and terrifying.
Listed below are the main works on Tiberius's life
and reign, mostly in English; the bibliographies of
each entry can be checked for more detailed studies
of various aspects of his reign and career. Also
included below are works, not directly related to
Tiberius, but which address broader issues raised in
the biography above.
- Balsdon, J. P. V. D. "The Principates of Tiberius
and Gaius." Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen
Welt 2.2 (1975): 86-94.
- Birch, R. A. "The Settlement of 26 June, A.D. 4 and
its Aftermath." Classical Quarterly 31 (1981):
- Bird, H. W. "L. Aelius Sejanus and His Political
Influence." Latomus 28 (1969): 61-98.
- Boddington, A. "Sejanus: Whose Conspiracy?" American
Journal of Philology 84 (1963): 1-16.
- Bonamente, G. Germanico: La persona, la personalità,
il personaggio. Rome, 1987.
- Bowersock, G. "Augustus and the East: The Problem of
the Succession," in F. Millar and E. Segal, eds,
Caesar Augustus: Seven Aspects (Oxford, 1984),
- Braund, D. Augustus to Nero: A Sourcebook on Roman
History, 31 BC - A.D. 68. London, 1985.
- Charlesworth, M. P. "Tiberius and the Death of
Augustus." American Journal of Philology 44 (1923):
- Durry, M. Les cohortes prétoriennes. Paris, 1938.
- Eck, W. "Das s.c. de Cn. Pisone patre und seine
Publikation in der Baetica." Cahiers du Centre Glotz
4 (1993): 189-208.
- ________, A. Caballos, and F. Fernandez. Das Senatus
Consultum des Cn. Pisone Patre. Munich, 1996.
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Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius.
- Grant, M. Aspects of the Principate of Tiberius. New
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Augustus and his Principate, edited by K. Raaflaub
and M. Toher, 395-416. Berkeley, 1990.
- Heinrichs, A. D. Sejan und das Schicksal Roms in den
Annalen des Tacitus. Marburg, 1976.
- Hennig, D. L. Aelius Seianus. Untersuchungen zur
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- Levick, B. "Tiberius' Retirement to Rhodes in 6 BC."
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- Nicols, J. "Antonia and Sejanus." Historia 24
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römischen Innenpolitik zwischen den Jahren 12 vor
und 2 nach Chr." In Augustus, edited by W.
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[] The main ancient literary sources for the
reign of Tiberius are: Tac. Ann. 1-6; Dio 57-59;
Suetonius, Tiberius and Gaius; Josephus BJ 2.204-17
and AJ 18.181-87, 205-25; Velleius Paterculus, esp.
2.94-131. References to Tiberius are also found in
Pliny the Elder, Philo, Seneca and others. Coins and
inscriptions are, as always, helpful and are readily
accessible in Ehrenberg and Jones, Documents
Illustrating (in original languages) and in
collections such as those of Braund and Sherk (in
[] Family background and connections, birth, and
adoption: Suet. Tib. 1-5.
[] First public appearances: Suet. Tib. 6.4. Toga
virilis: Suet. Tib. 7.1. Quaestor and age
privileges: Dio 53.28.3-4; Vell. 2.94.1. Commands,
esp. in the east: Dio 54.8.1-2, 9.4-5; RG 27.2.
First consulship: Dio 54.10.4, 54.25.1; governorship
in Gaul: Dio 54.22.1; Suet. Tib. 9.1. Marriage to
Vipsania: Suet. Tib. 7.2.
[] See, for instance, the theories of Seager,
Tiberius, 18-38 (regency); Levick, "Tiberius's
Retirement to Rhodes" and ead., Tiberius the
Politician, 19-67 (joint succession); see also,
Corbett, "Succession Policy" (Tiberius was always to
succeed from 12 B.C. onward).
[] Tiberius/Vipsania: Suet. Tib. 7.2-3. Military
commissions and honors: Dio 54.29.1, Suet. Tib. 9.2.
Second consulship: Dio 55.8.1. Tribunician power:
Dio 55.9.4, Suet. Tib. 9.3.
[] The following reasons are posited in the
literary sources, which often present several
rumored possibilities in conjunction: he wanted a
rest from work (Suet. Tib. 10.2; Vell. 2.99.1-2); he
hated his wife Julia and wanted to be away from her
(Dio. 55.9.7; Suet. Tib. 10.1, 11.4; Tac. Ann.
1.43); he wished to avoid a possible confrontation
with Gaius and Lucius Caesar, with whom he did not
get along (Dio 55.9.1-6; Suet. Tib. 10.1, 11.5); he
wished to enhance his prestige by being absent from
Rome (Suet. Tib. 10.1). According to Suetonius,
Tiberius himself initially claimed that he was weary
and wanted a rest, but later changed his story and
said he did not want a confrontation with Gaius and
Lucius (Suet. Tib. 10.2, 11.5). For a more
Machiavellian interpretation of the reasons behind
the retirement, see Levick, "Tiberius's Retirement
to Rhodes" and Tib. the Pol., 31-46; Levick
postulates the rise of a "Julian" party within the
imperial house that drove Tiberius underground. For
a further analysis of this party's activities, see
her "Julians and Claudians." The reconstruction is a
clever one, although largely without ancient
attestation. For a similarly "political"
interpretation of the relationship between Tiberius
and Julia, see also, Sattler, "Tiberius und Julia."
A recent theory, that Tiberius was on an undercover
mission to the East at Augustus's behest, is
imaginative but unconvincing; see P. Southern,
Augustus (London, 1998), 173-76
[] Death of Drusus: Dio 55.1-2. The existence of
some worry concerning a possible conspiracy is borne
out by the rumors of Tiberius's dealings with
military commanders while on Rhodes, thereby
exciting his stepfather's suspicions, see Suet. Tib.
12.3; Bowersock, "Augustus and the East." Another
prince held on an island, Agrippa Postumus, later
proved the point: a slave claiming to be the prince
garnered some support until he was captured and
executed, see Tac. Ann. 2.39-40; Suet. Tib. 25.
[] Tiberius stuck on Rhodes: Suet. Tib. 11.4 -
13.2. The precariousness of Tiberius's position is
reflected in the open destruction of his statues at
Nemausus (Suet. Tib. 13.1). If this anecdote is
true, it reflects the low level of Tiberius's public
image at this time.
[] Deaths of Gaius and Lucius Caesar: Dio
55.10a.6-9; RG 14.1; Suet. Aug. 65.1, Tib. 15.2; Tac.
Ann. 1.3. Recall of Tiberius and quiet existence at
Rome: Suet. Tib. 13.2, 15.1
[] Citation from the will: Suet. Tib.23; RG
14.1. Adoptions of A.D. 4: Dio 55.13.1a-2; Suet. Tib.
15.2-16.1; Tac. Ann. 1.3; Vell. 2.103.2-3; see also
Birch, "The Settlement of 26 June, A.D. 4."
Augustus's cold attitude to Tiberius is perhaps also
echoed in the rather distant way he refers to him in
the RG, "Tiberius Nero, who was at that time my
stepson" (RG 27.2, 30.1: ... per Ti. Neronem, qui
tum mihi privignus erat ... ). Tiberius, in fact, is
never referred to as Augustus's son in the RG,
despite its composition some nine years after
Tiberius's adoption. In contrast, Gaius and Lucius
Caesar are always termed "my sons" by Augustus (RG
14, 20.3, 22, 27.2). In addition, Augustus added the
phrase "This I do for reasons of State" to the
official formula when adopting Tiberius. The
statement is ambiguous, however, and can be read
either as a clear statement of Tiberius's qualities
and suitability for the Principate or as an
indication of Augustus's lack of affection for him
(Suet. Tib. 23). It is noteworthy that Suetonius (Tib.
21) provides ample testimony from Augustus's own
correspondence of the latter's affection for
[] Suet. Tib. 21.1; Vell. 2.121.1.
[] Tiberius's accession: Tac. Ann. 1.11-14;
Suet. Tib. 22-26; Dio 57.2. See also the modern
commentaries in Seager, Tiberius, 48-57; Levick, Tib.
the Pol., 68-81; Marsh, Reign, 45-69.
[] Quote at Tac. Ann. 3.65 (O homines ad
servitutem paratos). A good example of his
perturbing correspondence is the opening of the
letter of A.D. 32, cited by Suetonius (Tib. 67.1)
and Tacitus (Ann. 6.6): "If I know what to write to
you, gentlemen, or how I should write it, or,
indeed, what I should not write at this time, may
the gods ruin me more horribly than I feel myself
dying everyday." The quote is also indicative of
Tiberius's dark mental state.
[] Pannonia: Tac. Ann. 1.16-30; Dio 57.4.
Germany: Tac. Ann. 1.31-48; Dio 57.5-6.1.
[] Demotion, exile, and murder of Agrippa
Postumus: Dio 55.32.1-2; Suet. Aug. 65.1 (demotion
and exile), Tac. Ann.1.6; Suet. Tib. 22; Dio
57.3.5-6 (murder). Elevation of Germanicus:
proconsular power: Tac. Ann. 1.14; campaigns in
Germany: Tac. Ann. 1.31-51, 55-71, 2.5-26;
consulship and imperium maius: Tac. Ann. 2.43, 53,
Ehrenberg and Jones, Documents, p. 41. Tiberius's
consulship with Germanicus in A.D. 18 is
particularly instructive, since he only held the
office three times after his accession, all with the
favored heirs at the time (Drusus in A.D. 21 and
Sejanus in A.D. 31). Death of Germanicus and
aftermath: Tac. Ann. 2.43, 53-3.18 (Dio and
Suetonius provide only summary accounts; the former
survives only in fragments at this point).
Senatorial decree on Piso: W. Eck et al., Senatus
Consultum de Cn. Pisone Patre. (The death of
Germanicus and Tiberius's real or imagined place in
it has generated intense debate in modern
scholarship, see the DIR's Germanicus.)
[] On Sejanus's background, see Bird "Sejanus
and His Political Influence"; Levick, Tib. the Pol.,
158-60; Sumner, "Family Connections." Sejanus as
sole Prefect/moving the guards into Rome: Tac. Ann.
4.2; Dio 57.19.6, see also Durry, Cohortes
prétoriennes, 43-63. Partner of my labors: Tac. Ann.
4.2. A good example of Sejanus's overt loyalty to
Tiberius is the incident in Spelunca (Sperlonga) in
A.D. 26. When a rockfall buried the imperial party
as it dined in a natural cave, Sejanus covered
Tiberius's body with his own and remained in that
position until the rescuers reached them, see Tac.
Ann. 4.59 (Suet. Tib. 39 makes no mention of
Sejanus's role in the incident). Was this a genuine
act of loyalty, or an ostentatious display designed
to impress the Emperor?
[] Tac. Ann. 4.3-8; Suet. Tib. 39; Dio 57.22.1.
It remains suspicious that no inkling of foul play
in Drusus's death was entertained until eight years
later, when Sejanus's ex-wife, Apicata, "revealed"
the matter in her suicide note, see below note .
Quite possibly, Drusus died of natural causes and
Sejanus's involvement is a myth.
[] Sejanus's attacks on Agrippina's family
friends: see C. Silius and Sosia Galla in A.D. 24 (Tac.
Ann. 4.18-20 ), Claudia Pulchra in A.D. 26 (Tac.
Ann. 4.52), and T. Sabinus in A.D. 28 (Tac. Ann.
4.68-70; Dio 58.1.1b-3). There is some doubt,
however, as to how many of the cases Tacitus
ascribes to him were actually the work of Sejanus,
see Levick, Tib. the Pol., 163-64. The cases just
listed, however, seem securely Sejanian.
[] Marriage proposal: Tac. Ann. 4.39-40, see
also Seager, Tiberius, 195-96; Levick, Tib. the Pol.
164-65. Tiberius's withdrawal to Capri: Tac. Ann.
4.41, 57; Suet. Tib. 39-41; Dio 58.1.1. Downfall of
Nero Caesar and Agrippina in A.D. 29: Tac. Ann.
4.59-5.4 Suet. Tib. 53-54; ; of Drusus Caesar in
A.D. 30: Tac. Ann. 6.23; Suet. Tib. 53.2, Gaius 7;
Dio 58.3.8. Sejanus as de facto emperor: Dio 58.5.1.
Senators courting Sejanus: Dio 58.2.7-8.
[] The ancient sources are vague on Sejanus's
goals: Tacitus (Ann. 4.1, 3) merely states that he
wanted regnum; Dio (57.22.4b) says he aimed at
power; Suetonius (Tib. 65.1) claims the prefect was
a revolutionary; and Josephus (AJ 18.181) comments
that Sejanus led a conspiracy, but omits mention of
its purpose. Modern opinion is divided. Marsh
(Reign, 166) and Seager (Tiberius, 180-81) see
Sejanus as aiming at regency over Caligula and
Gemellus; Smith (Tiberius and Empire, 152-53) sees
Sejanus as a naive innocent who rose too high for
his own boots; Rogers ("Conspiracy') argues that
Agrippina was plotting against Tiberius and Sejanus
was merely defending him. The notion that Sejanus
was attempting to topple Tiberius (Suet. Tib. 48.2,
65.1) has been rightly questioned by modern scholars
(e.g., Marsh, Reign, 204-10). Sejanus was an
underling whose career was tied to Tiberius. He
never reached a point where he was equal, never mind
superior to the emperor, and so he could not have
replaced him successfully. The best explanation for
Sejanus's goals is that put forward by Levick (Tib.
the Pol., 170-71), since taken up by Shotter
(Tiberius Caesar, 42-44), that Sejanus aimed at
being to Tiberius what Agrippa had been to Augustus:
the trusted servant who would succeed to the throne.
This explains Sejanus's attacks on Tiberius's
successors (Drurus and the family of Germanicus) and
is echoed in two comments in the sources: in Tacitus
(Ann. 4.3) when he comments that a house full of
Caesars was an obstacle to Sejanus's plans, and in
Dio (57.22.4b) when he expressly says that Sejanus
wanted to succeed Tiberius.
[] Betrothal to Livilla: Dio 58.3.9; Suet. Tib.
65.1; Tac. Ann. 5.6, 6.8. Consulship: Suet. Tib.
65.1, Ehrenberg and Jones, Documents, p. 32 and nos.
50a, 358a. Imperium pronconsulare: Dio 58.7.4. The
comments about Sejanus in Velleius Paterculus, whose
work was published in A.D. 30 or early in 31, show
the extent of Sejanus's power: Velleius praises
Sejanus at length, calling him the "helper" of
Tiberius (Vell. 2.127-28; see also Tac. Ann. 4.7).
Dio (58.4.3-4) reports also that Sejanus was consul
designate for A.D. 31 and that sacrifices were
offered to his image along with Tiberius's.
[] Fall of Sejanus: Dio (58.5.5 - 11.5) provides
the only narrative account, but see also Suet. Tib.
65. Witch-hunt: Tac. Ann. 5.8, 11. 6.14, 19, 47;
Suet. Tib. 61; Stewart, "Sejanus, Gaetulicus, and
[] Tiberius's claim for ruining Sejanus: Suet.
Tib. 61. Letter from Apicata, Sejanus's ex-wife: Tac.
Ann. 4.10-11; Dio 58.11.6. For modern discussions of
the problem of the Prefect's fall, see Levick, Tib.
the Pol., 173-74; Marsh, Reign 192-99; Nicols,
"Antonia and Sejanus"; Shotter, "Fall of Sejanus";
Smith, Tiberius, 145-52; Seager, Tiberius, 214-23.
[] Perversities and paranoia: Suet. Tib. 43-44
(perversities) 63-64, 66-67 (paranoia). Brooding
over Drusus: Suet. Tib. 62.1-2, Tac. Ann. 6.1, Dio
58.11.6-7. Ignoring the succession: see the DIR's
[] Death of Tiberius: Tac. Ann. 6.50; Dio
58.28.1-4; Suet. Tib. 73, Gaius 12.2-3; Jos. AJ
18.225. Posthumous insults: Suet. Tib. 75.
[] "Testament of Augustus": Tac. Ann. 1.11, see
also Gruen, "Imperial Policy of Augustus"; Ober,
"Tiberius and the Political Testament." Lack of
conquest: Suet. Tib. 37.4. German campaigns of A.D.
16-17: Tac. Ann. 1.49-52, 55-71, 2.5-26; Sacrovir:
Tac. Ann. 3.40-47; Tacfarinas: Tac. Ann. 2.52,
3.20-21, 72-74, 4.23-26. Most of Tiberius's choices
for governorships were successes; a notable
exception is Piso in Syria when Germanicus was
[] Respect for Augustus's precedents: Tac. Ann.
1.77, 4.37; Dio 57.7-10. Modesty: Suet. Tib. 26-27,
see also Tac. Ann. 6.51. Note especially the
incident in A.D. 26 when Tiberius rejected petitions
from several Asian communities to erect temples to
him, Tac. Ann. 4.55-56. For a summary of Tiberius's
dealings with excessive honors and the provincials,
see the relevant chapters in Levick, Tib. the Pol.,
Marsh, Reign, and Seager, Tiberius. Note also,
Shotter, Tiberius Caesar, 51-58.
[] Among the most shocking invocations of the
law was the case in A.D. 24 of the Vibii Sereni,
father and son, who found themselves in the roles of
defendant and prosecutor respectively (Tac. Ann.
4,28-30). Tacitus (Ann. 4.32-33), in fact,
apologizes for the monotony of his narrative in
documenting these "show trials" in such detail. See
Levick, Tib. the Pol., 180-200; Marsh, Reign,
289-95; Chilton, "Roman Law of Treason"; Rogers,
[] This is particularly evident in Tacitus's
scathing "obituary" of Tiberius at Ann. 6.51.