CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE JULIAN AND CLAUDIAN EMPERORS.
TIBERIUS (14-37 A.D.)
Augustus was succeeded by TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS NERO CAESAR (born 42 B. C.), the son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia. His mother obtained a divorce from Tiberius, and married Augustus.
Tiberius had great military talent. He was a severe disciplinarian, and commanded the full confidence of his soldiers. As commander in Cantabria, Armenia, Rhaetia, Dalmatia, and Germany, he conducted his campaigns with success, and honor to himself. Returning to Rome in 7 B. C., he celebrated a triumph, and afterwards married Julia, the dissolute daughter of Augustus. This marriage proved to be the ruin of Tiberius, developing everything that was bad in his character, and making him jealous, suspicious, and hypocritical.
Augustus, not relishing the changes in his character, sent him to Rhodes, where he lived seven years in retirement. Through his mother's influence, however, he was recalled in 2 A. D., and was afterwards appointed the Emperor's successor. He ascended the throne at the age of fifty-six. A silent man, "all his feelings, desires, and ambitions were locked behind an impenetrable barrier." He is said but once to have taken counsel with his officers. He was a master of dissimulation, and on this account an object of dislike and suspicion. But until his later years, his intellect was clear and far-seeing, penetrating all disguises.
Throughout his reign Tiberius strove to do his duty to the Empire at large, and maintained with great care the constitutional forms which had been established by Augustus. Only two changes of importance were made. First, the IMPERIAL GUARD, hitherto seen in the city only in small bodies, was permanently encamped in full force close to the walls. By this course the danger of riots was much lessened. Secondly, the old COMITIAS were practically abolished. But the Senate was treated with great deference.
Tiberius expended great care on the provinces. His favorite maxim was, that a good shepherd should shear, and not flay, his sheep. Soldiers, governors, and officials of all kinds were kept in a wholesome dread of punishment, if they oppressed those under them. Strict economy in public expenses kept the taxes down. Commerce was cherished, and his reign on the whole was one of prosperity for the Empire.
Tiberius was noted especially for prosecutions for MAJESTAS, on the slightest pretext. Majestas nearly corresponds to treason; but it is more comprehensive. One of the offences included in the word was effecting, aiding in, or planning the death of a magistrate, or of one who had the imperium or potestas. Tiberius stretched the application of this offence even to words or conduct which could in any way be considered dangerous to the Emperor. A hateful class of informers (delatores) sprung up, and the lives of all were rendered unsafe. The dark side of this ruler's character is made specially prominent by ancient historians; but their statements are beginning to be taken with much allowance.
After a reign of twenty-three years, Tiberius died, either in a fainting fit or from violence, at the age of seventy-nine.
LIVIA, the mother of Tiberius, deserves more than a passing notice. She exercised almost a boundless influence on her husband, Augustus. She had great ambition, and was very cruel and unscrupulous. She managed to ruin, one after another, the large circle of relatives of Augustus, until finally the aged Emperor found himself alone in the palace with Livia and her son, Tiberius. All Rome execrated the Empress, and her son feared and hated her. She survived Augustus fifteen years, and died in 29. Tiberius refused to visit her on her death-bed, and was not present at her funeral.
SEJÁNUS was the commander of the Praetorian Guard of Tiberius. He was trusted fully by the Emperor, but proved to be a deep-dyed rascal. He persuaded Livilla, the daughter-in-law of the Emperor, to poison her husband, the heir apparent, and then he divorced his own wife to marry her. He so maligned Agrippína, the widow of Germanicus and daughter of Agrippa and Julia, that Tiberius banished her, with her sons Nero and Drusus. In 26 he induced the Emperor to retire to the island of Capreae, and he himself became the real master of Rome.
Tiberius at last finding out his true character, Sejánus was arrested and executed in 31. His body was dragged through the streets, torn in pieces by the mob, and thrown into the Tiber.
Tiberius having left no son, the Senate recognized Gaius Caesar, son of Germanicus and Agrippína, grandson of Julia, and great-grandson of Augustus, as Emperor. He is better known as CALIGULA, - a nickname given him by the soldiers from the buskins he wore. He was twenty-five years of age when he began to reign, of weak constitution, and subject to fits. After squandering his own wealth, he killed rich citizens, and confiscated their property. He seemed to revel in bloodshed, and is said to have expressed a wish that the Roman people had but one neck, that he might slay them all at a blow. He was passionately fond of adulation, and often repaired to the Capitoline temple in the guise of a god, and demanded worship. Four years of such a tyrant was enough. He was murdered by a Tribune of his Praetorian Guard.
THE CLAUDIAN EMPERORS.
A strong party was now in favor of returning to a republican form of government; but while the Senate was considering this question, the Praetorian Guard settled it by proclaiming CLAUDIUS Emperor.