The Accension Of Tiberius Essay, Research Paper
When one examines the accession of Tiberius to his imperial position, one extreme (?) question must be looked at with very open eyes and that is did Augustus want to establish a dynastic government and if so, did he truly want Tiberius to inherit or was it merely that Augustus had no other place to turn.
The purpose of the paper is prove? that Augustus’ motives were clear, first, to establish a dynastic government, second, establish Tiberius at the head to the government, third when Germanicus Caesar became of age and auctoritus he would inherit the thrown in at a prime age, thus ensuring that a blood relative of Augustus would be at the head of the imperial family. Finally, Augustus knowingly used Julia as he had for countless years, as a politcial pawn, in his chess game to ensure impreial rule.
To make such claims it is necessary to look at the ascension of Tiberius with very open eyes. Did Augustus conspire with Tiberius to establish a dynastic form of government with Tiberius at the head. This is a point of sum conjecture and well never be answered with the sources that are available. What can be done is an intelligent assessment of the material that is available and from there form an intelligent hypothesis. One such hypothesis is, Augustus knowingly conspired with Tiberius to form a dynastic government or imperial regime. Coming to the inevitable conclusion that Augustus had planned all along, that is with a blood heir in control of the empire. Tiberius represented the metaphorical form in the road, when it came to the ultimate success of Augustus plans.
Was Tiberius meant to rule? If so, was he meant to rule for as long as he did. To come up with a sound hypothesis, it is necessary to separate us from the knowledge of future outcomes. It is difficult to look at the reign of Tiberius with nothing but bias, because all the literary sources of the time are extremely hostile to the reign of Tiberius, with the only notable exception by Paterculus, who offered counterviews to that of a majority of the other authors. Most of the popular ideas concerning the reign of Tiberius originate from Tacitus, namely because of the quality of his work. There is reason to exercise caution when taking Tacitus’ view towards the reign of Tiberius. Tacitus’ opinion is extremely clear, he was extremely apprehensive about Tiberius. Keep in mind, that this is only an opinion and the annals represent a carefully constructed work of literature that represents his opinions on historical viewpoints. Keeping in mind Tacitus was writing more than sixty years after the death of Tiberius and was relying on information that’s quality, validity or identity could not be assessed. Ancient historians are rarely explicit about the nature of their resources and it almost impossible to assess if the information is based on supposition or fact. This is not to say that we should completely reject Tacitus’ views, but merely view them with open eyes. Only we completely shed our hindsight of the eventual outcome and opinions pertaining to the reign of Tiberius’ reign can then look at the number of similarities and coincidences between the reigns of Tiberius and Augustus with open eyes.
The first example that hints of an imperial conspiracy is the death of Augustus, which has a few interesting points that need to be examined. Tacitus writes that Tiberius was summoned to Nola by his mother, Livia, just before or just after Augustus has died. This in itself is not enough evidence to substantiate our hypothesis, because it is not out of the ordinary. However, what is interesting is that Tacitus’ writes that Livia had taken complete control, to ensure that the situation was managed correctly and that news of Augustus’ death would be issued only when Tiberius and herself were ready (annal I 5).
If Augustus had been the champion and crusader of the people, a countenance (persona) that he appeared to display extremely well during his reign, then why all the quiet relating to death. Why was his condition not broadcasted throughout the empire, for all the people to know, so all the empire could grieve openly? One idea is, Livia wanted to ensure that Tiberius was ready to assume control when the news was released, that the pater patriae was dead and the empire was stricken by grief. The news that Augustus was dead would represent the best time to seize control, while the nation was grieving, it would be at its weakest, easy prey for cunning politician or politicians to take control.
Another interesting point, which helps to show the conspiracy is, as Tacitus points out, that upon the death of Augustus, Tiberius immediately issued a watchword to the praetorian guard, thereby establishing control over the only significant army in Rome. The reason for this, is plainly obvious, Augustus had intended for the Praetorian Guard to follow Tiberius, incase of any unforeseeable complications in the senate. The Praetorian Guard would prove to be the cement in the building of a dynasty.
Immediately after the death of Augustus, Tiberius summoned the senate to discuss the arrangements for Augustus’ funeral, and by doing so ensured that the issue of his accession would be addressed. In the course of having the senate discuss the funeral and the subsequent will of Augustus, it became necessary to address the issue of succession. Since the whole idea behind principate and the position was established, solely for Augustus, and after whose death, could be abolished or given to whomever the Roman People and Senate say fit. Regardless of the fact that Tiberius appeared to be in a dominate position to assume control, since he received the Proconsular Imperium and the Tribunicia Potestas. In theory since Tiberius’ powers were subordinate to Augustus’, the senate could have theoretically given the office of emperor to someone else, or even have abolished it. What occurs is perhaps one of the most ingenious charades ever to be played in the political arena.
Rome was left without a ruler, be it an emperor or consuls, and 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 discuss the transfer of power of the office of the emperor. Augustus and Tiberius had on there side, the fact that no case law existed to deal with the usurpation of power, and since this had never been addressed before there was no legal standing or precedent that could oppose the accession of Tiberius. What happens next, appears all to coincidental, to the informed scholar, it is as if Tiberius was reading out prelayed instructions from Augustus on what to say and how to act. Tacitus’ appears to give the fullest account of what happened in the senate. Sheding all the hindsight of future events, Tiberius appears to arrive at the Senate to have various powers and titles voted to him. As if Augustus was once again in the senate speaking to his countrymen, and dedicating himself to the people, Tiberius donned the mask of the reluctant public servant. As in the case of Augustus and the great refusal of the first settlement, Tiberius originally refused the powers that were bestowed upon him, the Senate dumbfounded and shocked, appealed to Tiberius to take control. Tiberius declared that he was too old for the responsibilities of the Principate, and he did not want the powers of emperor. The senate, not knowing how to read Tiberius behaviour appealed to him again. What occurs ironically parallels the senatorial debate that Augustus himself went through in 27 BC, it seems that Tiberius was merely reciting a pre-fabricated dialogue by Augustus. Tiberius reluctantly accepts, decreeing to the senate that he could not possibly assume all the aspects of the state but would gladly accept any duties that the senate say fit to bestow upon him.
In order to keep up the charade, Tiberius could not alienate the senate and appear to trying to take total control, it was imperative that he appear to be the unquestionable choice of the senate, and not solely the nominee of Augustus. This proved to be a an overwhelming political success, because Tiberius and Augustus had succeeded in establishing the foundation of a dynasty while shadowing it the ideals of being dedicated public servents and that only assumed control for the befit of the Roman people. (12) Besides the establishment of a dynasty, the play that was put on for the benefit of the senate and the people, enabled a legal case law to be originated, which would lead to the further foundation of the Lex Imperio, and would serve as the institutional and ideological foundations of the Roman
The next point of our conspiracy theory involves the role of Germanicus Caesar, in the establishing the dynasty. Germanicus, not Tiberius stood at the forefront of the Augustan family. As with Augustus and Tiberius, Tiberius had Germanicus Caesar given the maius imperium. It is obvious that Germanicus Caesar was meant to inevitably assume control, what other reason could there be for having such powers bestowed upon him. Since Tiberius relationship to Augustus was by marriage and adoption he could not claim a true blood relation. Germanicus Caesar on the other hand, was a blood relative, because his grandmother was Augustus’ sister Octavia. To aid in establishment of a dynasty based on blood relationships Germanicus Caesar’, he had been married to Agrippina, who was the daughter of Julia, who inturn was the daughter of Augustus. Through Octavia, Augustus ensured that Germanicus Caesar could claim a blood relationship and by marring Agrippina, Augustus ensured that the children of Germanicus Caesar could claim a direct blood relationship to himself. If Augustus had intended Germanicus to rule Caesar to rule, then why establish Tiberius as his successor. That can be only be speculated on, first, all the blood heirs that Augustus had adopted, always died, with the exception of Agrippa Postumus who seemed to fall out of Augustus good graces in Ad 7. Perhaps Augustus was merely trying to escape his own bad luck, by adopting Tiberius and then having Tiberius adopt Germanicus Caesar in 4 AD, he was breaking the cycle of bad luck in adoptions of blood heirs that had plagued him during the principate. Second, When Agrippa died in 12 BC, Augustus’ grandchildren Gaius and Lucius were still to young to fend for themselves in the Roman political arena. Augustus thus turned to Tiberius to offer the much need protection for his grandchildren incase Augustus was to die before they were of age. With the establishment of Tiberius with the designated role of as guardian of the imperial grandchildren, Augustus was able ensure that one of his grandchildren would inherit the imperial throne at a prime age. The unforeseeable death of Lucius and Gaius in 2 and 4 AD respectively, Augustus had to turn his attention to Germanicus Caesar in order to continue the true bloodline. As Tiberius had done before he assumed the responsibility of protecting the rights of Augustus blood heirs.
The death of Germanicus Caesar in 19 AD provided the metaphorical fork in the road, to Augustus’ plan of a blood heir on the throne. The outcome of this fork in the road is of considerable importance, but does not help to shed any light upon the conspiracy of the accession of Tiberius.
The final theory of our conspiracy deals with Julia and her overly under assessed role in the accession of Tiberius. Julia played a crucial role in the foundation of the dynasty even if it is not completely obvious. Historians have argued for years about the motives of Julia’s adultery and subsequent banishment in 8 AD. This argument is interesting, if nothing less then trivial (futile). Augustus had always used Julia’s marital bed for his political advancements and as a result the political implications of the adultery of Julia and her lovers is obvious; she had been used as a political chess pawn. Julia’s adultery provided Augustus with a convenient excuse to rid himself of dangerous political enemies that could challenge the accession of Tiberius. In fact, Julia’s infidelity helped cement the foundation for the accession of Tiberius, with these prominent nobles (names) banished (executed?) the path was clear for Tiberius to take control with opposition. With Augustus, dissolving the marriage, in the name of Tiberius he helped Tiberius win over the people’s sympathy, which Augustus had always been able to use in his favour throughout his reign.
In concluding, Augustus was able to disguise his autocracy in the traditional forms of Roman government, and by masquerading this charade he was able to establish a dynasty. Augustus’ motives were clear in establishing his dynasty with Tiberius at the head. Regardless of the unforeseeable fork in the road, which represented Tiberius’ reign, Augustus’ plans for a blood heir to take control inevitably came to pass. The question of whether Tiberius was meant to rule, has hopefully been answered, in such that he was chosen to rule, but not for as long as he had. Tiberius was intended to be a kind of suffex emperor, a man who would lead in the absence of the true leader. in closing, perhaps Augustus put it best when he said, upon his death bed, fabula acta est, perhaps a key into the mind of a conspirator who shadowed his true intention in past Republican Light.