Second Roman emperor,
who reigned throughout Jesus' adult years. When Tiberius Claudius Nero was only three
[Augustus] fell in love with his beautiful mother [Livia]
& ordered his father
to divorce her so that he could marry her. Six years later Octavian
brought Tiberius & his younger
brother into his own
household, after Tiberius' biological father died (33
serious, introverted youth, Tiberius was not popular in Rome but won
admiration & public praise for several military victories on the
frontiers. So, when Augustus'
BCE), the emperor married Tiberius to Agrippa's widow:
Augustus' own daughter, Julia.
Their incompatibility & Julia's blatant infidelity, however, led
Tiberius to abandon her & go into voluntary exile without the
emperor's consent (6
BCE). But his mother Livia exposed Julia's
adultery to Augustus. So the puritanical emperor, who had himself
drafted laws outlawing adultery, was forced to send his own daughter
into permanent exile (4
After the death of Augustus' oldest
grandson, Livia finally persuaded Augustus to recall Tiberius &
pardon him. When Augustus' 2nd grandson died (4 CE), he was forced
to adopt his stepson, change his name to Tiberius Julius Caesar,
& designate him as his heir. Tiberius proved himself worthy of
command by a decisive victory over the Germans who had devastated
the Roman legions under Varus
When he finally became emperor [at age 57], he administered
the state with Spartan economy & military discipline. He trusted
soldiers & thus was able to establish a stable military
administration in the provinces. But his distrust of Roman
aristocrats led him to concentrate power in the Praetorian guard
[the imperial police] & to set up a system of informers designed
to intimidate the Senate. As a result many Romans were sentenced
& executed on rumors.
At age 65
(23 CE), after the death of
his only son [Drusus], Tiberius lost all interest in governing &
put the head of the Praetorian guard [Lucius Sejanus] in charge of Rome. He
retired to Capri (27 CE)
for a life of self-indulgence &
sadistic pleasures. But fearing he had abdicated too much power to
the ambitious Sejanus [who had married his son's widow], he charged
him & his wife with his son's murder & ordered their
execution (31 CE).
The last six years of his life, Tiberius
orchestrated a reign of terror in which informers were paid for
denouncing prominent Roman citizens [including relatives of the
emperor]. The whole Jewish community was (temporarily) expelled from
Rome. Anyone who was accused was subjected to torture &
execution without further proof.
Since few members of the imperial
family were qualified to succeed him, Tiberius chose his wife's
Caligula, whom he compared to
a viper. But he imprisoned Herod's
just for prematurely wishing that Caligula was already emperor. At
age 79, the perverse emperor was beginning to recover from a
shoulder injury when the head of his own Praetorian bodyguard
suffocated him. His military & administrative achievements left
Rome more prosperous & more secure than when he had become
emperor. But his ultimate legacy was the creation of the police
1.1-16, 24, 42, 46, 50, 53-54, 58-59, 62, 69, 72, 74, 76-77.
26, 30-38, 40-44, 46, 50-51, 53, 65, 78, 88.
11-12, 17-19, 28, 31-32, 41, 44, 47, 56, 60, 64-68.
6-22, 30-33, 38, 40-42, 54-55, 60, 67, 70, 74-75.
5-9, 20-26, 30-32, 38-40, 45-48, 50-51.
51, 63, 65, 76, 97-98;
1-2, 6-7, 10-16.
Cassius Dio, Roman
22, 27, 31, 33-35;
6, 8-11, 13, 25, 28, 30-31;
12-17, 23-28, 31-42, 45-47.
Velleius Paterculus, Roman History
18.1.3; 4.2,4-6; 5.1,3; 6.4-6,8-10.
Other resources on line:
Annals by Tacitus - Books 1-6 chronicle the reign of Tiberius
& paint a sinister portrait of the emperor [archived in Bruce
Butterfield's Ancient History & Archaeology].
of the Caesars: Tiberius
- Suetonius' hostile biography
composed in 110 CE stresses emperor's perversity (in Paul Halsall's Internet Ancient History Sourcebook (Fordham
- Garrett Fagan's balanced assessment in the inter-academic historical encyclopedia De Imperatoribus Romanis.
Tiberius - detailed,
well-researched article in Wikipedia's
- brief biography in BBC History's archive of Historic