Tiberius Down the Line


  • William James Buchhorn Wichita State University


Roman history, Tiberius Claudius Nero, Tacitus, historic misrepresentation, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, Julius Caesar, Suetonius


Throughout history, men have fought over the question of who would be the next one to rule over ancestral territory. History is filled with stories of people who wanted so badly to be "king" or "emperor" that they tried every ploy that they could think of to attain those positions of supreme power. Usually, the rewards associated with being the sole person in charge of an immense mass of people and land are considered to be so great that few who had either been born into it, or been thrust into by the whims of chance, ever refused it or tried to find some way to avoid the responsibility. However, this does not mean that there were not exceptions to this rule. But refusing to serve as the sole ruler of a given state is not always a practical option. Clearly, Tiberius (42 B.C.E.-37 C.E.), Rome's second emperor (r.14-37 C.E.), fought his appointment as his step-father Augustus' replacement as ruler of the Roman possessions as much as anyone in history has ever fought any forced assumption of responsibilities that entirely conflict with their basic natures and desires in life. But, due to the realities of the Roman political state immediately following the death of Augustus in 14 C.E., namely the fact that had Tiberius refused to serve as emperor, civil war would have broken out almost immediately, refusing the position was hardly an option.

So, after only a short time dragging his heels and trying to will away the inevitable, Tiberius gave up protesting his selection for the position and allowed himself to be called emperor of Rome. But, if he had only known the way that the scholars and writers were going to continuously appraise and reappraise their assessments of every little detail of his day-to-day existence, often completely re-slanting a previous author's interpretation of a given event that occurred during his reign to justify their own personal ambitions and objectives, he might have been so disgusted by the whole mess that he would have been inspired to find some way to make the old Republic work again.