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. SEJ?NUS 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 Agripp?na, 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, Sej?nus was arrested and executed in 31. His body was dragged through the streets, torn in pieces by the mob, and thrown into the Tiber.
CALIGULA (37-41). Tiberius having left no son, the Senate recognized Gaius Caesar, son of Germanicus and Agripp?na, 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. CLAUDIUS (41-54).
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. Claudius was the uncle of Caligula and the nephew of Tiberius. He was a man of learning and good parts, but a glutton, and the slave of his two wives, who were both bad women. His first wife, MESSAL?NA, was so notorious that her name has became almost a synonym for wickedness. His second wife, his niece AGRIPP?NA, sister of Caligula, was nearly as bad. This woman had by her former husband, Domitius, a son, whom she induced the Emperor to adopt under the name of NERO. The faithless wife then caused her husband to be poisoned, and her son to be proclaimed Emperor. At Rome the rule of Claudius was mild, and on the whole beneficial. In the government of the provinces he was rigorous and severe. He undertook the CONQUEST OF BRITAIN, and in a campaign of sixteen days he laid the foundation of its final subjugation, which occurred about forty years later, under the noted general AGRICOLA: It remained a Roman province for four hundred years, but the people never assimilated Roman customs, as did the Gauls, and when the Roman garrisons were withdrawn, they quickly returned to their former condition. However, many remains of Roman buildings in the island show that it was for the time well under subjection. The public works of Claudius were on a grand scale. He constructed a new harbor at the mouth of the Tiber, and built the great aqueduct called the AQUA CLAUDIA, the ruined arches of which can be seen to this day. He also reclaimed for agriculture a large tract of land by draining the Fucine Lake.
NERO (54-68). NERO was but sixteen years old when he began to reign. For two or three years he was under the influence of his tutor, SENECA, the author, and BURRHUS, the Praefect of the Praetorian Guard, and his government was during this period the most respectable of any since the time of Augustus. His masters kept the young Emperor amused, and removed from the cares of state. But he soon became infatuated with an unscrupulous woman, POPPAEA SAB?NA, for whom he neglected and finally killed his wife, Octavia. It would be useless to follow in detail the crimes of Nero from this time. A freedman, TIGELL?NUS, became his adviser, and was the real ruler of the Empire. He encouraged his master in all his vices and wickedness. Poppaea died from a kick administered by Nero in anger; Burrhus was disposed of; Agripp?na, and Britannicus, the true heir to the throne, were murdered. The wealthy were plundered, and the feelings of his subjects outraged in every conceivable manner. The Emperor appeared in public, contending first as a musician, and afterwards in the sports of the circus. The great fire of 18 July, 64, which destroyed a large part of the city, was ascribed to him, but without sufficient evidence; and the stories of his conduct during the conflagration are doubtless pure fictions. It was necessary, however, to fix the guilt on some one; so the CHRISTIANS, then a small sect, made up chiefly of the poorer people, were accused of the crime, and persecuted without mercy. They were often enclosed in fagots covered with pitch, and burned alive. In rebuilding Rome, Nero took every precaution against the recurrence of a conflagration. Broad regular streets replaced the narrow winding alleys. The new houses were limited in height, built partly of hard stone, and protected by open spaces and colonnades. The water supply was also carefully regulated. In addition to rebuilding the city, Nero gratified his love for the magnificent by erecting a splendid palace, called the GOLDEN HOUSE. Its walls were adorned with gold, precious stones, and masterpieces of art from Greece. The grounds around were marvellous in their meadows, lakes, groves, and distant views. In front was a colossal statue of Nero himself, one hundred and ten feet high. Conspiracies having been formed in which Seneca and Lucan were implicated, both men were ordered to take their own lives. Nero's life after this became still more infamous. In a tour made in Greece, he conducted himself so scandalously that even Roman morals were shocked, and Roman patience could endure him no longer. The Governor of Hither Spain, GALBA, proclaimed himself Emperor, and marched upon Rome. Verginius, the Governor of Upper Germany, also lent his aid to the insurrection. The Senate proclaimed Nero a public enemy, and condemned him to death. He fled from the city and put an end to his life, June 9, 68, just in time to escape capture. His statues were broken down, his name everywhere erased, and his Golden House demolished. With him ended the Claudian line of Emperors. LUCIUS ANNAEUS SENECA (8 B. C.-65 A. D.) was born at Corduba in Spain, of a Spanish Roman family, and was educated at Rome. His father was a teacher of rhetoric, a man of wealth and literary attainments. Seneca began to practise at the bar at Rome, and was gaining considerable reputation, when in 41 he was banished to Corsica. Eight years later he was recalled to be tutor of the young Nero, then eleven years old. He was Consul in 57, and during the first years of Nero's reign he shared the administration of affairs with the worthy Burrhus. His influence over Nero, while it lasted, was salutary, though often maintained by doubtful means. In course of time Nero began to dislike him, and when Burrhus died his fate was sealed. By the Emperor's command he committed suicide. Opening the veins in his feet and arms, he discoursed with his friends on the brevity of life till death ensued. Seneca is the most eminent of the writers of his age. He wrote moral essays, philosophical letters, physical treatises, and tragedies. Of the last, the best are HERCULES FURENS, PHAEDRA, and MEDEA.
GALBA (68-69).--OTHO (69).--VITELLIUS (69). GALBA entered the city as a conqueror, without much trouble, but on account of his parsimony and austerity he soon became unpopular, and was murdered by his mutinous soldiers fifteen days after he reached Rome. He belonged to an old patrician family, and his overthrow was sincerely regretted by the better element in the city. OTHO, the first husband of Poppaea, and the leader in the insurrection against Galba, was now declared Emperor. No sooner did the news of his accession reach Gaul than VITELLIUS, a general of the army of the Rhine, revolted. Otho marched against the rebels, was defeated, and committed suicide after a reign of three months. VITELLIUS had been a good soldier, but as a ruler he was weak and incapable. He was killed after a reign of less than a year, during which he had distinguished himself by gluttony and vulgar sensuality.