Tiberius’s Rule: Tyrannical Acts of Tiberius – Destroying Augustus’s Principate


The start to Tiberius’ reign in 14 AD was fairly awkward given his inexperience and need to distinguish himself from Augustus. There were rumors that Augustus had either chosen Tiberius because there were no longer better alternatives available, or because he was attempting to establish a hereditary monarchy which is visible through the adoptions of both Tiberius and Germanicus (Shotter, 16). Tiberius not only needed to differentiate himself from Augustus, but also needed to prove himself to the people, as he was only known for his militia experiences as this point in time.

One of Tiberius’ main goals was to encourage a senate that could think separately from and become a strong partner to the Roman government (Shotter, 25). This became evident in the use of the Law of Treason. Cases were typically heard by praetors, however Tiberius allowed these cases to be heard by the senate. Even though Tiberius would sit silently through the cases, the senate would attempt to act in a way Tiberius would feel was appropriate, as he would monitor the cases. A serious issue with this change arose as informants were rewarded in proportion to the amount of land the victim owned. This caused informants to attack wealthier and more powerful Roman members, which was rumored to be Tiberius’ intention (Shotter, 31). At this point, Tiberius was not a bad man, but failed to be a great leader as he rarely realized the potential consequences of his actions. He began to frustrate members of the senate, as he would randomly intervene in cases (PBS). This became a great annoyance, as senate members would then feel that they needed to properly guess how Tiberius would act in all cases. Tiberius’ goal was to act in favor of the people at all times as fairly and rapidly as possible (Levick, 121). Not only did he politically impact the people, but he also focused on their well-being in terms of grain supply, road construction, and building improvements, making him extremely popular in the provinces (Shotter, 58).

One of Tiberius’ biggest mistakes was trusting in Sejanus, whom he put in command as the Praetorian Guard. Sejanus made several attempts to isolate Tiberius and move into power. He politically attacked potential successors on Tiberius’ behalf and attempted to marry into Tiberius’ family. After Tiberius became suspicious of Sejanus’ actions, he turned on him and had him killed.

Tiberius’ time as emperor was fairly militarily inactive, as many of the battles fought were defensive (Shotter, 52). He did not have a strong focus on expansion. He instead followed Augustus’ recommendation “not to tamper unnecessarily with existing arrangements” (Shotter, 56). Tiberius focused on stabilization, using many methods that had been previously in use. Instead, of great change, he attempted to create a fair environment and win the support of the people. Unfortunately, his random actions took away from his ability to run a biased-free senate. He spent his entire time in power attempting to prove himself and differentiate himself from Augustus.

Tiberius died on March 16, 37 AD. He named Caligula, Germanicus’ son, as his successor (PBS). Even though the republic did not think highly of Tiberius at the time of his death, it should still be recognized that Tiberius was honorable and respectable in choosing his adopted son’s descendant as his heir.


Go Back to [3] Tiberius Julius Caesar’s Rule Move On to [4] The Fall of Tiberius
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