Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Settlement of 26 June a.d. 4 and its Aftermath

  • R. A. Birch (a1)


In a recently published article I have suggested an amendment of the textual crux in Suetonius, Tiberius 21. 4 and an interpretation of the passage as providing direct evidence that the arrangement of the marriages of Germanicus and the younger Drusus was integral to Augustus' settlement of 26 June a.d. 4, even if (as seems on balance likely) they were not celebrated until early 5. This view differs from the more usual assumption that while the marriages took place in 5, the date of their arrangement was not particularly significant, or from the possibility implied by Levick that Germanicus' marriage may have been arranged to placate the ‘faction’ (or what remained of it) of the elder Julia after the consolidation in 4 of the position of Livia's descendants. The more precise hypothesis that the marriages were intended as part of the settlement may help us to bring into sharper focus some of the political events of the next few years, and this article attempts to do so; in particular it looks at (a) the internal balance of the settlement; (b) the anomalous separate adoption of Agrippa Postumus; and (c) the decline and fall of Agrippa Postumus and the younger Julia. First, however, some further observations on the hypothesis in my earlier article.



Hide All

1 The correspondence of Augustus: some notes on Suetonius, Tiberius 21. 4–7’, CQ n.s. 31 (1981), 155161.

2 Levick, B., The Fall of Julia the Younger, Latomus 35, 1976 (‘Levick’), p. 313.

3 See in particular Tristia 2. 161–180; 4. 2. 1–12; ex Ponto 2. 2. 67–74; 2. 8 passim but especially 37–46.

4 ILS 107. The commemoration of the dead Gaius and Luciusis curious. Were they a last-minute replacement for Agrippa Postumus? It would be instructive to know when the Arch was commissioned. If in 6, Agrippa would probably have been available, but doubtless only one child of Germanicus, not two. Was the luckless Claudius included to balance the second great grandchild of Augustus?

5 Tac. Ann. 5. 1. 4.

6 Suet. Tib. 10. 1/2. There was however also the discord with Julia, (Tib. 10. 1) and other more; general motives are mentioned by Suetonius. Dio 55. 9. 7 gives the political explanation priority over the personal.

7 For the compulsion on Augustus to act, cf. his ambiguous oath ‘rei publicae causa adoptare se eum’ (Suet. Tib. 21. 3) and the opening words of his will (Tib. 23); see also Vell. Pat. 2. 104. 2. For Germanicus' position cf. Suet. Cal. 4. Tiberius' gibe: Suet. Tib. 53. 1.

8 Suet. Div. Claud. 2–4; 26. 1.

9 Tac. Ann. 1. 3. 5 and Suet. Tib. 15. 2.

10 Perhaps, as Levick suggests (p. 310/1) because of deadlock in 3 over the succession (if any) to L. Caesar following his death in 2. For its date, see Dio 55. 22. 4 (a.d. 5, after notice of partial eclipse of sun of 28 March 5 – Levick p. 326). Did it coincide with the marriages of Germanicus and Drusus?

11 Suet. Div. Aug. 26. 2.

12 Dio 55. 27. 5. Suet. Tib. 15. 2 is also of interest.

13 Drusus: Suet. Tib. 50. 1; Tiberius: Tac. Ann. 1. 6. 6; Germanicus: Tac. Ann. 1. 33. 2, 3.

14 Dio 55. 14; 55. 22. 1, 3. Cf. also Seneca de clem. 9. Cf. also Levick p. 320 on Augustus' review of the Senate in 4, treated by Dio 55. 13. 3 as a direct consequence of the settlement of 26 June.

15 Cf. Syme, R., Roman Revolution (Oxford, 1939), p. 414. Could the displaced person have been Plautius Rufus? Dio 55. 27. 2 refers to Publius Rufus, but no P. Plautius Rufus is known to PIR. If however PIR iii 360 rightly identifies him with C. Plautius Rufus of CIL ix 5834 and 6384, he would have been of the right rank, having been praetor twice (6384). On this hypothesis, in order for the public explanation to be necessary, some form of ‘destinatio’ (? by Augustus) of the ‘consules ordinarii’ of 5 must already have taken place before 26 June but seems unlikely yet to have been confirmed by the consular comitia. (If it had, the substitution would have been much harder, if not impossible, and the displaced person less likely to have escaped record.) It may be argued (e.g. with Jones, A. H. M., ‘The Elections under Augustus’, in Studies in Roman Government and Law (Blackwell, 1960), pp. 29 ff.) that in Augustus' middle years, until the Lex Valeria Cornelia of a.d. 5, the government was able to exercise little influence on the consular elections and that such ‘destinatio’ would not therefore have been possible. But, to look no further, Augustus had been able to get himself elected consul in 5 and 2 b.c. for a particular purpose, and the consulship of L. Aemilius Paullus in a.d. 1 does not look like a result of the unassisted working of Republican electoral procedure. It is tempting to see the election of Cornelius Cinna as preliminary to the next year's electoral reform to which he was party.

16 Velleius 2. 112. This is dated to 7 by association in 2. 112 with the Battle of the Volcaean Marshes, which Dio 55. 32. 3/4 puts in 7 immediately after his notice of the fall of Agrippa. See Levick, pp. 328–9.

17 See Tac. Ann. 1. 3. 4; 1. 4. 3; 1. 6. 1, 3; Suet. Div. Aug. 65. 1, 4; Dio 55. 32. 1.

18 See Dio 55. 32 (a.d. 7). For Tiberius' legal position as Augustus' adopted son see Suet. Tib. 15. 2. For the ‘aerarium militare’ founded in 6, Dio 55. 25. 2.

19 For this policy ‘militiam auspicantibus’ see Suet. Div. Aug. 38. 2. For the lower age limit of 17 for military service, cf. Gellius, A., NA x, xxviii.

20 pp. 317–8.

21 Pappano, A. E., CP 36 (1941), 30 ff.; see also Levick, pp. 332–3.

22 Sources: Suet. Tib. 16. 1; Vell. Pat. 2. 110. 6; Pliny, , HN 7, 149; Suet. Div. Aug. 25. 2.

23 pp. 329–31.

24 Sources: Suet. Div. Aug. 51. 1, 3; Dio 55. 27. 1 (a.d. 6).

25 Sources: Suet. Div. Aug. 65. 1, 4; Dio 55. 27. 2 (a.d. 6); Suet. Div. Aug. 19. 1.

26 Sources: Tac. Ann. 1. 3. 4; Dio 55. 32.

27 An alternative explanation for the suicide attempt is suggested by the curious parallel to Pliny's allegation in Suetonius' account (Tib. 10. 2) of the manoeuvres leading up to Tiberius' exile in 6 b.c., when Livia and Augustus both resisted his desire to go: ‘quin et pertinacius retinentibus, cibo per quadriduum abstinuit’. He was then released. Did Augustus starve himself in the face of moves against Agrippa Postumus? If so, he lost where Tiberius had won.

28 Dio 55. 27. 3/4 (nominally under a.d. 6).

29 pp. 330–1.

30 p. 332; see Dio 55. 34. 2.

31 Tac. Ann. 1. 6. 3. But see Suet. Div. Aug. 65. 4.

32 Sources: (i) see note 16; (ii) Suet. Div. Claud. 26. 1; (iii), (iv) Tac. Ann. 4. 71. 6, 7; (v) Tac. Ann. 3. 24. 5. Incest: Schol. on Juv. 6. 157; (vi) Suet. Div. Aug. 19. 1; (vii) Schol. on Juv. 6. 157 (death); for exile, see Syme, R., History in Ovid (Oxford, 1978), pp. 210–1.

33 References: R. Syme, op. cit. (note 32), p. 208; Suet. Div. Claud. 26. 1. For the meaning of ‘adulescens’ cf. (i) Varro ap. Censorinum c. 14. 2: ‘primo gradu usque ad annum xv pueros dictos…secundo ad xxx annum ab adulescendo sic nominatos’; (ii) Isid. Orig. 11. 2. 4: ‘tertia (aetas) adulescentia ad gignendum adulta quae porrigitur (ab anno quarto decimo) usque ad vigesimum octavum annum’. These references assume and are quoted in the context of various theories of the ‘ages of man’ but presumably reflect popular usage. Lower age for military service: note 19.

34 Two texts give pause: Digest 50. 16. 101 (Modestinus): ‘inter “stuprum” et “adulterium” hoc interesse quidam putant, quod adulterium in nuptam, stuprum in viduam committitur. sed lex Iulia de adulteriis hoc verbo indifferenter utitur’; Digest 48. 5 and 6. I give more detail. (ii) Tac. Ann. 3. 24. 2, 3 (on Silanus): ‘…impudicitiam filiae ac neptis quas urbe depulit adulterosque earum morte aut fuga punivit. nam culpam inter viros ac feminas vulgatam gravi nomine laesarum religionum ac violatae maiestatis appellando clementiam maiorum suasque ipse leges egrediebatur’. The last four words are taken by Furneaux ad loc. as referring to the excessive penalties imposed, but could also refer to an extension of scope. If so, does (i) reflect an extension of the law implied in (ii)?

35 cf. Ovid ex Ponto 2. 9. 71: ‘nee quicquam, quod lege vetor, committere, feci’. Also Tristia 4. 1. 23–4; 4. 4. 43–4; 5. 8. 23; ex Ponto 1. 7. 40. See Levick, p. 336. Why would Ovid be invited? A plausible explanation could be that he came in a professional capacity, to perform an epithalamium, as he had for Paullus Fabius Maximus; cf. ex Ponto 1. 2. 131–2: ‘ille ego, qui duxi vestros Hymenaeon ad ignes, | et cecini fausto carmina digna toro’. Such a poem could be politically explosive; if this was his offence, the otherwise puzzling charge against the Ars Amatoria could be explained. Compare also (with Levick, p. 336) Tristia 2. 6. 27–8: ‘nec breve nec tutum, quo sint mea, dicere, casu|lumina funesti conscia facta mali’ with Suet. Div. Aug. 65. 4: ‘ex nepte Iulia post damnationem editum infantem adgnosci alique vetuit’. Does ‘fausto’ (above) imply a contrast with an ‘infaustus torus’?

36 e.g. the popular demand for a consulship for Gaius in 6 b.c. (Dio 55. 9. 2), the pressure for the recall of the elder Julia in a.d. 3 (Dio 55. 13. 1), and the stir in favour of the pseudo-Agrippa reported in Tac. Ann. 2. 39–40.

37 Levick, p. 336 draws attention to the reference to a marriage of Julia and a Silanus in ‘Περ⋯ το⋯ Καισαρε⋯ου γ⋯νους’ (ed. Lampros, , in ‘Ν⋯ος ‘Ελληνομνήμων’, 1 (1904), 149). The relevant passage reads: ‘δύο θυγ⋯τερες 'Ιουλ⋯α Σιλανῷ (scripsit Lampros, ἰλανω codd.) γαμηθεῖσα κα⋯ 'Αγριππῖνα ⋯ μετ⋯ τα⋯τα Γερμανικῷ τῷ Δρούσου’. Julia was Agrippina's elder sister and might therefore be properly named first, but the supposed marriage to Silanus is mentioned where chronologically, a reference to Paullus would be expected. Doubt accrues from the fact that the MSS are corrupt at the critical point; the reading could well result from corruption of ΙΟΥΛΙΑ(Α)ΙΜΙΛΙΩ. Fortunately the argument does not turn on this text.

38 Levick, p. 335 cites Digest 48. 18. 8, an edict of Augustus dated in the second half of a.d. 8, providing for ‘servorum quaestiones’ in the investigation of ‘capitalia et atrociota maleficia’. With this cf. Ovid Tristia 4. 10. 99–102:

‘causa meae cunctis nimium quoque nota ruinae

indicio non est testificanda meo.

quid referam comitumque nefas famulosque nocentes?

ipsa multa tuli non leviora fuga.’

39 References: Tac. Ann. 3. 24. 5, 7; Dio 56. 25. 1 (a.d. 10); Suet. Tib. 20. 1. Ovid's repeated entreaties merely to be moved to a less harsh place of exile perhaps betray knowledge that his offence was unpardonable. Could he have expected recall when writing Tristia 2. 509–14 (‘inspice ludorum sumptus, Auguste, tuorum…scaenica vidisti lentus adulteria’)? Cf. the views of Wiedemann, T., ‘The political background to Tristia 2’, CQ n.s. 25 (1975), 264–71.

40 References: Suet. Tib. 22; Dio 57. 3. 5, 6 (a.d. 14); Tac. Ann. 1. 5. 6, 1. 6 passim. Also discussion and refs. in R. Syme, op. cit. (note 32), pp. 149–51, and Levick, B., Tiberius the Politician (Thames and Hudson, 1976), pp. 64–7.

41 Tac. Ann. 1. 5: ‘quippe rumor incesserat…utcumque se ea res habuit’. See R. Syme, op. cit. (note 32), pp. 149 ff. But cf. Suet. Div. Aug. 82. 1 on Augustus' travelling habits, esp.: ‘si quo pervenire mari posset, potius navigabat’. The voyage would have taken place in early summer (Augustus died on 19 August; Tac. Ann. 1. 5. 2 says it was ‘paucos ante mensis’), and was not impossibly far. For Augustus' journey to Ariminum in 8, Dio 55. 34. 3.

42 References: Ovid, , ex Ponto 4. 6. 914 (Fabius); Tac. Ann. 2. 39. 3 for the slave who, impersonating Agrippa after his death, thought it necessary to grow his hair and beard long; Pliny, , HN 7. 150; Levick, B., Tiberius the Politician, p. 65.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Classical Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0009-8388
  • EISSN: 1471-6844
  • URL: /core/journals/classical-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed