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Tiberius and the Spirit of Augustus

  • D. C. A. Shotter

There are a number of instances in Tacitus' treatment of Tiberius which concern the emperor's behaviour when some mention of his predecessor was made. Critics of Tacitus have apparently overlooked Tiberius' extreme sensitivity on this subject, with the result that interpretations have been offered which tend to obscure what Tacitus is trying to say about Tiberius. It is the intention of this note to examine such passages, in an attempt to clarify Tiberius' attitude and Tacitus' presentation of it.

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page 207 note 1 Tac. Ann. i. 74. For her discussion of the case, see Walker, B., The Annals of Tacitus, (Manchester, 1952), 9091. Cf. von Fritz, K., ‘Tacitus, Agricola, Domitian and the Problem of the Principate’, CPh (1957), 90. Cf. Suet. Tib. 58, who gives a list of examples, including this one, of Tiberius' excessive regard for Augustus.

page 207 note 2 Tac. Ann. i. 74.

page 207 note 3 Ibid. i. 74. 5.

page 208 note 1 Walker, B., op. cit., 91 (Tiberius' motive was to clear himself of slander); von Fritz, K., op. cit., 90 (condemnation; but considers that this question is not easy to settle now); Rogers, R. S., Criminal Trials and Criminal Legislation under Tiberius (Middletown, 1935), 9 f. (Rogers thinks that it was Tiberius' intention to vote for Marcellus' acquittal).

page 208 note 2 Tac. Ann. i. 73.

page 208 note 3 To the charge which concerned the admission of Cassius amongst the worshippers of Augustus and the selling of a statue of Augustus, Tiberius replied: ‘Non ideo decretum patri suo caelum, ut in perniciem civium is honor verteretur’ (i. 73. 3); and to the charge of perjury by the divinity of Augustus, he replied: ‘Deorum iniurias dis curae’ (i. 73. 5).

page 208 note 4 Tac. Ann. ii. 50. (Cf. Walker, B., op. cit., 9596.)

page 208 note 5 Ibid. ii. 50. 2. Cf. Rogers, R. S. (op. cit., 2728), who regards Tiberius' conduct in this case as dictated solely by considerations of religion. Taken in conjunction with other passages, it should surely be seen in the wider context of Tiberius' high regard for the person of his predecessor, and for any precedent set by him.

page 209 note 1 Ehrenberg, V. and Jones, A. H. M., Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius (Oxford, 1955), 89 (no. 102; SEG xi. 922–3).

page 209 note 2 Tac. Ann. i. 72. 3–5.

page 209 note 3 Ibid. i. 11.7. That Tiberius kept to this is clear from Tacitus' narrative as a whole, and from a specific remark he makes in Ann. iv. 32. 3: ‘Princeps proferendi imperi incuriosus erat.’ See also Agr. 13. 3, referring to the policy of the early emperors towards Britain: ‘Consilium id divus Augustus vocabat, Tiberius praeceptum.’

page 209 note 4 Germanicuswas forced on Tiberius, by Augustus, (Ann. i. 3. 5); Tiberius' misgivings are recorded in i. 7.9. Nevertheless Tiberius maintained and strengthened Germanicus' position (i. 14. 4).

page 209 note 5 Tac. Ann. i. 14, 6: ‘Numerum ab Augusto traditum.’ (See Shorter, D., ‘The Elections under Tiberius’, CQ—in press.)

page 209 note 6 Ibid. ii. 59. 3. (Augustus' ruling is given in ii. 59. 4.) Cf. the treatment of actors (Ann. i. 77. 4), where we find another example of Tiberius taking an Augustan ruling as sacred: ‘Valuit tamen intercessio, quia divus Augustus immunes verberum histriones quondam responderat, neque fas Tiberio infringere dicta eius.’

The use of ‘fas’ in this passage well illustrates the sanctity of Augustan precedent in Tiberius' mind. This sanctity is again reported by Tacitus as expressly stated in a speech of Tiberius on the subject of the Imperial Cult (Ann. iv. 37. 4–5): ‘Cum divus Augustus sibi atque urbi Romae templum apud Pergamum sisti non prohibuisset, qui omnia facta dictaque eius vice legis observem, placitum iam exemplum promptius secutus sum, … et vanescet Augusti honor, si promiscis adulationibus vulgatur.’

page 210 note 1 Tac. Ann. ii. 59.

page 210 note 2 Pap. Oxy. 2435 (1959).

page 210 note 3 Tac. Ann. i. 8. 1.

page 210 note 4 Ibid. i. 8. 6. (For this passage, see Shelter, D., ‘Three Problems in Tacitus' Annals i’, Mnemosyne—in press.)

page 210 note 5 Ibid. i. 11. 2: ‘Solam divi Augusti mentem tantae molis capacem.’

page 210 note 6 Ibid. i. 15. 3.

page 210 note 7 Ibid. i. 78. 1.

page 210 note 8 Ibid. iii. 6. 3.

page 210 note 9 Ibid. iii. 54. 3.

page 210 note 10 Ibid. i. 10. 6. (Cf. Suet. Tib. 68. 3; 21.2; 23, where Suetonius quotes from Augustus' will: ‘Quoniam atrox fortuna Gaium et Lucium filios mihi eripuit.’)

page 211 note 1 Marañon, G., Tiberius, a Study in Resentment (London, 1956), 6382.

page 211 note 2 e.g., G. Marañon, op. cit., and Syme, R., Tacitus (Oxford, 1958), i. 424 ff.

page 211 note 3 Marañon, G., op. cit., 63.

page 211 note 4 See Tac. Ann. ii. 50. 2, where Tiberius refers to slander of ‘Divus Augustus’ as speaking ‘inreligiose’. (Cf. Walker, B., op. cit., 60.)

page 211 note 5 For example, ibid. i. 62. 3, where Tiberius criticizes Germanicus for burying the dead of Varus' army, whilst he was augur: ‘Neque imperatorem auguratu et vetustissimis caerimoniis praeditum adtrectare feralia debuisse.’ (For an explanation of this point, see Furneaux, 's note on the passage, vol. i, p. 262.) Tiberius is said to have shielded himself from the sight of his son's body, when, as ‘pontifex maximus’, he pronounced the funeral laudation. (See Seneca, , Cons, ad Marciam 15. 3.)

page 211 note 6 Tac. Ann. i. 12. 6: ‘Nee ideo iram eius lenivit, pridem invisus, tamquam ducta in matrimonium Vipsania M. Agrippae filia, quae quondam Tiberii uxor fuerat, plus quam civilia agitaret.’

Suetonius (Tib. 7. 3) describes Tiberius' reaction when he happened to meet Vipsania by chance after they had been divorced. Augustus was sufficiently concerned about the effect upon Tiberius to make sure that they did not meet again.

page 211 note 7 Cassius, Dio, lv. 9.

page 211 note 8 Div. Aug. 51. 3.

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