3.56‑76 Intrigues in Rome: Tiberius against Silanus. Tacfarinas’ revolt in Numidia, continued.

  1. Tiberius got applause for trying to check against informers. He wrote to the Senate asking for tribunitian power for Drusus. This was a move that Augustus used to gain supremacy without using the name of king or dictator. Augustus chose Marcus Agrippa to be his association power & when Agrippa died, Tiberius was chosen. Augustus used this precedent & put Drusus as next in line for the throne. When Germanicus was alive, Tiberius showed no preference between the 2. In his letter, he praised Drusus. He was in the same age, status, etc. as Augustus when he ascended to the throne. He had the experience in war, consulship & in the Senate.

  2. The Senate saw this coming & were ready with elaborate flattery. They all tripped over each other to put up statues of Drusus. Quintus Haterius was laughed at like an old fool when he pushed a motion that the decrees passed that day be written in gold, pure sycophancy.

  3. Junius Blaesus was extended as pro-consul in Africa & Servius Maluginensis, priest of Jupiter demanded to have Asia given to him. He said it was not right when people said that Jupiter’s priest weren’t allowed to leave Italy. The positions had been given to priests of Mars & Quirinus, so why not for those of Jupiter? There wasn’t a word written, banning it. 75 years after the suicide of Cornelius Merula, there still hadn’t been a successor appointed but the religious rites hadn’t stopped. If there was possible why not a pro-cosulate for a priest of Jupiter? In the old days, blocking their travel caused feuds.

  4. The augur (priest) Lentulus & others debated the subject. They decided to wait & hear from the supreme pontiff. Tiberius equivocated on the priest’s legal position but made a statement trying to scale back the decadence of Drusus’s ceremonies of getting tribunitian power. Drusus’s letter on the matter had a modest tone that was taken for arrogance: “The people are upset that a young buck like Drusus got such high honors & the priest could not enter the Senate or travel. Drusus is out galavanting in the countryside. We suppose that’s good practice for becoming emperor, following his father’s example. What Tiberius is doing is OK for an old man but Drusus is just full of himself.”

  5. Tiberius allowed the Senate the power to investigate demands of the provinces. The Greek cities were showing license & impunity in establishing sanctuaries. The temples were littered with people claiming supplication from masters or crimes. No authority was strong enough to stop this. Rome decided to have different states send charters for approval. Some relinquished privileges voluntarily. The Senate reexamined all grants, treaties & decrees made over the centuries.

  6. The people of Ephesus declared that Diana & Apollo weren’t born in Delo. They claimed that Latona gave birth to them in a grove, Ortygia, by the River Cenchrius. There Apollo shunned the wrath of Jupiter & Bacchus pardoned the Amazons after defeating them. When Hercules was subduing Lydia, he granted permission to beautify the temple. The permissions of the city maintained even though Persian & Macedonian rule.

  7. The people of Magnesia relied on arrangements made by Lucius Scipio & Lucius Sulla. After defeating Antiochus & Mithridates, they honored the Magnesians for their loyalty by allowing the Temple of Diana to be a temple of inviolable sanctuary. The people of Aphrodisia showed a decree from Julius Caesar for helping him in the Civil War & one passed by Augustus for having endured the Parthian invasion. Aphrodisia. maintained worship of Venus, Stratonicea of Jupiter, Hierocaesarea of Persian Diana (from back when Cyrus the Great ruled the place). They quoted the names of generals, Perpena, Isauricus, et al. who’d given the temples the ability to offer sanctuary. Cyprians had shrines to founder Aerias, Venus & Jupiter.

  8. Audience was given from other places. The Senators were annoyed at how each place claimed some special privileged. They tried to suss out if these were genuine or being abused. Pergamus, Smyrna, Teno, Sardis & Miletus all claimed attachment to Venus or Apollo. Crete used Augustus as their god. The Senate tried to be resentful but had to set limits, drawing a different between legitimate religion & taking the piss.

  9. At this time, Julia Augusta fell ill causing Tiberius to rush back to Rome. They had a close relationship between mother & son. Not long before she had dedicated a statue of Augustus near the theater of Marcellus with Tiberius’s name beneath her own & there was brooding & resentment over the slight. The Senate decreed supplications to the gods & celebration of the Great Games to be exhibited by the pontiffs, augurs, et al. Apronius asked heralds also to preside over the games. Tiberius refused saying heralds had never had that honor & the games were to honor Augustus, his family & his religion.

  10. My goal isn’t to tell you every detail but just conspicuous ones of excellence or notorious infamy. That’s the point of history – let no worthy action be uncommemorated & let the disapproval of posterity be the thing to prevent evil deeds or words. This era was polluted with sycophancy – ex-consuls, ex-praetors & lesser senators were all reduced to proposing ridiculous motions. Tiberius often remarked how ready these men were to be slaves, disgusted at the self-abasement of these men.

  11. They moved from flattery to savage acts. Caius Silanus pro-consul of Asia was accused of extortion by allies. Mamercus Scaurus, Junius Otho & Brutidius Niger piled on him with charges of sacrilege to Augustus & contempt of Tiberius’s majesty, as well as bringing back charges on him from the past. Otho was a former schoolmaster brought into the Senate by Sejanus. He wanted to make up for his lower origins by going on the attack. Brutidius was looking to climb up the ladder by knocking out equals along the way. Many good men died despising slow & safe success, even to the cost of ruin, to achieve premature greatness.

  12. Gellius Publicola & Marcus Paconius added more accusations. It seemed the more people piled on him, the more sure the accusations of oppression & extension would lead to conviction. But it was clear there was a conspiracy against him – dangerous even to an innocent man. The most skilled orators of Asia were hired by the prosecution. He had to reply without any experience of being on trial – it paralyzed any eloquence he’d had. Tiberius himself grilled him with questions, not letting him evade or rebut. His slaves were sold at auction & then examined by torture. Charges of treason were added to prevent friends testifying on his behalf.

  13. Tiberius searched for a precedent for the trail of Silanus & ordered Augustus’s indictment of Volesus Messala, a pro-consul of Asia & the Senate’s sentence on him to be read. Tiberius asked for Lucius Piso’s opinion on the matter. Piso suggested Silanus be banished to the island of Gyarus. He & the Senate agreed with an exemption from confiscation of his property – it would be given to his son.

  14. Cornelius Dolabella added a censure of morals to Silanus. He stated laws punish criminals but they’d be better if they prevented them from ever taking office. Tiberius opposed the motion saying he’d heard the rumors but they shouldn’t make decisions based on them. Sometimes people rise to high expectations & some fall because of them. An emperor can’t predict if a man will do well or not. Laws are based on facts & the future is uncertain. Let’s not change an entire system that’s worked based on one bad egg. Rights are abridged as despotisms grow. Tiberius could be very thoughtful on legal & constitutional matters when they weren’t personal. He felt Gyarus was desolate, & Cynthus would be less horrible.

  15. He then heard from the people of Cyrene. Caesius Cordus was prosecuted for extortion. Lucius Ennius, a Roman knight, was charged with treason for converting a statue of the emperor to a silver dinner plate. Tiberius refused it to go to trial. Ateius Capito complained that the Senate was having its power taken from it& a crime should not go unpunished. He felt the emperor should not be generous in wrongs to the commonwealth. Tiberius persisted in his veto. For this he’d brought disgrace to a great public career & virtuous private life.

  16. A religious question came up: the Roman knights devoted to Fortuna Equestris (fortune of the Knights) wanted to make an offering for the recovery of Augusta, who’d been ill. They wanted to know where to make the offering but nothing was in the protocol. They made it at Antium. Tiberius at this time prescribed rules regarding priests. When a priest of Jupiter was sick he could be absent for a 2 day, provided it wasn’t during a day of public sacrifice & not more than twice a year. This ruling clearly showed that a priest of Jupiter couldn’t be gone for a year at a time. Asia was given to the ex-consul next in seniority to Cornelius.

  17. At the same time, Lepidus asked the Senate to restore & embellish, at his own expense, the basilica of Paulus, a monument of the Aemilian family. This spirit was still in fashion. Augustus hadn’t stopped wealthy men from building monuments. Lepidus wanted to revived the glory of his ancestors. Pompeius’s theater had burned & the emperor promised to rebuild it because no one else could afford to. Sejanus was commended for keeping the fire to just one building. The Senate granted him a statue. Soon afterwards, Junius Blaesus was given the pro-consulship of Africa.

  18. This was a well-earned promotion for Blaesus. But Tacfarinas, while often defeated in open combat, recruited from the interior of Africa. He got so brash that he sent envoys to Tiberius demanding a settlement or having to face constant war. It was said that never had an emperor been so exasperated or insulted by a deserter & a brigand. “Even Spartacus didn’t get the offer of an honorable surrender on stipulated conditions after doing significant damage to the Roman army. Forget about a thief like Tacfarinas getting any peace or concessions”. He gave the matter over to Blaesus. Blaesus was to deal with them as he liked but had to secure Tacfarinas. Many rebels accepted amnesty given by the Romans.

  19. Tacfarinas’s group were inferior to the Romans in strength but were able to attack, elude pursuit & arrange ambushed – all based on surprises. Blaesus’s lieutenant, Cornelius Scipio, was to stop Tacfarinas’s forays on the Leptitani & his retreat to the Garamantes. Blaesus’s son led another force to save the villages of Cirta from being ravaged. The general led forces between the 2, establishing redoubts & fortified lines in commanding positions. This way, the enemy faced obstacles & danger wherever he went throughout the countryside. Everywhere he went, he would find Roman soldiers in his front, sides or rear. Blaesus divided his own troops into several detachments under experienced & brave centurions. By the end of summer, Blaesus did not send his troops to winter headquarters. He set up a chain of forts as though he was just beginning a campaign. He drove Tacfarinas with columns of soldiers well acquainted with the desert from one set of huts to another until they captured his brother & went back, perhaps prematurely since Tacfarinas was still at large. Tiberius declared the war to be over & awarded the title of “Imperator” for having won. This was the last time an emperor would grant such a title to a general victorious in war.

  20. 2 big names died that year. One was the grandson of Marcus Agrippa & Asinius Pollio, Asinius Saloninus. The other was Capito Ateius, who had risen so high in legal status of the state, even though his grandfather was just a centurion & his father was a praetor. He was prematurely given the consulship by Augustus so that he’d be higher than Labeo Antistius. Labeo was an independent & famous man but Capito was obsequious & therefore more acceptable to those in power. Labeo was limited to a praetorship. Capito got the consulship & incurred hatred out of envy.

  21. Julia, niece of Cato, wife of Caius Cassius & sister of Marcus Brutus, died. Her will was much talked about because of her wealth. She left money to almost every noble man except the emperor. Tiberius took it graciously & didn’t diminish her in her honors. Te busts of 20 of the most illustrious families were paraded for her funeral.


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