4.1‑22 Intrigues in Rome: the continued rise of Sejanus, who poisons Drusus. Prosecutions of C. Silius and others.

  1. Caius Asinius & Caius Antistius were consuls in Tiberius’s 9th year as emperor. The State & Tiberius’s house were in a state of tranquility, since he saw Germanicus’s death as a happy incident. Things went downhill & the emperor became a cruel tyrant & abetter of cruelty in others. Commander of the praetorian cohorts, Aelius Sejanus was at the root of this. He was born in Vulsinii, son of a Roman knight & was attached to Caius Caesar (Augustus’s grandson) at a young age. A story had it that he was sold to a rich debauchee named Apicius. Later, he became a favorite of Tiberius & was taken into his every confidence. He was tough & daring. He could impose humility in others but ultimately craved supremacy & luxury. His plans were carried out to further his own cause under the pretext that it was all to benefit Tiberius.

  2. He strengthened his own moderate powers by concentrating cohorts in the capital into one camp so that they could be used to strike terror into the citizens. He claimed that the demoralized soldiers would need to be consolidated into one cohort to be able to respond to sudden danger & would be more disciplined at a distance from the city. This gained favor with the guards & tribunes. He sought to ingratiate himself with the Senate in order to give his partisans offices & provinces. Tiberius was always on his side – in private & in front of the Senate. Tiberius had statues of him built all over the city.

  3. The obstacles to his ambitions were the men of Tiberius’s family who were coming of age. He couldn’t get rid of them in one go without incurring a massive amount of violence. He chose to be stealthy & began with Drusus whom he had a tremendous amount of resentment towards. Drusus couldn’t stand having a rival & could be quite irascible. Drusus & Sejanus had even got into a fistfight at one point. Sejanus focused on Drusus’s wife, Livia, who was Germanicus’s sister. Sejanus seduced her in order to put thoughts in her mind of demanding a share of power, marriage with Sejanus & Drusus’s destruction. In this submission to Sejanus, Livia disgraced herself, her ancestors & descendants. The pair took her friend, Eudemus into their confidence. Sejanus divorced his wife, Apicata, to keep Livia strung along.

  4. In the beginning of that year, Germanicus’s son, (also named) Drusus wore the dress of manhood. His brother, Nero, got loads of honors given to him from the Senate. While the older Drusus had the appearance of being kind to his brother’s children, it was hard for him to exist side by side with others of power. The plan of progress for the provinces came back up. Tiberius felt the numbers of soldiers being discharged & the lack of new recruits troubling. The numbers weren’t bad but those in the army lacked experience & valor. Usually only the homeless & needy joined the army. They had to go through & decide which parts of the empire absolutely needed garrisons.

  5. Italy was guarded by fleets on both sides & on the coats all the way to Forojulium. The strongest forces were on the Rhine to defend against the Germans & Gauls – held by 8 legions. Spain, lately subjugated, had 3 legions. Mauretania’s king Juba held the province as a gift from the Roman people. The rest of Africa had 2 legions & Egypt had 2. Syria, which stretched all the way to the Euphrates had 4. On the borders were kings protecting the peace for the Romans. Thrace was held by Rhoemetacles & Cotys’s children. On the Danube, there were 2 legions in Pannonia, 2 in Moesia & 2 in Dalmatia. All these would be able to come to Italy’s aid if needed. The capital had its own special soldiers, 3 city & 9 praetorian cohorts levied from Etruria, Umbria, Latium & old Roman colonies. There were minor allied fleets, cavalry & light infantry of little strength.

  6. Let’s talk about the prevailing methods of administration in other departments of the state to be able to talk about Tiberius’s policies. Public business & important private matters were managed by the Senate. Leading men were allowed freedom of discussion. When they stooped to flattery, the emperor checked them. He gave honors to people with noble ancestry, military renown or brilliant accomplishments as civilians, letting everyone know these were the best of the best. The consul & praetor kept their prestige. Smaller magistrates exercised authority & laws (except in the case of treason) were enforced. In taxes on grain, indirect taxes & other public revenues, the power was held by the Roman knights. The emperor entrusted his property to men with tried integrity or good public reputation. Most appointments were fairly permanent. The city’s population suffered from high prices. This wasn’t Tiberius’s fault. He was careful not to burden provinces so that governors weren’t seen as oppressors. Corporal punishments & confiscations of property didn’t happen.

  7. The emperor had only a few estates in Italy, a moderate number of slaves & his household had few freedmen. If he had a dispute with a private person, it was decided in the courts. He kept this up until the death of Drusus changed everything. While Drusus was alive, the system continued because Sejanus wanted to be known as an upright advisor. Drusus would often proclaim that “the emperor had invited a stranger to help him while his son was still alive. This stranger was one step from making himself Tiberius’s equal. Ambition has a steep road ahead of it & once Sejanus started going down it, he found himself able to get zealous adherents. He has the soldiers available & has statues of himself all over the place.” Drusus would complain all the time & now that his wife had been corrupted, every secret he had was betrayed.

  8. Sejanus felt he had to move quickly against Drusus. He chose a poison that worked gradually so it could look like an illness. Lygdus, a eunuch, gave it to Drusus, as was learned 8 years later. Tiberius went to the Senate House while Drusus was sick, either because he wasn’t afraid or in order to show his resolve, & continued to do so between the death & the funeral. Seeing the consuls sitting in the Senate benches, he reminded them of their high office & proper place. When they cried, he gave a speech. He knew he might get crap for appearing in front of the Senate so soon. Most people could barely listen to soothing words. It wouldn’t be weak to do so. But he looked for consolation in the commonwealth. He was also upset about Augusta’s old age, his grandchildren’s childhoo & his own age. He asked to see Germanicus’s children. The consuls arranged for them to be brought in. He took them by the hand & spoke: “Senators, when these boys lost their father, I committed them to their uncle & asked him to treat them as his own. Drusus is gone now & now I ask you to do the same for Drusus’s children. This comes as a responsibility as senators.

  9. There was a lot of weeping & then a benediction. If the emperor had just stopped there, he’d have everyone’s sympathy & admiration. But he fell back on words wishing to restore the republic or conferring things to the consuls. Drusus was given the same honors as Germanicus & then many more. That is the way with flattery. The funeral was elaborate & all the proper busts were on display.

  10. I’ve followed the model of the best historians in talking about Drusus’s death. I’ve tried to avoid the numerous rumors that surrounded it. But there’s one that I just can’t avoid talking about. It was said that Sejanus seduced Livia & got Drusus’s favorite eunuch, Lygdus, to participate in the murder. When they decided the time & place for the poisoning, Sejanus flipped the script & accused Drusus of planning to poison his father, Tiberius. Sejanus warned Tiberius not to drink from anything that Drusus gave him. Tiberius gave the cup back to Drusus & told him to drink it first. Drusus drank it, not suspecting anything & wanting to avoid shame, & sealed his own fate.

  11. These rumors have been refuted by most writers. Tiberius wouldn’t put his son in harm’s way without at least hearing him first. Surely, he would get a slave to taste it first, or at least torture the slave who handed it over to Drusus to find out who was behind the death. Sejanus had the reputation of being capable of any evil act. The fact that he was a close friend of the emperor’s & that they were both hated by everyone made anyone believe such a crazy story. Sejanus’s ex-wife, divulged the whole plot, & as did slaves Eudemus & Lygdus under torture. No writer would blame Tiberius for the death, especially after examining the facts. This rumor is a good example of the wild stories not to beleive just because they sound interesting.

  12. Tiberius gave a panegyric for Drusus while the Roman people pretended to look sad. Inside they were glad this death gave a boost to the family of Germanicus. Sejanus saw that the death wasn’t going to be punished & the people weren’t upset. So he grew more wicked & thought about killing Germanicus’s children, who were certainly going to mount the throne. There were 3 of them & poison couldn’t be given because do their guards’ & Agrippina’s careful watch. So, Sejanus played on her arrogance & worked on Augusta’s hatred for her, claiming she hoped to be empress herself. Livia played upon these rumors setting Augusta against Agrippina.

  13. Tiberius busied himself with work. Decrees from the Senate were passed at his proposal to relieve the cities of Cibyra & Aegium in Asia & Achaia of 3 years of tributes due to recent earthquakes. Pro-consul of Further Spain, Vibius Serenus was condemned for using violence in his official capacity. He was exiled to the island of Amorgus. Carsidius Sacerdos was acquitted of aiding Tacfarinas as was Caius Gracchus. Gracchus’s father, Sempronius, had taken him to the island of Cercina when he had been exiled. He grew up there not knowing much of liberal education & later made his money from petty trade in Africa & Sicily. His innocence was protected by Aelius Lamia & Lucius Apronius, governors of Africa.

  14. Rome received envoys from Greece – Samos & Cos asked for sanctuary status for the Temples of Juno & Aesculapius, respectively. Samos relied on a decreed from Rome which settled all Greek matters. Both cities used it to their benefit. Roman citizens were allowed to use the temple in Cos as a sanctuary when Mithridates ordered a massacre in the islands & Asia. After that matter, came the question of the actors of Rome making a mockery of Roman morals. The actors were banished from Italy.

  15. One of Drusus’s twins died as did Tiberius’s friend from his exile in Rhodes, Lucilius Longus. While he was of humble birth, the Senate gave him a funeral worthy of the level of a censor, & a statue of him in Augustus’s forum. The Senate tried Lucilius Capito, procurator of Asia, for corruption. He was convicted. Cities in Asia built temples to the emperor as a thank you present for the conviction. Nero thanked Tiberius & the Senate for this work. The Senate saw in him the spitting image of his father, Germanicus. Little did he know that he’d be a prime target of Sejanus’s.

  16. Tiberius decided that, since the death of Servius Maluginensis, a new priest of Jupiter had to be appointed. It was custom to nominate 3 patricians, whose parents had been married properly/strictly & were nominated by the right people. This marriage requirement was not always enforced. At that point, he was freed from his father’s control. This point was contested but ultimately stayed. The priestess, the priest’s wife was also released from her father’s control & placed under her husband’s control. Maluginensis, the son, was chosen to follow his father. A gift of 2 million sesterces was given to the Vestal Cornelia. August was, of course, given the best seat in the house at the Vestal ceremonies.

  17. In the consulship of Cornelius Cethegus & Visellius Varro, the pontiffs prayed for Tiberius’s health & commended both Drusus & Germanicus to the deities mostly out of sycophancy. Tiberius had never been too kind to Germanicus’s househol & was annoyed that this young pup, while dead, was getting higher honors than he was at his old age. He called the pontiffs & asked if this was Agrippina’s idea. They denied it but he rebuked them – they were either of her family or leading senators. He addressed the Senate & warned them not to give out premature or frivolous honors. Sejanus accused them of starting a civil war.

  18. Sejanus attacked Caius Silius & Titius Sabinus because they had been Germanicus’s friends. Silius had commanded an army for 7 years & defeated the Gallic uprising led by Sacrovir. Many thought his success & loyal soldiers made others look bad or were a threat to Tiberius’s reign. The emperor felt he undermined his power. Apparently, being popular is a threat to those above.

  19. Silius’s wife, Sosia Galla, got close to Agrippina & drew the ire of Tiberius. Sabinus & Silius were to be attacked but the one on Sabinus was to be delayed. Varro, the consul, was let loose on him, accusing him of something of a hereditary feud & a threat to the commonwealth of Rome – charges lobbed by Sejanus. He was given some reprieve until Varro’s consulship was over. Tiberius’s character was to veil tricks under ancient names to give them the air of respectability. He summoned the Senate in a solemn appeal as if Varro was still consul, as if Silius was accused legitimately of breaking any crime, as is Rome was a commonwealth. The accused sat silent & hinted at nothing. There was the accusation that Silius was complicit in Sacrovir’s rebellion. He & his wife, inexplicably, couldn’t defend themselves. It quickly turned into a trial of treason & Silius seemed doomed.

  20. There was a confiscation of his property, yet the Senate didn’t refund any money to provincials. Augustus’s bounty that had been given to him was taken back & claims of the imperial exchequer were tallied. This was the first time that Tiberius attacked the wealth of others. Sosia was banished, half of her property was confiscated, half given to her children. Marcus Lepidus wanted to keep the amount to 25% kept by the prosecution & 75% given to the children, as was prescribed by law. Lepidus was one of the few wise & principled men of the time. Some said that he was in favor of justice while at the same time flattering Tiberius. Messalinus Cotta moved that governors who knew nothing of their wives’ offenses were to be prosecuted as if they did them themselves.

  21. Proceedings were taken against Capurnius Piso, a nobleman. He often threatened to leave Rome because of the informers & he once tried to sue Augusta’s friend Urgulania. Tiberius allowed this suit but resented it for a long time. Quintus Granius accused Piso of secret treasonous conversations, that he had kept poison in his house & a dagger on him in the Senate. These charges were too silly to consider. He was charged with a list of other things but his death cut the trial short. The Senate then considered Cassius Severus’s exile. He had been born into nothing, lived a life of crime but he was very good at talking his way out of punishments. He was banished to Crete to live out the rest of his life on the rock of Seriphos.

  22. At the same time, Plautius Silvanus, the praetor, threw his wife Apronia out of a window for some unknown reason. He claimed that he was asleep & know nothing about the matter. She must have done it herself. Tiberius decided to go to the house & inspect it for himself. There were signs of a struggle & her being thrown out of the window. He reported this back to the Senate. When the judges had been appointed, Silvanus’s grandmother, Urgulania sent Silvanus, her grandson, a dagger. This may have been a hint for him to take the easy & honorable way out because Tiberius’s mother, Augusta, was very close to Urgulania. He used the dagger to kill himself. His ex-wife was charger with making him turn crazy.


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