Tacitus – The Annals, Book 4: 23-28 AD – 4.57‑75 Tiberius abandons the capital for Campania. Fire on the Coelian Hill in Rome. Condemnation of Titius Sabinus.

Tacitus – The Annals, Book 4: 23-28 AD – 4.57‑75 Tiberius abandons the capital for Campania. Fire on the Coelian Hill in Rome. Condemnation of Titius Sabinus.

  1. After long reflection, the emperor retired to Campania. claiming to dedicate a temple to Jupiter at Capua & one to Augustus at Nola. He really just wanted to leave Rome. I assume that Sejanus was behind this but still, he stayed away for the next 6 years after Sejanus’s downfall. Perhaps he wanted to get away from facing all the cruelty & licentiousness of his orders. Some thought he was ashamed of how he looked – tall, slender, stooping body, bad & face constantly breaking out. He’d been used to isolation ever since he was in Rhodes. One account said that he was leaving to get away from his mother’s domineering presences, that he couldn’t stand sharing power with her but couldn’t push her aside because he’d only gotten power because of her. Augustus had it in his mind of putting Germanicus as emperor but gave way to Augusta who insisted that Tiberius be emperor – a fact that she would never let him forget.

  2. His farewell party only had ex-consul Cocceius Nerva, Roman knight Curtius Atticus, Sejanus & other liberal men of culture (mostly Greeks) whose company he enjoyed. Astrologers said the stars out that night forbade him from ever returning. They probably didn’t see he would be voluntarily in exile for the next 11 years. They also probably just looked at his old age & figured it’d be the last time he’d ever be seen in Rome.

  3. Something happened at this even that made Tiberius trust Sejanus more than ever. They were dining in a country house called “The Cave” set in a natural grotto. Rocks fell & crushed some of the attendants. A panic occurred & the guests stampeded toward the exit. Sejanus threw himself over Tiberius shielding him from any harm. This event allowed Sejanus much greater power. He pretended to act as judge towards Germanicus’s children, after hiring a prosecutor to go after Nero, next in line for the throne. It was claimed that the people thought he was too eager to become emperor.


  1. Nero was willful but didn’t have any undue ambition. From time to time, he’d say things carelessly & spies would report it around without him getting the chance to explain himself. Many people would avoid him or would choose not to be seen with him. Sejanus & his crew would watch & laugh. Tiberius usually had a frown or treacherous grin on his face while Nero always looked like he was up to no good. His sleepless nights & anxieties were told to those close to him. It would somehow always get back to Sejanus who’d use it to his own advantage. Nero’s brother, Drusus Sejanus, was brought into this scheme to prevent his older brother becoming powerful, thereby boosting his likelihood of becoming emperor. Drusus’s temper along with a natural sibling rivalry was enflamed by Agrippina’s attitude towards Nero Sejanus favored Drusus but was wary of the likelihood of Drusus’s anger turning against him.

  2. By the end of the year, 2 distinguished men, Asinius Agrippa & Quinus Haterius died. Agrippa’s career was in the vein of his famous family. Haterius came from a Senatorial family, famous for his eloquence. His success was due more to vehemence than style. But his works’ popularity died with him.

  3. Marcus Licinius & Lucius Calpurnius were consuls that year. This year many losses were incurred. A freedman named Atilius began building an amphitheater at Fidena, near Rome, for gladiator shows, laid a shoddy foundation out of lack of funds & desire to build a good building. He only was working for the money. The crowds flocked to see the new theater, since Tiberius was not the sort to build such things. The building was extremely crowded & the structure collapsed. Some died immediately while others were buried & died under the rubble.

  4. After they could remove all the debris, the people rushed to see the dead. Some 50000 people died in the collapse. The Senate decreed that no one was to show an exhibit of gladiators who didn’t have at least 400000 sesterces & no amphitheater would be built without its foundation being thoroughly examined. Atilius was banished. Noble Romans hired doctors & bought medicines for those who’d been injured.

  5. Then a large fire broke out & damaged the capital, reducing Mt. Caelius to ashes. People blamed the disasters on the emperor leaving the city. Many only started blaming back luck to any guilt when Tiberius checked them by giving money for the losses incurred. The Senate thanked Tiberius for his contributions. Some wanted Mt. Caelius be renamed Mt. Augustus as only one statue in the Julius house survived – Tiberius’s. They said that this also happened to Claudia Quinta dedicated in a temple of the Mother of the Gods.

  6. Mt. Caelius used to be known as Querquetulanus because it was covered in oak trees (“quercus” = “oak”) & later renamed after Caeles Vibenna, an Etruscan who helped Rome at one point.

  7. While the emperor & nobles helped relieve some of the grief, every day informers pursued their victims. Quintilius Varus, a rich cousin of the emperor, was attacked by Domitius Afer, who had prosecuted Claudia Pulchra, Varus’s mother. He had pissed away his reward & was looking for his next prey. It was strange that Publius Dolabella joined in because it put a black mark on his family’s good name. The Senate stopped proceedings to hear word from the emperor – it was the only way this purge would slow down.

  8. After dedicating temples in Campania, Tiberius warned the public not to disturb his retirement & posted guards to keep them away. He hated towns & colonies so much that he ran off to the island of Caprae, 3 miles off the coast of Sorrentum. There he would have solitude of the seas & a soft winter air broken up by the mountain. Tiberius had 12 houses there, each with a name & characteristic of its own. There he could indulge himself in his vices. However he was still paranoid & while he was there, Sejanus was free to be open about planning against Agrippina & Nero. Some advised them to seek shelter in Germany. They ignored them.

  9. That year, Silanus & Silius Nerva were consuls. A high ranking Roman knight, Titius Sabinus was sent to prison for being a friend of Germanicus. He continued showing respect to his wife & children, & spending a lot of time with them in private & in public. He was esteemed by the good & seen as a terror to the evil. Latinius Latiaris, Porcius Cato, Petitius Refus & Marcus Opsius, ex-praetor conspired against him to get to the consulship – the only way to get in Sejanus’s world. They set it up that Latiaris who was an acquaintance with Sabinus would devise the plot & the rest would begin the prosecution. Latiaris dropped casual remarkes & praised Sabinus’s loyalty for not ditching friends who’d fallen on hard times. He spoke highly of Germanicus & Agrippina. Sabinus burst into tears & then went on a tirade about Sejanus’s cruelty, pride & ambition. He then went on about Tiberius. That conversation led to a semblance of intimacy. Sabinus began to seek out Latiaris as a shoulder to cry on.

  10. The conspirators planned on how to get more people to hear these conversations. The idea of a good setting came up. They didn’t want to hide behind doors because it was too easy to get caught. So the Senators decided to sit in the space between the roof & ceiling to listen in. Sabinus talked about past & upcoming troubles, as well as fresh horrors. As Sabinus spoke of his sorrows, the dam burst open & couldn’t stop talking about everything he found wrong in Rome. Instantly they accused him & sent off a letter to Tiberius, telling him of the plot. From that point on, meetings & conversations in Rome were shunned & people behaved as if inanimate objects had ears.

  11. Tiberius’s first letter of January offered prayers for the new year & then reproached Sabinus for having corrupted some of his freedmen & making attempts on Tiberius’s life. He then claimed vengeance. Sabinus was condemned & dragged off screaming that it was the new year & the sacrifices to Sejanus were beginning. People stopped meeting in public & began to watch everything they did & said. It seemed no day would be without an accusation, conviction or punishment of some sort. It was clear that Tiberius meant to use the new magistrates for terror only. He sent a letter of thanks for dealing with an enemy of the state & then spoke in a round about sense of others – Agrippina & Nero.

  12. It’s my plan to tell you of these events as they took place throughout the years but I have to tell you about the deaths like the story I’ve just told. Tiberius got tired of the old ways of stitching people up & began to use the ones that showed up for him – people willingly selling each other out. That way he could just sit back & watch. Asinius Gallus, whose children Agrippina was aunt to, asked that the emperor be required to disclose his apprehensions to the Senate to allow for their removal. Tiberius was annoyed at the attempt to expose what he was hiding. Sejanus pacified the emperor, not for Gallus’s sake but to let Tiberius’s mood calm down so he could follow harsh words with harsher actions. At that point, Julia died. She’d been in exile for the last 20 years on the island of Trimerus for adultery. Augusta had been making her comfortable in secret out of affection.

  13. That year, a German tribe, the Frisii, from beyond the Rhine, declared war on Rome due to Roman subjection on them. Drusus had imposed a light tribute on them, suitable to their limited resources – oxhides from their herds. First it was animals, next it was their lands. Then it was their wives & children in bondage. They complained but got no relief. They had no choice but to fight. The soldiers who came to collect the tribute were seized & hanged. Olennius ran off to the fortress, Flevum, where the Romans & allies guarded the ocean.

  14. Pro-praetor of Lower Germany, Lucius Apronius, summoned legionary veterans from the Upper province along with cavalry & infantry. Sending both armies down the Rhine, he threw them at the Frisii lifting the siege of the fortress & dispersing the rebels. The Romans then built roads & bridges over the Rhine’s estuaries for the heavy troops to cross over. In the meantime, he found a found & sent Canninefates, Germans loyal to Rome, to take the enemy in the rear. The Frisii beat back the auxiliaries & supporting legions. The rest of them charged the Frisii in the front but did not fare so well. Apronius gave the rest of his auxiliaries to Cethegus Labeo, commander of the 5th legion but found his men in extreme danger. He sent messages to maintain strength. The 5th legion were able to save the other cohorts & cavalry to effect an escape. The Romans didn’t strike back or even bury the dead – many veterans died. It was learned that some 900 Romans died that day & 400 the next in Braduhenna’s Wood.

  15. The name “Frisian” became famous in Germany due to its tremendous success but Tiberius kept the defeat a secret because he didn’t trust anyone with a war. The Senate didn’t care about the dishonor because they were either too busy trying to hide their tracks or lick boots. They decreed altars to Clemency & Friendship with loads of statues of Tiberius & Sejanus – both of whom the public begged to see. They didn’t want to go all the way to Rome so they showed up in Campania. Senators, knights & citizens went to see them. Sejanus’s arrogance was clearly on display as was his contempt for all the people obsequiously fawning over them hoping for attention or favors. Crowds were normal in Rome but not so in Campania. Eventually they all left.

  16. Tiberius gave his granddaughter, Agrippina the younger, to Cneius Domitius. The wedding was to be held in Rome. He chose Domitius for his lineage as well as his family’s long-standing alliance with the Caesars.


Author: knowit68

Leave a Reply