Tiberius Caesar Augustus life and biography

Tiberius Caesar Augustus picture, image, poster

Tiberius Caesar Augustus biography

Date of birth : -
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Rome, Italy
Nationality : Roman
Category : Historian personalities
Last modified : 2010-09-09
Credited as : Emperor of Rome, member of Julio-Claudian family, Jesus of Nazareth executed

2 votes so far


Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus (42 BC-AD 37) was successor to Augustus and second emperor of Rome. His reign is seen as a period of growth and consolidation of the power of the Julio-Claudian family.

Tiberius was born in Rome, both his parents being members of noted Roman patrician families. His father was Tiberius Claudius Nero; his mother was Livia, who later divorced Claudius to marry Octavian. Tiberius was, therefore, the stepson of the future emperor and later became both his adopted son and heir, as well as his son-in-law.

Tiberius was first introduced into public life at the age of 9, when he delivered a eulogy at his father's funeral. He entered the military service, performing ably and well, until suddenly, in 6 B.C., he retired to Rhodes, supposedly incensed because Augustus had chosen one of his grandsons as heir, passing over Tiberius.

In A.D. 2, Tiberius returned to Rome but without the approval of Augustus. By A.D. 4, however, all of the Emperor's choices for the throne had died and, reluctantly, Augustus designated Tiberius as his successor. It was at this time that he was named tribune, a high administrative post which he held for 10 years. In A.D. 13 his term as tribune was extended, and he was granted imperial power by the Senate as well.

Accession to the Empire

In 509 b.c., Rome abolished the rule of kings with the creation of the Roman Republic. Several hundred years later, the Republic was threatened by several dictators who assumed absolute control. The last of these great dictators, Julius Caesar, set the stage for the establishment of the Roman Empire. It is ironic that Tiberius became the second emperor of Rome because his ancestors were loyal to the Republic. He was named after his father, Tiberius Claudius Nero, an aristocrat aligned with the principles of the Republic. His mother Livia was also from an aristocratic family.

The 44 b.c. assassination of Julius Caesar, which divided the people of Rome, also divided the family of Tiberius. Though Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus who had formed the Second Triumvirate joined forces to eliminate those who had plotted against Caesar, they soon began to struggle for power with one another. Tiberius's father, a loyal follower of Mark Antony, conspired against Octavian, and with tensions growing between Octavian (the future Augustus) and Mark Antony, Tiberius's family fled Italy. Escaping first to the island of Sicily, they later traveled to the eastern region of the Roman world. Roman historian Suetonius wrote that Tiberius's childhood and youth were "beset with hardships and difficulties, because Nero [Tiberius's father] and Livia took him wherever they went in their flight from Augustus." According to Suetonius, as the family fled, the infant Tiberius "nearly betrayed them twice by crying."

In 39 b.c., an agreement was signed allowing the family to return to Rome. But shortly after their arrival, Octavian developed a passion for Tiberius's mother Livia. Thus, when Tiberius was two years old, his father agreed to divorce Livia, who was six months pregnant with Tiberius's brother Drusus, and Octavia and Livia were married on January 17, 38 b.c. This marriage linked Tiberius to the most powerful man in Rome and ultimately resulted in his own rule as emperor.

As Tiberius grew, he was carefully educated, studying with the finest tutors available in the Empire. He learned rhetoric under the tutelage of Theodore of Gadara; he also studied philosophy as well as Greek and Roman literature. Tiberius became a philhelene, a lover of Greek culture, language, and philosophy. Certainly, such early training was to make a profound impact on his life as a Roman ruler.

The public life of Tiberius began (in 33 or 32 b.c.) at the age of nine when he delivered his father's funeral eulogy. Octavian developed closer ties with his stepsons, Tiberius and Drusus, after the death of their father. In 20 b.c., the 22-year-old Tiberius accompanied his stepfather to the East to recover the Roman standards lost 33 years earlier in a war with the Parthians. (Octavian, who was now known as Caesar Augustus, had become emperor in 27 b.c.) This journey began an outstanding military career for Tiberius, whose personal life was also happy at the time. He married Vipsania Agrippina, daughter of Augustus's powerful lieutenant, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. In 13 b.c., Vipsania bore Tiberius's only son Drusus the Younger.

But the following year, Tiberius's situation became more difficult as Augustus forced Tiberius to divorce the mother of his child and marry the emperor's own recently widowed daughter Julia. In love with Vipsania, Tiberius was very unhappy with the marriage to Julia, who had a scandalous reputation. Suetonius remarked: "One day, [Tiberius] accidently caught sight of Vipsania and followed her with tears in his eyes and intense unhappiness written on his face." Henceforth, safeguards were taken to ensure that he would never see her again.

Tiberius Leads Successful Military Campaigns

Despite the pain in his personal life, Tiberius's military campaigns were successful. From 12-9 b.c., he led the conquest to the north in the region called Pannonia (part of Yugoslavia, Austria, and Hungary), which was added to the Empire. Another personal loss followed in 9 b.c., when his younger and highly favored brother Drusus fell from a horse to his death during campaigns to subdue the Germany territories. Tiberius continued to fight against the stubborn German forces until 7 b.c., when suddenly, at the height of his successful military career, he retired to the Aegean island of Rhodes.

Many have speculated about the motivation for his abrupt departure. Indeed, several factors may have led to his self-imposed retreat from public life, among them his unhappy marriage to Julia, who was finally exiled by her father Augustus in 2 b.c. for sexual promiscuity. Another underlying reason for his withdrawal was the problem of succession. Augustus's lack of a male heir to the throne--with only one daughter by his first wife Scribona--had in part led to his marriage with Tiberius's mother Livia, who provided him with two stepsons and a hopeful chance for bearing a male heir to become emperor. Livia, however, did not fulfill Augustus's dream of having a son of his own. Therefore, Augustus turned his favor toward Drusus while ignoring the elder stepson Tiberius. Following Drusus's unexpected death, Augustus passed over Tiberius again and made clear his intention that his grandsons Gaius and Lucius, Julia's sons by her marriage to Agrippa, would become his heirs apparent. Tiberius's decision to move to the island of Rhodes came on the heels of this announcement. But by a.d. 2, both grandsons had died, Tiberius had returned to Rome, and Augustus had somewhat reluctantly recognized him as his heir. Two years later, in a.d. 4, Augustus adopted Tiberius as his son. Tiberius was then ordered to adopt his nephew Germanicus as his son, revealing Augustus's desire that Germanicus become the emperor upon the death of Tiberius, rather than Tiberius's natural son, Drusus the Younger.

During the next decade, however, power and control slowly shifted from Augustus to Tiberius, who returned to Germany from a.d. 4 to 6 and put down new rebellions. From a.d. 6 to 9, he fought to maintain Roman authority once again in Pannonia and in Illyricum (Yugoslavia and Albania). By a.d. 13, Tiberius was granted powers equal to that of Augustus.

Augustus died on August 19, a.d. 14. He was soon deified by the senate, which shortly thereafter recognized Tiberius as emperor of Rome--though he seemed somewhat reluctant to accept this honor. When news of Augustus's death spread to the legions, rebellions broke out in Pannonia near the Danube River and in lower Germany along the Rhine River. Tiberius sent his son Drusus the Younger and his adopted son Germanicus to put down these insurrections.

While Germanicus was very popular in Rome and among the troops, he always remained loyal to his adoptive father. Regardless, while stationed in Antioch, Syria, in a.d. 19, his unexpected death eliminated him as a possible rival to Tiberius and his son Drusus. The convenience of Germanicus's death did not escape Roman historian, Tacitus, who retold rumors that Tiberius had arranged for the popular Germanicus to be poisoned. Now clearly, Drusus the Younger was the logical heir to Tiberius's throne, but he died in a.d. 23. Rumors surrounding his death pointed to Sejanus as his murderer.

Sejanus Persuades Emperor to Retreat to Capri

Sejanus's father was the leader of the emperor's personal army, known as the Praetorian Guard. As far back as a.d. 15, a close relationship had developed between Sejanus and Tiberius, when the ambitious Sejanus was named to succeed his father. Tiberius's reign was soon marred by a succession of trials for treason and executions, and Tiberius grew vulnerable to suspicion and treachery. In a.d. 26, he was finally persuaded by Sejanus to retreat to the island of Capri, located near Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. This afforded Sejanus the opportunity to seize even more power, and he virtually became emperor by default.

For ten years, Tiberius retired to his magnificent villas on Capri and did not return to Rome for the remainder of his reign. He came accompanied by his favorite astrologers who were to help guide him in his self-imposed isolation. Suetonius reiterates rumors of his day that charged Tiberius with indulging in many violent sexual encounters and orgies while at Capri. It seems likely that he stayed away to avoid the crowded cities and his domineering mother Livia. He was also aware that he lacked popularity, especially with the senators who did not agree with many of his policies. Fearing he was in danger, Tiberius found in Capri a secure, secluded island stronghold.

While Tiberius attempted to govern the Empire from his island villas, Sejanus easily intercepted his written decrees. As Sejanus's power grew in Rome and with the senate, he systematically plotted to eliminate any possible rivals to his control of succession to the throne; he used charges of treason, quick trials, and assassinations to achieve his goals. In a.d. 31, Sejanus finally obtained Tiberius's permission to marry Livilla, the widow of Drusus the Younger. But soon Tiberius received information revealing Sejanus's plot to kill Gaius, the late Drusus's teenaged son. In order to eliminate Sejanus, Tiberius secretly removed him from power and placed his trusted friend Macro in charge of the Praetorian Guard. Sejanus was then arrested during a meeting of the senate which immediately ordered him executed. As several other arrests and executions were soon carried out, it became clear that Gaius was to be Tiberius's heir to the throne. In March of a.d. 37 in Misenum, Tiberius died, passing power to his grandson Gaius, who had acquired the name of Caligula, in a succession that historian David Stockton called Tiberius's "blackest of all indictments."

Tiberius was a reluctant emperor who inherited the difficult task of following the Empire's founder. During his rule, he continued many of the policies of his predecessor Augustus and attempted to maintain the empire as he had received it; his decision to abandon Rome and leave Sejanus in charge was certainly his greatest mistake. Even with his faults, it seemed Tiberius was both more effective and content as a general than as an emperor. In his time, the new religion Christianity was born, which would later dominate the empire that attempted to crush it. Jesus of Nazareth carried out his ministry in Palestine and was executed while Tiberius was emperor. When the Pharisees questioned Christ about paying taxes, showing him a coin, he responded: "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." That coin undoubtedly bore the portrait of Tiberius.


Pronunciation: TI-bir-EE-us. Born Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar (some ancients refer to him as Nero [not to be confused with the fifth Roman emperor known more commonly by that name]) on November 16, 42 b.c., either at Fundi (a city to the south of Rome) or more likely in Rome; died on March 16, a.d. 37, at Misenum, just north of Neapolis (modern Naples); son of Tiberius Claudius Nero (an aristocrat) and Livia; married: Vipsania Agrippina (later forced to divorce her and marry Julia, daughter of Augustus); children: (first marriage) Drusus the Younger (poisoned by Sejanus in a.d. 23). Predecessor: Augustus. Successor: Gaius (Caligula).


* 50 b.c. Tiberius's father named consul of Rome
* 49 b.c. Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon
* 44 b.c. Julius Caesar murdered
* 42 b.c. Anthony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Philippi; Tiberius born
* 29 b.c. Pax Romana, or Peace of Rome, established by Octavian
* 12 b.c. Tiberius forced by Augustus (Octavian) to divorce Vipsania and marry Julia
* a.d. 4 Tiberius adopted by Augustus
* 14 Augustus died; Tiberius began reign
* 26 Moved to the island of Capri
* 31 Sejanus executed
* 33 Jesus of Nazareth executed
* 37 Tiberius died (probably of natural causes)

Read more

Please read our privacy policy. Page generated in 0.096s