>>>>>>>The First Century AD, (Claudius the God), part 1.
Germanicus, or ‘Germanicus Julius Caesar’, was adopted in 4 AD by Tiberius, his paternal uncle, who succeeded Augustus as Roman emperor. His connection to the Julii was further consolidated through a marriage between himself and Agrippina the Elder, a granddaughter of Augustus.
During the reign of Augustus, Germanicus enjoyed an accelerated political career—entering the office of quaestor five years before the legal age, from 7 AD to 11 AD, and was elected consul for the first time in 12 AD. The year after, he was made proconsul of Germania inferior, Germania superior, and all of Gaul. From there he commanded Eight Legions, about one-third of the entire Roman army, which he led against the German tribes in his campaigns from 14 AD to 16 AD. He avenged the Roman Empire’s defeat in the Teutoburg forest and retrieved two of the three legendary eagles that had been lost during the battle.
This gave unprecedented popularity to Germanicus, and some political currency to boot. In 17 AD he returned to Rome where he received a triumph before leaving to re-organize the provinces of Asia Minor, whereby he incorporated the provinces of Cappadocia and Commagene in 18 AD. While in the Eastern provinces, he came into conflict with the governor of Syria, Calpurnius Piso. During their feud, Germanicus became ill in Antioch, where he died in October 19 AD. To the Roman people, Germanicus was the Roman equivalent to Alexander the Great—due to the nature of his death at such a young age, and his virtuous character, as well as his dashing physique, and his military renown.
His paternal grandmother was Livia, who had divorced Germanicus’ father around twenty four years before his birth, and married the emperor Augustus. Germanicus’ maternal grandparents were the same as Claudius: Mark Antony and Octavia. His son Gaius, ‘Caligula,’ would be the third emperor, and though he was beloved by the soldiers as a young man (Caligula means “little boots,” a name he was given while marching with the troops) he would come to be hated by the end of his reign. Livia, the cunning wife of the Emperor and matriarch of the Claudians, who had probably just as much a hand in running the Empire as her husband did, persuaded Augustus to choose her own son as heir: Tiberius.
Germanicus married Augustus’ granddaughter, Agrippina the Elder.
The couple had nine children together, only six of whom came of age, however. Unfortunately, Caligula was one of them.
By the time Germanicus had arrived in Pannonia, the rebels had resorted to raiding from the mountain fortresses to which they had withdrawn. Because the Roman legions were so effective at countering this tactic, Tiberius deployed his auxiliary forces and divided his army into small detachments, allowing them to cover more ground and conduct a war of attrition against the rebels in their entrenched position. The Romans also began to drive the rebels out of the countryside, offering amnesty to those tribes that would lay down their arms, and implement a scorched-earth policy in an effort to starve the enemy out.
After a distinguished start to his military career, Germanicus returned to Rome in late 9 AD to personally announce his victory. He was honored with a triumphal insignia (without an actual triumph) and the rank (not the actual title) of ‘praetor.’
In 13 AD, Augustus appointed him commander of the forces in the Rhine; the next year Augustus died. In Germany and Illyricum the legions were in revolt. After Germanicus arrived, the soldiers listed their complaints to him and tried to proclaim him emperor. His open and affable manners made him popular with the soldiers. To satisfy his requisition promised them, Germanicus paid them out of his own pocket. All 8 Legions were given money, even if they didn’t ask for it. Both the armies of the Upper and Lower Rhine had returned to order. It seemed prudent to satisfy the armies, but Germanicus took it a step further—in a bid to secure the loyalty of his troops, he led them on a raid against the ‘Marsi,’ a Germanic people on the upper Ruhr River.
Germanicus lead Romans to massacre the villages of the Marsi he encountered, and pillage the surrounding territory. On the way back to their winter quarters, they pushed successfully through the opposing tribes (Bructeri, Tubantes, and Usipetes) between the Marsi and the Rhine. Back at Rome, Tiberius instituted the ‘Sodales Augustales’, a priesthood of the cult of Augustus, of which Germanicus became a member. When news arrived of his raid, Tiberius commemorated Germanicus’ service in the Senate with elaborate, but insincere praise: the proceedings gave Tiberius joy that the mutiny had been suppressed, but anxiety at the glory and popularity afforded to Germanicus.
For the next two years, he led his Legions across the Rhine against the Germans, where they would confront the forces of Arminius and his allies. Arminius called his tribe—the ‘Cherusci’, and the surrounding tribes—to arms. Germanicus coordinated a land and riverine offensive, with troops marching eastward across the Rhine, and sailing from the North Sea up the Ems River in order to attack the Cherusci and Bructeri. Germanicus’ forces went through Bructeri territory, where general Sertinius recovered the lost eagle of the XIX Legion…
Germanicus’ divisions met up to the North, and ravaged the countryside between the Ems and Lippe, and penetrated to the Teutoburg Forest (where the eagles had been lost) There, some of the men visited the site of the disastrous Battle, and they began burying the remains of the Roman soldiers that had been left in the open.
Germanicus then made his way into the heartland of the Cherusci. Then, Arminius attacked the Romans, initially catching Germanicus’ cavalry in a trap, fighting in boggy lowlands somewhere near the Elms. The Roman infantry reinforced the rout and checked them. The fighting lasted for two days, with neither side achieving a decisive victory. Germanicus’ forces withdrew back to the Rhine.
Claudius the God
Claudius stammered and his speech was often confused. He slobbered and his nose ran when he got excited. The Emperor himself had claimed that he exaggerated his ailments in order to save his life, from his family (and their hereditary ambitions). His maternal grandparents were Mark Antony and Octavia minor, Augustus’ sister, and therefore he was great, great grandnephew of Julius Caesar.
When Augustus died in 14 AD, and Tiberius took over as Emperor, stammering, runny-nosed Claudius, then 23 years old, appealed to his uncle Tiberius—who gave him consular ornaments. Since the new Emperor was no more generous than the old, when Claudius requested office once more he was snubbed, then giving up his hope of public office altogether and retiring, for a time, to a scholarly and private life. During the time period immediately after the death of Tiberius’s son, which was also the period which the power and terror of the commander of the Praetorian guard, Sejanus, was at its peak—supposedly for survival, Claudius chose to downplay his better-optics (as potential heir), and stifle the calls to have himself made Emperor of Rome, after Tiberius…
Claudius is described as a generous man, one who would sometimes lunch with the Plebeians and according to historians he may have been a bit overly trusting, indeed he had been easily manipulated by his wives before, and freedmen. However, he showed no physical deformity that was outstanding or bizarre, and Suetonius even notes when calm and seated he was a tall, well-built figure of ‘dignitas.’
He had two older siblings, Germanicus, and …
His paternal grandparents were Livia Drusilla (a Claudian), and Tiberius Claudius, and his mother never remarried. Her husband, Drusus, died in 9 BC on campaign in Germania, possibly from illness. His mother didn’t seem to care much for him, or at least wasn’t very affectionate. Livia, his grandmother, put him under the care of a mule-driver, in early life, to keep him disciplined, under the logic that his fidgety and gimp-ish condition were due to laziness and a lack of will-power. In 7 AD Livy was hired as his tutor, for history, and he also spent a lot of time with the philosopher Athenodorus. Augustus, while still alive, was once surprised at the clarity of Claudius’s oratory.
The new emperor after Tiberius, the infamous emperor Caligula, who was the son of Claudius’ beloved older brother Germanicus, at one point made Claudius his co-consul, in 37 AD, in order to emphasize the memory of his deceased father Germanicus. Caligula relentlessly tormented his uncle Claudius, playing practical jokes on him such as charging him large sums of money (hilarious) and humiliating him in front of the Senate (to which he had, unrelatedly, had made a horse into a sitting Senator), and threatened his execution in an ambiguous seriousness, towards the end of his mad reign before he was killed by his own praetorian guardsmen. According to Cassius Dio, Claudius had become very sickly and thin by the end of Caligula’s reign, most likely due to the enormous stress.
Claudius wrote copiously in his lifetime, including a large work on the history of the Etruscans, and a volume on Carthage; he wrote a book on dice-playing (a fascination of Augustus’ as well). He wrote an eight-volume auto-biography that Suetonius describes as lacking in taste (and the Robert Graves’ novel goes a long way in imagining what those lost writing might have been like).
Claudius’ Lost Writings surely were used by future Roman writers such as Tacitus, and many passages of Pliny’s ‘Natural History,’ and the influence of historical study on Claudius is obvious. In his speech on Gallic Senators, he uses a version of the founding of Rome identical to that of Livy, his tutor in adolescence. The speech indicates a deep knowledge of a variety of historical subjects. Many of the public works instituted in his reign were based on plans first suggested by Julius Caesar. Some believe this emulation of Caesar may have spread to all aspects of his policies.
Claudius’ coin, the ‘Aureus of Claudius,’ were struck in 41 AD. The depiction on the reverse of the coin is intended to commemorate the reception of the emperor at the Praetorian camp, in the days following the assassination of the mad Caligula. Claudius issued denarius-type coins to emphasize his clemency after this assassination. The image representing Pax-Nemesis, symbolic of ‘subdued vengeance,’ would be used on the coins of many future Emperors. Claudius adopted the name ‘Caesar,’ which he had legitimacy to through his Matriarchal line, in order to emphasize his place amongst potential usurpers.
The consensus of ancient historians was that Claudius was murdered by poison, possibly contained in mushrooms or on a feather, and died in October of 54 AD. His wife had motivation to ensure the succession of her own son, Nero, over that of Claudius’ son Britannicus (named after his successful campaign in the island of Britannia, a feat started but left unfinished by Julius Caesar) could gain power instead. Some doubt whether he was killed, or merely succumbed to old age. Claudius’ ashes were interred in the Mausoleum of Augustus, who was his great-uncle.
Claudius speaks about when his uncle, Tiberius, had taken possession over Cappadocia for Rome. Cappadocia had raised a few notable Greeks, including Aretaeus (81-183 AD), and Apollonius of Tyana, also in the 1st Century AD, who became well known in the Roman Empire and was a Greek Neo-Pythagorean philosopher. Archelaus was the last to rule as a king of Cappadocia, and he was a Greek nobleman, and a Roman client prince. He ruled Cappadocia for many years, before Tiberius took it away from him.
Tiberius was in the lineage of the Julio-Claudian dynasty as well, reigning from 14-37 AD, immediately after Augustus. Caligula was assassinated in 41 AD, dispatched by a Praetorian guard commander, and several senators. The conspirators were planning to go beyond the terms they had agreed upon and wipe out the entire Imperial family. For Claudius’ sake, that luckily didn’t entirely happen, however most were indeed killed, including infanticide…in the aftermath and ensuing chaos following the murder—Claudius witnessed the German guard cut down several uninvolved noblemen, including many of his friends. He fled to the palace to hide. A guard, according to tradition, found him hiding behind a curtain and suddenly declared him ‘princeps.’ He was spirited away to the Praetorian camp and put under their protection, and their intention was to make him the new Emperor.
Castor, or Drusus Julius Caesar, was the son of Emperor Tiberius and heir to the Roman Empire, following the early death of Germanicus. He first entered politics in 10 AD, in the office of quaestor, and his political career mirrored that of Germanicus, having assumed all of his offices at the same age as him. Castor died in 23 AD, seemingly from natural causes, but people such as Tacitus and Suetonius claim he died amid a feud with the powerful Praetorian prefect of Rome, Sejanus.
It is believed that Sejanus seduced his wife, Livilla, and ‘she’ had Drusus poisoned. Back in 4 AD Augustus adopted Tiberius, on the condition that Tiberius adopt Germanicus. Drusus and Germanicus held all their offices at the same age, and progressed through the ‘cursus honorum’ at the same pace. Both held the office of quaestor at the same age, both were exempted from holding their praetorship, they held their first and second consulships at the same age. Among the first things he did as Emperor, Tiberius instituted the ‘Sodales Augustales’ a priesthood of the cult of Augustus which members of the imperial family, such as Drusus, joined.
The Legions in the Rhine and Illyricum were in mutiny during the ascendency of Tiberius, shortly after the death of Augustus. They had not received the bonuses they had been promised by Augustus, and when it became clear that Tiberius would not be forthcoming, they revolted. Castor was sent to deal with the troops in Illyricum, and a delegation was sent to confer proconsular ‘imperium maius’ upon Germanicus, who would deal with the situation on the Rhine. Castor did not require proconsular powers because he was consul designate.
In 15 AD Castor held the consulship alongside Gaius Flaccus, and it was in this year that he hosted the gladiatorial games in his and Germanicus’ name. Apparently, Castor enjoyed the violent spectacle so much that it disturbed the other spectators. He earned the nickname “Castor” from fighting an equestrian. There was also an incident at a theater between the Praetorian and ‘claqueurs’, or actors, in which Castor allegedly sided with the actors. He prevented the guards from punishing the unruly actors, and, Tacitus says in his histories, the Senate addressed the behavior of the actors and passed measures allowing the praetors to punish riotous spectators. Such were Castor’s excesses that Tiberius decided to make him governor of Illyricum the following year, both to give him experience in war and bolster his popularity with the troops—perhaps also to keep him away from the indulgences of city life. For those reasons, Castor was sent to Illyricum with proconsular ‘imperium maius,’ and would be governor there from 17 AD to 20 AD.
Since Germanicus had left the Rhine in 16 AD, the German tribes that formerly fought alongside each other against the Romans had turned against each other. Germanicus died in Syria of illness or poison in October of 19 AD, which made Castor heir, for which some, including Germanicus’ wife Agrippina, suspect murder. She believed that Tiberius had him murdered to make Castor unquestionably his heir. Historians say this is unlikely, given the advancement of Agrippina’s son Nero’s career the next year.
Tiberius had hoped that Castor would keep the Imperial family together and entrusted him with the care of Germanicus’ two sons. In December of 20 AD Tiberius gave a eulogy for Germanicus during a Senate meeting, and Castor gave a eulogy for the next meeting. It was decided that both their eulogies would be inscribed in bronze: that of Tiberius for future generations, and that of Castor to demonstrate the devotion he had to his adoptive brother, in a show of ‘pietas’, or piety.
Maintaining the same interval of three years between Germanicus’ and Castor’s first and second term as consul, Castor was given the consulship again in 21 AD, which he held with his father Tiberius. The hardship of the last two years on his father had made him reclusive. For Tiberius, Castor holding the consulship was a welcome sight, and with the poor state of his health, he retreated to Campania, leaving Castor alone in carrying out the obligations of consulship.
As consul, Castor took place in a number of Senate debates. His first chance to shine in the Senate came when a man, who failed to give up his seat to an ex-praetor at a gladiatorial show, which was an incident that sparked debate between the rights of age and the defenders of tradition. Drusus then settled an incident involving the abuse of the protection afforded by icons of the princeps, in which the Emperor’s images were being used to shield the guilty. Drusus was soon brought in to weigh on the matter, for the Senate felt that only a member of the Imperial family could speak on such a delicate issue.
The Revolt in Pannonia
The three legions in Pannonia (VIII, XIX, and XV) were in command of Junius Blaesus, who allowed his men to rest from military duties to mourn the death of Augustus. There was such a breakdown in discipline, the soldiers simply stopped obeying orders, and as a result they became restless and lashed out against their officers; Junius Blaesus and a prefect named Aufidineus Rufus were among those included as their target. Having been dispatched with two Praetorian cohorts, Castor and a praetor named Sejanus, who will be important to the story later on, reached the Pannonian legions where the soldiers met with Castor and let him into their trenches. He was lead into the camp by Blaesus before an assembly of the troops, in which Castor commented on the controlled behavior of the soldiers, and promised to write to his father addressing their demands. If Castor’s letter was dispatched on the 28th day of September, then it should have reached Rome by the 3rd or 4th of October.
Tacitus says, “At last, in an interval of the uproar, [Castor] read his father’s letter, in which it was fully stated that he had a special care for the brave legions with which he had endured a number of campaigns; that, as soon as his mind had recovered from its grief, he would lay their demands before the Senators; that meanwhile he had sent his son to concede unhesitatingly what could immediately be granted, and that the rest must be reserved for the Senate, which ought to have a voice in showing either favor or severity.” The soldiers demands were: a discharge from military service after only sixteen years (down from twenty), an increase in pay (to one denarius a day), and that the veterans not be detained under a standard.
However, negotiations broke down, and soldiers began stoning members of Castor’s party. The next morning, however, a Lunar Eclipse before dawn convinced the soldiery that their mutiny was doomed. Order was restored by daybreak, as a result.
Having gained control of the soldiers, the next move was executing the leaders of the mutiny. He sent out a search party into the surrounding forest to kill those leaders not present for the assembly. Having settled these matters, Castor returned to Rome. When Castor’s wife Livilla had given birth to twin sons, the birth was celebrated by their father, who claimed that never before in the history of Rome had twins been born to a man as high a rank as Castor, and the event was commemorated on the reverse of coins.
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