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Succession Of Tiberius Notes

Classics Notes > Roman History; 46 BC to 54 AD Notes

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Why did Augustus ultimately choose Tiberius to succeed him and how did he indicate his intention, given the lack of an explicit hereditary succession?
The chief concern of any autocratic regime, as Augustus' rule undeniably was, is to ensure succession and that powers won continue to be held by the person that the autocrat chooses, usually his son. Augustus was no different and as his old age progressed he grew increasingly concerned that there would be another man to take his place as princeps; that man ultimately became Tiberius, the second emperor, but this choice was not without difficulties. In many ways Tiberius was the only suitable candidate left and the only one mature enough to ensure that he was strong enough to hold onto power after Augustus death which was quickly drawing closer, he was sixty six in AD 4. There were several men who Augustus, at various times, had appointed as his successor only to be bitterly disappointed by their demise. The first to die was Agrippa, who had seemed mostly likely to take over the reins of power if Augustus had died early in the course of the principate, the extended powers given to him in the settlement of 23 BC would have ensured this. He was quickly followed by Marcellus (the boy whose death is celebrated in Aeneid six and Virgil says would have elevated Rome to mastery over the whole world) and Drusus the elder, leaving the way open for the young Tiberius. At this point he was elevated through the ranks quickly and Augustus employed all the techniques necessary to indicate that Tiberius was the new heir apparent; such things were necessary because Augustus was able only to designate rather than appoint an heir, he needed some level of senatorial agreement and constitutional form to avoid rocking the boat too much. Essentially he had to transmit his power in a way that was not dissimilar to the way he first legitimised the principate, by accumulating honours, titles and influence to elevate his heir to a position of unchallengeable power which also had all the decorations of a Republican leader; the principate was still not strong enough to be able to drop this charade completely. This, therefore, is what Augustus did for Tiberius, but first in 11 BC he made him his son-in-law by marrying him to his daughter Julia, the widow of Agrippa. Then in 8 BC he elevated Tiberius to a prestigious position second only to himself for what would become the first of two times; he was elected consul for the second time, given the tribunician potestas and given proconsular imperium maius over the Eastern provinces. These things not only gave him great actual power but also the thing which was most vital in Roman politics and the importance of which can never be over stressed, auctoritas. It was this which ensured Augustus predominance in the state and it was this most of all which the princeps needed to ensure that his successor would have once he was dead. To this end it is also very important that his successor was given the tribunician potestas, its importance is shown by the fact that in 23 BC Augustus took this power to compensate for the loss of the position of consul so clearly it is not something to be underestimated. Furthermore the powers which Tiberius was given over the Eastern provinces were not dissimilar to those given to Pompey many years earlier and with them the great man had raised himself to be the most powerful man in Rome for a time. It is crucial to fully understand the extent of the powers Augustus gave to

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