The fall of the Roman Emperor Tiberius



Tiberius withdrew himself from the capital and took up his residence at a country seat where hardly anyone had access to him except Sejanus; whether at the favourite's suggestion or not is uncertain. The retreat finally selected was the island of Caprae.

The monstrous lengths to which men of the highest rank were now prepared to go to curry favour with Tiberius and Sejanus was examplified in the ruin of Sabinus, a loyal friend of the house of Germanicus. The unfortunate man was tricked into speaking bitterly of Sejanus and Tiberius. Three senators were actually hidden above the ceiling of the room where he was entrapped into uttering his unguarded phrases, and on this evidence he was condemned.

The death of the aged Livia Augusta removed the last check on the influence of Sejanus.

[The account of his two years of unqualified supremacy, and of his sudden and utter overthrow has been lost, two books of the Annals being missing here.]

From this time, the life of Tiberius at Caprae was one of morbid and nameless debauchery. The condition of his mind may be inferred from the opening words of one of his letters to the senate. "If I know what to write, how to write it, what not to write, may the gods and goddesses destroy me with a worse misery than the death I feel myself dying daily." The end came when Marco, the prefect of the Praetorians, to save his own life and secure the succession of Gaius Caesar (Caligula), the surviving son of Germanicus, caused the old emperor to be smothered.

[The record of the next ten years is lost. When the story is taken up again, the wife of Claudius, the infamous Messalina, was at the zenith of her evil career.]

Messalina paraded with utter shamelessness her last and fatal passion for Silius, and went so far as publicly to marry her paramour. It was the freed man Narcissus who made the outrageous truth known to Claudius, and practically terrorised him into striking. Half measures were impossible; a swarm of Messalina's accomplices in vice were put to death. To her, Claudius showed signs of relenting; but Narcissus gave the orders for her death without his knowledge. When they told Claudius that she was dead, he displayed no emotion, but went on with his dinner, and apparently forgot the whole matter.

A new wife had to be provided; Agrippina, the daughter of Germanicus, niece of Claudius himself, and mother of the boy Domitius, who was to become the emperor Nero, was the choice of the freed-man Pallas, and proved the successful candidate.

Meanwhile, there had been a great revolt in Britain, against the propraetor Ostorius. First the Iceni took up arms, then the Brigantes; then--a still more serious matter--the Silures, led by the most brilliant of British warriors, Caractacus. Even his skill and courage, however, were of no avail against the superior armament of the Roman legions; his forces were broken up and he himself, escaping to the Brigantes, was by them betrayed to the Romans. The famous warrior was carried to Rome, where by his dignified demeanour he won pardon and liberty.

In the Far East, Mithridates was overthrown by his nephew Rhadamistus, and Parthia and Armenia remained in wild confusion. The reign of Claudius was brought to an end by poison--the notorious Locusta was employed by Agrippina for the purpose--and he was succeeded by Nero, to the exclusion of Britannicus.





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