And so it was that in the year 767 Ab Urb Condita, 14 AD if you’re a Christian, or 14 CE if you’re secular
Or, if you were living in Rome at the time, you would called it the year of the consulship of Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Appuleius
Caesar Augustus died.
What would happen to Rome now?
After 50-something years of relative peace and a steady hand, the princeps was gone.
And his succession planning had been beset with difficulties.
For a start – what’s he passing on?
He isn’t an emperor or a king.
He’s got a ton of wealth and he’s the princeps, but that just means the first amongst equals.
He had auctoritas and imperium but those, traditionally, don’t get passed on to the next generation.
Not that he even *has* a next generation.
His only natural born child is a woman and is in exile for being a dirty whore.
His nephews are dead.
His grandchildren are either dead or in exile.
There are really only two options.
One is his adopted son, Tiberius Julius Caesar, AKA BIG TIBBO. born Tiberius Claudius Nero, son of Livia Drusilla, Augustus’s wife, with her first husband, also called Tiberius Claudius Nero, one of Julius Caesar’s quaestors.
During the Alexandrian war, Nero was commander of a fleet, and contributed in a large way to Julius Caesar’s victory.
For this he was made pontiff.
Yet after the murder of Caesar, when all the others voted for an amnesty through fear of mob violence, he favoured a proposal for rewarding the tyrannicides.
The other option is Augustus’ exiled grandchild, Agrippa Posthumus, aka AGGY P, the child of Augustus’ daughter, Julia, AKA the dirty whore, and her first husband Marcus Agrippa, AKA MR GET SHIT DONE, Augustus’ best friend and right-hand man for decades, unfortunately long dead at this stage.
Tiberius had recently been granted the same powers as Augustus.
He was, in effect, co-princeps with Augustus.
So it should be a fairly smooth transition.
Agrippa Posthumus isn’t really a threat.
Somebody apparently thought so.
Because Agrippa P was killed pretty soon after Augustus died.
Suetonius: Agrippa was killed by centurion Gaius Sallustius Crispus, the great-nephew and adopted son of the historian Sallust. When Crispus reported to Tiberius that “his orders have been carried out”, Tiberius threatened to bring the matter before the Senate, professing that he had given no such orders.
Who gave the order?
His mother, Livia?
She might want to make sure there are no threats to her son’s inheritance.
Or might it have been Augustus himself who gave the order from beyond the grave?
That’s certainly what one source claims.
In his Annals, Tacitus states:
The first crime of the new reign was the murder of Postumus Agrippa. Though he was surprised and unarmed, a centurion of the firmest resolution despatched him with difficulty. Tiberius gave no explanation of the matter to the Senate; he pretended that there were directions from his father ordering the tribune in charge of the prisoner not to delay the slaughter of Agrippa, whenever he should himself have breathed his last. Beyond a doubt, Augustus had often complained of the young man’s character, and had thus succeeded in obtaining the sanction of a decree of the Senate for his banishment. But he never was hard-hearted enough to destroy any of his kinsfolk, nor was it credible that death was to be the sentence of the grandson in order that the stepson might feel secure. It was more probable that Tiberius and Livia, the one from fear, the other from a stepmother’s enmity, hurried on the destruction of a youth whom they suspected and hated. When the centurion reported, according to military custom, that he had executed the command, Tiberius replied that he had not given the command, and that the act must be justified to the Senate.
We mentioned in the last series that before he died, Augustus had apparently sailed to visit Agrippa on the island of Planasia where he was in exile.
Maybe to see if the kid had calmed the fuck down.
Maybe to see if he was a potential heir.
Or a potential threat.
According to Tacitus, Augustus took only one companion, Fabius Maximus. Aka Fabulous to the Max.
Tacitus writes about the visit to Agrippa:
many tears were shed on both sides, with expressions of affection, and that thus there was a hope of the young man being restored to the home of his grandfather. This, it was said, Maximus had divulged to his wife Marcia, she again to Livia. All was known to Caesar, and when Maximus soon afterwards died, by a death some thought to be self-inflicted, there were heard at his funeral wailings from Marcia, in which she reproached herself for having been the cause of her husband’s destruction.
But as we pointed out in the last show, modern historians suspect this was all made up.
A fiction designed to make it look like Augustus wasn’t sure about leaving the throne to Tibbo.
Now keep in mind that Aggy P was Tibbo’s step-son.
Tibbo was married to Aggy P’s mother, the filthy whore Julia, for about five minutes.
And of course he had been friendly, as far as we know, with Aggy P’s father, the mighty Agrippa.
And while someone killing off their rivals to the throne was certainly common in the years and centuries to come, and had been common practice in other places and other times – Alexander the Great supposedly had his rivals killed when he was taking over the throne from Big Daddy Phil, and Romulus supposedly killed his own brother, Remus – this is kind of a new thing in Rome.
Don’t get me wrong – the late Republic had its share of violence between political rivals.
But because nothing was really (officially) hereditary, we don’t heard stories of rivals killing each other over matters of succession.
So, if Tibbo really did have anything to do with the death of Aggy P – and the timing is extremely bizarre – then it’s a big turning point.
And if Livia did it – then maybe she also had the other potential heirs killed after all?
Maybe she had something to do with Julia’s exile?
Suetonius writes: Tiberius did not make the death of Augustus public until the young Agrippa had been disposed of. The latter was slain by a tribune of the soldiers appointed to guard him, who received a letter in which he was bidden to do the deed; but it is not known whether Augustus left this letter when he died, to remove a future source of discord, or whether Livia wrote it herself in the name of her husband; and in the latter case, whether it was with or without the connivance of Tiberius. At all events, when the tribune reported that he had done his bidding, Tiberius replied that he had given no such order, and that the man must render an account to the senate; apparently trying to avoid odium at the time, for later his silence consigned the matter to oblivion.
Cassius Dio tells the same stories.
But it’s worth mentioning that Augustus’ will did not mention Agrippa’s existence, yet if Agrippa had been expected to be still alive when the will was opened he would have had in Roman law to be expressly disinherited.
So it’s quite possible that Augustus had by then already made up his mind that Agrippa could not be allowed to survive him.
He will therefore, as Tiberius insisted, have issued standing orders to the tribune at Planasia that Agrippa was to be put to death as soon as he himself was dead.
And Tibbo and Livia may have known nothing about it.
And Aggy P wasn’t the only one to lose their life in the same year as Augustus.
His mother, Tibbo’s ex-wife, and Augustus’ only biological child, Julia the filthy whore, also died that year.
Still in exile after 16 years in the town of Rhegium in Calabria, on the southern tip of Italy, Tiberius had her kept under house arrest and deprived her of the allowance made her by Augustus on the ground that Augustus had said nothing of it in his will.
Within a few months she either starved herself to death in grief or was starved to death on the orders of Tiberius.
Also terminated was Julia’s lover, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus
He’d also been in exile for 16 years.
Tactitus writes: Then the soldiers who were sent to slay him, found him on a promontory, expecting no good. On their arrival, he begged a brief interval in which to give by letter his last instructions to his wife Alliaria, and then offered his neck to the executioners, dying with a courage not unworthy of the Sempronian name, which his degenerate life had dishonoured.
And thus began the rule of Rome’s first real emperor.