To Germanicus, Piso’s appointment will have been clear proof that Tiberius still did not trust him.
To some extent it followed the pattern whereby a tried and trusted man was sent to watch over a young and inexperienced prince.
But Germanicus was neither so young nor by any means so inexperienced as Gaius Caesar had been when he made his ill-starred visit to the East, and any implication that he needed a mentor could only be interpreted by him as a further sign of lack of confidence or worse on Tiberius’ part.
So in trying to reconcile his desire to honour Augustus’ intentions for Germanicus and his concern to take precautions for his own security Tiberius had created a situation in which trouble was virtually bound to arise from Germanicus’ resentment and Piso’s lack of tact.
As propraetor of Syria, Piso would report to Germanicus.
It was an awkward arrangement for Germanicus, but Piso had important family connections.
Tiberius would later state that Piso ‘was my father’s representative and friend, and was appointed by myself on the advice of the Senate, to assist Germanicus in the administration of the East’.
It might have thus been intended as a test of Germanicus’ character: he would have to prove his ability to ‘take the rough with the smooth’ and learn how to manage rivals, if he was to be Tiberius’ successor.
But Piso thought it was his job to keep Germanicus in check.
According to Tacitus: ‘He [Piso] thought it a certainty that he had been chosen to govern Syria in order to thwart the aspirations of Germanicus’
So it’s a pretty fucked up situation.
Anyway, in the year 18, Germanicus was also having his second term of being a consul with Tibbo as his co-consul.
He makes his way to Dalmatia to visit with Drusus, his cousin / adopted brother.
They are still close, despite what may or may not have been Tibbo’s deliberate attempts to keep Germanicus’ ambition at bay while Drusus is getting some runs on the board.
Then Agrippina and Gaius join him and they head down the coast of Illyricum to Nicopolis, the city where Augustus – Germanicus’ grandfather by adoption – founded to celebrate his victory at Actium against Antony – Germanicus’s biological grandfather – and Cleopatra.
And actually – the battle was won by Agrippa, his wife’s father.
This is where he assumes the consulship.
It’s nearly been 50 years since Actium.
Actually 48 years.
Germs goes to inspect the spoils dedicated by Augustus – from memory they were the hulls of Antony’s ships – and the camp Antony stayed in while his ships were being repaired after a storm.
They then went to Athens
Germs was very popular with the people because he only had a single lictor, to show how much he trusted the Athenians.
He should have had more – that’s why he was mugged on a tram.
And then to Lesbos, where Agrippina gave birth to Julia Livilla, her last child.
She actually had nine children: Nero Julius Caesar, Drusus Julius Caesar, Tiberius Julius Caesar, a child of unknown name (normally referenced as Ignotus), Gaius the Elder, the Emperor Caligula (Gaius the Younger), the empress Agrippina the Younger, Julia Drusilla, and Julia Livilla.
Only six of his children came of age; Tiberius and the Ignotus died as infants, and Gaius the Elder in his early childhood.
Germs left her and the kids on Lesbos, and kept moving.
He went to Byzantium, Troy and then visited the oracle at the Temple of Apollo in Claros.
Claros was a Greek sanctuary on the coast of Ionia – today the site is in Turkey.
Archaeological excavations revealed structures dating back to the 10th century BC.
According to Tacitus: The oracle “prophesied to Germanicus, in dark hints, as oracles usually do, an early doom”.
I heard it was a riddle.
Roses are red. Violets are blue. Two steps forward if you’ll have a long life. Hold on, Germanicus, not you.
Meanwhile Piso also sailed to Athens.
He was less popular than Germs.
He apparently gave some speeches where he indirectly criticized Germanicus for his excessively friendly attitude to a people who he said were no longer the Athenians of old but a motley rabble, supporters of Mithridates against Sulla and Antony against Augustus.
From Athens he sailed at full speed through the Cyclades and caught up with Germanicus at Rhodes.
When he was close to the island a storm arose and he found himself in danger of shipwreck, but Germanicus sent triremes to his aid.
This did not make Piso any better disposed towards the prince and after staying on Rhodes for only one day he pressed on to Syria.
There he behaved in a manner which confirms that Tiberius’ principal motive in arranging his appointment had been to secure the loyalty of the Syrian legions and keep them from any close attachment to Germanicus.
Tacitus says Bribes were distributed, promises made, disciplinarians dismissed and replaced by Piso’s creatures.
TACITUS: When he reached Syria and the legions, he began, by bribery and favouritism, to encourage the lowest of the common soldiers, removing the old centurions and the strict tribunes and assigning their places to creatures of his own or to the vilest of the men, while he allowed idleness in the camp, licentiousness in the towns, and the soldiers to roam through the country and take their pleasure. He went such lengths in demoralizing them, that he was spoken of in their vulgar talk as the father of the legions. Plancina too, instead of keeping herself within the proper limits of a woman, would be present at the evolutions of the cavalry and the manoeuvres of the cohorts, and would fling insulting remarks at Agrippina and Germanicus.
Think about that for a second.
Piso was “Father of the Legions”.
Not Tiberius. Not Germanicus. Piso.
He must have really trusted Tiberius.
Because that could have been used against him to prove he was planning a coup d’état.
Germs was aware of what was going on, but he had to attend to other matters first.
He went to Armenia where he crowned a guy called Zeno as king.
Zeno took the name Artaxias and ruled peacefully for fifteen years.
Then he took care of the integration of Cappadocia and Commagene into the Empire.
Then he had to deal with the Piso situation.
He sent an order to Piso that either he or his son should send a detachment of troops to Armenia as a guard of honour.
Piso just ignored the order – like Germanicus ignored the orders from Tiberius to come home from the Rhine.
Finally The two commanders met at Cyrrhus, north-east of Antioch, the winter quarters of the tenth legion.
Neither was prepared to acknowledge the other as superior and it didn’t go well.
From that time on, they were enemies and seemed to have avoided each other as much as possible.
There was a banquet given by the king of the Nabataeans.
The Arab people who built “Al-Khazneh”, or The Treasury at Petra in Jordan.
the final resting place of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?
It’s believed to have been the mausoleum of the Nabatean King Aretas IV in the 1st century CE.
Possibly the same king throwing the party for Germanicus.
We talked about them on the Alexander series.
DIODORUS has a great description of the Nabataeans.
For the sake of those who do not know, it will be useful to state in some detail the customs of these Arabs, by following which, it is believed, they preserve their liberty. They live in the open air, claiming as native land a wilderness that has neither rivers nor abundant springs from which it is possible for a hostile army to obtain water. 3 It is their custom neither to plant grain, set out any fruit-bearing tree, use wine, nor construct any house; and if anyone is found acting contrary to this, death is his penalty.74 p894 They follow this custom because they believe that those who possess these things are, in order to retain the use of them, easily compelled by the powerful to do their bidding. Some of them raise camels, others sheep, pasturing them in the desert. While there are many Arabian tribes who use the desert as pasture, the Nabataeans far surpass the others in wealth although they are not much more than ten thousand in number; 5 for not a few of them are accustomed to bring down to the sea frankincense and myrrh and the most valuable kinds of spices, which they procure from those who convey them from what is called Arabia Eudaemon.75 6 They are exceptionally fond of freedom; and, whenever a strong force of enemies comes near, they take refuge in the desert, using this as a fortress;76 for it lacks water and cannot be crossed by others, but to them alone, since they have prepared subterranean reservoirs lined with stucco, it furnishes safety. 7 As the earth in some places is clayey and in others is of soft stone, they make great excavations in it, the mouths of which they make very small, but by constantly increasing the width as they dig deeper, they finally make them of such size that each side has a length of one plethrum.77 8 After filling these reservoirs with rain water, they close the openings, making them even with the rest of the ground, and they leave signs that are known to themselves but are unrecognizable by others. 9 They water their cattle every other day, so that, if they flee through waterless places, they may not need a continuous p91supply of water. They themselves use as food flesh and milk and those of the plants that grow from the ground which are suitable for this purpose; 10 for among them there grow the pepper and plenty of the so‑called wild honey from trees,78 which they drink mixed with water. There are also other tribes of Arabs, some of whom even till the soil, mingling with the tribute-paying peoples, and have the same customs as the Syrians, except that they do not dwell in houses. It appears that such are the customs of the Arabs. But when the time draws near for the national gathering at which those who dwell round about are accustomed to meet, some to sell goods and others to purchase things that are needful to them, they travel to this meeting, leaving on a certain rock79 their possessions and their old men, also their women and their children. 2 This place is exceedingly strong but unwalled, and it is distant two days’ journey from the settled country.
DIODORUS was writing 50 or 60 years before Germanicus and the party.
Anyway, at the party, heavy gold crowns were presented as gifts to Germanicus and Agrippina
But crowns of lesser weight were given to Piso and the other guests,
This caused Piso to snarl and say that the banquet was being given for a Roman princeps’ son, not the son of the king of Parthia, and he threw away the crown offered to him.
Germanicus apparently said nothing because he knew Piso was under the protection of Tiberius.
So far Germs hasn’t dealt with the Artabanus of Parthia issue.
But now envoys arrived from the king to remind him of the treaty concluded between Augustus and Phraates iv and to seek its renewal.
To demonstrate his respect for Germanicus Artabanus was ready to meet him at the Euphrates.
In the meantime he asked that Vonones should no longer be maintained in Syria and that the nobles of Parthia should not be incited to rebel.
The king’s request hints that Germanicus may at least have begun to investigate the possibility of causing trouble in Parthia.
The prince made appropriate diplomatic noises in reply, but courteously declined the invitation to a meeting, presumably for fear that it might offend Tiberius.
Vonones was removed to Pompeiopolis, a city on the coast of Cilicia, not only to oblige Artabanus but to spite Piso, who had become devoted to Vonones’ cause, allegedly thanks to the exile’s cultivation of himself and his lavish presents to Plancina.
But despite his caution where Parthia was concerned, in 19 Germanicus made a far greater error by going on a voyage to Egypt.