His real motive, according to Tacitus, was tourism
HOWEVER a couple of papyrus fragments discovered in Oxyrynchus in the 20th century, contains a fragment of a speech to the Alexandrians
And it confirms that the visit was also an official one and makes it clear that in Germanicus’ estimation Egypt was simply one of the transmarine provinces, the affairs of which he had been sent by Tiberius to settle.
The Oxyrhynchus Papyri are a group of manuscripts discovered during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by papyrologists Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt at an ancient rubbish dump near Oxyrhynchus in Egypt.
A papyrus published in 1911 preserves two edicts of Germanicus in Egypt: one banning unauthorised requisitions in his name, the other refusing salutation as a god.
In 1959 another papyrus fragment, also found at Oxyrhynchus, was published with on one side a record of an Alexandrian embassy to Augustus and on the other a speech by Germanicus (the ‘imperator’) in response to the presentation of decrees in his honour at Alexandria.
The fragment (P. Oxy. XXV 2435) reads as follows:
The imperator: “I who was sent by my father, men of Alexandria -”
The crowd called out: “Hurrah! Lord! Good luck! Good things will come to you.”
The imperator: “You, men of Alexandria, who have pressed me to address you, restrain your cheering until I have finished dealing with each of your requests. I who was sent by my father, as I said, to make arrangements in the provinces across the sea, a very difficult assignment, in the first place because of the sea voyage, and because it has torn me away from my father (sc. Tiberius) and grandmother (sc. Livia) and mother (sc. Antonia) and brothers and sisters and children and close friends (unclear passage) a new sea in order in the first place to see your city -”
The crowd called out: “Good luck!”
The imperator: “I already imagined it to be a very splendid sight, in the first place because of your hero and founder (sc. Alexander the Great), to whom a kind of debt joins those who support the same (sc. anti-Persian) values, and then because of the benefactions made by my grandfather Augustus and my father (unclear passage). And I do not speak -”
The crowd called out: “Oh! May your life be longer!”
The imperator: “of what everyone knows, but I am mindful that I have found these (honours) to be multiplied by being treasured in your hearts. For honorary decrees can be drawn up in meetings of a few men, but.
And that’s where the text breaks off.
He was received with wild enthusiasm in Alexandria, where his grandfather Antony was still remembered with affection, and, as at Athens, his abandonment of all formality and adoption of Greek dress did much to enhance his popularity.
Indeed the demonstrations in his favour were so great and took such forms that Germanicus was forced to check them.
An edict survives in which he rebuked the people of Alexandria for hailing him and Agrippina with titles suited only to Tiberius and Livia.
The implication seems to be that in premature excitement the Alexandrians had acclaimed Germanicus not only as a god and their saviour, but also as Augustus.
If this was so, Germanicus did well to be alarmed, for at best Tiberius was bound to be resentful, while at worst, if Germanicus appeared to make no protest, the princeps’ suspicious mind might inflate this harmless show into evidence of open usurpation.
After dealing with a famine by ordering the granaries in which the previous year’s grain crop had been stored to be thrown open, Germanicus went on a cruise up the Nile as far as Syene, unaware that an angry letter from the princeps was on its way.
TACITUS: But Germanicus also bestowed attention on other wonders. Chief of these were the stone image of Memnon, which, when struck by the sun’s rays, gives out the sound of a human voice; the pyramids, rising up like mountains amid almost impassable wastes of shifting sand, raised by the emulation and vast wealth of kings; the lake hollowed out of the earth to be a receptacle for the Nile’s overflow; and elsewhere the river’s narrow channel and profound depth which no line of the explorer can penetrate.
Tiberius began with a mild rebuke for Germanicus’ undignified affability and Greek clothes, but went on to complain bitterly because the prince had entered Egypt unauthorized, in defiance of the rule laid down by Augustus that no senator should set foot in the country without the express permission of the princeps.
To Tiberius it must indeed have seemed that Germanicus was not only spurning the precepts of Augustus, for which he himself had such ingrained reverence, but also conducting himself as if he were already princeps and not merely the heir.
Nothing in fact was further from Germanicus’ thoughts, as his edict shows.
To him Egypt was just another province on his list, and if he thought of the question of authority to enter it at all, he would have assumed that it was covered by the blanket commission that had put him in charge of the eastern provinces.
The prefect of Egypt may have thought the same, for he made no attempt to refuse Germanicus entry.
In Tiberius’ judgment, on the other hand, Egypt was equally clearly not a province in the normal sense at all, but retained its special status as a private estate of the princeps and so did not fall within the terms of Germanicus’ appointment.
This misunderstanding about the status of Egypt – for at bottom it was no more – reveals yet again the total lack of warmth and trust between Tiberius and Germanicus.
Had they been on better terms, Tiberius would not have reacted so violently to a matter of so little real importance, while Germanicus might have been prepared to ascertain in advance that the princeps would have no objection.
When he got back from Egypt, poor Germs found that all of his orders had been rescinded by Piso in his absence.
Which was kind of legal.
It was technically Piso’s territory to govern.
But of course while Germanicus was in town, he overruled Piso.
Cuz Germs has imperium maius (extraordinary command)
So what’s going to happen when he gets back to town?
Does he over-rule the over-rule?
Does he let it slide?
And then how weak does he look?
So he did what only an heir to Octavian could do – he complained.
And Piso complained back.
But then Germs fell ill.
But people on Facebook sent him thoughts and prayers and he recovered.
In Antioch, where Piso happened to be, people celebrated Germs’ recovery with sacrifices.
Until Piso had the celebrations shut down.
Which must have upset the gods, because Germs suddenly fell ill again.
He blamed Piso and claimed he had poisoned him.
there is an allegation recorded by Tacitus that, at a dinner party, Piso reclined near Germanicus where he could have dropped poison in his host’s food or drink at any moment.
But Tacitus himself thought it was implausible as they were surrounded by other guests, he would likely have been seen doing it.
There were also signs of witchcraft
TACITUS: And certainly there were found hidden in the floor and in the walls disinterred remains of human bodies, incantations and spells, and the name of Germanicus inscribed on leaden tablets, half-burnt cinders smeared with blood, and other horrors by which in popular belief souls are devoted so the infernal deities. Piso too was accused of sending emissaries to note curiously every unfavourable symptom of the illness.
Germs was convinced he was dying and wanted to make sure Piso wouldn’t benefit from it
So he sent a formal letter renouncing his friendship with Piso and ordering him to leave Syria.
Did his imperium give him the right to do that?
If Piso left Syria, he would be committing treason by ignoring an imperial command.
It was pretty tactless.
Wouldn’t look good to Tibbo that Germs was countermanding one of his orders.
But hey, when you’re dying, FUCK TACT.
For some reason, Piso obeyed the order.
But he sailed slowly hoping Germs would die and he could return to Syria.
Germs summoned his friends to his deathbed and laid the blame for his death directly at the feet of Piso and Plancina.
He made his friends promise to avenge his death and they all swore they would.
TACITUS: “Were I succumbing to nature, I should have just ground of complaint even against the gods for thus tearing me away in my youth by an untimely death from parents, children, country. Now, cut off by the wickedness of Piso and Plancina, I leave to your hearts my last entreaties. Describe to my father and brother, torn by what persecutions, entangled by what plots, I have ended by the worst of deaths the most miserable of lives. If any were touched by my bright prospects, by ties of blood, or even by envy towards me while I lived, they will weep that the once prosperous survivor of so many wars has perished by a woman’s treachery. You will have the opportunity of complaint before the Senate, of an appeal to the laws. It is not the chief duty of friends to follow the dead with unprofitable laments, but to remember his wishes, to fulfil his commands. Tears for Germanicus even strangers will shed; vengeance must come from you, if you loved the man more than his fortune. Show the people of Rome her who is the granddaughter of the Divine Augustus, as well as my consort; set before them my six children. Sympathy will be on the side of the accusers, and to those who screen themselves under infamous orders belief or pardon will be refused.”
He cried out ‘Show the people my wife, the grandchild of Augustus!’ but in his last words to Agrippina he begged her for the sake of their children to tame her proud spirit and learn to accept the blows of destiny, for fear that her undisguised claim to power might provoke those more powerful than herself.
And so Germanicus died.
10 October AD 19 (aged 33)
Exactly 1951 years before I was born.
Which is why I have been called “Young Germanicus”
The Germanicus of Podcasting.
Dead before my time.
There was a simple funeral and some people compared him to Alexander.
TACITUS: Some there were who, as they thought of his beauty, his age, and the manner of his death, the vicinity too of the country where he died, likened his end to that of Alexander the Great. Both had a graceful person and were of noble birth; neither had much exceeded thirty years of age, and both fell by the treachery of their own people in strange lands. But Germanicus was gracious to his friends, temperate in his pleasures, the husband of one wife, with only legitimate children. He was too no less a warrior, though rashness he had none, and, though after having cowed Germany by his many victories, he was hindered from crushing it into subjection. Had he had the sole control of affairs, had he possessed the power and title of a king, he would have attained military glory as much more easily as he had excelled Alexander in clemency, in self-restraint, and in all other virtues.
Agrippina left for Rome with their children and his ashes to deposit them in the Mausoleum of Augustus
Cn. Sentius Saturninus was chosen as Piso’s successor.
Which is fucking confusing.
Because there was another Sentius Saturninus who was governor of Syria back in 7 BCE when Jesus was born (according to some sources).
That’s our Ringo from Germania.
This is apparently his son.
Ringo Junior apparently arrested a woman called Martina.
She was a famous poisoner.
Now, I ask you – if you KNEW she was a poisoner, how come she hadn’t been arrested earlier??
Apparently she had been friendly with Plancina.
She was sent to Rome.
And Germ’s friends started preparing their accusations against Piso.
Meanwhile, word of Germ’s death reached Piso and Plancina on the island of Cos, who celebrated with sacrifices.
Do you know why they were there?
Some centurions came from Antioch and assured Piso the legions were still loyal too him and that they thought he had been removed from his position illegally.
Which technically was true.
Germs’ friends had no authority to replace him.
But if he went back, there was surely going to be civil war.
His son Marcus tried to talk him out of going back.
TAC: While he deliberated what he was to do, his son, Marcus Piso, advised speedy return to Rome. “As yet,” he said, “you have not contracted any inexpiable guilt, and you need not dread feeble suspicions or vague rumours. Your strife with Germanicus deserved hatred perhaps, but not punishment, and by your having been deprived of the province, your enemies have been fully satisfied. But if you return, should Sentius resist you, civil war is begun, and you will not retain on your side the centurions and soldiers, who are powerfully swayed by the yet recent memory of their general and by a deep-rooted affection for the Caesars.”
But his friend Domitius Celer – the man who discovered celery – convinced him to go back.
He said “look – you’re the legal governor. If Sentius attacks you, then you are justified in giving Order 66.”
Besides – it’s not a good time to go back to Rome.
Sure – Tibbo and Livia are probably happy that Germanicus is dead.
But they can’t SEEM to be happy about it.
And people will be calling for your blood.
Best to wait it out a million miles away – with your army by your side.
Piso wrote a letter to Tibbo.
He accused Germs of being an arrogant little shit who lived the high life.
He claimed Germs had kicked him out of Syria so he could take all the power for himself.
Suggesting that he might be trying a coup.
But, said Piso, I’m going to take it back.
He sails to Turkey, and his son Marcus has little option to go with him.
Piso insists Sentius give him back his old job.
Piso has a small force of slaves and deserters and some guys sent by kings in Turkey.
And so the two sides give battle.
Tacitus gives us the details.
TAC: Piso occupied a very strongly fortified position in Cilicia, named, Celenderis. He had raised to the strength of a legion the Cilician auxiliaries which the petty kings had sent, by mixing with them some deserters, and the lately intercepted recruits with his own and Plancina’s slaves. And he protested that he, though Caesar’s legate, was kept out of the province which Caesar had given him, not by the legions (for he had come at their invitation) but by Sentius, who was veiling private animosity under lying charges. “Only,” he said, “stand in battle array, and the soldiers will not fight when they see that Piso whom they themselves once called ‘father,’ is the stronger, if right is to decide; if arms, is far from powerless.” He then deployed his companies before the lines of the fortress on a high and precipitous hill, with the sea surrounding him on every other side. Against him were the veteran troops drawn up in ranks and with reserves, a formidable soldiery on one side, a formidable position on the other. But his men had neither heart nor hope, and only rustic weapons, extemporised for sudden use. When they came to fighting, the result was doubtful only while the Roman cohorts were struggling up to level ground; then, the Cilicians turned their backs and shut themselves up within the fortress. Meanwhile Piso vainly attempted an attack on the fleet which waited at a distance; he then went back, and as he stood before the walls, now smiting his breast, now calling on individual soldiers by name, and luring them on by rewards, sought to excite a mutiny. He had so far roused them that a standard bearer of the sixth legion went over to him with his standard. Thereupon Sentius ordered the horns and trumpets to be sounded, the rampart to be assaulted, the scaling ladders to be raised, all the bravest men to mount on them, while others were to discharge from the engines spears, stones, and brands. At last Piso’s obstinacy was overcome, and he begged that he might remain in the fortress on surrendering his arms, while the emperor was being consulted about the appointment of a governor to Syria. The proposed terms were refused, and all that was granted him were some ships and a safe return to Rome.