History for the Rest of Us

Tiberius’ Path to Emperor

Tiberius’ Path to Emperor

Mar 6, 2013

Ancestry Tiberius was born on the Palatine, November 16, 42 BC. His father, Tiberius Claudius Nero, came from the respected Claudian line; and his mother was Livia Drusilla who a few years after Tiberius’ birth hastily divorced her husband and married Octavian (Augustus) in a politically expedient marriage. Marcus Agrippa Notwithstanding the fact that Tiberius was now well placed, in the eyes of Augustus there was a long line of successors standing between Tiberius and the throne. When Augustus thought he was dying in 23 BC, he passed his signet ring to Marcus Agrippa. The initial indications were that there would be a power struggle between Agrippa, his trusted friend, and Marcellus his son-in-law (husband of Julia) and nephew (son of his sister Octavia). But late in 23 BC Marcellus fell ill and died, strenthening Agrippa’s position to become the next Emperor. This position was strengthened further when Augustus had Agrippa divorce his wife and marry Augustus’ newly widowed daughter Julia. Three Potential Heirs The marriage produced three potential heirs for Augustus, Gaius born in 20 BC, Lucius born in 17 BC, and Agrippa Postumus born in 12 BC shortly after the death of Agrippa. Augustus realized that with his friend Agrippa dead, if he should die, his grandsons would be without a guardian. To remedy the situation, he forced Tiberius to divorce Vipsania (who was a daughter of Agrippa) and marry the again widowed Julia. The marriage took place on February 12, 11 BC. The heirs now had an additional guardian, however this wouldn’t protect them from the fate that would befall them. Lucius died 20 August 2 AD, and his brother Gaius died a year and a half later on 21 February 4 AD. Removal of a Final Rival Six days after the death of Gaius, Augustus adopted Tiberius and Agrippa Postumus who was then only 15 years old. Tiberius was now on the short list to become Emperor. Within three years, Agrippa Postumus was exiled. The reasons are unclear for his exile. Tacitus indicates that it was due to being shunned and disliked by Livia particularly since he was the only thing standing in the way of her son becoming Emperor....