« Suet. Tib. 10–21 | Suet. Tib. 22–29 | Suet. Tib. 30–38 | About This Work »
22Tiberius 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 had it written 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.
23When, however, by virtue of his tribunicial power, he had convened the senate and had begun to address it, he suddenly groaned aloud, as if overcome by grief, and with the wish that not only his voice, but his life as well might leave him, handed the written speech to his son Drusus to finish. Then bringing in the will of Augustus, he had it read by a freedman, admitting of the signers only such as were of the senatorial order, while the others acknowledged their seals outside the House. The will began thus: “Since a cruel fate has bereft me of my sons Gaius and Lucius, be Tiberius Caesar heir to two-thirds of my estate.” These words in themselves added to the suspicion of those who believed that he had named Tiberius his successor from necessity rather than from choice, since he allowed himself to write such a preamble.
24Though Tiberius did not hesitate at once to assume and to exercise the imperial authority, surrounding himself with a guard of soldiers, that is, with the actual power and the outward sign of sovereignty, yet he refused the title for a long time, with barefaced hypocrisy now upbraiding his friends who urged him to accept it, saying that they did not realise what a monster the empire was, and now by evasive answers and calculating hesitancy keeping the senators in suspense when they implored him to yield, and fell at his feet. Finally, some lost patience, and one man cried out in the confusion: “Let him take it or leave it.” Another openly voiced the taunt that others were slow in doing what they promised, but that he was slow to promise what he was already doing. 2At last, as though on compulsion, and complaining that a wretched and burdensome slavery was being forced upon him, he accepted the empire, but in such fashion as to suggest the hope that he would one day lay it down. His own words are: “Until I come to the time when it may seem right to you to grant an old man some repose.”
25The cause of his hesitation was fear of the dangers which threatened him on every hand, and often led him to say that he was “holding a wolf by the ears.” For a slave of Agrippa, Clemens by name, had collected a band of no mean size to avenge his master; Lucius Scribonius Libo, one of the nobles, was secretly plotting a revolution; and a mutiny of the soldiers broke out in two places, Illyricum and Germany. 2Both armies demanded numerous special privileges—above all, that they should receive the same pay as the praetorians. The army in Germany was, besides, reluctant to accept an emperor who was not its own choice, and with the greatest urgency besought Germanicus, their commander at the time, to assume the purple, in spite of his positive refusal. Fear of this possibility in particular led Tiberius to ask the senate for any part in the administration that it might please them to assign him, saying that no one man could bear the whole burden without a colleague, or even several colleagues. 3He also feigned ill-health, to induce Germanicus to wait with more patience for a speedy succession, or at least for a share in the sovereignty. The mutinies were put down, and he also got Clemens into his power, outwitting him by stratagem. Not until his second year did he finally arraign Libo in the senate, fearing to take any severe measures before his power was secure, and satisfied in the meantime merely to be on his guard. Thus when Libo was offering sacrifice with him among the pontiffs, he had a leaden knife substituted for the usual one, and when he asked for a private interview, Tiberius would not grant it except with his son Drusus present, and as long as the conference lasted he held fast to Libo’s right arm, under pretence of leaning on it as they walked together.
26Once relieved of fear, he at first played a most unassuming part, almost humbler than that of a private citizen. Of many high honours he accepted only a few of the more modest. He barely consented to allow his birthday, which came at the time of the Plebeian games in the Circus, to be recognized by the addition of a single two-horse chariot. He forbade the voting of temples, flamens, and priests in his honour, and even the setting up of statues and busts without his permission; and this he gave only with the understanding that they were not to be placed among the likenesses of the gods, but among the adornments of the temples. 2He would not allow an oath to be taken ratifying his acts, nor the name Tiberius to be given to the month of September, or that of Livia to October. He also declined the forename Imperator, the surname of Father of his Country, and the placing of the civic crown at his door; and he did not even use the title of Augustus in any letters except those to kings and potentates, although it was his by inheritance. He held but three consulships after becoming emperor—one for a few days, a second for three months, and a third, during his absence from the city, until the Ides of May.
27He so loathed flattery that he would not allow any senator to approach his litter, either to pay his respects or on business, and when an ex-consul in apologizing to him attempted to embrace his knees, he drew back in such haste that he fell over backward. In fact, if anyone in conversation or in a set speech spoke of him in too flattering terms, he did not hesitate to interrupt him, to take him to task, and to correct his language on the spot. Being once called “Lord,” he warned the speaker not to address him again in an insulting fashion. When another spoke of his “sacred duties,” and still another said that he appeared before the senate “by the emperor’s authority,” he forced them to change their language, substituting “advice” for “authority” and “laborious” for “sacred.”
28More than that, he was self-contained and patient in the face of abuse and slander, and of lampoons on himself and his family, often asserting that in a free country there should be free speech and free thought. When the senate on one occasion demanded that cognizance be taken of such offences and those guilty of them, he said: “We have not enough spare time to warrant involving ourselves in more affairs; if you open this loophole you will find no time for any other business; it will be an excuse for laying everybody’s quarrels before you.” A most unassuming remark of his in the senate is also a matter of record: “If so and so criticizes me I shall take care to render an account of my acts and words; if he persists, our enmity will be mutual.”
29All this was the more noteworthy, because in addressing and in paying his respects to the senators individually and as a body he himself almost exceeded the requirements of courtesy. In a disagreement with Quintus Haterius in the house, he said: “I crave your pardon, if in my capacity as senator I use too free language in opposing you.” Then addressing the whole body: “I say now and have often said before, Fathers of the Senate, that a well-disposed and helpful prince, to whom you have given such great and unrestrained power, ought to be the servant of the senate, often of the citizens as a whole, and sometimes even of individuals. I do not regret my words, but I have looked upon you as kind, just, and indulgent masters, and still so regard you.”
« Suet. Tib. 10–21 | Suet. Tib. 22–29 | Suet. Tib. 30–38 | About This Work »