“To squelch the discord of the rabble”:
Military Policing in Rome and Italy
under Augustus’s Successors
IT TOOK AUGUSTUS more than fifty years to remold his reputation, from warlord to symbol of domestic peace and stability. The success of his efforts can be measured by his successor’s desire to associate himself with Augustus’s perceived achievements.1 Tiberius’s subordinates played along. In fact, obedience to Tiberius was linked to the honor owed to Augustus, to such an extent that an offense against one registered as a slight to the other. Note, for example, the recently discovered senatorial decree condemning the memory of Gnaeus Piso, who was not only accused of directly violating the cult of divus Augustus but was also charged with trying “to stir up civil war, all the evils of which have long since been banished by the divine guidance of the deified Augustus and by the virtues of Tiberius Caesar Augustus.”2
The police apparatus that Augustus established in Rome helped Tiberius secure his rule. In Tacitus’s account of the transfer of power, soldiers keenly guarded the ailing Augustus and his wife as they waited for Tiberius to arrive. As soon as Augustus died, an officer was specially instructed to kill Augustus’s exiled grandson, Tiberius’s potential rival. Tiberius quickly made sure that he had the loyalty of the soldiers, above all the praetorians; he
1. See, e.g., Tac. Ann. 1.77. Lyasse, Le Principat, appreciates the individual complexities of this emulation for each of Augustus’s first-century successors. Cf. de Blois, The Policy of the Em peror Gallienus, 120–49; Cooley, “Septimius Severus”; and Barnes, “Aspects of the Severan Empire.”
2. On Piso’s supposed violations of Augustus’s religious rites, see SC de Pisone 68–70. Quoted are lines 45–47: bellum etiam civile excitare conatus sit, iam pridem numine Divi Aug(usti) virtutibusq(ue) Ti. Caesaris Aug(usti) omnibus civilis belli sepultis malis. Gnaeus Piso the Elder was accused of murdering Germanicus and challenging imperial authority early in Tiberius’s reign (AD 20). This text was first published in 1996 by Eck et al. in Das Senatus consultum; also see the 1999 special issue of the American Journal of Philology, vol. 120, no. 1; Rowe, Princes; and Flower, The Art of Forgetting, 132–38. For other links between loyalty to Tiberius and devotion to Augustus’s memory, see Tac. Ann. 3.66 and the opening of the Pisidian inscription (JRS 66, 107–9) in Mitchell, “Requisitioned Transport” (discussed further below).