VIII
THE CLOSE OF THE REIGN

IT is generally held that after the fall of Sejanus a reign of terror was inaugurated in Rome and continued till the emperor's death. Some modern historians have sought to relieve Tiberius of most of the responsibility by the suggestion that in his absence from the city 'those elements of envy, rancour, avarice, which he had held in check, broke loose',1 while others have sought to explain the psychological process which led the old emperor, betrayed by his trusted friend and embittered with the world, to turn savagely at bay and to strike ruthlessly at all who had incurred his resentment or suspicion.2 Before seeking explanations it is obviously desirable to ascertain as nearly as possible what actually happened. The idea of a reign of terror is supported by the loose general statements of Dio and Suetonius, but it is derived mainly from the much more circumstantial narrative of Tacitus, who employs all his literary skill to cast an atmosphere of gloom and horror over the last years of Tiberius. If, however, we examine the facts recorded apart from the rhetorical setting in which they are presented,3 we shall find that they give a very different impression. What the facts, taken by themselves, establish, is merely that after the fall of Sejanus a number of persons were prosecuted for complicity in his plots; some of the accused were punished and others committed suicide, but apparently few who did not deserve their fate, while some were spared or acquitted. The number of the prosecutions is much smaller than might have been expected after what had passed, and the proceedings seem to show that a real attempt was made to secure justice; in short the whole picture of the Tiberian Terror is a product of imagination and rhetoric quite unsupported by the evidence.

The fall of Sejanus and the violent lawlessness which followed it doubtless produced a genuine panic in Rome; the enemies of

____________________
1
Baring-Gould, 667-8. His eulogy of the praetorian courts as contrasted with the senate which follows is absurd, for we know little of these courts under Tiberius except that Tacitus had no high opinion of them ( 1, 75).
2
Baker, 270-4.
3

See the appendix on ' Tacitus and the Tiberian Terror'.

-200-

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The Reign of Tiberius
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • I - Tiberius and His Historians 1
  • II - The Legacy of Augustus 16
  • III - The Accession of Tiberius 45
  • IV - Germanicus 69
  • V - The Early Government of Tiberius in Rome 105
  • VI - Tiberius and the Empire 134
  • VII - The Struggle for the Succession 160
  • VIII - The Close of the Reign 200
  • Appendixes 231
  • List of Works Referred to in the Notes 311
  • Index 318
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