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TIBERIUS AND CALIGULA.
No difficulty was made about giving all the powers Augustus had held to
his stepson, Tiberius Claudius Nero, who had also a right to the names
of Julius Cæsar Augustus, and was in his own time generally called
Cæsar. The Senate had grown too helpless to think for themselves, and
all the choice they ever made of the consuls was that the Emperor gave
out four names, among which they chose two.
Tiberius had been a grave, morose man ever since he was deprived of the
wife he loved, and had lost his brother; and he greatly despised the
mean, cringing ways round him, and kept to himself; but his nephew,
called Germanicus, after his father, was the person whom every one
loved and trusted. He had married Agrippina, Julia's daughter, who was
also a very good and noble person; and when he was sent against the
Germans, she went with him, and her little boys ran about among the
soldiers, and were petted by them. One of them, Caius, was called by the
soldiers Caligula, or the Little Shoe, because he wore a caliga or shoe
like theirs; and he never lost the nickname.
Germanicus earned his surname over again by driving Arminius back; but
he was more enterprising than would have been approved by Augustus, who
thought it wiser to guard what he had than to make wider conquests; and
Tiberius was not only one of the same mind, but was jealous of the great
love that all the army were showing for his nephew, and this distrust
was increased when the soldiers in the East begged for Germanicus to
lead them against the Parthians. He set out, visiting all the famous
places in Greece by the way, and going to see the wonders of Egypt, but
while in Syria he fell ill of a wasting sickness and died, so that many
suspected the spy, Cnæus Piso, whom Tiberius had sent with him, of
having poisoned him. When his wife Agrippina came home, bringing his
corpse to be burnt and his ashes placed in the burying-place of the
Cæsars, there was universal love and pity for her. Piso seized on all
the offices that Germanicus had held, but was called back to Rome, and
was just going to be put upon his trial when he cut his own throat.
RUINS OF THE PALACES OF TIBERIUS.
All this tended to make Tiberius more gloomy and distrustful, and when
his mother Livia died he had no one to keep him in check, but fell under
the influence of a man named Sejanus, who managed all his affairs for
him, while he lived in a villa in the island of Capreæ in the Bay of
Naples, seeing hardly any but a few intimates, given up to all sorts of
evil luxuries and self-indulgences, and hating and dreading every one.
Agrippina was so much loved and respected that he dreaded and disliked
her beyond all others; and Sejanus contrived to get up an accusation of
plotting against the state, upon which she and her eldest son were
banished to two small rocky isles in the Mediterranean Sea. The other
two sons, Drusus and Caius, were kept by Tiberius at Capreæ, till
Tiberius grew suspicious of Drusus and threw him into prison. Sejanus,
who had encouraged all his dislike to his own kinsmen, and was managing
all Rome, then began to hope to gain the full power; but his plans were
guessed by Tiberius, and he caused his former favorite to be set upon
in the senate-house and put to death.
It is strange to remember that, while such dark deeds were being done at
Rome, came the three years when the true Light was shining in the
darkness. It was in the time of Tiberius Cæsar, when Pontius Pilatus was
proprætor of Palestine, that our Lord Jesus Christ spent three years in
teaching and working miracles; then was crucified and slain by wicked
hands, that the sin of mankind might be redeemed. Then He rose again
from the dead and ascended into Heaven, leaving His Apostles to make
known what he had done in all the world.
To the East, where our Lord dwelt, nay, to all the rest of the empire,
the reign of Tiberius was a quiet time, with the good government
arranged by Augustus working on. It was only his own family, and the
senators and people of rank at Rome, who had much to fear from his
strange, harsh, and jealous temper. The Claudian family had in all times
been shy, proud, and stern, and to have such power as belonged to
Augustus Cæsar was more than their heads could bear. Tiberius hated and
suspected everybody, and yet he did not like putting people to death, so
he let Drusus be starved to death in his prison, and Agrippina chose the
same way of dying in her island, while some of the chief senators
received such messages that they put themselves to death. He led a
wretched life, watching for treason and fearing everybody, and trying to
drown the thought of danger in the banquets of Capreæ, where the remains
of his villa may still be seen. Once he set out, intending to visit
Rome, but no sooner had he landed in Campania than the sight of hundreds
of country people shouting welcome so disturbed him that he hastened on
board ship again, and thus entered the Tiber; but at the very sight of
the hills of Rome his terror returned, and he had his galley turned
about and went back to his island, which he never again quitted.
Only two males of his family were left now—a great-nephew and a nephew,
Caius, that son of the second Germanicus who had been nicknamed
Caligula, a youth of a strange, exciteable, feverish nature, but who
from his fright at Tiberius had managed to keep the peace with him, and
had only once been for a short time in disgrace; and his uncle, the
youngest son of the first Germanicus, commonly called Claudius, a very
dull, heavy man, fond of books, but so slow and shy that he was
considered to be wanting in brains, and thus had never fallen under
At length Tiberius fell ill, and when he was known to be dying, he was
smothered with pillows as he began to recover from a fainting fit, lest
he should take vengeance on those who had for a moment thought him dead.
He died A.D. 37, and the power went to Caligula, properly
called Caius, who was only twenty-five, and who began in a kindly,
generous spirit, which pleased the people and gave them hope; but to
have so much power was too much for his brain, and he can only be
thought of as mad, especially after he had a severe illness, which made
the people so anxious that he was puffed up with the notion of his
ROME IN THE TIME OF AUGUSTUS CÆSAR.
He put to death all who offended him, and, inheriting some of Tiberius'
distrust and hatred of the people, he cried out, when they did not
admire one of his shows as much as he expected, "Would that the people
of Rome had but one neck, so that I might behead them all at once." He
planned great public buildings, but had not steadiness to carry them
out; and he became so greedy of the fame which, poor wretch, he could
not earn, that he was jealous even of the dead. He burned the books of
Livy and Virgil out of the libraries, and deprived the statues of the
great men of old of the marks by which they were known—Cincinnatus of
his curls, and Torquatus of his collar, and he forbade the last of the
Pompeii to be called Magnus.
He made an expedition into Gaul, and talked of conquering Britain, but
he got no further than the shore of the channel, where, instead of
setting sail, he bade the soldiers gather up shells, which he sent home
to the Senate to be placed among the treasures of the Capitol, calling
them the spoils of the conquered ocean. Then he collected the German
slaves and the tallest Gauls he could find, commanded the latter to dye
their hair and beards to a light color, and brought them home to walk
in his triumph. The Senate, however, were slow to understand that he
could really expect a triumph, and this affronted him so much that, when
they offered him one, he would not have it, and went on insulting them.
He made his horse a consul, though only for a day, and showed it with
golden oats before it in a golden manger. Once, when the two consuls
were sitting by him, he burst out laughing, to think, he said, how with
one word he could make both their heads roll on the floor.
The provinces were not so ill off, but the state of Rome was unbearable.
Everybody was in danger, and at last a plot was formed for his death;
and as he was on his way from his house to the circus, and stopped to
look at some singers who were going to perform, a party of men set upon
him and killed him with many wounds, after he had reigned only five
years, and when he was but thirty years old.