42 B.C.-a.d. 37

Roman emperor

Tiberius Julius Caesar succeeded Augustus in A.D. 14 to become the second Roman emperor. An able administrator, Tiberius followed many of the policies that had been established by Augustus. Yet he disliked the city of Rome and was unpopular with the Senate and the Roman people. He spent the last decade of his reign in self-imposed exile on the island of Capri, off the southern coast of Italy.

Tiberius was the stepson of Augustus, whom his divorced mother, Livia, married in 38 B.C. Tiberius served with Augustus in Spain and was appointed quaestor at age 20. He went on to become a successful military commander. He defeated the Parthians in Asia, defended Rome’s northern frontier against the Germans, and completed the Roman conquest of the Alps. He also suppressed revolts in the Roman provinces* of Pannonia and Illyricum, east of the Adriatic Sea.

Tiberius served as consul twice and was granted the powers of a tribune. In 11 B.C. he married Augustus’s daughter Julia after the emperor forced him to divorce his own wife. Increasingly unhappy with life in Rome, Tiberius retired to the island of Rhodes in 6 B.C. He returned to Rome eight years later, and Augustus adopted him as his heir soon afterward.

When Augustus died in A.D. 14, Tiberius succeeded him as emperor. Despite his unpopularity, Tiberius ruled well for many years. Eventually, however, court intrigues and political rivalries soured the atmosphere in Rome. In A.D. 26 Tiberius left the city and went to the island of Capri.

Tiberius never entered Rome again. He left the government in the hands of his henchman Sejanus, whom he later accused of treachery and executed. In the final years of his rule, Tiberius launched a reign of terror, persecuting and murdering real and imagined enemies. When he died, Romans rejoiced at the news. (See also Government, Roman; Rome, History of.)

* province overseas area controlled by Rome

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