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Bust of the Emperor Tiberius
2nd Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign 18 September 14 AD - 16 March 37 AD (Template:Nts years, Template:Nts days)
Predecessor Augustus
Successor Caligula
Spouse Vipsania Agrippina
Julia the Elder
Drusus Julius Caesar
Germanicus (adoptive)
Full name
Birth to adoption: Tiberius Claudius Nero
Adoption to accession: Tiberius Julius Caesar
As Emperor: Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus
Imperial name: Imperator Caesar Divi filius Augustus
House Julio-Claudian Dynasty
Father Tiberius Claudius Nero
Mother Livia Drusilla
Burial Mausoleum of Augustus, Rome

Tiberius (Latin: Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus;[1] November 16, 42 BC – March 16, AD 37), was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced his father and was remarried to Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian. Tiberius would later marry Augustus' daughter Julia the Elder (from his marriage to Scribonia) and even later be adopted by Augustus, by which act he officially became a Julian, bearing the name Tiberius Julius Caesar. The subsequent emperors after Tiberius would continue this blended dynasty of both families for the next forty years; historians have named it the Julio-Claudian dynasty. In relations to the other emperors of this dynasty, Tiberius was the stepson of Augustus, great-uncle of Caligula, paternal uncle of Claudius, and great-great uncle of Nero.

Tiberius was one of Rome's greatest generals, conquering Pannonia, Dalmatia, Raetia, and temporarily Germania; laying the foundations for the northern frontier. But he came to be remembered as a dark, reclusive, and somber ruler who never really desired to be emperor; Pliny the Elder called him tristissimus hominum, "the gloomiest of men."[2] Tiberius is considered to have lacked the political ability of his predecessor Augustus and was a jealous emperor; particularly distrustful of his popular general Germanicus. After the death of Tiberius’ son Drusus Julius Caesar in 23, the quality of his rule declined and ended in terror. In 26, against better judgment, Tiberius exiled himself from Rome and left administration largely in the hands of his unscrupulous Praetorian Prefects Lucius Aelius Sejanus and Quintus Naevius Sutorius Macro. Caligula, Tiberius' grand-nephew and adopted grandson, succeeded the emperor upon his death.[3]

Heir to Augustus

With Tiberius's departure, succession rested solely on Augustus' two young grandsons, Lucius and Gaius Caesar. The situation became more precarious in AD 2 with the death of Lucius. Augustus, with perhaps some pressure from Livia, allowed Tiberius to return to Rome as a private citizen and nothing more.[4] In AD 4, Gaius was killed in Armenia and Augustus had no other choice but to turn to Tiberius.[5][6]

The death of Gaius in AD 4 initiated a flurry of activity in the household of Augustus. Tiberius was adopted as full son and heir and in turn, he was required to adopt his nephew, Germanicus, the son of his brother Drusus and Augustus' niece Antonia Minor.[5][7] Along with his adoption, Tiberius received tribunician power as well as a share of Augustus's maius imperium, something that even Marcus Agrippa may never have had.[8] In AD 7, Agrippa Postumus, a younger brother of Gaius and Lucius, was disowned by Augustus and banned to the island of Pianosa, to live in solitary confinement.[6][9] Thus, when in AD 13, the powers held by Tiberius were made equal, rather than second, to Augustus's own powers, he was for all intents and purposes a "co-princeps" with Augustus, and in the event of the latter's passing, would simply continue to rule without an interregnum or possible upheaval.[10] Augustus died in AD 14, at the age of 75.[11] He was buried with all due ceremony and, as had been arranged beforehand, deified, his will read, and Tiberius confirmed as his sole surviving heir.[12]

In the Bible

The Gospels record that during Tiberius' reign, Jesus of Nazareth preached and was executed under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. In the Bible, Tiberius is mentioned by name only once, in Luke 3:1, stating that John the Baptist entered on his public ministry in the fifteenth year of his reign. Many references to Caesar (or the emperor in some other translations), without further specification, actually refer to Tiberius.

Similarly, the "Tribute Penny" referred to in Matthew 22:19 and Mark 12:15 is popularly thought to be a silver denarius coin of Tiberius.


  1. In Classical Latin, Tiberius' name would be inscribed as TIBERIVS IVLIVS CAESAR AVGVSTVS.
  2. Pliny the Elder, Natural Histories XXVIII.5.23.
  3. "Tiberius". 2006. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  4. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 13
  5. 5.0 5.1 Tacitus, Annals I.3
  6. 6.0 6.1 Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 15
  7. Cassius Dio, Roman History LV.13
  8. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius 21. For the debate over whether Agrippa's imperium after 13 BC was maius or aequum, see, e.g., E. Badian (December–January 1980–1981). "Notes on the Laudatio of Agrippa". Classical Journal 76 (2): 97–109, pp. 105–106. 
  9. Cassius Dio, Roman History LV.32
  10. Seager p. xv
  11. Velleieus Paterculus, Roman History II.123
  12. Tacitus, Annals I.8

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