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ROMAN HISTORY

Part Three: The Empire from Augustus to Constantine’s Sons
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Augustus and the Julio-Claudians


  1. 28 BC—Augustus and Agrippa are co-consuls

  2. 27 BC—Augustus makes a big show of giving up powers, and is voted proconsular imperium over the two Spains, Gaul, Egypt and Syria

  3. 23 BC—Augustus gets or renews tribunicia potestas.

    1. Augustus renews the pre-Republican position of praefectus urbi and makes Messala praefectus urbi but Messala steps down after six days after senatorial opposition.

  4. Augustus’ first choice for succession is Marcellus, his nephew (Marcellus is the son of Augustus’ sister Octavia by her first husband). Augustus has his daughter Julia marry Marcellus.

    1. In 23 BC Augustus falls gravely ill and entrusts his signet ring to Agrippa since Marcellus is not old enough to assume the principate. Eventually, Marcellus dies. Augustus has his daughter Julia marry Agrippa (he makes Agrippa divorce his wife).

  5. Following Marcellus’death, Augustus adopts the children of Agrippa and Julia as Gaius Caesar and Julius Caesar. The remaining child of Agrippa and Julia is Agrippa Postumus.

  6. When Agrippa’s heart fails in 12 BC, Gaius and Lucius Caesar are too young, so Augustus turns to Livia’s son by Tiberius Claudius Nero, Tiberius. Tiberius’ popular and well-liked younger brother, Drusus I, dies in Germany in AD 9 by falling off a horse.

  7. Gaius and Lucius Caesar die, Gaius of wounds in Armenia. So in AD 4, Augustus officially adopts Tiberius, and Tiberius is obviously Augustus’ successor.

    1. Augustus also adopts Agrippa Postumus, Agrippa and Julia’s surviving child.

    2. Augustus makes Tiberius adopt his own nephew Germanicus, the son of Drusus I (Tiberius’ brother) and Antonia (daughter of Antony and Octavia).

    3. Augustus makes Germanicus marry Agrippina, a daughter of Agrippa and Julia.

    4. Tiberius’ own son, Drusus II, is relegated to unimportance since he is only a Claudian and not a Julio-Claudian.


Augustan Foreign Policy


  1. Augustus personally fights the Cantabrians and Asturians in northwestern Spain, but his health fails and Agrippa defeats the Cantabrians and Asturians through enslavement.

  2. Augustus divides the old Gallia Comata into Lugdunensis, Aquitania, and Belgica.

  3. Augustus forms a veterans’ colony at Auguta Praetoria in the Alpine region of Italy.

  4. Augstus’ stepsons Tiberius and Drusus I subdied Raetia (Switzerlad) and Noricum (Austria and Tyrol)

  5. In Germany: from 12 to 9 BC, Drusus I performed well against the Germans, but died of a broken leg from falling off a horse. His brother Tiberius succeeded him, but Tiberius was called to suppress a rebellion in Pannonia and Illyricum. Tiberius’ successor in Germany, Quinctilius Varus, was creamed along with his three legions by Arminius at Teutoberg Forest in AD 9.

  6. Western Northern Africa: Caesar had annexed Numidia as the province Africa Nova, some of which Augustus gave to King Juba II (who had married Cleopatra Selene).

  7. Marcus Agrippa fought against the Danubians and Pannonians in 13 BC; after his death, Tiberius finished the job from 12 to 9 BC.

  8. Augustus separated Macedonia from Greece by creating the province of Achaea, with its capital at Corinth. Augustus also annexed Cyprus as a separated province from Cilicia.

  9. Client Kingdoms

    1. Following Actium, Augusuts gave large territories in Asia Minor—Galatia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, most of Cilicia—to Amyntas the Galatian. Rome acquired Galatia and Pamphylia when Amyntas was killed.

    2. Augustus enlarged Judea, kingdom of Herod I, a koing who built the Third Temple at Jerusalem and was a wife and son killer. A decade after Herod I’s death, Augustus made Judea and Samaria a combined sub-province attached to Syria.

  10. Armenia and Parthia

    1. Armenia was annexed as a province in 34 BC, but had slipped away from Roman control right before Actium. Artaxias gained control of Armenia and slew all Roman citizens. For a while, Augustus did not punish Artaxias.

    2. Phraates IV was ruling Parthia. Tiridates, a rival of Phraates IV, came to Augustus with Phraates IV’s son, and Augustus gave Tiridates refuge.

      1. In 23 BC, Phraates IV agreed to give back the legions and prisoners from Carrhae in exchange for his son.

      2. In 20 BC, Artaxias of Armenia was killed and Augustus sent Tiberius with a Roman army to place Tigranes III on the Armenian throne.

        1. Phraates IV got scared and immediately handed over the standards.

        2. Augustus declared a great victory with slogans such as signis receptis, civibus et signis militaribus a Parthis recuperatis, and Armenia recepta.

      3. When Tigranes III of Armenia died, the Armenians put their own king on the throne. Augustus sent his grandson Gaius Caesar to put a Roman king on the throne. Gaius Caesar died of his wounds from the fighting.

  11. Egypt and the Read Sea Zone

    1. Egypt was mostly quiet except for skirmished on the Nubian border in Upper Egypt.

    2. Gaius Cornelius Gallus was the first prefect of Egypt. He was an accomplished general, elegiac poet, and friend of Augustus, Vergil, and Asinius Pollio.

    3. Cornelius Gallus led an expedition against the Nubians (sometimes incorrectly called Ethiopians) in 29 BC.

      1. In later campaigns, Gaius Petronius, a later prefect, repulsed counterattacks from Nubia and drove them back into the Sudan, destroying their holy city of Napata.

      2. Candace of Ethiopia, queen of the Nubians, finally agreed to a fixing of the boundary of Egypt about 60 miles south of Syene and the First Cataract.


Tiberius (AD 14-37)


  1. Tiberius succeeds as a fifty-five year old man. Tiberius sends his son Drusus II to put down the soldiers’ revolt in Pannonia.

  2. Tiberius sends his nephew Germanicus with powers greater than consular imperium to the East in order to negotiate with Parthian king Artabanus III about placing a Roman client on the throne of Armenia. Tiberius also sends Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, who hates Germanicus though the two are formal friends, but Calpurnius Piso refuses to follow Germanicus’ orders and Germanicus and Calpurnius Piso quarrel, leading to Piso abandoning his post. When Germanicus dies of a delirious fever, he curses Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, saying that Piso killed him through sorcery and poison. Agrippina the Elder, a granddaughter of Augustus and the wife of Germanicus, starts off to Rome with Germanicus’ ashes.

  3. Meanwhile Calpurnius Piso attempts to take Syria and is put on trial at Rome. He commits suicide but Tiberius makes his sons stand trial for him. A damnatio memoriae of Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso is ordered.

  4. Agrippina the Elder is suspicious of Tiberius because he and Livia refuse to participate in the public mourning for Germanicus. Agrippina the Elder believes that Tiberius had a hand in Germanicus’ death, because he wants his own son Drusus II on the throne.

    1. Meanwhile, Agrippina the Elder advances the claims of her three children by Germanicus (Drusus III, Caligula/Gaius, and Nero [not the emperor]) to the throne.

  5. Sejanus: the prefect of the Praetorian Guard under Tiberius, he had risen to the post along with his father, and convinced Tiberius to make him sole Praetorian Prefect after his father’s death. Tacitus portrays Sejanus as one of the most infamous and sinister characters in all of Roman history.

    1. Sejanus attempted to betrothe his infant daughter Junilla to the future emperor Claudius’ son, but Claudius’ son died. Claudius was a brother of Germanicus.

    2. Some hold that Sejanus seduced Livilla (sister of Germanicus and wife of Drusus II) and plotted with her to kill Drusus II. After Drusus II’s death, Sejanus attempted to marry Livilla, but Tiberius refused the wedding. Sejanus was probably trying to tie his family to Tiberius Gemellus, the son of Livilla and Drusus II (and therefore the grandson of Tiberius).

    3. Sejanus convinced Tiberius that Agrippina the Younger was plotting against Tiberius’ grandson Tiberius Gemellus (son of Livilla, sister of Germanicus, and Drusus II).

    4. Tiberius, with Sejanus’ urging, decided to leave Rome for semiretirement on the island of Capreae (Capri) in the Bay of Naples.

    5. With Tiberius gone, Sejanus attacked Agrippina the Elder and her friends through the law of maiestas. After the death of Livia, he convinced Tiberius to exile Agrippina the Elder and her son Nero to desert islands, and to imprison Drusus III.

    6. Statues of Tiberius and Sejanus stood side by side, and altars to clemency and friendship had both of their names.

    7. Tiberius named Agrippina the Elder and Germanicus’ son, Caligula, as his preferred heir in a letter to the Senate. When Sejanus plotted against Caligula, Antonia (mother of Agrippina and granmother of Caligula) sent a freedman of hers, Pallas, to Tiberius, who then called Caligula to the safety of Capri.

    8. Tiberius sent Naevius Sutorius Macro, prefect of the vigiles, to Rome to take over command of the Praetorian Guard from Sejanus. Macro gave the presiding consul a letter that condemned Sejanus.

      1. Soon Sejanus was executed along with his eldest son Strabo, his daughter Junilla, and his second son, Aelianus Capito. Sejanus’ widow, Apicata, committed suicide.

      2. Before committing suicide, Apicata wrote Tiberius a letter saying that Sejanus and Livilla had murdered Drusus II.

      3. Livilla was the sister of Germanicus and the wife of Drusus II, Tiberius’ son. Sejanus seduced her, supposedly, and tried to marry her following Drusus II’s death.

  6. Tiberius journeyed to the boundary of Rome three times from Capri, but could never cross it. On his last trip to Rome he fell into a coma and died at Misenum. Rumor has it that his pretorian prefect Macro smothered him.

  7. Tiberius nominated Caligula and Tiberius Gemellus, the son of Drusus II (and thus Tiberius’ grandson) as co-heirs, but when Tiberius fell into a coma and died at Misenum, Macro proposed that Caligula should be made sole heir.

  8. Delatores, informers, flourished under Tiberius.


Caligula (AD 37-41)


  1. Caligula had a promising beginning but then became a mad tyrant after a serious illness.

  2. Caligula lived as a youth with his grandmother Antonia and three young Thracian princes as well as Herod Agrippa I, heir to the throne of Judea, and Ptolemy of Mauretania, son of King Juba II and Cleopatra Selene, and grandson of Antony and Cleopatra (by his mother, Cleopatra Selene).

  3. As newly crowned emperor Caligula abolished the slave tax, burned Tiberius’ private records to ease the fears of those Tiberius suspected of treason, piously buried the bones of his brother Nero and his mother Agrippina the Elder in the mausoleum of Augustus.

  4. Caligula adopted is cousin and former joint heir, Tiberius Gemellus, as his own son and heir. Caligula also shared the consulship with his uncle Claudius.

  5. Caligula’s plan to conquer Britain and Germany was put on hold by his serious illness in 37 AD.

  6. After his illness Caligula forced Tiberius Gemellus and Macro, who had engineered his accession to the throne, to commit suicide. He also executed his former father-in-law, the senator Marcus Iunius Silanus.

  7. Caligula took his sister Drusilla away from her first husband and had her marry his close friend Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. He gave Lepidus his signet ring during his grave illness.

  8. Caligula had his sister Drusilla deified after her death in 38 AD.

  9. Caligula’s three sisters, the children of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder, were: Drusilla, Agrippina the Younger, and Livilla.

  10. Caligula later executed his friend Lepidus, asserting that Lepidus was the lover of Agrippina the Younger, and was plotting against him. He exiled his two remaining sisters (Agrippina the Younger and Drusilla).

  11. Caligula and the future emperor Galba conducted many successful operations along the Rhine.

  12. In 40 AD, Caligula’s long-planned invasion of Britain in imiation of Julius Caesar came only to a march to the Straight of Dover and the erection of a lighthouse 200 feet high at Gesoriacum. He ordered troops to gather seashells.

  13. Caligula abandoned Greater Armenia and allowed Parthia to control it.

  14. Caligula believed his horse Incitatus was a reincarnation of Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great. He made Incitatus a senator.

  15. Caligula instructed Petronius, his legate in Syria, to install his statue in the Temple of Jerusalem. Herod Agrippa I and Petronius averted the disaster.

  16. Caligula insulted the senator Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso by openly sleeping with his wife. Calpurnius Piso later plotted against Nero.

  17. Caligula was assinated by Cassius Chaerea, a tribune of the Praetorian Guard he had offended, in 41 BC at the Palatine Games.


Claudius (AD 41 to 54)


  1. Claudius was the brother of Germanicus and Livilla, the son of Drusus I and Antonia.

  2. Claudius was the uncle of Caligula, and served with Caligula as consul. Rumor has it he was found cowering in a closet after Caligula’s assasination, but in reality he bribed the Praetorian Guard even before Caligula’s assasination.

  3. According to Josephus, Herod Agrippa I persuaded Claudius to accept the emperorship and also persuaded the senate to accept Claudius as emperor.

  4. Claudius was deformed, had a speech impediment, etc., but Augustus saw his intellect and gave him tutors, the historian Livy encouraged him to write history, etc.

  5. Claudius introduced several trials intra cubiculum principis.

  6. Claudius was a historian and philologist, learning Etruscan and Punic and writing histories of the Carthaginians and Etruscans.

    1. Claudius’ first two wives, Plautia Urgulanilla and Aelia Paetina, were unfaithful. By Aelia Paetina, Claudius had his first child, Antonia. Claudius then married Messalina

    2. Messalina bore Claudius two children: Octavia and Brittanicus.

    3. Messalina’s lover, Gaius Silius, plotted with her to overthrow Claudius. After learning about this from his freedmen Narcissus, Pallas, and Callistus, Claudius executed Silius and Messalina.

    4. Claudius then married his niece Agrippina the Younger, the brother of Caligula and the daughter of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder. Agrippina the Younger was the lover of Claudius’ freedman Pallas, who urged Claudius to marry her. He changed the Roman laws on incest to do so.

  7. Claudius charged Tiberius’ granddaughter Julia and his own niece Julia Livlla (Caligula’s sister) with treason and had them executed.

  8. Claudius relied on his trusted friends (amici Caesaris) and freedmen such as Narcissus (his secretary ab epistulis), Callistus (examiner of petitions, a libellis, and in charge of trials and investigations), and Pallas (head treasurer, a rationibus). Antonia, grandmother of Caligula, had sent Pallas to warn Tiberius of threats against Caligula.

  9. Claudius built an artificial harbor two miles north of Ostia at Portus. Trajan built a more protected inner harbor at Portus during his reign.

  10. The Dalmatian general Claudius Scribonianus rebelled against Claudius, helped by Annius Vincianus.

  11. Foreign policy

    1. Claudius suppressed the revolt Caligula had caused in Mauretania by killing the king, Ptolemy of Mauretania. After crushing the revolt, Claudius divided Mauretania into Maurentania Caesariensis and Mauretania Tingitana (Tangiers).

    2. Claudius conquers Britain in 43 BC: Invited by chieftains afraid of the powerful Cunobelinus, who had his capital at Camulodunum, Claudius defeated Cunobelinus’ son Caratacus, who had stepped forward as a proponent of Druidism (dangerous to Roman rule per its emphasis on Celtic unity).

      1. 43 BC—Romans land in Kent, defeat the Britons at Medway. Then Claudius arrives, defeats Caratacus and takes Camulodunum.

      2. The senate voted Claudius a triumph and the name “Britannicus”.

  12. To ensure her son Nero would be next in line, Agrippina the Younger married him to Claudius’ daughter Octavia. Octavia had been betrothed to the senator Lucius Junius Silanus’s son, so Agrippina engineered a charge of incest against him.

    1. In 50 BC. Claudius adopted Nero formally. His name changed from Gn. Domitius Ahenobarbus

    2. Nero’s education was entrusted to Sextus Afranius Burrus and the Stoic Seneca the Younger. Burrus was a friend of Agrippina, and the new prefect of the Praetorian Guard.

  13. Claudius died in 54 BC of mysterious circumstances. Pliny the Elder sys that Agrippina served him a bowl of poisoned mushrooms.


Nero (AD 54-68)


  1. Nero’s first five, good years are called the quinquennium Neronis. He was guided by Burrus and Seneca and restrained by his mother, Agrippina the Younger.

  2. At the end of Claudius’ reign, the Parthian king Vologeses I put his brother Tiridates I on the Armenian throne. Nero sent Domitius Corbulo, a strict disciplinarian, to the East. Corbulo put Tigranes V, a Roman client on the Armenian throne.

    1. Later, in 61 BC, Tigranes V of Armenia dumbly attacked Media, a powerful Parthian ally. The Romans tried to help and got their butts kicked. So Corbulo took command of Roman forces and invaded Armenia, forcing them to recognize Roman supremacy. In return, he allowed Tiridates I to ascend the throne provided he came to Rome to personally receive his crown from Nero.

  3. Nero sent Suetonius Paulinus to Britain. After Suetonius Paulinus conquered the island of Mona, the main center of druidisim, the queen of the Iceni and Trinovantes, Boudicca, staged a rebellion. Her husband, the king Prasutagus, had been killed by Roman procurators (working under tax collectors, e.g. Seneca the Younger). The procurators also raped Boudicca’s daughters and flogged her, and robbed her of her land.

    1. Boudicca captured Camulodunum and Londinium. She massacred 70,000 Roman citizens in Londinium.

    2. Suetonius Paulinus defeated Boudicca and Boudicca killed herself.

  4. Nero executed the freedman Callistus and his aunt Domitia Lepida (grandmother of Octavia and Britannicus).

    1. Domitia Lepida had forced Narcissus to commit suicide upon the death of Claudius. She also had contrived to murder Marcus Junius Silanus, provincial governor of Asia. But Nero executed her.

  5. Wanting to break free of his mother Agrippina the Younger, Nero expelled Pallas, a freedman and her biggest ally in the palace, from his court. Agrippina the Younger was pissed off and threatened to support Britannicus as rightful heir (Britannicus was the son of Claudius and Messalina). In response Nero poisoned Britannicus right before Agrippina’s eyes.

  6. Nero wanted to divorce his wife Octavia and marry his mistress Poppaea Sabina, but Agrippina didn’t want this to happen.

    1. Poppaea Sabina had been the wife of Marcus Salvius Otho. In return for allowing his tryst with Poppaea Sabina, Nero gave Otho the governorship of Lusitania (Portugal).

    2. Nero exiled Octavia and married Poppaea Sabina. Nero killed Poppaea Sabina while she was pregnant by kicking her in the stomach, because he was batshit crazy.

    3. After killing Poppaea Sabina, Nero attempted to marry Antonia, the daughter of Claudius. She was eventually executed.

  7. Nero killed his mother Agrippina the Younger. He tried to with a collapsing boat, but she swam to safety and then he ordered Seneca and Burrus to have the praetorian guard kill her. Anicetus killed Agrippina the Younger, acting on Nero’s orders.

  8. When Burrus died in 62 AD, Nero replaced him with Tigellinus (Gaius Ofonius Tigellinus), the prefect of the vigiles.

  9. Nero was into the arts, performing, music, theatre, etc., and toured Greece. He proclaimed Macedonia free of its governor, in thanks for Greece’s welcoming attitude.

  10. Nero was at Antium during the great fire at Rome in 64 AD. When he came back, he built an extravagant golden palace (the domus aurea). He scapegoated the Christians, a process described by Tacitus (who also hated Christians).

  11. Gaius Calpurnius Piso, whose first marriage Caligula had destroyed, plotted against Nero—the famous Pisonian conspiracy. In the conspiracy were Lucan (Seneca’s nephew) and several Praetorians. Because of the conspiracy, Seneca, Lucan, and Petronius had to commit suicide.

  12. Nero forced Domitius Corbulo to commit suicide when an alleged plot against the throne was discovered at Beneventum.

  13. Tigellinus’ co-praetorian prefect Faenius Rufus rebelled against Nero at some point.

  14. The Jewish Revolt under Nero

    1. Judea was incensed by the plundering of their temples’ treasures and by Nero’s lack of response when the Greeks attacked their Jewish neighbors in the city of Caesarea.

    2. The imperial legate of Syria, Cestus Gallus, beseiged Jerusalem but had to retreat when the winter came.

    3. Nero gave Titus Flavius Vespasianus (Vespasian) a special command to quell the uprising in Judea. In 67 BC, Vespasian drew a noose around Jerusalem by taking the countryside. Among those who surrendered was Josephus, commander of the rebels in Galilee and future historian..

    4. After Nero: in 70 BC, Titus, Vespasian’s elder son, stormed and captured Jerusalem. A relief on the Arch of Titus shows this destruc tion and a triumphal procession bearing the spoils from the Temple of Jerusalem, including a menorah. The funds from the sack were used to fund the Colosseum.

    5. At Masada, a rebel stronghold, all but two women and five children committed suicide when Flavius Silva took Masada.

  15. The revolt of Julius Vindex in Gaul against Nero in 68 AD

    1. Nero was prevented from touring Asia Minor and Egypt when the governor of Gallia Lugdunensis, Julius Vindex, rebelled against him. By spring, Otho (governor of Lusitania) and Servius Sulpicius Galba (governor of Hispania Citerior) also supported Vindex against Nero.

    2. Lucius Verginius Rufus, Nero’s loyal commander in Upper Germany, led three legions into Gaul and defeated Vindex at Vesontio. Vindex committed suicide.

    3. But Galba went to Rome and bribed the Praetorians, also winning the support of the Senate. Galba was declared emperor. Nero, after saying his last words “qualis artifex pereo”, had a faithful freedman kill him.

    4. Nymphidius Sabinus, Tigellinus’ successor as the Praetorian Prefect of Nero, urged the Praetorian Guard to defect to Galba.

    5. Galba restored Nero’s fallen statues and took the name Nero.




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