Tiberius, Roman Emperor

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Reigned a.d. 14 to 37; b. Nov. 16, 42 b.c.; d. Misenum, March 16, a.d. 37. He was the son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla, who divorced her husband in 38 to marry Octavian (Augustus). After a brilliant military career (206 b.c.), Tiberius retired to Rhodes until a.d. 2, probably piqued over Augustus's failure to recognizenize him as his successor. On June 26, a.d. 4, after the death of Augustus's grandsons, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, Tiberius was adopted by his stepfather. Augustus died Aug. 19, a.d. 14, and after an interim rule in virtue of the imperium he already possessed, Tiberius was proclaimed emperor on September 17. In general, he followed the social, political, and foreign policies of Augustus. He refused, however, divine honors and enriched the treasury by a stricter economy. Under the influence of Sejanus, he became cruel and tyrannous. In a.d. 26 he took up residence in Capri.

Tiberius is explicitly mentioned in the Gospel of Luke (3.1), and it was during his reign that the public preaching of St. john the baptist, the crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ took place, as did the martyrdom of St. stephen and the conversion of St. paul. It is quite possible that the coin of tribute shown to Christ (Mt 22.19) was a silver piece decorated with the image of the emperor and the inscription: Ti (berius) Caesar Divi Aug(usti) F(ilius) Augustus. The legend reported by orosius (Hist. adv. paganos 7.4; Patrologia latina 31:10661069) that on being informed of Christ's death and Resurrection by pilate, Tiberius wanted to proclaim Him a god is apocryphal, however, (see Tertullian, Apol. 5; Patrologia latina 1:290292).

Bibliography: m. p. charlesworth, The Cambridge Ancient History 10:607652. f. b. marsh, The Reign of Tiberius (New York 1931; repr. 1959). e. ciaceri, Tiberio successore di Augusto (2d ed. Rome 1944).

[m. j. costelloe]