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This Week In History

Germanicus Poisoned – October 10, 19 AD

Germanicus was the son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia Minor. Born in Rome in 15 BC, he was the great-nephew of the emperor Augustus, who convinced his step-son and heir, Tiberius, to adopt him as his heir. Germanicus married his second cousin, Agrippina Senior, Augustus’s granddaughter, and had nine children with her. Germanicus was an accomplished general in the Roman army and was beloved by Romans. He traveled with Tiberius in 5 AD to Pannonia and Germany to deal with rebellions and returned to the area in 14 AD as the commander of the forces in Germania Inferior. This is a category of  Germanicus coins.

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Death of Germanicus

While stationed in Germany, Germanicus managed to recover the legionary eagles lost by Varus during the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest seven years earlier. This increased his popularity even more with the Roman public, and Tiberius started becoming concerned that his fame was making him too popular. At the same time was costing the empire a lot in military finances, running contrary to the fiscally conservative nature of the emperor. Tiberius recalled Germanicus to Rome in 17 AD, arriving to a lavish triumph by the adoring citizens. Germanicus was named consul for the second time in 18 AD (the first being in 12 AD).

Uprisings were breaking out all over the eastern part of the empire, so Tiberius saw this as an opportunity to get Germanicus out of the way. In 18 AD, He sent Germanicus to deal with the complex issues in Armenia, Cappadocia, Commagene, Syria and Judaea. Germanicus was able to use his talents once again and brought Cappadocia and Commagene under Roman control, making both provinces. After his success there, he visited Egypt, then the Roman personal property of the emperor since the time of Augustus. When he overstepped his authority by relieving a famine without written permission from Tiberius, his fate was sealed.

The governor of Syria, Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, cancelled the arrangements Germanicus made, resulting in Germanicus recalling the governor back to Rome, which was beyond his authority. Germanicus traveled to Antioch and was stricken with a sudden and mysterious illness. He died on October 10, 19 AD and accused Piso on his deathbed of poisoning him, although it was never proven. Piso would later stand trial for the crime and was found guilty and committed suicide. Although most probably acting on orders of Tiberius, the emperor skillfully avoided all connection to the incident.

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