Augustus

Caligula Emperor. March 28, 37 AD.

When Tiberius died on 16 March 37 AD, his estate and the titles of the principate were left to Caligula and Tiberius’s own grandson, Gemellus, who were to serve as joint heirs. Although Tiberius was 77 and on his death bed, some ancient historians still conjecture that he was murdered. Tacitus writes that the Praetorian Prefect, Macro, smothered Tiberius with a pillow to hasten Caligula’s accession, much to the joy of the Roman people. Seneca the Elder and Philo, who both wrote during Tiberius’s reign, record Tiberius as dying a natural death. Backed by Macro, Caligula had Tiberius’s will nullified with regard to Gemellus on grounds of insanity, but otherwise carried out Tiberius’s wishes. Caligula accepted the powers of the principate as conferred by the sena...

Otho, Emperor of Rome. January 15, 69 AD.

Galba was childless and far advanced in years, and Otho, encouraged by the predictions of astrologers, aspired to succeed him. He came to a secret agreement with Galba’s favourite, Titus Vinius, agreeing to marry Vinius’ daughter in exchange for his support. However, in January 69 AD, his hopes were dashed by Galba’s formal adoption of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus. Desperate as Otho was because of the state of his finances, he found the money needed to purchase the services of some twenty-three soldiers of the Praetorian Guard. On the morning of 15 January, Otho attended as usual to pay his respects to Galba, and then hastily excused himself and hurried from the Palatine Hill to meet his accomplices. He was then escorted to the Praetorian camp, where he was saluted a...

The Julian Calendar. January 1, 45 BC.

  In the mid-1st century BCE Julius Caesar invited astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria to advise him about the reform of the calendar, and Sosigenes decided that the only practical step was to abandon the lunar calendar altogether. Months must be arranged on a seasonal basis, and a tropical (solar) year used, as in the Egyptian calendar, but with its length taken as 365 1/4 days. To remove the immense discrepancy between calendar date and equinox, it was decided that the year known in modern times as 46 BCE should have two intercalations. This insertion amounted to an addition of 67 days, making a year of no less than 445 days and causing the beginning of March 45 BCE in the Roman republican calendar to fall on what is still called January 1 of the Julian calendar. Previous errors havi...

Justin´s madness forces his abdication. December 7, 574.

  As insanity invaded the mind of Justin, he became aware that he had to name a colleague for succession of his throne. Passing over his own relatives, he raised, on the advice of his wife Sophia, the general Tiberius to be Caesar in December 7 574, adopting him as his son, and withdrew into retirement. According to John of Ephesus, as Justin II slipped into the madness of his final days he was pulled through the palace on a wheeled throne, biting attendants as he passed. He reportedly ordered organ music to be played constantly throughout the palace in an attempt to soothe his frenzied mind. The tardy knowledge of his own impotence determined him to lay down the weight of the diadem; he showed some symptoms of a discerning and even magnanimous spirit when he addressed his assembly, Y...

Emperor Diocletian and the Tetrarchy. November 20, 284 AD.

After his rise through the ranks of military until he became the Roman Cavalry Commander to Emperor Carus, when Carus and his son Numerian died on campaign in Persia, Diocletian became emperor on November 20, 284. Of course, Carus surviving son, Carinus also claimed the title, but was defeated in the battle of Margus.  Diocletian´s rule put an end to the Crisis of the Third Century. Diocletian named his fellow officer Maximian co-emperor,  Augustus, in 286. Afterwards, in 293, he named caesars Galerius and Constantius, or heirs of the augustus title. This new regime was called the Tetrarchy, or “government of four”, and it meant the geographical division of the empire into four parts. Diocletian lead military campaigns against Sarmatians, Carpi, Alemanii, and the usurpers in Egypt, securin...

Justin II, new Byzantine emperor. November 15, 565.

In his deathbed, and with Callinicus (the praepositus sacri cubiculi) as the only witness to his last words, Justinian I designated “Justin, Vigilantia´s son” as his heir. Modern historians suspect Callinicus may have made up this last words to secure the succession for his political ally, as there was another nephew, and candidate  for the throne: Justin, son of Germanus. Callinicus, together with other members of the Byzantine Senate also interested in this succession, informed Justin and Vigilantia and offered the throne, wich Justin accepted. Only after the Patriarch of Constantinople crowned the new Augustus early the next morning, was the death of Justinian and the succession of Justin officially announced in the Hippodrome of Constantinople. In the first few days of his reign Justin...

Roman Republican Coins

The Roman Republican period began after the Roman Kingdom was overthrown by Roman nobles in 509 BC and lasted until the establishment of the Roman Empire by Octavian/Augustus in 27 BC. Although coinage began in the Greek world before the beginning of the Republic, sheep and lumps of bronze were used as vehicles of trade. The lumps of bronze had to be weighed during each transaction to determine their value and these are called aes rude and considered proto-money and very collectible. Near the end of the 4th Century BC, some began to make flat bronze bars with or without a design on them, roughly weighing five Roman pounds, or libra. A libra weighed 328.9 grams. These flat bars are called aes signatum and are another form of proto-money. The city of Rome began producing its own aes signatum...

Titus Begins Sole Reign – June 23, 79 AD

During the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD), Vespasian was held in high esteem, allowing his son, Titus to be raised in the company of the royal court. Titus was taught along side Britannicus, Claudius’s son. They became close friends and Titus was at the dinner party at which Britannicus was fatally poisoned by Nero in 55. It is said Titus even drank some of the poison and became very ill, but recovered. Nero continued to rule, Vespasian had retired in 51 and Titus was sent to Germania. From c.57-59, Titus was a military tribune in Germania, arriving in Britannia c.60 with reinforcements after the revolt of Boadicea. Titus married twice, the first to Arrecina Tertulla, the daughter of one of Caligula’s praetorian prefects, when he returned to Rome in c.63. The were married until Tertulla’s de...

Julia Drusilla – June 10, 38 AD

Julia Drusilla was one of the daughters of Germanicus and Agrippina Senior. She was also the sister of Nero Caesar, Drusus Caesar, Caligula, Agrippina Junior and Julia Livilla. Born in 16 AD, she was only three when Germanicus died in Antioch. Drusilla and her siblings were brought back to Rome by their mother, from where they all lived in Germany. The children were raised by Agrippina Senior, with the help of their paternal grandmother, Antonia Junior. During 26 AD, the Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus, essentially was running Rome and the administration of it, thanks to Tiberius delegating so much responsibility to him. Although Sejanus was not in line for succession to the throne, he used his power to eliminate possible challengers. Agrippina Senior, Nero Caesar and Drusus Caesar were all ar...

Eagles Recovered – May 26, 17 AD

Publius Quinctilius Varus, born in 46 BC, came from a noble family and became a personal friend to both Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Roman emperor Augustus. He married Vipsania Marcella Agrippina, great-niece of Augustus and daughter of Marcus Agrippa. After she died, he married Claudia Pulchra, grand-niece of Augustus through Octavia the Younger. Varus was fast-tracked on his political career and finished his cursus honorem early when he was elected consul with Tiberius in 13 BC. He gave the eulogy at Marcus Agrippa’s funeral in 12 BC. In 8/7 BC, he was appointed governor of Africa and in 7/6 BC, moved on to governor of Syria with four legions at his command. It was here Varus was known for his harsh rule and high taxes. A revolt in Judaea after the death of King Herod the Great in 4 BC w...

Domitia Longina – February 11, 50-55 AD

Domitia Longina was born on February 11, but in which year is unclear – sources place it between 50-55 AD. Although not much is documented about her before her marriage to the Roman emperor, Domitian, in 71, her lineage is well connected. Domitia was the youngest daughter of Nero’s most renowned general, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo and his wife, Cassia Longina. She was also the direct descendant of Augustus through her mother’s side, as a great-great-great-great-granddaughter. As such, she was one of the last living members of the Julian line. Domitia’s father was not only an accomplished general, he was also a senator and consul under Caligula. During the reigns of Claudius and Nero, Corbulo conducted military campaigns in Parthia and Germania. However, black clouds formed over the fami...

Father of the Country – February 5, 2 BC

The title of Pater Patriae, or Father of the Country, was first given to a Roman general – Marcus Furius Camillus, in 386 BC. It was an honorary title conferred by the Senate, and in the case of Camillus, it was given because of his role after the siege of Rome in the Battle of the Allia by Gallic invaders, when he routed the Senones and was determined to be the second founder of the city, after Romulus. Roman imperial coinage The title would not be used again for over three hundred years, when the Senate would confer it to consul Marcus Tullius Cicero in 63 BC, for his role in the exposing the Second Catalinarian Conspiracy to overthrow the Roman Republic by senator Lucius Sergius Catalina and various members of the senate and equestrian ranks. Cicero intercepted letters the conspirators ...

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