14 - 37 CE
|An incredible string of bad luck for the heirs of Augustus made Tiberius Emperor of Rome, a job he didn't really want. He spent most of his reign avoiding the spotlight his step-father had craved, leaving the running of the Empire to others, such as his Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus.|
|Tiberius "Tribute Penny"|
|About this coin: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's; render unto God what is God's". This denarius, featuring Tiberius on the obverse and his mother Livia on the reverse, is probably the type of coin Jesus held up in his famous speech. It is the only style of denarius of the reigning Emperor that would have been in circulation at the time.|
Tiberius became emperor on 19 August in the year 14, upon the death of Augustus. He ruled until his own death on 16 March, 37. The son of Augustus's second wife, Livia, he was adopted (apparently with some reluctance) by Augustus after all other viable candidates met with untimely ends. Some historians suspect Livia of arranging for the death or discreditation of all rivals to her son, but others believe Tiberius was simply the beneficiary of a fortuitous (for him) series of accidents.
Tiberius was not a flamboyant public figure like his predecessor, and eventually he retreated from the public eye, taking up residence on the island of Capri in 27. This put nearly unlimited power in the hands of the infamous Sejanus, ambitious head of the Praetorian Guard, since he controlled access to Tiberius. Four years later, Tiberius got word that Sejanus was planning a coup. Fearing for his own safety, Tiberius arranged to have Sejanus removed from his position and executed.
Toward the end, Tiberius's paranoia and suspicions grew. Treason trials became a regular occurrence; one man was even condemned for carrying a coin of Tiberius (much like the one above?) into the toilet. Tiberius is quoted as saying, "With my coin in your bosom you turned aside into foul and noisome places and relieved your bowels."
The historian Tacitus tells a colorful but dubious story of the end of Tiberius. Laid low by illness, Tiberius appeared to have died. At this point, Caligula removed his ring and went out to tearfully announce the passing of his beloved uncle. The people immediately hailed him as the new emperor. But then he received word that Tiberius had recovered and was calling out for food. In a panic, Caligula turned to Macro, commander of the Praetorians. Quick-thinking Macro then went in and smothered Tiberius with a pillow.