December 28, 2015

their views of emperors in general.

In particular, both had lived through and endured the reign of the Emperor Domitian, whose erratic and tyrannical behaviour plainly coloured their views of emperors in general.

For Suetonius, this comes out in his Lives of the Caesars, gossipy and occasionally muck-making biographies that show the emperors as weak human beings.

For Tacitus, his Annals and Histories show how the imperial system put too much power into the hands of one individual or dynasty, with catastrophic effects on the state such as familial infighting, civil war and unsuitable leaders.

The reported fates of the North Korean ministers evoke these pessimistic and sometimes melodramatic accounts of some of the more colourful emperors.
'Trusted' advisers

One of the key issues for Roman emperors was their tendency to be dependent on particular individuals as advisers.

As with similar modern autocrats, one problem for the suspicious and capricious supreme rulers of Rome was how long such advisers could be trusted, and how to get rid of them once the emperor's trust was lost, or once he became tired of them.

A spectacular public end made it clear who was really in charge, and encouraged obedience and servility through vivid intimidation (it could be the spectator next).
Image copyright Hulton Archive
Image caption Tiberius turned against his trusted ally Sejanus

One example is the Emperor Tiberius, successor of Augustus and the emperor under whom Jesus was executed, who for some years depended on the services of his commander of the guard, Sejanus.

Sejanus was so trusted by Tiberius that the ageing emperor felt able to retire to a life of pleasure on the Italian island of Capri, leaving Sejanus to run things for him in Rome.

But eventually (we are told) the emperor's suspicions won out, and Sejanus was cunningly brought down by being lured to the Roman Senate to hear a letter from Tiberius read aloud before the assembly.

The letter was supposed to bring him promotion and marriage into the imperial family, but in fact contained a complete denunciation and a death sentence.

He was taken to prison, strangled and his body hacked to pieces in the streets by the Roman mob.

Posted by: lisaere at 07:29 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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