History of Greece and Rome-Mar.22 "Princeps"
o Princeps: a difficult part to play
Filling the shoes of Augustus and performing the part he created;
theatrical metaphor intentional – it is a part to be played.
Tensions: governing through the senate and government,
allowing their freedom, ones power must promote their
power rather than turn them into subordinates, a patron of
the people and commander of the army, without seeming to
be a military or popular dictator, not too showy, be modest
or civil but also fulfill the Roman population’s want for
show and entertainment.
o The failure of Tiberius’ attempt at civil government and of Gaius’
Gaius: went for charisma, at the expense of the military and senate
Tiberius: reserved with the support of the senate, but forfeited the
popularity of the people.
- After the assassination of Gaius;
o The problem of succession of the principate:
People deeply attached to the Judo-Claudian family
Senate wished to find a princeps like Augustus to restore the
balance of the rule of Repulican and princeps government.
In principal, the princeps was civil office, to which one was
appointed, not a possession. But in practice, the position was
indeed associated with the personal and familial notions of the
o Three constituencies of power: senate, people and the army
Ideally, the princeps would base his power on the acceptance of all
Claudius’ coming to the position undermined the senate, by
the claim of the troops.
o Suffered grave illnesses in his youth; deaf in one ear
and lame; treated as an embarrassment and hidden
away in the imperial family.
He proved himself to be an able princeps with the conquest
of Britain in 43CE. (son Brittanicus born)
Never overcame the hostility of the senate, because of the
way he came to office.
o Structural tension of the principate: because of the blurring of the office
of the princeps and the persons duties, responsibility and affairs, the staff
of the princeps gained increasingly public roles and government duties.
Procurators under Augustus.. gained public positions.
Claudius employed men that he trusted, his own household men:
imperial freedmen appointed to aid him,
His household staff was effectively acting as a civil service
o Imperial rule: response of the ruler to initiative of the ruled
Secretaries: Narcissus (correspondence), Pallas (treasurer),
Callistus (legal petitions) and Polybius (miscellaneous).
Being secretary of correspondence wielded influence over laws,
and as treasurer, gave great influence over state funds.
Two legal systems in operation in provinces:
Appeals were dealt with by the princeps.
- Main source of difficulty was his family:
o 48: from Messalina to Agrippina (his own niece)
Messalina (mother of Brittanicus) was executed for plotting
- 53: Nero as heir; son of Agrippina from a previous marriage.
o 54: Claudius dies (suspected poisoning)
Nero as princeps
Agrippina sought to dominate her teenage son when he became
o 59: death of Agrippina – Nero, tired of her attempts to dominate him, had
o Death of Seneca and Brulus
o Reign of spectacle: actor poet and charioteer.
Used humans as lightbulbs;
o Great Fire in 64, results in the persecution of the Christians
Ruins 3 sections of Rome, and damages another 8
Opened his land and at his own expense, fed and watered and
cared for displaced Romans
- Rebuilding of Rome and building of the Domus Aurea (the Golden House).
o Surrounded by parkland, open to the public – bid for popularity and
charismatic kingly image.
o Also huge statue of himself in bronze
kingly image, also heroic and godlike leader and benefactor of
o Loved by the people but hated by the senate;
Slew of treason trial among the senatorial aristocracy
o Neglect of the army, little attempt to cultivate the military.
Rebellion s in the empire ensued:
Queen Boudicca in 60:
66-70: First Jewish Revolt
67: revolt of Vindex
o 68: Galba’s overthrow of Nero, Nero’s suicide, end of the Judo-Claudians
o 69: Year of four Emperors: Galba, Ortho, Vitellus, Vespasian.
Concept that “emperors could be made elsewhere in Rome:
Broadening of Roman state:
Inclusion of the Roman elite of Gaul and Spain in the Roman
senate (Vindex – Gaul and Seneca – very Romanized
No longer tied to Roman heritage; Roman’s from across the
empire were included.
o From Roman city-state to pan-imperial state.
Reflected in the year of four emperors
And the ability of troops of the Danube to proclaim non-Roman
o Vespasian: soldier, new man from northern Italy.
First member of his family to attain this position
o Further broadening of senate under Flavius rule.