Germanicus was the son of Nero Drusus (Tiberius' brother) and Antonia II
He had two siblings: Livilla, and the emperor Claudius
He was adopted by Tiberius after Drusus' death
He married Agrippina the Elder
They had six children: Nero Caesar, Drusus Caesar, Gaius (Caligula), Agrippina the Younger, Julia Drusilla and Julia Livilla
Germanicus and Agrippina were very popular with the people (and with Tacitus) possibly because:
- They were very charismatic and active in Rome
- Germanicus had an "unassuming personality and popular manner" according to Tacitus
- ... Which made them look better in contrast to Tiberius and Livia
- They were from good, famous families
- Their marriage linked the bloodlines of Augustus and Livia
- Germanicus' father was popular due to military success and republican tendancies
- They did not remarry and had several legitimate children
- Germanicus died young, possibly murdered, leaving a young widow and their children behind - more sympathy for their family in hindsight
He seemed to be a better tactician than strategist - in other words, he was good at winning battles, but not at planning in the long run
- For example: In Germany, he attacked the German camps at night using a safe route. There were no Roman casulties, as the victims were asleep. But they were trapped on their return because Germanicus allowed the legions to spread out before checking the safety of the area, forcing them to fight their way out.
He eventually defeated the Germans, but did not conquer them - Tiberius did not allow it - leaving Rome at a financial loss with no added power - especially since he lost many ships and men on the way home
During his second consulship, he was sent to Armenia - the Senate entrusted the overseas provinces to Germanicus with powers superior to all governors of those provinces
Piso and Plancina
Cnaeus Calpurnius Piso:
- A ferocious, insubordinate man with a violent character.
- Married to Plancina
- Appointed as Imperial governor of Syria when Germanicus was sent to Armenia
- He was certain that the intended purpose of his appointment was "the repression of Germanicus' ambitions"
There was a continuing conflict and "undeclared emnity" between the two couples
(Piso and Plancina vs Germanicus and Agrippina):
- Piso criticized Germanicus in a speech (without naming him)
- Plancina attended cavalry exercises and insulted Agrippina and Germanicus
- Germanicus ordered Piso to conduct part of the Roman Army to Armenia or to send it with his son - Piso did neither
- Germanicus was "a kind-hearted man. But his friends knew how to work up ill-feeling, and piled up a variety of exaggerated facts and hostile fictions against Piso"
In 19AD, "Germanicus went to Egypt to look at the antiquities" - though Tacitus says that his real objective was the country's welfare, as "by opening the public granaries he lowered the price of corn"
Tiberius "reprimanded him severely" for "entering Alexandria without the emperor's permission" - as well as mildly criticizing him for dressing in Greek clothes and sandals
Germanicus, "still unaware that his expedition was frowned upon", carried on to the Nile and proceeded upstream to look at "the imposing remains of ancient Thebes" and other places of historical interest
When he left Egypt, Germanicus discovered that "all his orders to divisional commanders and cities had been cancelled or reversed" so there were "violent reciprocal denunciations" between him and Piso
"Then Piso decided to leave Syria. But Germanicus fell ill, and so Piso stayed on."
He was told that Germanicus was better and that vows were being made for his recovery, so "he left for Seleucia Pieria, to await the outcome of Germanicus' illness"
Germanicus "had a relapse - aggravated by his belief that Piso had poisoned him"
Germanicus was very superstitious, and several 'bad omens' were supposedly found:
- "Examination of the walls and floor of his bedroom revealed the remains of human bodies, spells, curses, lead tablets inscribed with the patient's name, charred and bloody ashes, and other malignant objects which are supposed to consign sould to the powers of the tomb"
At the same time, "agents of Piso were accused of spying on the sickbed"
Germanicus wrote to Piso "renouncing his friendship" and ordering him out of the province
Piso sailed away - "but he went slowly, so as to reduce the return journey in case Germanicus died and Syria became accessible again"
"For a time Germanicus' condition was encouraging. But then he lost strength, and death became imminent."
Germanicus asked his friends to tell Tiberius and Drusus about the "harrowing afflictions and ruinous conspiracies" which ended his life, and to show Rome his wife and children to gain sympathy for them when they accused Piso
Germanicus begged Agrippina "to forget her pride, submit to cruel fortune, and, back in Rome, to avoid provoking those stronger than herself by competing for their power"
He died soon afterwards (aged 33)
"It is uncertain if the body showed signs of poisoning" and people came to their conclusions based on their "preconceived suspicions"
Rome itself was apparently unaware of his death for quite some time, but he was mourned greatly
"At his funeral there was no procession of statues. But there were abundant eulogies and reminiscences of his fine character"
Tacitus says that had Germanicus had sole control, "with royal power and title, he would have equalled Alexander in military renown as easily as he outdid him in clemency, self-control, and every other good quality"
Germanicus' body was exposed in the main square of Antioch (Syria) before cremation
When Agrippina brought his ashes to Rome to be taken to the Mausoleum of Augustus, Claudius, the consuls, the Senate and a great part of the population came out to mourn
Tiberius and Livia, however, "made no public appearance" - Tacitus says that "either they considered open mourning beneath their dignity, or they feared that the public gaze would detect insincerity on their faces" and also alleges that they prevented Germanicus' mother from taking part so that they might seem "to only be following the mother's example, and grieving no less than she"
"He was decreed every honour which love or ingenuity could devise":
- His name was introduced to the Salian hymn
- Curule chairs crowned in wreaths were placed among the seats of the Brotherhood of Augustus in his honour
- An ivory statue of him headed the processions at the Circus Games
- His posts of priest of Augustus and augur were to be filled only by members of the Julian family
- The equites renamed a block of seats in the theatre after him
- They also decided that on July 15th every year, the traditional review of knights, a statue of him should head their parade
- Arches at Rome and in Syria, with inscriptions recording his deeds and his death for his country
- A sepulchre at Antioch, where he had been cremated
- A funeral monument at Epidaphne, where he had died
- It was proposed that a huge golden medallion portrait of him should be placed among the busts of the great orators - Tiberius did not allow this, dedicating "one of the usual sort" instead