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Order of Emperors and Dates

  • Augustus 31BC - AD14
  • Tiberius AD14 - AD37
  • Gaius AD37 - AD41
  • Claudius AD41 - AD54
  • Nero AD54 - AD68
  • Galba AD68 - AD69
  • Otho AD69 - AD69
  • Vitellius AD69 - AD69
  • Vespasian AD69 - AD79
  • Titus AD79 - AD81
  • Domitian AD81 - AD96
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Issues of Succession

  •  Would the principate survive the death of Augustus? Augustus had made precautions for his succession ---> Marcellus, Agrippa, Gaius and Lucius, Tiberius.
  • Role of the army and praetorian guard: accession of Claudius - he is found by a guard and taken to be made emperor. Praetorian guard also responsible for assassination of Gaius. 
  • Court Intrigues: Argippina's hand in securing favour for Nero. (statue in province of her placing a crown on Nero's head)
  • Problem of establishing a dynasty: particularly seen during Tiberius' reign with Sejanus. He was only the second emperor so a precedent for a direct descendant was not yet in place so it seemed that anyone who had the right powers and the emperor's favour could take over. 
  • There was dispute over which family member/close friend should take the throne 
  • Daughters' marriages were very important especially to get close to the emperor. Could be abused by those just seeking power 'Sejanus professed devotion and seduced her' TACITUS ANNALS book 4
  • Emperors wanted to be remembered well - Could be that they want someone worse to take over e.g. public opinion was that 'Augustus had done better than Tiberius' TACITUS ANNALS 4
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  • Succession quite a major issue for him - Had no sons of his own and only one daughter Julia so needed to adopt. Often dangerously ill espec. in 23BC.
  • Made Marcellus a priest and a curule aedile despite his youth TACITUS ANNALS 1.1
  • After Marcellus died he singled out Agrippa and gave him two successive consulships and chose him as his son-in-law TACITUS ANNALS 1.1
  • He adopted Gaius and Lucius into the imperial family and 'despite pretended reluctance' despite them being minors, entitled them Princes of Youth and reserved consulships for them TACITUS ANNALS 1.1
  • But the two boys 'met premature natural deaths - unless their stepmother Livia had a secret hand in them' TACITUS ANNALS 1.1
  • 'Tiberius was the only surviving stepson; and everything pointed in his direction' TACITUS ANNALS Augustus adopted him as his son and as partner in his powers
  • Augustus had lots of possible heirs in the picture. Some of them promoted as candidates for the throne at the same time suggesting Aug wasn't entirely clear about who he wanted to succeed him. e.g. Agrippa granted proconsular imperium and tribunician powers in 18BC for 5yrs, Tiberius given praetorian rank in 19BC, G and L adopted in 17BC (all around the same time)
  • Augustus seemed to want a blood relation for heir - Marcellus was nephew and married to his daughter Julia, G and L were his grandsons and then adopted sons, Agrippa made his son in law, also made Tiberius adopt Germanicus.
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  • Ways he promoted candidates: marriage and adoption e.g. Agrippa and Marcellus both made to marry Julia. Tiberius adopted as Aug's son in AD4
  • Granting of political and military powers before the normal age : G and L entered public life at age 15. Marcellus allowed to take offices ten yrs before the legal age e.g. he was made aedile at the age of 18 'despite his extreme youth' TACITUS 
  • The sharing of political powers with Augustus especially tribunician power: Granted to Agrippa in 18BC and 13BC for periods of 5 yrs. Tiberius granted this for 5yrs in 6BC and in 13AD for life. 
  • Uncertainty about whether the principate would survive Aug's death: when his end began approaching there were different reactions 'a few people started idly talking about the blessings of freedom. some, more numerous, feared civil war; others wanted it. The great majority, however, excheanged idle gossip about the candidates for succession' TACITUS ANNALS 1.1 - some saw Aug's death as opportunity for change and freedom, some still feared civil wars. Source not particularly reliable as Tacitus does not say who thinks what and could argue he just liked the idea that some people hoped for freedom because he preferred a republic himself. However, very reasonable to imagine people had uncertainty about the future as there was no established precedent for Augustus' principate. 
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  • YOUNGER SENECA talks about Augustus with Marcellus saying that he had already begun to depend on him and 'lay upon his shoulders the burden of the empire' 
  • COIN 13-14AD showing Augustus one side Tiberius on the other and Tiberius referred to as son of Aug. Date of this coin also shows the promotion of Tib as successor was not until towards the end of Aug's reign. 
  • AULUS GELLIUS (latin author) claims to have read a letter from Aug to his grandson Gaius that he hopes to live out the rest of his life in good health while Gaius and his brother wait to 'take over [his] post'.
  • Gold COIN of 2BC Aug on one side Gaius and Lucius on the other with spears and priestly symbols denoting them princes of peace. 
  • Gold COIN of 13BC Aug and Agrippa, Agrippa wearing naval crown. 13BC also when Agrippa was granted another 5years of tribunician power. 
  • TACITUS ANNALS - Augustus ordered Tiberius to adopt Germanicus. "Augustus wanted to have another iron on the fire".
  • Livia's part in it: TACITUS ANNALS after the death of Aug 'the house and neighbouring streets were carefully sealed by Livia's guards' and then it became known that Aug was dead and Tiberius was now in control. 
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  • Sources differ on Augustus' reaoning for appointing Tiberius - SUETONIUS says that Augustus felt on balance Tiberius' good qualities outweighed the bad. TACITUS says that Augustus made Tiberius heir to make himself as an emperor look better compared to an inferior one like Tiberius. 
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  • SUETONIUS GAIUS 19 said that Tiberius favoured a blood relative 
  • 'He feared to nominate a successor outside the imperial house' SUETONIUS LIFE OF TIB 46
  • 'while Germanicus lived, Tiberius had not decided between him and Drusus, but now he brought Drusus to the top' TACITUS ANNALS
  • Wrote to Senate to grant Drusus a tribune's authority TACITUS ANNALS
  • Through Germanicus (who he had adopted) he got three grandsons Nero, Drusus and Gaius and through Drusus, his son he got Tiberius gemellus
  • Gaius was appointed quaestor five years before the minimum age DIO
  • Commended Gaius to the Senate and indicated he wanted to make him successor as emperor DIO Nero also commended TACITUS
  • Proposal that Nero stand for qaestorship 5 years ahead of legal age TACITUS
  • TACITUS notes that Tiberius' link to Nero was closer than Augustus to his successor
  • Both Gaius and Tiberius Gemellus were represented on coins of Tiberius's last years
  • In Tiberius' will Gaius and Tiberius gemellus were named co-heirs and if one die the survivor was heir. SUETONIUS 
  • TACITUS ANNALS 6.46 thinks Tiberius was uncertain about who should be successor and was leaving it up to fate
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  • Sejanus wants to marry Livilla (Tiberius' son Drusus' widow) but Tiberius indirectly says no with the reason that of social conformity (Sejanus still equestrian, Livilla member of noble family) SUETONIUS LIFE OF TIB 40
  • Praising Sejanus in conversation as 'partner of my labours' TACITUS ANNALS
  • DIO stresses it was Tiberius' intention to have two heirs 'as it would give greater force' (perhaps taking inspiration from how Augustus did it)
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  • DIO says Gaius assumed all honours and powers in a single day - complete contrast to Aug. 
  • Who could have been possible heirs? 
  • Tiberius Gemellus: SUETONIUS says Gaius sent someone to kill Tiberius on the pretext that Tiberius had insulted him. 
  • Claudius: But he was preserved 'mainly as a **** for practical jokes' SUETONIUS GAIUS
  • Drusilla: When Gaius fell ill SUETONIUS says he left Drusilla all his property and the empire - potential female successor? Lepidus, her husband could also be but he is linked with a conspiracy and so is killed. DIO actually says Gaius let Lepidus (before he killed him) stand for office five years early and that he would leave him as his successor. 
  • Gaius assassinated.. 'one or two plots for his assassination were discovered' SUETONIUS
  • SUETONIUS describes the murder and even says that no one believed he had been assassinated and that the story was invented by himself to see what people thought of him (to be fair something Gaius would likely have done but this is very gossipy and no hard evidence)
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  • Had never been considered a candidate for emperor. 
  • Two key candidates for Claudius' succession Britannicus and Nero. 
  • SUETONIUS CLAUDIUS 43 tells us in an anecdotal section that Claudius told Britannicus to grow up quickly so he could explain what his real plan had been (to make him successor)
  • He would also pick up Britannicus and show him to the troops or audience at the games acc to SUETONIUS 
  • But other things suggest it was Nero was the favoured e.g. he was allowed to wear triumphal robes at the Circus whereas Britannicus is dressed as a minor TACITUS ANNALS 'so the crowd, seeing one in the trappings of command and the other in boys' clothes, could deduce their contrasted destinies'
  • TACITUS ANNALS says Claudius preferred Nero to his own son. 
  • Interference of Agrippina ensuring Nero takes over. 'Claudius' death was not revealed until all arrangements had been completed to secure Nero's succession' SUETONIUS 45
  • AUREUS AD54 of Nero and Agrippina - showing Agrippina as major influence behind throne
  • also statue from Aphrodisias  of Agrippina crowning Nero
  • TACITUS even says that Britannicus was locked up in the palace so Nero could be presented to the praetorian guard to be hailed as emperor. 
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  • Agrippina recognised the importance of the Praetorian Guard's support TACITUS tells us that she felt she needed to remove commanders of the guard she regarded as loyal still to Messalina and her children (Britannicus)
  • She continued to try to ensure Nero's accession e.g. preventing Britannicus from leaving his room TACITUS
  • Finally at the death of Claudius, it was Nero who appeared. Note that TACITUS says the some of the men are said to have looked round asking the whereabouts of Britannicus but since there was only Nero and no answers, he was hailed as the new emperor. 
  • 'no family relationship which Nero did not criminally abuse' SUETONIUS. not even thinking about succession
  • Kicked wife to death when she was pregant and ill SUETONIUS (jeopardises child's (possible heir's) life)
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  • Galba arguably started in a strong position replacing one of the most unpopular emperors yet. he was also a member of an old aristocratic family and had the support of the senate and the armies.
  • Accession of Galba proved that the emperors could be created in places other than Rome as Galba was declared emperor in Spain.
  • SUETONIUS and TACITUS HISTORIES: Galba adopted Piso Licinianus - perhaps trying to end speculation about who would be the next emperor. But Piso had no military experience and was far too young. 
  • Although his reign was short, succession must have been a somewhat important issue in his reign as Galba himself was an old man with no sons of his own. 
  • Galba then makes speech to Piso before the Senate basically saying how Piso is to be his successor (now that the Julii and the Claudii families have ended, adoption will discover the worthiest successor)  -  Galba makes references to Augustus and how he approached each candidate for succession. 
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  • Even before Vesp acceded he had some control over Rome as he used his armies to control Egypt and Africa putting the pressures of famine on Rome as this is where most of their supplies came from. Vesp then could be the one who restores it from famine TACITUS HISTORIES
  • TACITUS also says that Vesp's accession was marked by many divine signs like miracles e.g. SUETONIUS talks of a man healed from rheumatism when Vesp was seeking the auspices in a temple.
  • Had two sons already when he came to power so succession did not seem to much of an issue. SUETONIUS LIFE OF VESP. mentions the 'stability' the Flavian family brought to ROme in this way.
  • Vesp made it very clear that his youngest son Titus would succeed him as emperor
  • In SUETONIUS Domitian is presented as quite jealous of his brother's greater authority. Planned an unnecessary campaign into Gaul and Germany so he would compare favourably with Titus
  • After Vespasian died, Domitian said things like the will must be wrong because he was meant to be assigned half-share of the empire with his brother SUETONIUS
  • 'He never once, either secretly or openly, stopped plotting against his brother' SUETONIUS LIFE OF DOMITIAN
  • Note that Vespasian saw the problems that could arise with ambiguity from Tiberius and Claudius never properly establishing their heirs so he made clear distinction between his sons. 
  • Did not look beyond immediate succession however like Augustus did. 
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  • groomed for succession by his father. SUETONIUS LIFE OF TITUS talks of the many powers and honours he received e.g. 'became his father's the censorship, in the exercise of tribunician power, and in seven consulships' also took command of the praetorians, a post usually only entrusted to an eques. 
  • 'had already won distinction as a soldier' provinces and armies had more enthusiasm for him TACTIUS HISTORIES
  • Domitian was very troublesome for Titus for example he claimed their father's will had been tampered with as it was originally meant to give him half a share of the empire.  SUETONIUS DOMITIAN also says that Domitian 'never once stopped plotting...against his brother'  
  • But Titus nevertheless would refer to Domitian as his 'partner and chosen successor'
  • Titus was only 40 when he acceeded so could still marry and produce an heir but while he had none the stability of the dynasty demanded that he treat Domitian as the welcomed heir. 
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  • He was still honoured by his father though not to the extent of Titus e.g. held position of consul suffectus five times SUETONIUS DOMITIAN 2
  • He was seen as inferior to brother and father however as SUETONIUS describes how when they went out Vesp and Titus would be on sedan chairs and he in a litter. During the Judaen triumph his bro and father were in chariots while he was just on horseback. 
  • When he was emperor he designated his cousin Flavius Clemens's sons as heirs, changing their names to Vespasian and Domitian SUETONIUS DOMITIAN but later had their father executed and the two boys did not succeed for perhaps this reason, perhaps their young age, we cannot be sure
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  • Tried to not make the same mistakes as Galba when he succeeded. e.g. treated supporters of his predecessor well and allowed praetorians to choose their own prefects.
  • Interestingly he chose to align himself with Nero reinstating freedmen of his that Galba dismissed and giving half a million gold pieces for the completion of Nero's Golden House. SUETONIUS OTHO 
  • Otho comitted suicide in 69AD
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