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Denarius - IMP TIBERIUS - LIVIA
(RSC 30)

Tiberius Claudius Nero

Born: B.C. 42
Emperor: A.D. 14-37

Obverse: Portrait laureate head right - TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS

Reverse: Livia seated right on chair with ornate legs holding scepter and olve branch - PONTIF MAXIM

Busts depicting the Emperor Tiberius Julius Caesar

Livia Drusilla also known as Julia Augusta: Third wife of the emperor Augustus and mother of the emperor Tiberius. She excersized a powerful influence over Tiberius and within the first imperial family.

Vipsania Agrippina: First wife of the emperor Tiberius and daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the victorius general of the Battle of Actium against the forces of Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra. Tiberius divorced Vipsania against his will at the command of Agustus (non sine magno angore animi "not without great mental anguish") to marry his daughter Julia the Elder.

Julia the Elder: Second wife of the emperor Tiberius and daughter of the emperor Augustus. Tiberius was commanded to divorse his first wife and marry Julia. The marraige was not a happy one.

Drusus Julius Caesar or Drusus the Younger: The popular general and statesman and the natural son of Tiberius with his first wife Vipsania Agrippina. He, along with his couson and adopted brother Germanicus, was in line to succeed his father. He either died of natural causes or was murdered by Sejanus.

Germanicus Julius Caesar: The very popular general and statesman was nephew and adopted son to Tiberius. Known for his highly successful campaigns against the Germanic tribes where he avenged the staggering losses to Rome under Augustus at the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest. He was considered one of Romes greatest heroes. He was very popular with the Roman people well after his death at the relatively young age of 33.

Gaius (Caligula): With the death of Germanicus in 19 AD and Drusus in 23 AD, Tiberius did not name an heir for more than a decade. In 35 AD, two years before his death, Tiberius named his great-newphew and adoptive grandson (son of Germanicus) Gaius Caligula as his heir along with his sixteen year old grandson Tiberius Gemellus. Gemellus was put to death in late 37/38 leaving Gaius as sole emperor.

Inscriptions: TI(berius) CAESAR DIVI AVG(ustus) F(ilius) AVGVSTVS / PONTIF(ex) MAXIM(us)

Tiberius Caesar Son of the Divine Augustus and Augustus / Greatest Pontiff

The obverse of the coin depicts Tiberius, the second Emperor of Rome. The obverse inscription is his name as it was after the death of his adopted father Augustus and shows his connection to the the Julian line. With Augustus he is connected to his adopted father, the first emperor of Rome and with the name Caesar his connection to Julius Caesar through his adopted fathers adopted father. With Divi Augustus Filius, he reminds us of the fact that he is the son and successor of a God.

Depicted on the reverse is Livia Drusilla (Julia Augusta) wife of Austustus and mother to Tiberius by her first husband, Tiberius Claudius Nero. Livia is the link between the Julian and Claudian families that that gives their names to the founding imperial Julio-Claudian dynasty. Livia was Augustus's third wife and he was her second husband. She was from an old and distinguished family who excersized great influence over Augustus and even more so Tiberius. Tiberius also reminds us that he is the Pontifex Maximus or the head of the college of preists of the Roman religion. Both a religious, state and political office.

Minted early in his reign (est. 16 A.D. in Lugdunum), this coin is often identified (whether correctly or fanciful notion) as the so called Tribute Penny mentioned in in the bible.

Mark 12:14 "...Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?"
Mark 12:15 "...bring me a penny, that I may see it"
Mark 12:16 "...And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's."
Mark 12:17 "...Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

The portrait on the coin may certainly have been of Tiberius, it also could have been Augustus. The coin could have been a denarius but it could very well have been another type of coin, or another type of denarius. The simple fact is there is just no way of knowing what exact coin type he held or who exactly was on it. There is, however, no doubt that if any of the commonly estimated years given for the birth and death of jesus are correct, Tiberius was certainly in power at this time. Tiberius would have been nearing the end of a long 22 year rule that began when Jesus was most likely in his teens.


The emperor Tiberius was born Tiberius Claudius Nero at Rome, November 16, 42 BC. He was the eldest son to Livia Drusilla and her first husband who was also named Tiberius Claudius Nero. Both his mother and father were members of the wealthy and powerful Claudian family, specifically the Claudii Nerones. Since their rise to prominence in the days of the early Republic, members of the old patrician Claudia gens could often be found occupying the highest positions of power in Rome. In 39 BC Livia divorced Tiberius Claudius Nero while pregnant with his second child to marry Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (later known as Augustus). The birth of his younger brother, Nero Claudius Drusus (Drusus), would occur soon after in March of 38 BC.

The two powerful families merged and after the battle of Actium and the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra, Tiberius became the adopted son of the First Emperor of Rome. While still quite young he rode in his adopted fathers chariot during his Triumph for the Battle of Actium in 29 BC and spent his teens as a prince in the first imperial family. The earliest public appearance of Tiberius was when he gave the eulogy on the death of his biological father in 32 BC.

The new empire was not very formalized. Augustus was the first emperor and there was no formula, law or precedence as to how the imperial title would pass when he died. While the empire would soon become a giant bureaucracy with many laws, rules and traditions, the matter of succession was never codified and often changed on the wishes of the emperor in power. Augustus adopted Tiberius and his brother Drusus and saw them as potential heirs as well as representatives of imperium but he counted Marcus Agrippa, his close friend, son-in-law, general and a hero of Actium as a possible successor to the empire as well as his nephew and son-in-law Marcellus who was roughly the same age as Tiberius.

Marcellus became ill and passed away in 23 BC at the age of 19, Drusus, who had become a celebrated general, died in 9 BC when he fell from his horse and died a month latter, probably from complications of that injury, and Agrippa, the true heir apparent who was almost as powerful and popular as Augustus himself, passed away in 12 BC at the age of 51. With the death of these men, Tiberius moved higher on the list of possible successors to Augustus. The idea that his mother Livia may have been somehow involved in the deaths of these men were put forth by some historians such as Tacitus and Cassius Dio who generally characterize her as plotting to install her son as emperor over all others and going as far as to suggest she killed her own husband to further her son into power.


Young Tiberius was well educated with an interest in Greek rhetoric. He served as an advocate in court until he entered into the service of his step father in the east under Marcus Agrippa. He would spend much of his life with the miltiary, first under Agrippa in Armenia and soon after in his own right. He would greatly expand the empire and, in doing so, become one of Rome's greatest (but seldom mentioned as such) generals with his successes in Gallia Transalpina and his conquest of Pannonia, Dalmatia, Raetia and parts of Germania. He also discovered the sources of the Danube, something previously unknown to the Romans, in 15 BC

In 19 BC, Tiberius was married to Vipsania Agrippina, the daughter of the great general Marcus Agrippa, and by most accounts he cared greatly for her. With the death of Agrippa, Augustus requested Tiberius divorce Vipsania and marry instead Julia the Elder, the daughter and only biological child of Augustus and widow of Agrippa. The union was not a happy one as it is reported he still longed for Vipsania. Tiberius continued to campaign for Augustus and Augustus continued to place upon him greater responsibility. He served as consul twice and in 6 BC he was granted tribunicia potestas and control in the East. With the death of Agrippa (his father-in-law), Tiberius was given more power and responsibility as he was clearly being prepared for the possibility that he may succeed Augustus.

In a strange twist, just as he was being elevated to new heights, that same year he chose to instead retreat from public and military life and retire to Rhodes. The reasons for this can only be speculation but it is clear that Tiberius was not satisfied. It may have been the adoption by Augustus of his two grandson Lucius and Gaius (sons of Marcus Agrippa and Julia the Elder.) Tiberius may have seen his own elevation as a stop gap measure until these young men came of age. There is also ample evidence that he was not happy in his marriage to Julia. Tacticus points to this as the main reason for his retirement.

This again put into question the matter of succession as Augustus was now forced to rely on his two teenage grandsons, Gaius and Lucius, who were far from ideal because of age and inexperience. The situation became even more dire after the death of Lucius in 2 AD after which Augustus allowed Tiberius to return to Rome. It is reported that Tiberius almost immediately regretted his decision to retire but was then forbidden to return by Augustus until the death of Lucius. After the death of Gaius in Armenia in 4 AD and the banishment of Aggrippa Postumus for unknown reasons in 7 AD (sources depict the young son of Agrippa as 'brutish' and 'devoid of every good quality'), Augustus had few other options than to again look to Tiberius as a possible heir. Certainly Tiberius could not help but be aware that he seemed to be the very last choice for the job. It is certainly obvious today as it was certainly then, that Augustus did not want Tiberius as his successor. It could not have been because of any lack of experience as Tiberius had spent most of his life in public service as a loyal servant to Augustus and Rome and as a competent and successful general on the frontiers of the empire. The hesitation of Augustus to embrace the idea of Tiberius as his successor probably stemmed from the sincere wish for a blood relative to succeed and possibly a genuine dislike of Tiberius.

He was returned from his retirement with the understanding that he would adopt his nephew Germanicus, the very popular son of his popular brother Nero Claudius Drusus from whom three later emperors claim direct decent from (his son Claudius, his grandson Gaius 'Caligula' and his great-grandson Nero, were direct descendants). Tiberius had a very close relationship with his brother. Tiberius named his son Drusus after his brother and his brother named his own son Tiberius Claudius Nero who would then take the name Germanicus, an honorific title that his father won for his actions against the German tribes and he himself would earn in his own right as commander of Germania. Tiberius was officially adopted by Augustus and given Tribunician power and a share of imperial power. In 13 AD he was raised to co-emperor and shared power equally with his adopted father. In August of 14 AD Augustus passed away at the age of 75, Tiberius was confirmed by his will as his heir, and by mid September Tiberius he was acclaimed Princep Civitis, or Emperor, at the age of 55.

This was a time of great uncertainty as it was the first time power changed had hands from one emperor to a successor and there were no set rules or precedence. The empire was still quite new and there were certainly still those who would see it abolished and a return to Republican Rome. Although he is criticized for putting on a show of being reluctant to take on the imperial titles when offered them by the senate, it was wise for him not to seem too eager for power or to try to fill the shoes of the now deified Augustus.

Early in his reign Tiberius seemed to take a relatively hands off approach, never making his will explicitly known or issuing commands. He instead made speeches touching on general points of concern and looked for the senate to take appropriate action but the senate found it difficult to ascertain precisely what actions he would wish them to take. He looked for them to take initiative but in general they seemed hard pressed to agree on a course of action without explicit instructions leading Tiberius to assess them as "Men fit to be slaves." Needless to say his relationship with the senate was strained and would only worsen as time went on.

Also, early in his reign there were violent insurrections in the ranks of Rome's many legions in Illyricum and Germany over bonuses promised by Augustus that remained unfullfilled as well as the lack of response from Tiberius over the matter. Tiberius sent Drusus to Illyricom (Pannonia) and Germanicus to Germany to quell the uprisings.