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Germanicus (15 BCE - 19 CE) was a commander in the Roman Empire with a glowing reputation in his time under the rule of the Emperor Tiberius. His position in the Roman Empire was a unique and important one. His marriage to Agrippina the Elder (Augustus' granddaughter) tied the Julian and Claudian branches of the imperial family. Along with their children, they became the most popular family in Rome. His death set into motion some nasty politics which saw the exile of his wife and their oldest son, as well as the death of their second son. Nevertheless, due to his popularity and military career, the next two emperors, Caligula and Claudius, neither of whom had any military credentials of their own, constantly evoked his name and their relationship with him as their surrogate with the army.


Germanicus Julius Caesar was born in 15 BCE to Nero Claudius Drusus (Drusus the Elder), the son of Augustus' wife, Livia, from her first marriage, and Antonia Minor, daughter of Augustus' sister, Octavia, from her marriage with Mark Antony. The name Germanicus was given to him when it was awarded to his father posthumously in honor of his victories in Germania.

Part of Augustus' plan in 4 CE included Germanicus marrying Agripinna the Elder. Apart from bringing the prestige of her Julian blood to the Claudian branch of the family, Agripinna proved to be very fertile, bearing Germanicus nine children in the next fourteen years, six of whom survived their father.

Germanicus spent the year 12 CE in Rome as consul, strengthening his own position as second in line for the principate.

As a young man of the imperial family, Germanicus' career in Rome's military and political arenas progressed quickly. He was allowed to stand for the quaestorship in 7 CE at the age of 20, four years earlier than the allowed minimum age for the position under the Empire. He then proceeded directly to the consulship in 12 CE. In his military duties, his wife Agrippina, the daughter of a great general, was always by his side. His children also became an important public relations resource for the imperial family. Apart from traveling with Germanicus and Agripinna, the children were put on display with both Augustus and Germanicus whenever opportunity allowed.

Germanicus held subordinate commands on the Danube frontier under Tiberius from 7-9 CE. Tiberius was then transferred to the Rhine frontier in response to the disaster that befell Publius Quinctilius Varus when his three legions were trapped and massacred at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest by an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius. Germanicus joined Tiberius in Germany in 11 CE and left to spend the year 12 CE in Rome as consul, strengthening his own position as second in line for the principate. Postumus Aggripa, who was the heir of the principate along with Tiberius, had, meanwhile, fallen out of favor and was banished.

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MUTINy of the rhine legions

Augustus died in 14 CE, followed shortly by Postumus Agrippa. The stability of the Roman Empire was tested by the first transition of imperial power. Mutinies broke out on the Danube and German frontiers where Germanicus served as governor. Germanicus was, at this point, a very popular leader - more popular than Tiberius, and for a Roman legion, loyalty to a field commander was a given. Germanicus' connections with Augustus were also helpful, and his public relations gambit of having his little son Gaius dressed like a little soldier (which earned Gaius the nickname Caligula, or "Little Boots") made Germanicus and his family even more beloved. The legionaries in the west offered to swear to Germanicus as their new emperor rather than to Tiberius. Germanicus refused to accept their oath of allegiance, but still needed to make some attempt to help the soldiers to quell the rebellion and still keep their favor. Germanicus needed to act quickly because of the threat of enemy attack. He tried to quiet them by threatening suicide which proved to be ineffective as some soldiers actually offered their swords for him to use to stab himself. After regrouping, his solution was to forge a letter from Tiberius that gave the soldiers all they had demanded. Payment to the legions was the quickest way to settle the mutiny and increase Germanicus' popularity with them.

Then Tiberius' envoys came from Rome, and the soldiers quickly understood that the letter was a forgery. They dragged Germanicus out of bed and threatened his wife and son Caligula who were with him. Tearfully, according to Tacitus, Germanicus appealed to his men to let him send away his wife and young son. This speech to his troops when Agrippina and Caligula prepared to leave camp had more effect than any other of his actions.

Germanicus successfully ended the mutiny by urging his soldiers to demonstrate that they were sorry. The soldiers, ashamed of themselves, prepared to punish and execute the rebel leaders themselves. Always very conscious of his image, Germanicus left the matter up to the soldiers. He did not interfere, neither by giving the order nor taking the blame. This way, he was able to have the ring-leaders punished without incurring any resentment towards himself. He got the soldiers to discipline themselves voluntarily and kept his hands clean from any unpleasantness. However, behind the scenes, Germanicus ordered his general Aulus Caecina Severus to gather some trusted men from among the two still hostile legions, and had them kill the unsuspecting leaders of the revolt in their tents. Germanicus also, after the mutiny ended, paid his soldiers from his own pocket in order to ensure their loyalty to him.

Germanicus Crosses the Rhine

Gernanicus was shrewd enough to realize that idleness played a big part in the mutinies. To divert his soldiers and recover the lost standards of Varus' legions, Germanicus led 12,000 Roman legionaries with detachments of auxiliaries and cavalrymen across the Rhine. In 15 CE, he made a sudden raid against the Chatti. In the middle of this war, Tiberius decreed a triumph upon him, and made Germanicus a member of a new college of priests of Augustus. As he was in the middle of war, Germanicus had to delay his coming back to Rome for the promised triumph. Taking the Chatti by surprise, he massacred them and refused to negotiate peace. Never forgetting his diplomacy, he rescued the German leader Segestes and his countrymen from a siege by Arminius, who conquered Varus and his legions, thereby winning the gratitude of both Segestes and Tiberius.

16 CE was marked by disturbances in the East. Germanicus built a great fleet of a thousand ships whose objective was the Rhine delta. His father Drusus had been the first of the Romans to navigate the German ocean. Now the son made the voyage to the Zuyderzee without mishap. The return journey was marred by serious damage to the ships by violent storms. Germanicus, who reached the land safely, sent out boats to rescue survivors. Then they marched back to winter quarters. Urgent letters from Tiberius awaited them, bidding him to finally return to Rome for the Triumph that had been decreed to him. So Germanicus returned to Rome as the man of the hour. The Triumph of Germanicus took place on May 26, 17 CE with his five living children riding with him in the parade, advertising a promise of a long and stable future for Rome.


In 18 CE, Germanicus was made consul again, and this time he shared the honor with the emperor, a distinction reserved for an intended heir. Tiberius had given him maius imperium - a supreme authority over the territory east of the Adriatic, a command that was not only geographically unlimited, but also superseded the authority of all the governors in the area. The need for this authority was due to the power struggles within Rome's territories of Asia Minor as well as by the necessity of giving Germanicus a responsibility which fitted his status as the intended heir. Germanicus approached his new base in Antioch, the imperial province of Syria, by a grand tour of the eastern Mediterranean, stopping at Actium, Athens, and the site of ancient Troy.

Once in Syria Germanicus came into conflict with Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, whom Tiberius had appointed as governor of that province at the time when Germanicus received his authority. Germanicus and Piso, along with their wives, each thought that the other was exceeding his jurisdiction. Germanicus fulfilled Tiberius' orders to display a Roman presence in the area and to settle internal affairs. In Armenia, he crowned Artaxias, who was an ally, and installed the first Roman governor of the new province of Cappadoccia.

Germanicus left Asia minor in 19 CE to visit Egypt. Although this trip was scheduled in response to reports of famine in the area, it included a sightseeing tour of its renowned ancient sites. Germanicus was warmly received and he made himself even more popular with the natives by lowering the price of grain and opening the doors of the grain storehouses himself. Unfortunately, by lowering the price of grain he made the mistake of interfering with imperial regulations and was consequently rebuked by the Emperor. Egypt was the granary of the Empire and virtually a private imperial domain. By doing this, he was also upstaging Tiberius.

When Germanicus returned to Syria at the end of the summer, he found that Piso had undone all the arrangements which he had made. Germanicus renounced his amicitia (friendship) with Piso and banished him from his company. Piso also claimed that Germanicus ordered him from his post as well as from the province. Piso abandoned his command and went to an island off the coast so that he could return when the opportunity to do so arose. Germanicus had fallen ill shortly after his return from Egypt. He suspected that Piso had cursed him by placing objects of black magic in his house and was in the process of poisoning him.


Germanicus died in Antioch on October 10, 19 CE. Ancient sources wrote about marks of poison in Germanicus' corpse such as bruises and foaming at the mouth. Eulogies compared him with Alexander, who had died at the same age. His aides in Syria appointed Gnaeus Sentius Saturninus to fill the post abandoned by Piso. Piso tried to regain his former position as governor by claiming that Germanicus had illegally forced him out of the province because he was the only one strong enough to stop Germanicus from attempting a coup against Tiberius. Piso re-entered Syria with his own military force. His re-entry was easily countered and he was sent back to Rome to stand trial for treason. Dead, perhaps even martyred, Germanicus remained a formidable force in Roman politics.

Germanicus's death in the midst of his promising career kept him from becoming the emperor. However, he still influenced history for the next fifty years not only from the reputation he built when he was alive, but also from his role as the father of one emperor (Caligula), the brother of another (Claudius), and the grandfather of a third (Nero).

Germanicus: The Public Relations Expert of Rome

Nowadays Germanicus’ name has faded into obscurity compared to the more famous romans such as his son Caligula, his uncle Tiberius, even his grandmother Livia. But during the height of the Roman Empire Germanicus was universally recognized by the citizens of Rome as one of the greatest warriors the Empire had ever produced.

The stepfather of Germanicus’ father was the Emperor Augustus himself who, by the time of Germanicus’ birth, was already widely referred to as a living god and his grandfather on his mother's side was the legendary Mark Antony. The name Germanicus was given to him when it was awarded to his father posthumously in honor of his victories in Germania.

As a young man, Germanicus was known to be very intelligent, with a stainless personal record, never once bringing dishonor on his family through a personal indiscretion. Augustus’ partiality to Germanicus showed when he then had Tiberius adopt Germanicus to further secure the succession, despite the fact that Tiberius had a son of his own, Nero Claudius Drusus (Drusus the Younger).

As part of Augustus’ plan, in 4 CE Germanicus married Agrippina, grand-daughter of Augustus. Germanicus held subordinate commands on the Danube frontier under Tiberius from 7 to 9 CE. In his military duties, Agrippina was always by his side with their children. Although this was an unusual arrangement, as most Roman matrons and their children remained at home while their husbands went to wars, it greatly endeared Germanicus’ family to the soldiers. When they were in Rome, the children were put on display with both Augustus and Germanicus whenever opportunity allowed, as a testament of Rome’s imperial continuity.

Germanicus’ career also progressed quickly, standing for the quaestorship in 7 CE at the age of 20, four years earlier than the allowed minimum age for the position under the Empire, before proceeding to the consulship in 12 CE.

In 14 CE, the news came of the death of Augustus and Tiberius' accession. Mutinies broke out on the Danube and German frontiers where Germanicus served as governor. At this point, Germanicus was a very popular leader—more popular than Tiberius. The legionaries in the west offered to swear to Germanicus as their new emperor rather than to Tiberius.

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Would Germanicus have made a good Emperor?

He certainly had popularity, and would have handled any kind of wartime situation. Rome would probably not have suffered through the political purges- there is no evidence that there would be anything like the era of Sejanus.

That being said, even the worst critics of Tiberius agree that he was pretty good with finances, and if I remember correctly (from Seutonius, I think) he even downplayed a military setback to avoid getting Rome into a costly war.

So, would Germanicus have made a better overall emperor than Tiberius?


Germanicus was Tiberius' adopted son right? No way could he have been emperor while Tiberius was alive. And If Germanicus had survived till after Tiberius' death, then yes, he would have made a better emperor than Caligula.

However assuming that Germanicus could be emperor even if Tiberius were around, Germanicus could have used Tiberius for financial matters. And he was certainly more effective at governance, which is why he was probably killed, since he showed Tiberius up in such bad light





He really did, which is why Tiberius had him transferred to Syria, to get him away from the Rhine troops who were willing to die for him to the last man. Actually when he first came to them in 14 AD, they were ready to proclaim him over Tiberius and rise in revolt, mostly for pay increases and better living standards the Emperor wasn't giving them.

But instead of encouraging this Germanicus shamed them for their disloyalty and reminded them of their duty to avenge the loss suffered by the three legions in 9 AD. He was able to put down the revolt in this fashion, and win the respect and admiration of the men and Rome itself by ultimately retrieving two of the three lost Eagles. Such was his acclaim that he received the last Triumph given to a person who wasn't already an Emperor. After being named consul in 18 AD he probably would've become imperator had he not run afoul of the treacherous political game.

I always had an impression of Germanicus being a loyal and steadfast Roman, completely dedicated to the welfare of the state. Just doesn't seem like the type to resort to the kind of subterfuge which Tiberius, Livia and Sejanus used to achieve their goals.

Claudius if Germanicus becomes Emperor?

Let us suppose that Germanicus lives long enough to become Tiberius’ successor. Let us also set aside the more fanciful speculation of all that the battle proven, dashing, charismatic young general could do as Emperor.

What might Claudius’ role in his brother’s regime be? Almost certainly not his heir - Caligula has that role, and might even be better suited to it if he’s given the chance under his father. Co-Emperor is likely too much, as well, at this point. He’d have some role, most likely, and maybe even a prominent one.

He was popular with the Senate and Equites, so I could see Germanicus delegating some political responsibilities to him, especially while on campaign. His health issues in this case may make him particularly valuable - as a member of the Imperial family, he can speak with authority, but with his condition, he is apt to be trusted not to get too ambitious while his brother is out of town.


Auctually Caligula would not be hier, at least not first choice. Most likely that unless Tiberius imposed an hier on him like Augustus, Germanicus's hier would probably be one of his older sons, Drusus or Nero.

As for Claudius, his brother seemed to have been more partial to him than anyone else, so probably would have been a Consul and a govenor of a safe province, and maybr even his brothers advisor.


Caligula wouldn't be the heir if Germanicus is alive then his family would be protected from Tiberius' persecution of them, so Germanicus' sons Nero Julius and Drusus Julius would be alive and likely be co-heirs.

This divergence could also mean both Sejanus and Drusus the Younger, son of Tiberius, could also be alive during Germanicus' reign. Depending on when Tiberius dies, Drusus the Younger's son Gemellus also might have already donned the toga of manhood and began his climb up the cursus honorum.

While that all might seem superfluous to the question at hand, I do believe it is pertinent. Germanicus would have been surrounded by very competent, ambitious men and heirs to fill every post imaginable with. Even if Germanicus had a fondness for his brother, Claudius was a political joke, and thus a liability.

Publically, I think the most likely role Germanicus would give to Claudius is to be his representative in the senate and to read aloud any imperial proclamations. Claudius' speech impediment did not manifest when he was speaking to a crowd, so it would not be a cruel joke or anything of that nature. Maybe appointment as a flamens to Janus or Quinirus , important but ceremonial.

That is all he would do for him publically. Privately on the other hand. he could act as the political animal of the Claudians, negotiating backroom deals and dealing with the tedium of imperial administration. Sort of like a proto-Nerva, one Germanicus can trust with his life.

A figure who worked in the shadows cast by all those around him, one who all underestimate and none know the true scope of his influence.

I think this is the most likely course for success for Claudius under his brother's reign, which while would be an immense success, would by-and-large be hidden from the histories.

Mutiny on the Rhine

What now? Germanicus Julius Caesar, governor of Tres Galliae and Germania, might have wondered such as he opened the dispatch. It was mid-September in ad 14. A month earlier he’d received in similar fashion the dark and momentous news that Imperator Caesar Divi filius Augustus, first man of the Roman empire, was dead. The same dispatch communicated that Tiberius, Germanicus’ uncle, had assumed the throne. That came as no surprise, for while Augustus had not legally designated Tiberius as his political successor, he had adopted him as a son and given him a share of imperial power and responsibility. To maintain political stability Augustus had also required Tiberius to adopt Germanicus, whose father had died, as his eldest son and heir. Put plainly, the earlier dispatch from Rome had informed Germanicus he stood next in line to the most powerful leader in the Western world.

Since then little had changed in the northern provinces. Germanicus retained his posts under Tiberius, who followed Augustus’ final instructions to maintain rather than seek to expand the frontiers. In addition to his administrative responsibilities Germanicus was in overall command of eight legions on the Rhine River. His force was subdivided into two provincial commands—one in Germania Inferior, bordering the North Sea, the other in Germania Superior, bordering the Alps. Across the river was Germania Magna. Laced with rivers and swamps, it was an untamed and unconquered region, whose dark, forbidding forests had swallowed whole legions.

The frontier had been quiet of late, but Germanicus remained watchful for incursions from across the river. He had been in Gallia Belgica, overseeing the completion of a census to assess property taxes, when he received the second dispatch from Rome. He likely worried it carried news the Germanic tribes had risen and were threatening an invasion. But the news was even worse: The Roman army of the Rhine had mutinied.

When Germanicus became governor in ad 13, the Rhine marked the boundary of Roman territorial ambitions in the north. But it had not always been that way.

Nearly seven decades earlier Julius Caesar had been the first Roman commander to cross the Rhine under arms, as a show of force to deter Germanic raids into Gaul. For the past quarter-century Augustus had spent much blood and treasure trying to subdue Germania and stabilize the frontiers, employing Tiberius and his younger brother, Drusus, as field commanders. Beginning in 12 bc Drusus had systematically subdued Germania Magna in a series of annual campaigns, pushing Roman control to the Elbe River in four years. At the completion of that campaign in 9 bc he died from injuries suffered after a bad fall from a horse. As a posthumous battle honor the Senate awarded Drusus the hereditary agnomen Germanicus (“German”), a name evocative of his military achievements in the region. The weighty legacy it bore passed to his then 6-year-old son.

As a young man Germanicus would prove worthy of the title, rapidly climbing the political ladder and securing military honors for helping Tiberius quell an uprising in Illyricum. As Germanicus returned to Rome in ad 9 to receive a triumphal insignia, the 24-year-old no doubt took pride that, as a legacy of his father, the surrender and resettlement of the German tribes had set the stage for the formation of a new province in Germania Magna. Then disaster struck. That September in the Teutoburg Forest of central Germania Magna a tribal coalition ambushed and wiped out three legions and their auxiliary cohorts under provincial governor Publius Quinctilius Varus. A cornered Varus had fallen on his own sword.

Tiberius immediately set off to assume command, taking Germanicus and some recently demobilized Balkan detachments with him. Even with forced marches it took weeks to reach the virtually unmanned fortresses on the Rhine. Only two reserve legions remained to hold the line. After establishing guard details to intercept any Germans trying to cross the river and leaving Ger manicus in command, Tiberius returned to Rome to consult with Augustus. On arrival he found Rome full of foreboding. A fear of barbarians gripped the city. Augustus had expelled the resident Gauls and Germans from Rome, including his own per sonal bodyguard, the Germani corporis custodes, and those serving with the Praetorian cohorts. Forced con scriptions had raised new units to be sent north to defend Italy. While the populace feared a Germanic invasion, none came. The frontier posts held. But the “Varus disas ter” effectively ended Roman hopes of conquest in Germania Magna and reset the frontier along the Rhine.

But Rome did not regard the river as an impassible barrier. In ad 11 Tiberius and Germanicus crossed into Germania and overran portions of it. Their “invasion” was more of a demonstration than a serious attempt at reoccupation, however. Fearing another ambush and disaster, they did not venture very far, nor did they fight any battles. After making the point they could still enter the region and march about at will, the Romans went home.

After a term as consul, Germanicus was appointed governor of the Gallic prov inces and what was left of Germania. The post was a complex one, centered on en couraging the economic and political de velopment of Gaul by promoting regional capitals supervising trade, taxation and army contracts and ensuring the security of the mint in Colonia Copia (present-day Lyon), which struck the coins that supported markets in trade goods and paid the army. Germanicus also remained wary of the threat of invasion. To that end he commanded eight legions—representing a full third of the empire’s legionary manpower—consisting of I Ger manica, II Augusta, V Alaudae, XIII Gemina, XIV Gemina, XVI Gallica, XX Valeria Victrix and XXI Rapax, in addi tion to auxiliary cohorts.

Life in the Roman legions was not easy. Beyond open battle with the enemy, it entailed long marches with heavy packs, drill, guard duty, patrols, equipment maintenance, construction of camps, fortifications, roads and bridges, and many other duties and labors—all the while subject to strict military discipline. Mutiny had occurred often enough, but several features of the mutiny with which Germanicus dealt merit special mention.

Germanicus’ marriage to Agrippina, a granddaughter of Augustus, facilitated his rapid climb up Rome’s political ladder. (National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution)

First, it was not isolated. Weeks prior the troops in Pannonia had mutinied and for many of the same rea sons. They had attempted to kill their commander, Junius Blaesus, and threatened to march on Rome if their demands were not met. That crisis was dispelled through diplomacy with relatively little violence. The mutiny in Germania would see far more bloodshed. Second, the nature of the demands made were driven, in large part, by disappointed hopes and failed promises. Third, as in Pannonia, the mutiny coincided with the death of Augustus and shift of power to Tiberius, the disaffected legions believing it the moment of greatest opportunity.

The account given by historian Cassius Dio (c. 155– 235) of the Pannonian mutiny is succinct in its descrip tion of the mutineers’ grievances: “Their demands were, in brief, that their term of service should be limited to 16 years, that they should be paid a denarius per day, and that they should receive their prizes then and there in the camp and they threatened, in case they did not obtain these demands, to cause the province to revolt and then to march upon Rome.” Germanicus would con front similar demands in Germania. They were neither localized nor improvised. In fact, their roots stretched back to the very beginning of the reign of Augustus.

Following his decisive victory at the 31 bc Battle of Actium and the close of the last civil war of the Roman republic, Augustus had reorganized the army, reducing the number of legions from 60 to 28 and dismissing 300,000 men from active service. Such a massive force had been expensive and inefficient, and he instituted reforms to professionalize the army and make it less menacing to the political stability of Rome.

The late republic had been plagued by the challenge of client armies, whose loyalty was to individual generals rather than to the Senate or Rome. Such armies had been wielded against rivals and to intimidate the Senate into granting their commanders political power. To combat these dangers, army salaries would now be paid directly by the emperor, ensuring loyalty to Augustus rather than to generals. Successful generals had also provided retire ment grants of money and land for their veterans. That obligation was taken over by the state to further channel loyalty toward the emperor. Augustus established the right to retire with gratuity after 16 years as a ranker and a further four as a veteran. Retirees were to be paid bonuses drawn from a special treasury, aerarium mili tare, established to finance these payments and pension plans. In practice, however, many were forced to continue their service despite this reform, shaping the complaints of the mutinies in ad 14.

The two subcommands on the Rhine under German icus’ authority were the army of Germania Superior, commanded by Gaius Silius, and that of Germania Inferior, under A. Caecina Severus. Mutiny flared in the legions of the latter, with Legions V Alaudae and XXI Rapax taking the initiative, then bringing I Germanica and XX Valeria Victrix over to their cause. The legions under Silius remained on the sidelines, adopting a wait- and-see attitude. While Caecina stood by helplessly, his troops attacked their company commanders and dumped their broken bodies into the Rhine. On hearing of the outbreak, Germanicus marched directly to the source of the trouble.

On arrival he was met outside the camp by seemingly remorseful men. But when he entered their lines, they assailed him with complaints, some forcing his outstretched hand into their mouths to reveal toothless gums and otherwise displaying the ravages of old age. Germanicus tried to restore order by directing them to form up in their respective units and display their standards. He then spoke reverently of the memory of Augustus, the victories of Tiberius and the tranquility of the empire. These sentiments they received in silence, but when he began to speak of the mutiny, asking what had become military discipline, he was met with a roar of protest. They stripped their tunics to show their scars received in battle and by floggings administered by their own commanders. They complained of scanty pay and strenuous duty. The greatest outcry came from soldiers who had served in 30 or more campaigns. When would they be released from crushing service? Where were the legacies left them by Augustus?

Angered by the mutineers’ refusal to listen to reason, Germanicus draws his gladius and threatens to kill himself. (Rijksmuseum)

In a final gamble the mutineers sought to bind Ger manicus to their cause by appealing to his self-interest: They would make him emperor. As in Pannonia, the legions of Germania sought to exploit the political instability that accompanied a transition of authority. According to the historian Tacitus (c. 56–120), that is precisely what Tiberius most feared—that Germanicus would prefer the possession to the expectation of the empire. But both he and the rebellious legions of the Rhine misjudged their man. Germanicus was loyal to Tiberius and would hear no more. Jumping down from the rostrum, he shouted that death was preferable to disloyalty, dramatically drew his gladius and threatened to plunge it into his own chest. The reaction was mixed. Some soldiers seized his arm to prevent the deed, while others encouraged him to strike, offering him their own sharper swords to aid him. Amid the tumult loyal officers ushered Germanicus into a tent.

What was to be done? Neither rhetorical appeal nor a show of authority had been sufficient to suppress the mutiny. It was known certain agitators were organizing a deputation to sway the army of Germania Superior, and it was rumored the rebels were planning to plunder the Gallic provinces. Further, the Germanic tribes had gotten wind of the mutiny and waited only for the legions to abandon the Rhine to launch an invasion. Yet both severity and leniency carried their attendant dangers. To use auxiliaries against the rebellious regulars would likely prompt civil war. But to give way was to surrender authority in the face of insurrection. Either amounted to a dan gerous weakening of the frontier and a threat to the stability of the empire.

In haste Germanicus decided to issue a promise in Tiberius’ name: full discharge for those who had served in at least 20 cam paigns men who had served in 16 or more released from all duties but defense of the frontier and the legacies to be paid and doubled when the troops had reported to their winter camps. This offer was both less and more than Augustus’ original policy. The troops demanded the discharges be arranged at once, and the two instigating legions, V and XXI, demanded immediate payment of all they were due. By pooling his own traveling funds with those of his staff, Germanicus managed to pay the entire sum. The legions duly withdrew to winter quarters. The immediate crisis past, Germanicus proceeded to Germania Superior. The legions stationed there took an oath of loyalty to Tiberius with relative composure. They had not demanded discharges or payments, though both were conceded.

The trouble in Germania was not over, however. Apprised of the situation, Tiberius had sent a senatorial com mission to investigate the matter. Germanicus had since encamped at Ara Ubiorum with Legions I and XX, along with the men who had been discharged but not yet demobilized. Believing the purpose of the deputa tion was to nullify the concessions they had won, the troops again rioted. Focusing their ire on chief envoy Lucius Munatius Plancus, they would have killed the former consul had he not fled and sought refuge in a tent holding Legion I’s sacrosanct eagles and standards, whose bearer shielded Plancus from further violence. Germanicus managed to extricate the delegates from danger and send them away under the protection of auxiliary cavalry, while he, though a Caesar, remained a virtual prisoner in his own camp.

A combination of spectacle, rhetoric, inducements to shame and repentance brought the mutinous legions back to the path of duty and loyalty. The spectacle in volved the departure from the tumultuous camp of Germanicus’ pregnant wife, Agrippina, and toddler son, Gaius, whom the adoring soldiers had nicknamed Ca ligula (“Little Boot”). A granddaughter of Augustus, Agrippina was strong-willed and had scorned her hus band’s suggestion to flee, but Germanicus ultimately persuaded her to take their son and unborn child to safety. As they left amid a tearful entourage without an honor escort to seek refuge with foreigners, Germanicus announced that the guilt of the legions would not find increase in the murder of the great-grandson of Augustus and the daughter-in-law of Tiberius. That was almost too much for the rebels to bear, but Germanicus didn’t stop there, refusing to call them either soldiers or citizens and rhetorically shaming them with allusions to violations of duty, gratitude and honor. He urged them to shake off the contagion of guilt. Their resolve broke. The rank and file begged him to punish the guilty few and forgive those led astray.

In the wake of the mutinies Germanicus campaigned across the Rhine with his legions. Among the captives displayed during the general’s subsequent triumph in Rome were Arminius’ wife, Thusnelda, and infant son. (Pinakotheken)

A bloodbath of repentance followed, though Ger manicus did not lift a hand in it. Of their own accord his men arrested the ringleaders and led them onto a platform. If the crowd shouted, “Guilty!” the accused was thrown down and butchered by his fellows. Ger manicus did not intervene, for the crime was expiated in the carnage for which he would not bear the stigma.

But Legions V and XXI, the instigators and greatest offenders of the mutiny, took no part in the display of penance. In winter camp some 60 miles away, they re mained defiant. Germanicus resolved to lead troops down the Rhine to compel their loyalty. Seeking to sal vage what he could from the situation, he sent a letter to Caecina, saying he was coming in strength, and if by the time he arrived the agitators had not been punished, he would destroy them all. Caecina read the letter privately to those he could trust, and they in turn identified sol diers on whom they could rely. At a fixed hour the cohorts set upon the ringleaders. Seizing weapons, the mutineers fought back, and the blood of both the loyal and guilty soon stained the tents in camp. When Ger manicus arrived, he had the bodies cremated, hoping any lingering ill will would also be consumed by the flames.

Germanicus planned one more exercise to mend the torn fidelity of the Rhine legions—they must draw their swords in service of the emperor and turn them on the enemies of Rome. He himself would lead them across the Rhine to shed German blood. Taking 12,000 regular troops, eight cavalry divisions and 26 auxiliary cohorts divided into four columns, Germanicus had them ravage and burn the countryside for 50 miles around, destroy ing towns, temples and everything that drew breath. While the legions caught their first victims unawares, by the time they began their return march, neighboring tribes had mobilized and occupied the woods flanking their line of march. With the Roman column strung out, and tribesmen haunting the forested defiles, Germani cus must have feared his legions, like those of Varus, might be lost. When the tribesmen launched a deter mined attack against the Roman rear guard, Germanicus rode to the spot and urged the men of XX Valeria Victrix to turn their disgrace into glory. Their fiery counter attack smashed the Germans, driving them into open country. Meanwhile, the van guard had emerged from the trees and es tablished a fortified camp. The Germans dispersed, and the rest of the march was without incident.

A short time later the men were again settled in the winter camps. Who knows what thoughts passed through their minds as they stared into the campfires or across the river at the snow-swept forest? Did they speak of the past, or did they let those bad memories swirl away with the dark, flowing water of the Rhine? MH

A frequent contributor to Military History, Justin D. Lyons is an associate professor of history and government at Ohio’s Cedarville University. For further reading he recommends Germanicus: The Magnificent Life and Mysterious Death of Rome’s Most Popular General, by Lindsay Powell Roman History, by Cassius Dio The Annals of Imperial Rome, by Tacitus and Rome at War: Caesar and His Legacy, by Kate Gilliver, Adrian Goldsworthy and Michael Whitby.

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1 An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the Metropolitan Library of Bucharest's international symposium ‘The Book, Romania, Europe’ held at Mamaia, Romania in September 2012. I thank all those present, especially Adrian Dumitru, for their comments. I am also grateful to Rhiannon Ash, Georgy Kantor, Christopher Pelling and Thom Russell for advice and suggestions. All chapter references are to the Annals unless otherwise stated and all translations are my own.

2 This is developed further when Germanicus goes east: at 2.43.2-4 Tacitus asserts that Tiberius dispatched the intractable Gnaeus Piso to replace an associate of Germanicus as governor of Syria, and the emperor is later said to have been displeased by Germanicus' entry into Egypt without permission, in defiance of the rules laid down by Augustus (2.59.2-3). See in general C.B.R. Pelling, ‘Tacitus and Germanicus', in T.J. Luce and A.J. Woodman (edd.), Tacitus and the Tacitean Tradition (Princeton, 1993), 59–85, at 67–78. On Tiberius' dissimulatio, see R. Strocchio, Simulatio e Dissimulatio nelle opere di Tacito (Bologna, 2001), 33–85.

3 Tacitus has nothing on the practicalities of Germanicus' journey from Italy to the east, but for other Romans taking similar routes, including Cicero, who went overland from Actium to Athens on his way to Cilicia in 51 b.c. , see N. Purcell, ‘The Nicopolitan synoecism and Roman urban policy’, in E. Chrysos (ed.), Nicopolis I (Prebeza, 1987), 71–90, at 74 n. 13, and cf. L. Casson, Travel in the Ancient World (Baltimore, 1974), 254–6 and Birley , A.R. , ‘ The life and death of Cornelius Tacitus ’, Historia 49 ( 2000 ), 230 –47Google Scholar , at 245–6.

4 Cf. F.R.D. Goodyear, The Annals of Tacitus: Annals 1.55-81 and Annals 2 (Cambridge, 1981), 372–5, and 459–60 for P.Berol. For further discussion of Germanicus' visit to Egypt, which will not be examined in detail here, see D.G. Weingartner, Die Ägyptenreise des Germanicus (Bonn, 1969) and Kelly , B. , ‘Tacitus, Germanicus and the kings of Egypt (Tac. Ann. 2.59-61)’ , CQ 60 ( 2010 ), 221 –37 .

5 Honours were paid to him and his family at Mytilene (IG xii 2,207, 212, 213 and 540), a statue of Agrippina was erected at Sinope (IGR iii 94), the Bithynian city of Caesarea added Germanikē to its name (W. Waddington, Recueil général des monnaies grecques d'Asie Mineure [Paris, 1904], i.281 n. 1), and coins from Nicomedeia, also in Bithynia, with his portrait and name have also been linked to this visit (Waddington [this note], 516 nn. 12 and 13). There were further statues of Germanicus and Agrippina at Samos (IGR iv 979), and the former was elected to the office of stephanephorus at Priene (I.Priene 142 ii, line 9). For full references, see D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor (Princeton, 1950), 497–8 and 1356–7 nn. 17–18, and N. Kokkinos, Antonia Augusta (London and New York, 1992), 18 and 43–5 cf. H. Halfmann, Itinera principum (Stuttgart, 1986), 168–70.

6 Athens and Troy especially were popular stops for Roman travellers (C.C. Vermeule, ‘Neon Ilion and Ilium Novum: kings, soldiers, citizens, and tourists at classical Troy’, in J.P. Carter and S.P. Morris [edd.], The Ages of Homer: A Tribute to Emily Townsend Vermeule [Austin, 1995], 467–82 Sage , M.M. , ‘ Roman visitors to Ilium in the Roman Imperial and Late Antique period: the symbolic functions of a landscape ’, Studia Troica 10 [ 2000 ], 212 –31Google Scholar , at 213–14 and Birley [n. 3], 245–6). Nevertheless, in the narrative of Germanicus' travels there are repeated references to Rome's recent history and the roles played by his relations Augustus and Mark Antony (see e.g. 2.53.2, 2.55.1, 2.59.1-2), and it is hard not to see him as following in the footsteps of these close predecessors. On Mark Antony in Athens, see App. B Civ. 5.76 and Plut. Ant. 33.7 (with Geagan , D.J. , ‘ Roman Athens: some aspects of life and culture I. 86 b.c. – a.d. 267 ’, ANRW 2 .7.1 [ 1979 ], 371 – 437 Google Scholar , at 377–9), and on Augustus' visit, Suet. Div. Aug. 17.4-18.1 and Dio 51.16.3-5. Strabo 13.1.27 and Lucan 9.964-99 refer to Julius Caesar's visit to Troy. Germanicus' visit to Alexandria echoes most obviously Antony (Plut. Ant. 28–9 and App. B Civ. 5.11), but he then sails along the Nile, just as Caesar had with Cleopatra (Suet. Div. Iul. 52.1: see Hillard , T.W. , ‘ The Nile cruise of Caesar and Cleopatra ’, CQ 52 ( 2002 ), 549 –54CrossRefGoogle Scholar . To analyse all the associations evoked by Tacitus' narrative and to consider their function in the Tiberian books as a whole would be beyond the scope of this discussion, but see n. 10 for further bibliography, and pp. 234–5 below for the historical significance of Germanicus' links with Antony.

7 The text leaves it strictly unclear whether Germanicus went beyond the junction of the Bosporus and the Black Sea, or even as far as that point: see Harrison , E. , ‘ Ramsey's Tacitus ’, CR 18 ( 1905 ), 407 –11Google Scholar , at 410 on os Ponticum (I am grateful to Georgy Kantor for this reference).

8 Germanicus is shown giving way to his emotions a number of times: e.g. his impetuous threat to commit suicide rather than accept his mutinous soldiers' offer to make him emperor (1.35.4), his somewhat ill-judged desire to visit the scene of Varus' defeat (1.61.1), and his ostentatious grief when he believes much of his fleet has been lost at sea (2.24.2). See Shotter , D.C.A. , ‘ Tacitus, Tiberius and Germanicus ’, Historia 17 ( 1968 ), 194 – 214 Google Scholar , at 197–202.

9 When Germanicus himself is in the east, his visits to the Actium memorial and to Athens (2.53.1-3) are also imbued with a sense of history see further Pelling (n. 2), 72–4. This does not exclude the possibility that the real Germanicus openly evinced an interest in the past (see Goodyear [n. 4], 374 on P.Oxy. 2345 line 19), but it is unlikely to have been as artless and unscripted as Tacitus suggests.

10 It seems likely that Tacitus took his information about the trip from the positive biographical tradition about Germanicus which presumably also portrayed him as the innocent victim of Tiberius' animosity and seems to have originated in the years after his death: Hurley , D.W. , ‘ Gaius Caligula in the Germanicus tradition ’, AJPh 110 ( 1989 ), 316 –38Google Scholar , at 328–30. The only other surviving historiographical reference to his presence in the east is the generalized paragraph at Suet. Cal. 3.2, which suggests that Tacitus must have actively chosen to focus on it in detail. Various scholars have discussed the individual visits made by Germanicus and attempted, generally without complete success, to determine why Tacitus singles them out in this order—see Questa , C. , ‘ Il viaggio di Germanico in Oriente e Tacito ’, Maia 9 ( 1957 ), 291 – 321 Google Scholar Koestermann , E. , ‘ Die Mission des Germanicus im Orient ’, Historia 7 ( 1958 ), 331 –75Google Scholar Gissel , J.A.P. , ‘ Germanicus as an Alexander figure ’, C&M 52 ( 2001 ), 277 – 301 Google Scholar , at 290–6 and Kelly (n. 4)—but no detailed interest has been shown in 2.54.1.

11 The text is that of Á. Sánchez-Ostiz, Tabula Siarensis: Edición, Traducción y Comentario (Pamplona, 1999) cf. Vell. Pat. 2.129.3, and Weingartner (n. 4), 33–46 on the legal definition of Germanicus' command.

12 Magie (n. 5), 368–75 V.F. Gajdukevič, Das Bosporanische Reich (Berlin, 1971), 322-3 and R.D. Sullivan, Near Eastern Royalty and Rome, 100-30 BC (Toronto, 1990), 155–6.

13 H. Heinen, ‘Mithradates von Pergamon und Caesars bosporanische Pläne’, in R. Günther and S. Rebenich (edd.), E fontibus haurire: Beiträge zur römischen Geschichte und zu ihren Hilfswissenschaften (Paderborn, 1994), 63–79 S. Saprykin, ‘Thrace and the Bosporus under the early Roman emperors', in D. Braund (ed.), Scythians and Greeks (Exeter, 2006), 167–75, at 168–9 and A. Primo, ‘The client-kingdom of Pontus between philomithridatism and philoromanism’, in T. Kaizer and M. Facella (edd.), Kingdoms and Principalities in the Roman Near East (Stuttgart, 2010), 159–79, at 159–61.

14 Magie (n. 5), 1340 n. 29 Sullivan (n. 12), 161 and Primo (n. 13), 162–4.

15 Saprykin (n. 13), 169 sees this as part of an attempt to create a barrier against Parthian incursions, and possibly also a base for future offensive operations against Parthia.

16 D. Braund, ‘Polemo, Pythodoris and Strabo. Friends of Rome in the Black Sea region’, in A. Coşkun (ed.), Roms auswärtige Freunde in der späten Republik und im frühen Prinzipat (Göttingen, 2005), 253–70, at 254.

17 See Primo (n. 13), 165, who speculates that the Bosporans' resistance to Polemo was derived from the fact that he had no family connection to Mithridates.

18 In 12-11 b.c. , Vologaeses, leader of the Bessi, revolted and killed the Thracian king Rhescuporis I in battle, before chasing his regent and successor Rhoemetalces as far as the Chersonese (Dio 54.34.5-7) on subsequent events in Thrace see pp. 230–1 below. Saprykin (n. 13), 170 is of the view that Augustus was following a broader geopolitical strategy here.

19 Primo (n. 13), 166. See also Thonemann , P.J. , ‘ Polemo, son of Polemo (Dio 59.12.2) ’, Epigraphica Anatolica 37 ( 2004 ), 144 –50Google Scholar , at 146–8, who makes the convincing suggestion that Polemo's marriage to Pythodoris occurred a number of years earlier (though Braund [n. 16], 254 emphasizes the imperfect state of modern knowledge about what was going on in the region at this time). See further pp. 230–1 below for Pythodoris and for Zeno and Antonia Tryphaena, two of the children of this marriage.

20 Coins of Dynamis: Rostovtzeff , M. , ‘ Queen Dynamis of Bosporus ’, JHS 39 ( 1919 ), 88 – 109 CrossRefGoogle Scholar , at 101. Statues erected by Dynamis: IosPE II 354, IV 201 and 420, and cf. IosPE II 356, a dedication from the people of Phanagoreia to Dynamis which shows that the town was renamed ‘Agrippeia’ in Agrippa's honour. Statues erected by Pythodoris: Boltunova , A.I. , ‘ Nadpis’ Pifodoridy iz raskopok Germonassy ’, VDI 188 ( 1989 ), 86 – 92 Google Scholar . Coins of Pythodoris: see Waddington (n. 5), at 20 nn. 19–21. Pythodoris also changed the name of Cabeira-Diospolis to Sebaste in honour of Augustus (Strabo 12.3.31). See further Gajdukevič (n. 12), 331, Braund (n. 16), 257–9 and Primo (n. 13), 166–7.

21 It is not clear if the Asandrochos named as Aspurgus' father at IosPE II 36 is to be identified with Asander: see Gajdukevič (n. 12), 328–9.

22 Primo (n. 13), 167–9 (Aspurgus' parentage is discussed at 168 n. 88). For the older view, see Rostovtzeff (n. 20), 102–6 (and 105–6 for Dynamis' poorly attested immediate successor) and Gajdukevič (n. 12), 328–30. Both also consider what the link between Aspurgus and the near-homonymous Aspurgiani may have been: if Polemo's death and Aspurgus' accession were indeed close to contemporaneous, this question could be fruitfully revisited, though cf. Braund (n. 16), 261.

This week in history: Roman hero Germanicus dies mysteriously

On Oct. 10, A.D. 19, the Roman hero and son of the emperor, Germanicus, died under mysterious circumstances. Many suspected that his adopted father and rival, Tiberius, had ordered his death.

Julius Caesar, later known as Germanicus by his peers and to distinguish him from the founder of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and earlier Roman dictator of the same name, was born in May 15 B.C. Germanicus' father was Drusus, who had been the stepson of the first emperor Augustus, and the younger brother of Tiberius, Augustus' successor. Germanicus' mother was Antonia, daughter of Mark Antony and Augustus' sister, Octavia.

Together with his younger brother Claudius (himself a future emperor), Germanicus was raised in the midst of Roman power in the early years of the imperial period. As he grew to adulthood he took on more and more government posts and military commands and, for a time, his great uncle Augustus considered him to be his successor. Unlike Claudius, who stuttered and who may have suffered from a form of mild cerebral palsy, Germanicus was healthy, good-looking and accomplished. As such, he became quite popular with the Roman people.

In Robert Graves' translation of Suetonius' “The Twelve Caesars,” the ancient Roman historian wrote: “Germanicus is everywhere described as having been of outstanding physical and moral excellence. He was handsome, courageous, a past-master of Greek and Latin oratory and letters, conspicuously kind-hearted, and gifted with the powerful desire and capacity for winning respect and inspiring affection. … He often fought and killed an enemy in hand-to-hand combat and did not cease to plead causes in the Law Courts even when he had gained a triumph.”

Germanicus served five terms as a quaestor, a sort of Roman secretary of the treasury. In A.D. 12 he was named consul — Rome's highest rank during the republican period, but still considered a high honor not without power during the empire. The Senate appointed Germanicus to military command in Germania in A.D. 14, not long after the death of Augustus. Military ability was highly prized among the Romans, and this was a chance for Germanicus to gain considerable prestige.

Five years earlier, three Roman legions had been destroyed at the hands of German tribes under the Romanized German Arminius at the Battle of the Teutonburg Forest. Now, Germanicus was determined to punish the German tribes and reclaim the lost legions' eagle standards. In this he was successful and his popularity among Rome's citizens continued to grow. His nickname sprang from his accomplishments in Germania.

With the death of Germanicus' father in 9 B.C., the young warrior-politician's uncle and the new emperor, Tiberius, formally adopted him, perhaps signaling his intent to name Germanicus as his successor and bask in some of his new son's glory. Also, it is possible that Tiberius, never loved by most Romans the way Augustus had been, saw Germanicus as a potential rival and was looking to sideline the young man.

Perhaps knowing that a popular commander with loyal troops could prove to be the stuff of revolution or coup, Tiberius ordered Germanicus to Asia, far from his power base in Germany. If Tiberius' hope had been to check Germanicus' popularity, however, he was to be disappointed. Germanicus soon waged wars against Rome's eastern enemies and defeated the Cappadocians of Asia Minor, the Armenians and other kingdoms of the region.

His success soon brought him into conflict with the Roman governor of Syria, who perhaps acting under Tiberius' orders meddled in Germanicus' military and political affairs. Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso and Germanicus frequently butted heads, though supposedly the emperor's adopted son met hostility with magnanimity. In Michael Grant's translation of Tacitus' “The Annals of Imperial Rome,” the Roman historian noted a joint voyage in the Aegean Sea in which the two men sailed in different ships:

“Though aware of Piso's (political) attacks on him, Germanicus behaved so forgivingly that when a storm was driving Piso on to the rocks — so that his death could have been put down to accident — Germanicus sent warships to rescue his enemy. However, Piso was not mollified.”

Tiberius angrily objected when Germanicus visited Egypt, a province that by law was the emperor's personal property and, because of its great wealth, was off limits to senators and others who could possibly pose a threat to him. Finally, returning to Antioch, things in the east grew so heated between Germanicus and Piso that the Syrian governor decided to return to Rome. He changed his mind, however, when Germanicus took ill, and Piso continued to undermine Germanicus' position. Tacitus wrote:

“He wrote to Piso renouncing his friendship, and it is usually believed that he ordered him out of the province. Piso now delayed no longer, and sailed. But he went slowly, so as to reduce the return journey in case Germanicus died and Syria became accessible again.”

Not long after, on Oct. 10, A.D. 19, at only 33 years of age, Germanicus succumbed to his illness and died. Many suspected that he had been poisoned. Seutonius relates that he had “dark stains” covering his body and “foam on his lips,” which seemed to suggest poison. Supposedly, after Germanicus' cremation, his heart had been found intact among the charred remains — “a heart steeped in poison is supposedly proof against fire.”

Suetonius went on to write: “According to the general verdict, Tiberius craftily arranged Germanicus' death with Gnaeus Piso as his intermediary and agent.”

It is certainly possible that Tiberius feared his adopted son's popularity and wanted him out of the way. The emperor had no problem eliminating rivals in the past, such as Augustus' grandson Agrippa Postumus. It is also possible that Sejanus, leader of the Praetorian Guard in Rome, had a hand in Germanicus' death. The ever ambitious Sejanus may have wanted to eliminate Germanicus because he believed that he himself could one day be emperor. On the other hand, Tiberius and Sejanus may have worked in collusion. Also, it is altogether possible that the hero did indeed die from natural causes.

Tacitus noted the reaction to Germanicus' death: “He was decreed every honor which love or ingenuity could devise. His name was introduced into the Salian hymn: curule chairs, crowned by oak-wreaths, were to be placed in his honor among the seats of Brotherhood of Augustus his statue in ivory was to head the processions at the Circus Games ….” Many more honors were also paid him.

Upon his death, Piso attempted to consolidate his power in Syria, and this led many to suspect his hand in Germanicus' death. Popular outcry demanded an investigation and under such pressure Tiberius ordered a trial. Before the trial ended, however, and without any evidence of his guilt, Piso took his own life, supposedly by cutting his own throat with a sword.

Germanicus' greatest legacy, however, was his progeny. Upon Tiberius' death in A.D. 37, Germanicus' son became the third emperor of Rome. Named Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, after his father and the first emperor, the young man was better known by his nickname, Caligula. Germanicus' son's reign was marked by madness, murder and oppression.

Germanicus' daughter, Agrippina the Younger, eventually married her uncle, Germanicus' brother, the fourth emperor Claudius. Her son from a previous marriage went on to become the fifth emperor, Nero, whose reign was likewise marked with madness.

Free Example of Germanicus Essay

There are different forms of governments that existed in the past in form of kingdoms and empires. Each of these had a particular impact in the society and therefore able to earn a place in historical records. However, among the empires that had the greatest impact on the lives of human beings is the Roman Empire. This empire was mainly led by the Caesars. However, the Caesars are not the only people in the Roman Empire whose role has been recorded in history. There are other people too who made a lasting impact in this empire. Among them is Germanicus.

Germanicus has been cited as one of the most important figures in the history of the Roman Empire. He was an adopted son of Tiberius and was poised to take on the leadership of the Roman Empire after Tiberius. Therefore, to prepare him for such a role, he was enrolled in the Roman army, a role that he played so well and rose to the rank of a general. There are various reasons that have caused Germanicus to be cited as one of the important figures in the Roman Empire. To begin with, through Germanicus, Tiberius was assured that the leadership of the Roman Empire would remain in his family and nothing would threaten it. This was because after being adopted by Tiberius, Germanicus was able to sire nine children, six of whom survived. Similarly, Tiberius&rsquos son had offended him and thus he needed somebody else apart from his son to take after him (Suetonius, Graves and Grant 137).

Germanicus was also important to the people of Rome in the sense that he carried himself with dignity as an army officer and there are no acknowledgment against him that could agitate him to resolve to use violence and other crude means of dealing with problems in the Roman Empire. As a result, the people of Rome looked up to him as their next emperor. This is because their previous emperor, Tiberius was rude and difficult and didn&rsquot care much about the business of this empire. According to Suetonius, Gaius, Graves and Grant (2002), Germanicus occasionally served as an example of how people were required to live in the Roman Empire (65). For example, when Emperor Augustus wanted to pass new laws especially those that encouraged marriage and large, he used the family of Germanicus as an example that people were required to follow since this empire was characterized by young people who had no interest in marriage (65). Therefore, his character alone made Germanicus one of the most important figures in the Roman Empire.

Similarly, Germanicus played an important role in averting an uprising and probably the division of the Roman Empire. After the death of Emperor Augustus, the Roman Empire was torn between choosing Germanicus or Tiberius as their next emperor. This was particularly so when the soldiers in Germany declined openly to accept an emperor whom they had not chosen themselves (Suetonius, Gaius, Graves and Grant 123). They therefore demanded Germanicus to accept to take over the empire as its next emperor. However, he refused to honor their demand and instead led them to an offensive of another empire to help them cool down their tempers against his decline. On the other hand, his offensive missions because of his military skills enabled the Roman Empire to enjoy some form of peace, extend its territories and to bring its provinces under extreme order since Germanicus did not encourage any form of revolt.

However, the dreams of the citizens of the Roman Empire that one day Germanicus would hold the office of the emperor were cut short while he was on an expedition to Syria where he suddenly fell sick and was murdered. His death caused a lot of problem. To begin with, the entire Rome became a place of revolt as people stoned the temple and caused other problems as a result of their rebellion in a show of their love for Germanicus. The people believed that because of Germanicus, Tiberius had been kept under control and could not exercise the cruelty that was in his heart. Therefore, they believed that with the death of Germanicus, Tiberius would soon burst out with cruelty and wickedness that had not been seen before in Rome that would see Germanicus&rsquo own family persecuted. As a result of this, people expressed their anger by revolting and refused to be consoled (Dando-Collins 49).

Apart from the uprising, another problem that emerged in the Roman Empire at that time after the death of Germanicus was the wickedness of Tiberius. This emperor began behaving with a lot of cruelty and wickedness towards his own people. This was due to the fact that Germanicus has acted as a possible rival towards Tiberius in regard to the emperor&rsquos seat and therefore this restrained him from behaving badly towards the people. However, the death of Germanicus marked the end of this rivalry and thus Tiberius behaved the way he wanted (Dando-Collins 49).

On the other hand, the reinstatement of Germanicus son Gaius as the next emperor after Tiberius was seen as a sign of relief to the citizens of Roman Empire as it was seen as an honor to their fallen hero Germanicus. However, Gaius popularly known as Caligula was so cruel that he would order people to be thrown to wild animals in the arena since there were no prisoners to execute. Similarly, this emperor was immoral and acted in sexual pervasive ways, turning the palace into a brothel. This may have been avoided if Germanicus had lived to become an emperor (Scullard 284).

Germanicus is one of the key figures that held himself with dignity and honor that he earned respect from the Roman citizens. However, to their surprise and disappointed, they failed to live under his leadership as an emperor since he died while he had not become an emperor. His death caused a lot of problems not only because of the uprising in protest by people but also the emperors, Tiberius who was ruling at the time of Germanicus death and Germanicus&rsquo son Gaius Caligula ruled with an iron fist after his death, oppressing people without any cause. Germanicus&rsquo life was thus a restraint to all forms of cruelty and disorder.


Germanicus Caesar (24 May 15 BC – 10 October 19 AD) was a Roman general. He was the son of the general Nero Claudius Drusus, and nephew of Emperor Tiberius.

Germanicus commanded the Roman forces in their campaign of 14/16 AD against the Germanic tribes. Three whole Roman legions had been wiped out in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD. It was the greatest disaster in Roman military history.

Plans for the revenge were started by the Emperor Augustus, and put into effect by his successor Tiberius. Germanicus had command of eight legions, one-third of the Roman Army. He destroyed the opposing German tribes, and recovered two of the three symbolic legionary eagles which had been lost. He was called back by Tiberius after he crossed the Rhine. The reasons for the recall are not agreed, but Augustus had set the Rhine as the limit of Rome's ambitions in Germany.

Germanicus was given an official triumph. A contemporary calendar gives 26 May as the day in which "Germanicus Caesar was borne into the city in triumph". Coins issued under his son Gaius (Caligula) depicted him on a triumphal chariot, with the reverse reading "Standards Recovered. Germans Defeated". [1]

In AD 18 he was given charge of the eastern part of the empire. Germanicus died in Syria for unknown reasons.