Senate under Tiberius and Claudius



Seemed to genuinely want a good relationship

  • extended administrative duties
  • attended meetings and consulted the senate - Suetonius "he even consulted them about...military commands"
  • tried to respect liberty of discussion
  • showed respect to senators - "stood up for consuls and made way for them on the streets" Suetonius
  • Also kept the senators at a high quality - "removed from the senate...persons whose means vanished from extravagance" Tacitus (also links to frugality)
  • Tacitus seems complimentary until Drusus' death in AD23 - "majority recieved [an opinio of Tiberius'] in silence...Tiberius percieved this"
  • gave appointments by merit
  • maintained the dignity of senators
  • attempted to lower the number of delatores by intoriducing a board of senators to disentangle law cases before they went before the senate 
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Sometimes experienced issues

  • Had to enforce the Lex Rebus de Repetundis (law of extortion) to stop governors from increasing their wages from the wages of the provices (Tacitus)
  • Young Senators weren't respecting the older senators (Tacitus)
  • Asked the seante to appoint a governor of Africa but they sent it back to him to choose - Tiberius then wrote a letter to them, saying they weren't doing their job properly
  • Suetonius says he "made a pretence at restoring popular liberties by seeing that the Senate and magistrates enhoyed their former dignities"
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Rise of Sejanus

  • When Tiberius left for Capreae in 26AD, Sejanus was left in charge of the state
  • Although Tacitus believed that Livia had him under control and stopped him from doing anything drastic, her death in AD29, saw the start of the Treason Trials, during which many of Tiberius' political opponents were got rid of, including the exile in AD30 of Aggrippina and her eldest son (Sejanus possibly getting rid of opponents for the succession), who later starved to death. The only family member that appears to have survived was Caligula, as he went to live with Tiberius on Capreae
  • Although the Treason Trials seemed to be coming from Sejanus, Suetonius believed that Tiberius was controlling him
  • In AD31, Sejanus shared a consulship with Tiberius, who Suetonius says was "pretending to honour him", in order to trick him into being taken to the Senate. According to Juvenal, a letter was sent from Capreae to have Sejanus killed without trial - it is believed that Antonia, mother of Livilla, who sent a letter to Tiberius telling him of Livilla and Sejanus' plot to kill Drusus. 
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Tried hard at the beginning of his reign to have a good relationship

  • Tried to improve the social standing of the senate- kept seats at circuses, rose in their presence, restored Achea and Macedonia to the Senate in AD44, attended all senate meetins, and according to Tacitus, "elevated senators of long standing to Patrician rank"
  • He also made sure to compromise when debating issues within the senate. For example, in AD47, the Senate were faced with the problem that there was a "tyranny of accusers" (Tacitus), and whilst some argued that the lawyers wages should be stopped entirely, more senators said that if you "remove a professions incentives, the profession perishes". Claudius came to a compromise, and "decided to estbish a maximum of 10,000 sesterces" - Tacitus
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However, the rift continued to grow

  • Before becoming emperor "by an extraordinary accident" (Suetonius), he had only held one consulship in AD31, at his own insistence and was "nearly disposed from his first consulship" (Suetonius)
  • He became censor during his reign - took away a very high position that many senators would have wanted to hold. As part of the censorship, he expelled senators that he believed weren't doing a good job, but did show compassion by allowing them to have their name put on the resignation list in order to avoid embassessment  - "he advised concerened individuals to consider their own cases" (Tacitus)
  • He also wanted to admit Gauls into the senate in AD48 after they demanded to have more say in the running of the empire, according to Tacitus - the senate argued "the senate's insignia, the glory of office, they must not cheapen", but claudius retaliated with "what proved fatal for Sparta and Athens...was their segragation of conquered subjects" - "the senate approved the emperor's speech" (Tacitus)
  • And Claudius felt he had to take certain senators with him on his expedition to Britain, suggesting their was still tension and fear of conspiracy - but he was clever, as it made them feel as if they were held in high regard
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Centralized administration

  • He insisted that the senate work with more efficiency, enforcing attendendance, 
  • He is also said to have killed 30-35 senators during his reign, through fear of conspiracy - though Suetonius blames the freedmen
  • Claudius became increasingly dependant on his freedmen, most especially Narcissus his secretary, and Palla, his treasurer - isolated himself from the senate, and probably became the biggest issue for his relationship with them
  • Although, reports that he was soft on his freedmen, ignore the fact that he executed at least 5 during his reign
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