December 31, 2007

Year-by-Year: 14 AD (a)

Jesus turns 20. Augustus dies. The first year of Tiberius’ rule as Emperor.

At the start of 14 AD, Jesus of Nazareth was 19 years old, going on 20. The final months of the Lord’s second decade on Earth were over in May. And by the look of things, he had nothing to show for it.

God’s own son was here, in the prime of life. He was the world’s Savior, but he was not a great man.

The greatest men were world beaters by this age.


Alexander the Great turned 20 in 336 BC. That year, Alexander became King of Macedonia. Right away he began preparing his invasion and conquest of all Asia. Likewise, Augustus Caesar was only 18 when his uncle Julius died, in 44 BC. And in 42 BC, “Octavian” (as he was then called) ended the civil wars and started ruling the Empire![1]

But here’s Jesus, turning 20 and doing nothing… it seemed.

Sons of Kings always made their mark by age 20. Herod’s son Archelaus was King of Israel at age 19 (4 BC). His younger brother Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee, forged a marriage alliance with King Aretas of Nabatea the year he turned 20 (1 BC). Even Herod’s son Philip was only 18 as he secured peace ruling mostly Arab peoples (2 BC).

All the young Herods we’ve seen were taking on great challenges at young ages. In Italy, the young Caesars were no different at all.

Augustus Caesar sent his grandson, Gaius, off to far away battles, leading over 20,000 men… when Gaius was just 19 (1 BC). And when Caesar’s great-grand-nephew Germanicus turned 19, Augustus made that young man second-in-line to rule the world (4 AD). Even the difficult Posthumous Agrippa (Caesar’s 3rd grandson) became a big enough threat to be exiled… you guessed it… at age 19 (8 AD).

Nineteen. This is not a small observation. At that age, if you’re going to rule any decent sized Kingdom, you’d better get around to it. Or at least start acting like it!

But here was Jesus. God’s Son, the Messiah. The one born to be King of the Jews… even the King of all Kings! And what was he doing?

The same things as always.

Jesus was living in Nazareth. He was pulling saws with Joseph, doing chores for Mary, watching out for little James, and taking care of his aging grandparents. He was earning his daily bread and forgiving bad customers’ debts. He was calling on his Father’s holy name.

To earthly eyes, this was nothing. No one could see what a great Man this Jesus was. No one could tell he was perfectly blameless. No one imagined he’d NOT been overcome by the darkness of the evil one. No one else knew where to find such protection.

No one thought Jesus was anything like a great man.

No. The glory of this one, holy life was as yet unseen.

No one heard him when he called his Father’s name, or when they talked to each other. No one heard when Jesus asked his Father for things. And no one was aware enough to be amazed by this fact, either… but when Jesus prayed, he asked for things that God wanted!

To heaven’s eyes, this was glorious. Jesus was doing what no one else had the power to do! The Lord, as a Man, was showing his Father what it could look like for an earth man to live like God was in charge.

So that’s what Jesus was doing at age 19 and 20. That was all. He was not some “great man”. He was God’s man.

In 14 AD, Jesus the King was not yet in his kingdom…

But he knew it would come.

The Kings of the earth kept on ruling. The world kept on turning. And God’s Son kept praying…

Year after year.


Once again, 14 AD brought no news from Israel.

Rufus was still Procurator at Caesarea. Annas was still High Priest at Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin was over half-way done re-building Herod’s Temple.[2]

There was certainly no trouble in Judea, at all.

The people of Israel seemed to like this new Roman “Kingdom”!


At the start of 14 AD, the “King” of the Roman Empire was 75 years old. Augustus Caesar would not reach his 76th birthday. Here’s what happened.

The Emperor’s heir, Tiberius Caesar, had been over Italy during the winter, taking a census. It was also a tour to let Italy see the face of her new ruler-to-be.

By spring, Tiberius and his census teams were all done. Augustus and his “imperial colleague” held a ceremony on May 14th – to celebrate completing the census.[3]

Shortly after their reunion, Augustus made Tiberius leave again!

This was critical. Since the census began, the two Caesars had shared equal powers, at least officially. For nearly a year, Rome had two masters… at least, technically.

In fact, Augustus was still fully in charge and Tiberius was still below him. That’s what was still happening, in practice. The official “equality” in power was just so Tiberius could begin ruling, legally, the moment Augustus was dead.

But things had to look proper. Technically, Rome had two masters, and it just wasn’t wise to keep two masters in town together. They had to have separate duties, somehow. Besides, at the very least, they didn’t want to set a bad example for future generations!

So Tiberius had to go on a new mission. It had to be close, because Augustus could die anytime. And it had to be an easy mission, so Tiberius could return when called for.

Augustus was sending Tiberius to North Illyricum. There were no uprisings, of course. Everything had been at peace there, in Pannonia, since 9 AD. So the only task the future Emperor had to do there was oversee the ongoing improvements in the new province.[4]

But the mission didn’t have to start right away. Augustus still had lots of things left to tell Tiberius.

The two Caesars spent the rest of May together in the city. And June. And July.[5]

By late July, Tiberius got ready to go. But Augustus wanted to make a trip into the country for a while. Augustus had also been invited to attend some games in his honor, that would be on their way.

So they left Rome together.

Somewhere around late July, the two Caesars headed south, down the coast, towards Campania. They went very slowly, because of the Emperor’s age.

Augustus and Tiberius were carried in a litter down the coast, but changed their minds after a few days and took a ship, to make the trip faster. The August northwesterlies were just kicking up and the breeze was strong, blowing them southeast, down the coast of Italy.

But traveling by ship meant spending a couple of nights at sea. Somewhere in those strong gusts of salty night air, Augustus caught a stomach virus. So now he was on a boat, at night, dealing with diarrhea… at age 75!

The Emperor was getting pretty weak by the time they reached his villa on the Island of Capri. Willpower and the island stay kept him in a happy mood. After four days on Capri, Augustus and Tiberius took their traveling party across the Bay to Naples. The Emperor was still dealing with illness, but wanted to make his appointment. Then, the first day after the games, the two Caesars went inland, heading East.

The whole party went about 50 miles to Beneventum, on the Appian way. There, Tiberius said good bye and Augustus turned back towards Rome. But these extra days of travel had weakened Augustus and made him sicker. The Emperor didn’t think he had the strength to make it back to Rome, or even to Naples or Capri.

About 35 miles after Beneventum, Augustus stopped at the closest spot he could take a long rest at. The old country house of his father, Octavius Caesar was on the road back to Capri, at the town of Nola.

Augustus knew his own father had died in that very house. He had to know it was his time as well.

The Emperor didn’t last long at Nola.

On his last day, he kept asking whether there were any uprisings around Italy. Augustus was afraid of trouble because he knew he was dying.

His wife, Livia, was there with him and a few friends. The Emperor had some last words. He told them he found Rome as weak as clay bricks, but now left it to them as strong as stone or marble. Then Augustus asked them all to applaud because he was an actor who had played his part well, and now had to leave the stage.

That afternoon, Caesar kissed his wife, reminded her to be faithful to him, and died – quietly and suddenly.

The official day of death was given as August 19th, 14 AD.

The Emperor, Augustus Caesar, had lived 75 years, 10 months and 26 days on planet earth. He died just shy of his 76th birthday, which made this his 77th calendar year.[6]

The Emperor was dead.


The Emperor was very much alive.

Tiberius was barely in his province when he got the news that Augustus was dying. It took him just a few days to sail and ride quickly to Nola. Once there, Tiberius’ mother Livia, the Emperess, had already taken charge in the house.

Tiberius and Livia went in to see Augustus together.

But we do not know if Augustus was still alive at that time.

Later on, Tiberius and Livia both said that Augustus held on until his son arrived. The new Emperor and his mother told everyone that father and son had gotten one final day to visit and say goodbye. They told some that Augustus had died in Tiberius’ arms.

We don’t know for sure.

We do know that other stories and rumors got started soon after this.[7] There were many in Rome who believed Livia had set up the murder of the princes, Gaius & Lucius, because that was when Tiberius came back into Rome (see 4 AD).

In fact, since that time, another rumor had started that Livia sent someone to poison her own son, Drusus, when Drusus was lying wounded in Germany (9 BC). So it wouldn’t be long until new rumors popped up that said Livia had poisoned Augustus, now, too! (And it gets wilder than that! But those stories will come soon enough.)

Did Tiberius see Augustus alive?

Rumor says that Livia kept the death a secret until Tiberius reached Nola. Then – maybe – she lied about the death date to hide her cover up. And that might be true.

All we know for sure, right now, is this.

On August 19th, 14 AD, Tiberius and his widowed mother Livia were at Nola, near Mount Vesuvius. Augustus Caesar was dead. Tiberius was now the new Roman Emperor.

At age 54, Tiberius Caesar began his final mission – ruling the world!

The new Emperor probably didn’t get much sleep that night.

Suddenly, there was a lot to take care of…





14 AD, Part Two…


Begin Footnotes:

[1] Albeit with two partners, Antony & Lepidus, the “second triumvirate”.

[2] It sure seems complete when Jesus walked through it, but the Temple Courtyard won’t be paved (the final phase of work that Josephus called totally finished) until the early 60’s AD.

[3] This was a traditional event called the “Lustrum”. For Tiberius’ official position as “colleague in imperium”, see footnotes to 12 and 13 AD.

[4] Armies were building roads and prep-work was being done for the founding of colonies. These years in Illyricum (the two new provinces of Dalmatia & Pannonia) were like the years in Galatia after 25 BC – which was discussed in the footnotes of 6, 5 and 3 BC.)

These ongoing efforts mean that Dalmatia will be fairly civilized and safe when the apostle Titus goes there in 63/64 AD.

[5] No one could criticize them for staying together, since they had already made official plans to separate again. This was the point things had come to – keeping up appearances and satisfying technicalities. But the reality was whatever the Emperor wanted, happened.
[6] I mention this specifically to illustrate a point made in previous Year Books about the methods of counting someone’s age. I mention it now because the Jewish Historian Josephus says Augustus was “77 years old” when he died. This is a perfect example of “inclusive” counting, typical of Jewish thought.

Jesus Christ is going to be 38 years, 10 months and some days old at his crucifixion. He will ascend into heaven at least a week shy of his 39th birthday (Roman Calendar) but it may have been exactly on the day of his 39th birthday (Jewish Calendar). So it might have been, chronologically, the first day of his 40th year when he rose into the sky, leaving Earth. (Forty is the biblical time of testing, and by the Hebrew laws, part of a year counted as all of a year.) Either way, Jesus spent forty calendar years on Earth, by the Roman AND by the Hebrew calendars.

(See footnotes to 9, 8 & 7 BC, and bonus sections.)

[7] By that point, they’d just had three months together; surely, Augustus had as many chances as he wanted to talk to Tiberius. If Livia and Tiberius lied about the last day’s instructions, it was only for dramatic effect of the timing. We aren’t sure about the timing, but we’re absolutely certain there WERE final instructions!

December 23, 2007

Year-by-Year: 13 AD

Jesus turns 19. Germanicus leads 8 Legions in Germany. Augustus secures Tiberius’ succession once and for all.

In January of 13 AD, Jesus was 18 years old. In May he turned 19…

(Read more about Jesus in future editions.)


There is no news from Israel this year. Rufus was still Procurator at Caesarea. Annas was still High Priest at Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin was still making slow progress towards rebuilding Herod’s Temple.

Everyone seemed to be doing well under Roman rule.


All winter, Augustus had been working on his will and his memoirs. He had also been nudging the Senate and People of Rome closer and closer towards seeing Tiberius as his sole successor.

When spring came, the Emperor sent Germanicus back into Europe. The young General was now in charge of eight legions, at age 28!

This farewell was the last time the two Caesars would see one another. It was one more way Augustus firmed up his plans. Tiberius was staying in town. Germanicus was leaving. Augustus was brilliant.

This was one extra safeguard against civil war.

Next came the papers.

When the snows had thawed and the seas were all safe, Augustus sent messengers all over the Empire. The Emperor had finished his memoirs, called “Things I Did”[1] It was several pages long, but Caesar wanted it carved into stone many times, at least once in each province.[2]

It was about this same time that Caesar finished his will.

On April 3rd, 13 AD, the Emperor sealed up his will. It took up two bound volumes of parchment![3] Both books were sealed and secured in the Temple of the Vestal Virgins.[4]

At this time, no one but Augustus got to read the will.

The Vestals also secured three other documents for the Emperor. Augustus gave them a copy of his “Things I Did”, a list of instructions for his own funeral, and a personal accounting of the Empire’s financial and military resources to that date.

That was the end of Caesar’s publishing efforts. He was now ready to die, sixteen months ahead of time! Still on top of everything…

Still on top of the world.


Tiberius, the Emperor-to-be, was Augustus’ right hand man in Rome all year long.[5]

Augustus was still doing all his normal duties by himself.[6] Now, starting this year he sometimes did them on a couch, reclining. And he was still skipping Senate meetings, where Tiberius was sitting in for him.

This was the only official duty Tiberius carried out for most of the year. It didn’t mean much. It was about to mean even less!

Sometime around the middle of the year, Augustus asked the Senate for two things.[7]

First of all, the Emperor had them renew Tiberius’ Tribunican Powers for another ten years – even though it was a year ahead of their expiration date.[8] Now there was no way Tiberius would not succeed as Emperor.

After that, Augustus asked the Senate for a special decree of some extra special powers.

Basically, the Emperor wanted to start his own mini-Senate!

The senate agreed, and voted to give Augustus a special Council.[9] Anything Caesar’s Council decided would count as if the entire Senate had voted on it. And naturally, the Council only answered to Caesar.

Who was on this Council? Guess! Augustus, Tiberius and the two Consuls of the year, for starters. Germanicus was also included, officially, even though he was absent from the city. Tiberius’ son Drusus was also included, along with twenty personal counselors the Emperor selected with approval from the Senate.

The Senate itself kept meeting[10], but all important decisions went through the new Council.

All decisions, that is… except one.


The Senators only thought they were going to have extra time on their hands.

Actually, the Emperor had one very big axe to grind. It was the last potential problem big enough to rebel over, and Augustus knew he had to kill it for good.

This last major issue was… the “death-tax”!

Several Senators and other wealthy nobles around Rome had been grumbling for years about the new 5% tax on inheritances. Augustus had been ignoring the complaints since the tax started in 6 AD. But the wars that broke out that year (and in 9 AD) were finally all settled.

Now the grumbles had grown louder. There was actually a good chance Rome’s wealthy class might spark a revolt over this! So Augustus dealt with the problem like he always did.

He conquered it. But he conquered it shrewdly.

The Emperor told the Senators he would gladly end the death tax if they could come up with another way to collect as much money.

They worked on it. They came up with nothing. So Augustus made his own suggestion – a property tax! And he had the Senate vote for Tiberius would begin a new census of Italy.[11]

Wealthy Italians had never paid taxes on their wealth before. It didn’t take them long to decide how they felt about it.

Soon, Tiberius started out across Italy with his census team. The census was going to take until next spring to complete.[12] But the Senators knew how they felt before winter arrived.

The Senate voted to keep the inheritance tax. The census continued, but the property tax was dead. So was the last hint of uprising.

Augustus had seized peace for his world, once again.


In some ways, that was a busy year. Lots of things happened, and nothing really changed. But Augustus had now, truly, finally finished securing his plan for Rome’s future.

Tiberius still wasn’t Emperor yet, but now there was no doubt…

He soon would be.[13]

Next Year Book: 14 AD!

Begin Footnotes to 13 AD:

[1] A poor academic translation, perhaps, but a good Americanized one, which is fair. A more precise translation of the actual title, “Res Gestae”, might be “Things Engendered by me”, but the real idea of it was: “Look how much great stuff happened because – and only because – I, Augustus Caesar was alive and walked the face of the earth. And therefore, everyone should know forever just how great I really was!” (Now, try to say that in two American-English words! It would probably be: “Things I did!”) By the way, after commissioning this huge undertaking, there was still plenty time for Augustus to send out final edits or amendments, if he decided to add something later. Which he did. (See the Loeb edition.)

[2] “At least.” There were two carvings in Galatia – at Ancyra and Antioch-near-Pisidia. Naturally, these are the two remaining copies we have in existence today.

[3] Loeb says “two notebooks” – “duobus codicibus” in Latin. This was the new technology (still very recent – see previous footnotes) called “codices”. They were the first western “books”. Not surprisingly, it seems the Emperor had access to cutting-edge upgrades in writing! But most writing in existence was still in “scrolls”.

[4] These priestesses tended the sacred flame of Vesta, Roman goddess of the hearth. By tradition, it was very important to Roman beliefs that these women remained actual virgins… so the place was heavily guarded, one reason it was a secure location for keeping Augustus’ will.

[5] But not “co-Emperor” or “co-” anything else. See footnotes in 12 AD.

[6] Read Dio Cassius and look at his subjects and verbs. Augustus is still the one doing things, and thus, still the one in charge. Tiberius’ name only appears twice in Dio’s account of 13 AD. Both times, the proper noun is merely an object. [The other ancient sources are not much different.] In contrast, Augustus stands grammatically responsible for no less than twenty active verbs, by my count. So the man taking the action must have been the man in charge – which was only Augustus! And Tiberius, for all his increased and expanded powers, was merely along for the ride at this point, practically speaking. No matter what we call Tiberius, and whatever his official political status may have been this year, it’s clear from Dio’s language regarding actual events that Tiberius was in no way “ruling” anything… yet.

[7] Actually, it was three. Before anything else, the Senate “offered” and Augustus “accepted” a fourth renewal of powers for a fifth consecutive term as head of state. Like the renewal of Tiberius’ powers, this vote came a year ahead of time. (See below.)

[8] Granted in 4 AD, the year of Tiberius’ adoption, these were set to expire in 14 AD. The early renewal was official this year, set to take effect automatically next year, and there was therefore no overlap in the two ten-year terms. Now, the reason for the early renewal was so the Senate couldn’t simply let it lapse, after Augustus died. (As if they would have!) But this was Augustus making absolutely sure of his control, once again. And the timing – just one year early – was apparently the soonest it would have been appropriate (or necessary) to have the renewal approved ahead of time.

[9] This was called Augustus’ “Consillium”.

[10] How much power does Tiberius seem to actually be wielding now? The only actual duty he’d had, since last Autumn, was sitting in for Augustus and presiding over Senate meetings. Now it was merely a half-year or so later and the Emperor had taken all the teeth out of that, too! Anyone still want to call this “co-ruling”?

[11] Aside from sitting in meetings, this was the only actual duty the new “vice-emperor” (as we might call him) actually had all year, and yet it required him to leave the city for several months! How is that “ruling”?

[12] Again we have a short-notice, quickly executed census. In all these yearbooks, it’s the third time we’ve covered a census and the second one that went really quickly. This is worth consideration.

In 8 & 7 BC, Saturninus’ census of Israel covered Herod’s whole kingdom. He had to plan for unknown terrain, a foreign population, and local officials that might not prove totally cooperative. It was all from scratch. Even though Saturninus only had to count heads, he had to ensure an accurate count against all those factors and record individual, verifiable names, based on their cities of ancestry! (That took a year to plan, and most of a year to carry out.)

In 6 AD, Quirinius was able to plan in a matter of days for a property census of Southern Israel (Galilee, Judea and Samaria only) where names were already known, and recorded population rolls were only twelve years old. (The preparation was as simple as grabbing the archived lists and going from town to town, assessing real estate and counting (the unsuccessfully hidden) coin purses of wealthy people.)

By the way, there’s another major factor that makes a property census faster than a population census. You don’t have to spend much time counting the “property” of the very poor – which of course was nearly nothing, and included almost everyone.

But now, in 13 AD, Tiberius ran a population-and-property census, but somehow it went very quickly. How is this possible? Circumstances. It was Italy. It was familiar territory. All necessary resources were centralized in Rome. It had been 21 years since the last census of Roman citizens (in 8 BC), which is not a long time in a region and era of such complete stability. Every citizen household had someone who’d been through the previous census. In short, the routine was well established and everyone knew the drill.

The only new detail for this census was property assessment. As with Quirinius in 6 AD, extra planning was negligible. All Tiberius had to do was grab the lists of population records from the most recent population census and take his soldiers from town to town. A troop of soldiers could search a residence at rapid pace and tell the results to the account outside, whose scribe simple wrote down each valuation reported. The only real time-constraint involved was physical travel and work time. Planning was simply a matter of which town was next down the road, and how many teams could be sent out at once. (Messengers were also sent to Governors all over the Empire, who must’ve merely updated or verified the count of Roman Citizens in their Province and sent back the new total by spring. Thus, Tiberius & Augustus announce the new total in May, 14 AD.)

So Tiberius’ property census of Italy was perfectly executed in less than a year, with virtually no lead time. This confirms Quirinius had every plausible chance to do the same in South Israel in a similar time frame, especially given a smaller population with a smaller distribution of wealth (since Archelaus had claimed most of it, like his father Herod before him).

Finally, the similarities between Tiberius’ and Quirinius’ property censuses are what inversely support the reconstructed version of events found in the Year Books for 9, 8 and 7 AD – namely, that the population census of Saturninus was of a vastly different nature to require longer term planning and more careful execution, scheduled out in measured steps. The parameters in each case fit the task and situation at hand.

[13] There is one last modification of Tiberius’ powers, which was probably made this year, even though no ancient source even remotely attempts to date the event. (This is why it was left to this footnote.) Now, Tacitus’ statement that Tiberius was made Augustus’ colleague in imperium (which implies absolute power at home, which was more than Tiberius gained on his return from Germany; see 12 AD) – that statement implies that Tiberius’ powers did equal those of Augustus at least at some point before the Emperor actually died. (For example, Tiberius begins exercising these powers right after Augustus dies, before the Senate was able to meet or change anything.) The best we can guess is that this last upgrade of powers took place sometime mid-year in 13 AD, probably at or around the same time as Tiberius’ Tribunican powers were approved for early renewal, which was also about the time when the census was ordered.

Since Augustus’ own writing in the “Res Gestae” says that Tiberius was his colleague in the imperium at the close of the census (the “lustrum”, in May, 14 AD), we assume that final upgrade must’ve become official around the opening of that census. If so, that means Tiberius was capable of exercising ultimate power, equal even to the Emperor, anywhere, and even in the city, by mid-13 AD.

That is, Tiberius was in possession of such power technically. But does anyone think the old General could have issued orders in opposition to his father’s? Also, as noted before, it’s just at this point when Tiberius suddenly has to leave the city for several months! And upon return, next year, he will very shortly be sent out again, to Illyricum. (See 14 AD.) Could this timing be precisely because of the new domestic imperium?

If so, we have a consistent pattern during these transition years. Just as Augustus put Tiberius over the Senate, in 12, and then promptly stole all power from the Senate, here Augustus gave Tiberius’ powers their full effect in Rome, in mid-13, and then promptly removed him from the city! The circumstances, put into sequential context, add extra weight to the placement of this “final upgrade” in 13, not in 12. (This conclusion seems to blend perfectly with those of both Levick and Swan.)

But whether the final powers came in 12 or 13, it remains consistently clear from October 12 until September 14 that the practical situation had not really changed. It was merely that the legal situation was finalized to a further degree. As noted previously, the recorded, actual events show that Tiberius wasn’t doing anything worthy of (or requiring) the possession of absolute power… even after he definitively held it! Nothing like “co-ruling” was ever going on, much less was it ever intended to be. The “collegia imperium” was ultimately and merely a setup for a smooth transition.

Therefore, and for the last time, Tiberius seems to have held absolute power not before the summer of 13 AD, and yet he still was in no way actually ruling until 14.

(See footnotes to 12 AD and Bonus Materials for an explanation of how this connects with Luke 3:1.)
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