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!

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