June 11, 2008

L.C.Piso Dead, Late 32 AD

This is a puzzle I've been working at for a few months, off and on. Hopefully, some interested classical scholar will google this before long and discuss it with me. Poor man's colloquium, eh? :)

The death of Lucius Calpurnius Piso, City Prefect is a difficult minor point of Roman chronology... Josephus says Herod-Agrippa saw Governor Flaccus in Antioch, Syria BEFORE PISO DIED. But Piso was replaced (as city prefect) by Lamia, who was replaced (as Governor of Syria) by Flaccus! This (plus an obscure drinking story in Pliny and Suetonius) causes some to doubt the date of Piso's death. This, despite the fact that Tacitus and Dio BOTH attest it came in 32 AD. That means A LOT has to happen in the year 32 AD.

The first trick is that Lamia was an absentee Governor, during Sejanus' prefecture. Dio says Tiberius kept Lamia in Rome on purpose. So Lamia was not in Syria when Flaccus was appointed to succeed him. But the next trick is that Lamia must have gone without a post for several months before Piso died. The Greek grammar of Dio 58:19:5 may or may not support this. (Help - language expert needed here!) However, this "next trick" is the only explanation that preserves all the reliable sources.

In this scenario, Agrippa has just enough time to make all his stops, from Antioch to Rome, before the chain of events that leads to his servants arrest under Piso. Agrippa can be in Rome by September and Piso can still be dead as early as October.

But there is a second problem. The "drinking story" I mentioned says that Piso won his appointement in a drinking contest with Tiberius. John Jackson (Loeb#312, p.174, n.1) says the "20 years" of service puts Piso's appointment under Augustus, which (he says) is a contradiction. But since Tiberius himself was back in Rome by October of 12 AD, I say the drinking bout could mean that Tiberius promised the appointment through his growing closeness with Augustus. (No, they were not "co-regents", but Tiberius was still a constant companion. Augustus was grooming him. Tiberius would have had plenty of opportunities to suggest the appointment. Or perhaps Tiberius promised it only because Augustus had already delegated to him that task, the filling of the post.)

Hmmmm. That would actually be about the only record of anything Tiberius actually DID (that was actually high level administration) during the year or two he was Augustus' right hand man. But for most of 13 AD, Tiberius was mobile in Italy taking the Lustrum. So late 12 is better. As a possible bonus to this reconstruction, Piso would have served almost 20 years precisely, from late 12 to late 32 - from October/November to October/November!

Disclosure: I've not read the Pliny or Suetonius yet. This is just a suggestion, which I'll update as soon as I get a chance to look at those texts. But tonight, I was just looking at the facts in chronological sequence.

For all I know, this has been suggested before. Now I can add this to the search list.

This is a puzzle I've been working at for a few months, off and on. Hopefully, some interested classical scholar will google this before long and discuss it with me. Poor man's colloquium, eh? :)

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