October 12, 2008

14 AD (part B)

This post was originally published in October of 2008 on the (now defunct) site, Year-by-Year.com

Jesus lives in Nazareth. Tiberius begins his rule as Emperor.

In August of 14 AD, Jesus Christ was 20 years & 3 months old. He was a young single man in Nazareth of Galilee. The Son of God was living life as a Man in his prime.

But what was he doing?

Jesus was working with Joseph, doing jobs around town. He was building furniture and repairing homes. At their family home, Jesus sometimes helped his mother Mary with her young children. There were always chores to be done.

The Lord of heaven was acting like nobody special.

Around Nazareth, people knew him as "Joseph & Mary's son". Jesus did his work, stayed honest in trade, and treated others kindly. The Nazarenes liked Jesus, even though he didn’t stand out in any notable way.

In Nazareth, Jesus didn’t seem very pious or holy. He went to their Synagogue sometimes. But whenever he went, he never stood up. He never spoke out. Since childhood, Jesus developed an astonishing depth of knowledge about God, life and the scriptures. But he kept it to himself.

Despite his low profile, Jesus left good impressions on everyone. He honored his Father God by loving his neighbors. He acted justly, but he loved mercy too. He forgave debts. He repaid debts. He did what was right.

Every. Single. Time.

No one had ever lived so perfectly before. No one has ever done it since. And – perhaps most amazing – nobody even noticed at the time!

That is, nobody but One.

Jesus wasn’t just living blamelessly in the sight of all Nazarenes. Jesus was living righteously in the eyes of his Father. He was growing in favor with God just precisely as he was growing in favor with man.

In all the generations since Adam, this was the first time a Man lived a life that was perfectly pleasing to God. The Father was enjoying it. In fact, the Father was impressed!

Another way to put it is that Jesus Christ had to live a full life without sin before he could die for all sin. So he did. But what is a life without sin? It’s total devotion to God. And that’s what Christ did in Nazareth! In fact, Jesus didn’t have to think about sin at all. He focused on his Father. He walked with, talked with, listened to and – most of all – loved his Father. Fully and truly, Jesus loved his Father God in thought, word and deed.

This was the primary mission of Jesus on Earth – for 40 years, from 7 BC to 33 AD. It was simply and purely one simple thing.

Jesus Christ was living to please his Father.

Of course it was easy for Jesus, in Nazareth, to grow closer to his Father, God. Why? Because God the Father lived inside Jesus Christ! The time had come for a Man to worship the Father in Spirit – and he now did!

In every way, then, the Lord and his Father were One. Without his Father’s indwelling, Jesus could not have succeeded in living such a divine life. His ultimate secret was that the Son of God and his Father were living this perfect life in Nazareth together.

To some degree, they did everything together. Of course, they were used to this. The Father and Son had loved one another since before Eternity. And now twenty years into his earthly experience, Jesus was growing each year more into remembering that heavenly past. In other words, Jesus the Man, fully Son of God, was growing MORE into being who he already WAS.

But let’s repeat the most important thing of all.

The Father and Son loved one another in Nazareth, in 14 AD. And God – through Jesus – walked quietly among his people in Nazareth, loving them.

This Life of Jesus was the seed of what God wanted on Earth. And God was pleased to let Life keep growing in Galilee, for several more years. The rest of the world, outside Galilee, would just have to wait.

The rest of the world was distracted, anyway...


On August 19th, 14 AD, the Emperor of Rome died. That same day, his adopted son began ruling the Empire.

Before we get into this year’s events, let’s mention how these two Emperors affected the Lord Jesus.

The dead Emperor, Augustus Caesar, made the decree that caused Jesus Christ to be born in Bethlehem, in 7 BC.[1] The new Emperor, Tiberius Caesar, is going to make several decisions that will affect the timing and method of Christ’s death. Events in Rome and Israel were definitely connected during Tiberius’ rule. But they unfold so slowly...

This is the first year of Tiberius’ reign as Emperor. We have 14 more Year Books until John begins Baptizing.[2]

The year 14 AD is the 21st calendar year of Jesus on Earth. His death and resurrection come in 33 AD, at the start of his 40th year.[3]

There’s so very much to tell, until that happens...

We’d better get started!


Augustus Caesar died at his father’s country house in Nola, South-Central Italy. The Emperor died in the arms of his trusted wife, Livia.[4]

Augustus had ruled the Roman world for 57 years.[5] He was 75 years old.[6] Born “Octavian Caesar”, Augustus was the nephew of Julius and thus the second man named Caesar to rule the world. The third Caesar, Tiberius, was about to begin.[7]

On August 19th, 14 AD, Tiberius and his widowed mother Livia were at Nola, near Mount Vesuvius. They came out of Augustus’ room and announced that the Emperor was dead.

Letters went out from Nola, and then from Rome. Messengers rode to every Governor and Legion Commander in every Province of the Empire. The letters announced the good news that Tiberius’ rule had begun.

The Roman world knew that Tiberius already held the ultimate power since 13 AD and was now the sole Emperor.[8] But Tiberius had not acted like a ruler while Augustus was alive. So no one was sure what the new Emperor would actually do... or how the world would respond!

Augustus himself had been worried that rebellion might break out when he died. Tiberius, however, did not appear to be worried about his position at all.

The new Emperor did not rush into action of any kind. Instead, the 54 year old[9] Caesar took a long slow walk that lasted for two weeks!

Tiberius carried out Augustus’ wishes for a dramatic funeral procession from Nola to Rome. Citizens carried the body by night, from town to town, stopping 13 times.[10] The closed coffin was displayed during the day. Then that city’s chief officers carried Augustus to the next town by night.[11]

On September 3rd, Tiberius finally reached Rome with his father’s body. The Senate cancelled all business and the coffin was placed on guarded display. There was nothing pressing that needed to be done. All the important men of Rome had already taken an oath of allegiance to their new Emperor.

On September 4th, Tiberius met with the Senate. Caesar’s son, Drusus, read Augustus’ will, memoirs and final instructions.[12] Next, the Senators worked out every last funeral detail until Tiberius ended the meeting.

Tiberius and the Senators knew the funeral events would take a while. They knew Tiberius had absolute power. They knew Rome’s future was secure and stable.

There was only one question on everyone’s mind.

What was Tiberius actually going to DO???


For several days, Tiberius didn’t do much at all.

The funeral lasted all day on September 8th. They burned Augustus’ body and Livia sat with the bones for five days, surrounded by Roman noblemen. Citywide mourning ended on Friday the 14th.

Somewhere during this time, Tiberius did have to deal with one minor crisis. The Roman Army in Pannonia was in full revolt!

The news came sometime before the funeral.[13] Three Legions[14] in North Illyricum[15] were demanding higher pay & earlier retirement. The mutineers took hostages and sent their threats to Rome with their Governor’s son.

In Rome, Tiberius held a private meeting with his son, Drusus Caesar, and two other very important men, who deserve a brief introduction.

The first man was Seius Strabo[16], an Italian nobleman who was currently head of the Emperor’s bodyguard, also known as the Prefect of the Imperial Guard.[17]

The other man at this meeting was Seius Strabo’s son, his new co-prefect, Aelius Sejanus.

Remember that last name. Sejanus is going to be very important in years to come.

At this meeting Tiberius decided to keep Strabo in Rome with 7 of 9 Praetorian Cohorts. But their sons, Drusus & Sejanus, would go to Pannonia with a large military escort.[18] The Emperor hoped 2,000 men would be enough to protect Drusus & Sejanus (against 15,000 or more) if they needed to escape during negotiations!

At any rate, Drusus & Sejanus had plenty of time to talk strategy. Their tiny force needed about two weeks to march into Pannonia.[19]


Some days after this task force left Rome, Tiberius met with the Senate again. He’d waited for their next regular meeting, on Monday, September 17th.

When the Caesar entered the Senate, all 600 Senators stood up out of respect for their New Emperor.

Everyone knew the old man was fully in charge. But the Senators still wondered – how was Tiberius planning to USE his supreme power? And exactly how would their new Emperor expect the Senate to play along?

Basically, Tiberius & the Senate just had to settle their practical boundaries. It all boiled down to – Who would do what? There was no need for the Senate to confirm the Emperor’s position.[20] But there were still lots of things to discuss.

First of all, Tiberius & the Senate declared Augustus was a god! They voted for a golden statue, a temple, shrines, priests, priestesses, officials and annual festivals – all in the honor of their dead ruler.

The common, pagan people of Rome had plenty of reasons to worship Augustus. Tiberius & the Senators had many good reasons for honoring Augustus. In the Senate, on September 17th, every man in the room knew just how terribly they were all going to miss their political savior, Augustus.

The Empire had grown too big, now. Even the Senators knew Rome had to be ruled by one man.[21] Every Roman hoped Tiberius would be able to fill the shoes of his dead ‘divine’ father.

These thoughts led to the next order of business.

The Consuls put forward a motion, in some form or another. Basically, they proposed that Tiberius should rule them in the very same way and every bit as much as Augustus had ruled them.[22]

Oddly enough, Tiberius had different ideas.

The new Emperor wasn’t about to give up any power, but he’d been secretly hoping to avoid bearing most of the responsibility. This was partly due to his nature, partly due to his old age (55 this November)[23] and partly due to his extensive army experience.

Tiberius had never really entered politics. He’d been Consul, but not stood as Senator. He’d been a General since 20 BC. Tiberius was a pure soldier and he couldn’t help but think with a military mind.

Simply put, the old General wanted to delegate all his actual duties. Tiberius wanted to let the Senate run things, but veto whatever he didn’t agree with. But the Senators – no fools – wanted Tiberius to tell them what he wanted before they made decisions.

The Senate was so used to being ruled, they liked it!

So – at first – they were more than a bit surprised by the Emperor’s negative reply to the consuls’ flattering proposal.

Tiberius made a short speech to argue his point. The Caesar said that his year of sharing power with Augustus had shown him something. Tiberius now believed the Empire was too much for anyone other than Augustus to rule alone.

The Senators were so shocked, they were actually confused. But they knew what they wanted. A dramatic debate lasted all day long. Tiberius and the Senate argued over various points. And still, the Senators just wanted to know what their new Emperor was willing to actually do!

Tiberius thought just holding his position would be enough to maintain security. He wanted the Senate to do the business of government. But the Senate wanted their ruler to actively rule them. They knew the Empire Augustus built had to have an Emperor.

The irony is as rich as the debate was confusing.[24]

Finally, Tiberius gave in. Already Emperor, the son of Augustus Caesar agreed to govern just like his father, as the Senate requested. But the promise didn’t mean much. For one thing, the whole ordeal had just reminded the old General how much he hated politics.[25]

So Tiberius tied his promise to one small request. The Caesar asked the Senate to offer him a permanent rest as soon as it was possible.

The Senators had never heard anything like this. Right at the start of his rule, the new Emperor said he was eager to step aside!

This begins a rather odd period in Roman history.

Tiberius had all the power in the world. And the only thing he wanted to do was retire.


Tiberius & his Senators made one other decision on September 17th.

At the Emperor’s request, the Senate renewed the special Imperial powers of Germanicus Caesar!

Germanicus got total power over Gaul and Germany back in 12 AD. For the third year, now, Germanicus was campaigning with eight Legions on both sides of the Rhine River. The young General was still securing Rome’s Boundaries in Europe, since the disaster in 9 AD.

Augustus himself had named Germanicus as next in line to Tiberius. Loyal without limits, Tiberius even dis-inherited his natural son, Drusus, to adopt Germanicus, his nephew.

Germanicus was extremely popular, but still extremely unfit to be Emperor. Tiberius didn’t like him. But Tiberius needed him. The old General wanted the new General to grow up as quickly as possible.

So Tiberius sent a group of Senators to see Germanicus, to console him on the loss of Augustus, and to inform the young Caesar on the renewal of his special powers in Gaul & Germany.

Actually, on September 17th, Rome was still a week or two away from finding out that Germanicus was already fighting a full scale mutiny in Gaul, just like the one going on in Illyricum!

But we’ll get to that soon enough...

This Year Book can only put down one mutiny at a time!


A week after the debate, the Emperor’s son Drusus Caesar reached Pannonia[26]. On September 25th, Drusus and Sejanus the Praetorian Prefect marched into the rebellious Legion camp with their 2,000 bodyguards.

The Rebel Leaders of the Three Legions let Drusus and Sejanus come inside the camp to negotiate. The Mutineers made demands while Drusus listened. But when Drusus began to talk about Tiberius being in charge, things broke down.

The main Rebel Leader shouted that Drusus needed to pay their demands or shut up. Then the Rebels stormed out of the meeting tent. But they let Drusus stay in camp, hoping he’d give in.

Naturally, this was their big mistake.

Drusus stayed awake with his advisors late into the night. About 3 AM, the moon went into eclipse![27]

Drusus sent Sejanus and their men around the camp to spread doubt about the rebel cause. Common soldiers woke up to see the eclipse and believed the gods were against them!

By dawn, the Legions had repented and turned in their ringleaders. The men were spared and the Rebel Leaders were executed! With that, Rome’s authority returned to every flagstaff and every heart. In a matter of hours, Drusus and Sejanus had restored perfect obedience.

Finally, Drusus Caesar promised the Legionaries that his father the Emperor would consider their need for more pay and fewer service years. Over the next few days, the Three Legions broke up and headed for their separate quarters to make winter camps.

Of course it didn’t hurt Drusus’ cause that winter had come early that year. And it was coming in hard.


By the way, the same eclipse Drusus saw in Pannonia also appeared in Israel at about 2 AM.[28] Almost nobody saw it, at that time, but the watchmen reported it.

That morning of September 26th happened to be the first day of Tabernacles in Israel.[29] So the Feast of Temporary Dwellings[30] began with an eclipse that came about three weeks after they got the news that Augustus was dead. So many symptoms of change seemed to be coming all at once – even in the sky!

We can only wonder whether Jews in Israel felt superstitious about these coincidences, this year. But one man in Jerusalem already knew he had reasons for concern.

In Jerusalem, Annas the High Priest knew that Tiberius would probably replace Judea’s Governor. And Annas knew the Governor would probably consider replacing the high priest.

This was going to be a problem!

Annas liked being high priest. He’d done a lot to help keep Southern Israel stable since 6 AD, when Archelaus got exiled. As the chief Sadducee, Annas had no trouble dealing with the Pharisees and did a fine job leading the Sanhedrin in running Jerusalem. They’d kept up the restoration project, still going on around Herod’s Temple (which burned nearly down in 4 BC). Overall, there were no major conflicts to speak of.

But change was in the air...

Annas the High Priest had to wonder if this was his last chance to preside over the Festival of Booths. For seven nights, he ate dinner in tents. But Annas had seven months, at least, to wait and wonder who Tiberius would send to govern Southern Israel.

Annas also used that time to consider his options.


While we’re in Southern Israel, let’s not forget about the North. Even though Judea, Samaria & Galilee were being ruled by a Roman Governor in 14 AD, Northern Israel was still ruled by two sons of King Herod the Great.

Now beginning the 18th year since their dad’s death, Herod Antipas was still ruling Galilee and the Jordan Valley, while his brother Philip still held on to the heavily Arab region of Trachonitis and the Golan Heights.

Antipas and Philip had their own natural reactions to the start of Tiberius’ rule as Emperor. But this Year Book is long enough as it is.

We can catch up with North Israel in 15 AD. For now, let’s go up to the Far North of Europe!


Germanicus Caesar had been guarding the Rhine River without Tiberius for about 24 months now. Both Legion Commander and Proconsul, the 29 year old Caesar governed Gaul on his left and raided Germany on his right. But the young General was no military equal to his adopted father, Tiberius – a fact he was getting ready to prove.

Germanicus was riding around Gaul and Belgium on minor business when Augustus died. The General took his top officers along as well. Foolishly, none of them went to be with the Legions when the sad news came.[31]

Half-way up river, the four Legions of the Lower Rhine were grumbling. September brought on the start of a harsh early winter[32] while they waited for Germanicus. About 19 thousand soldiers were stuck in one summer camp, waiting for orders, and they hadn’t even been paid yet for the year!

Then two more weeks passed.

Germanicus was busy becoming more popular when the news came to Belgium. Legions I, V, XX and XXI were in full revolt! Their long wait for winter quarters and the annual payments had grown into bigger demands. When the Caesar finally reached them, the men had killed 240 Centurions and locked up all their higher officers!

Germanicus tried to address the Legions en masse, but the young Caesar’s charm failed him. Talking about their past loyalty to Tiberius didn’t work either. The Legions just shouted they’d rather Germanicus be their Emperor – as long as he’d pay them! And when Germanicus replied he’d rather kill himself than turn traitor, the soldiers told him to go ahead!

The General’s officers stopped his fake suicide attempt and rushed him to safety. The next day, Germanicus produced a fake letter from Tiberius claiming all their demands had been met. No one really believed it, but they were happy to get paid. The General caved in to all their demands and sent them to separate winter quarters. So the revolt was over.

Or so it seemed.

Two or three weeks later, in early October, a small group of Senators rode into the winter camp at Ara Ubiorum. They’d finally arrived with their message from September 17th. The soldiers of Legions I and XX were convinced these Senators would overrule the fake letter so they started a new uprising.

This time, Germanicus thought all was lost. At this point, the young General had to be saved by his wife, Agrippina[33]!

This granddaughter of Augustus and daughter of Marcus Agrippa had been in Germany most of the year. Every bit as bold as her bloodline, Agrippina came up with a plan to put herself on the front line of danger!

Agrippina and her children took a carriage out of the city, pretending to flee. The other officers’ wives went along, weeping and wailing to attract attention from the Legion’s camp (just outside Ara Ubiorum). When the soldiers took them all into the camp as hostages, Agrippina went to work!

Using all her considerable feminine wiles, the General’s wife quickly made the soldiers ashamed for threatening four members of the Imperial Family – and women and children no less! Very soon the Legionaries all felt guilty enough to quit revolting. But secretly, Agrippina was so sure this would work she never worried about her little sons, Drusus, Nero and Gaius[34].

It didn’t hurt that the soldiers all loved the littlest Caesar, who she always dressed in a tiny soldier’s uniform. This year, the Legions had even nicknamed the two-year old “Little Boot” - Caligula. So it was thanks to Agrippina and her “Little Boot” that the new uprising ended in less than a day.

Then it broke out again.

By mid-October, Legions I and XX were still at peace at Ara Ubiorum, but Legions V and XXI were back in revolt, sixty miles downriver. So Germanicus told Legions I and XX to prepare for Civil War! Then he sent a threatening letter ahead that made the rebel camp up north tear itself apart.

When Germanicus got down river to that camp (at Castra Vetera) he found such a massacre he wept openly. Thanks to his letter, the disloyal troops had all been killed, but many loyal ones died in the battle. As a result, the surviving soldiers were so charged full of fury they didn’t know what to do with themselves!

It looked like the mutiny might spark back up anytime.

It was past the middle of October, over a month into a harsh early winter, and Germanicus had only 12,000 men left alive and still serving the four Legions that had boasted more than 19,000 just six weeks earlier. But – again – this horrible disaster still wasn’t over!

To wash away the guilt and stain of Roman blood, Germanicus now took all four Legions over the Rhine for a chance to spill some German blood!

Forcing a march for several days through thick German forests, the Legions found their target. Several villages of the Marsi tribe were holding a festival under the full moon[35] on October 24th. The Romans waited until they were all drunk and sleeping and spread out into their four Legionary divisions again. Then Rome wiped out the tribesmen, burning everything in a fifty mile radius. Germanicus and his soldiers murdered every last Marsi man, woman and child.

The guilty Legionaries made this one memory horrible enough to drown all the recent ones. Then they turned back for the Rhine.

Some other German tribes nearby tried to trap the Legions in the woods on their march back. It almost worked, but Germanicus rallied his troops to stay on the move and fight their way through it.

The four Legions made it back to Castra Vetera not much larger than two normal sized Legions should have been. Exhausted, but still calling themselves four Legions, they all spent a cold, peaceful winter at Castra Vetera.

Of course, Germanicus went back up river to Ara Ubiorum, to be with his family.

The trouble on the Rhine was finally over now, nearly at the start of November.


Back in Rome, Tiberius knew all about the Rhine Legions and Germany before December.

The old General was horrified. Tiberius campaigned with Germanicus in Illyricum and Germany when the young man didn’t quite know what to do, but this whole disaster was a new low for the young Caesar.

The Emperor must have thought, “This is the man who’s going to rule Rome after I’m gone?”

The old Emperor wanted to stay loyal to the wishes of Augustus, but Tiberius was also desperately longing for an early retirement. The masterful ex-General was wise enough to know he wasn’t going to retire any time soon if it meant letting Rome depend on Germanicus! At least, not at this stage...

To make things worse, Tiberius had to spin the report in Rome to make it sound like a great victory over the Germans! In all Rome’s history, of all Rome’s enemies, Rome’s people held no greater fear of any barbarians than the Gauls and the Germans. Therefore, to comfort everyone in the city, Tiberius Caesar had to make his incompetent nephew even more popular than he already was among the common people of Rome.

This was a bad combination, bound to get worse.

Tiberius had to believe Germanicus would be the death of Rome, if the young Caesar ever got to rule it.


Besides all this, the Emperor still had one other major irritation. Tiberius was secretly furious that Agrippina – a mere woman, in his view – had been able to stop the mutiny when the use of the Caesar’s Imperial name had failed.

By this time, Drusus and Sejanus were back from Illyricum. Drusus, the natural son of Tiberius, did a far better job this year than Germanicus, the adopted Caesar. But Tiberius couldn’t say so in public.

And this is when the prefect Aelius Sejanus begins his long, slow power play.

Sejanus, as co-leader of the Emperor’s personal bodyguard, began to spend lots of time near the old Caesar. Sejanus would compliment the family of Drusus and criticize the family of Germanicus. Soon, the Emperor discovered Sejanus shared Tiberius’ particular loathing against aggressive royal women.

(Yes, that included the 71 year old Livia, perhaps most of all. But Tiberius was loyal to her as his mother, and he needed her as Empress!)

Anyway, for this and many other reasons, Caesar and his chief bodyguard began to be friends. In a few years, this friendship between Sejanus and Tiberius is going to affect every corner of the Empire. But not just yet.

Another thing Tiberius and Sejanus had in common was the patience to pursue ambitious projects...




This is 14 AD. The major pieces are all in place, now, for the next twenty years. The Imperial Family is going to go through a great deal of trouble.

As if it hadn’t already!

For example, Augustus wasn’t the only member of his family who died this year. The Greatest Caesar had worried for years that some rival Senators would try to use his exiled daughter, Julia, or her last living son, Posthumous Agrippa, as the rallying points of an uprising.[36] So Augustus added two cruel decisions to his legacy, outside his official papers.

A year before Augustus died, while writing his will, the Emperor decided his grandson would have to go. But the Great Emperor didn’t want to live with the pain or the guilt of killing his grandson. So Augustus planned for Posthumous Agrippa to just barely outlive him!

Shortly after August 19th, 14 AD, on the island of Planasia, the soldiers guarding Agrippa got word that Augustus was dead. Their commanding Centurion had a standing order to kill the Exile at that point.[37] So he did.

Tiberius did not know about Agrippa’s death until the Centurion reported to him in Rome. The new Emperor told the Centurion he hadn’t given the order. Then the Emperor told the Senate it must have been Augustus’ order.

Tiberius promised an investigation, but never ordered one. The Centurion was never punished. And rumors spread that Tiberius had ordered the killing. The true facts were never proven, but everyone knew Agrippa’s death made Tiberius’ position more secure.

Most people in Rome simply believed the rumors. And nothing else was ever done about it. But Tiberius was actually innocent of that death.

Just not of the next one.

After swearing he did not murder his former step-son, Agrippa, Tiberius turned right around and killed Agrippa’s mother Julia, the Emperor’s own ex-wife!

Actually, here’s what happened. When Augustus deliberately left Julia’s allowance out of the will, Tiberius simply stopped her payments. So Julia must have gone broke about the same time she heard her son Agrippa was dead. The depression and poverty, together, probably made Julia stop eating. But just to make sure, Tiberius also sent soldiers to keep Julia trapped in her home with no new supplies or visitors!

From all three causes, Julia starved to death before 14 AD ended. Her father’s will – which failed to mention her allowance – specifically commanded that Julia was not to be buried in the family tomb. Augustus Caesar was gone forever and so was his bloodline... almost.

Only Agrippina and her children still survived to carry on the Julian line.[38]

So the Imperial family was now almost all from the bloodline of Tiberius.[39]


Now, before we close this very busy Year Book, we must return to the most important question of all.

How does all this affect a certain 20 year old Nazarene Carpenter and his very Jewish world?

Actually, the answers to that are a little surprising.

First of all, the politics of Rome always affected the politics of Israel. Judea is now run by Rome and Galilee remains free at Rome’s pleasure. The High Priest, the Sanhedrin and Herod Antipas – in different ways – all rule under the constant risk and fear of incurring Rome’s wrath. Therefore, if anything happens in Israel, the powers that be don’t make a move without thinking about how Rome would take it. That means they paid close attention to how Tiberius was acting at all times.

Successful rulers made it their business to be familiar with the moods and whims of their Emperor. And those whims could change! Especially in the case of Tiberius, as we will see...

Furthermore, Rome also affected the common Jews of Israel, in variously big and small ways, over time. The decisions an Emperor makes always affect all his subjects, eventually. And Tiberius is going to make several decisions that affect the Jews in particular.

Finally, Roman events will begin to affect Jesus much more directly in 29 AD, once the Lord goes public. Certain dramatic events that happen in Italy from 29 to 31 are going to be very distracting for the Tetrarch of Galilee. And a large part of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee gets to happen (the way it does) specifically during the time when Herod Antipas gets so distracted!

What are those dramatic events? Oh, just wait. We’re building to all that...

Ultimately, of course, Rome is going to rule over the climax of all history when Pontius Pilate crucifies Jesus. And in many ways, all these years lead up to that event. The decisions Tiberius makes in Rome... the political pressure that builds up for Herod Antipas... the combination of factors that forces the Sanhedrin to have to go to Pilate at all, in the end...

These are the reasons Jesus winds up getting crucified instead of stoned, burned or beheaded! In many ways, it all comes back to the next 19 years in Italy!

It’s amazing, actually, to watch it unfold. Along the way, you might almost swear Someone was behind it all, directing events, building them into a useful climax for the Fullness of Time.

You might even decide what you think God “did” and what you think “just happened”. But that’s not for these Year Books to say...

All we can say is what happened.

You decide for yourself whether God made it happen. But keep Him in mind as we lay it all out...


Begin Footnotes to 14 AD (Part 2):

[1] See Year-by-Year, Volume One, 9 BC, 8 BC & 7 BC.

[2] We can reconstruct the year and month of Jesus’ baptism by study of the Gospels. Explaining how and why Luke (3:1) counts 28 AD as the “fifteenth” year of Tiberius is a whole other issue. There are at least two ways that work. Either Luke counted inclusively by calendar years, making 14 AD “year one” and 28 AD “year fifteen”, or else Luke counted chronologically from mid-13 AD when Tiberius accepted the Imperium on par with Augustus. We don’t know which method Luke used, but Luke’s statement gives us a window of possibilities for the date of Jesus’ baptism, which allows other evidence to settle the issue more precisely. For more on this, see footnotes to 12, 13 & 14 AD in Volume One and 28 AD in Volume Two.

[3] This same count works with both the Roman and the Hebrew calendar. Jesus’ birth in 7 BC came some weeks or months after Passover, the start of the festival year. So the Passover of the Lord’s Crucifixion began the 40th festival cycle of Jesus’ earthly life. (To check the math, remember that there was no “year zero”.) So we could say his 40th year had begun, even though he was just shy of his 39th birthday. Further, if Jesus’ birthday came on or just before his ascension (before Pentecost in 33 AD) – and remembering that the 39th birthday is the start of one’s 40th year – then this would mean Jesus had just begun his 40th chronological year on Earth when he left the planet physically.

Any of these counts suggests God gave his New Man a full forty years of proving before bringing him home. (Forty being the biblical time of testing, and a single day of the 40th year counting as a full year in Hebrew thought.)

[4] Rumors come out later that she poisoned him, but no ancient historian says she actually did it.

[5] Ancient counts differ, for example: Dio Cassius counted from the battle of Actium on September 2nd, 31 BC, to get 13 days shy of 44 years. This is an accurate count. Josephus counted from the death of Julius Caesar on March 15th, 44 BC, to get 57 years, six months & 2 days. This includes Augustus’ years of rule as Octavian with Antony & Lepidus. Josephus is off by about 28 days, but odder still, he ignored the “inclusive method” (see next note). This only proves Josephus’ counting is inconsistent, which is at least helpful to know.

[6] Born on September 28, 63 BC, Augustus died at age 75 years, 10 months and 23 days. (Though somehow, Dio Cassius counted 26 days.) Josephus’ report that Augustus was 77 years old is typical of Jewish inclusive counting – and compare this with the above note about counting Jesus’ years on Earth – so that if each year from 63 BC to 14 AD counts as “one”, then Augustus was in his 77th calendar year. This tendency will come up again at other points during Volume Two. (But see previous footnote on Josephus’ inconsistency.)

[7] Josephus at this point calls Augustus the second emperor (autokratos) of the Romans. Julius Caesar was never called “Emperor” (princeps) but he did become dictator for life, and all ancients considered him first in the line of Caesars. Any debate is semantic. See back matter.

[8] Augustus Caesar shared power several times from 44 BC to 14 AD, but no Emperor after him felt the need or desire to do the same. This made the situation of 13-14 AD unique in history – all later Emperors had a “day of accession” when the Senate awarded them the Empire, but Tiberius was already Emperor on the day Augustus died.

[9] Tiberius turns 55 this November, so he’s 54 now. Authors shouldn’t forget to count months.

[10] The procession averaged between 10 and 15 miles a day. Meanwhile, the news of Tiberius’ accession to sole power was spreading by relay in 8 hour shifts, covering 150 miles a day!

[11] The continuance of this tradition with later emperors may be what caused Josephus to mis-time the funeral procession of Herod the Great when he wrote his first account of it. (But compare Josephus’ Wars versus his Antiquities.) This remains an important issue to the chronology of 4 BC. (See 4 BC in Volume One.)

[12] Augustus left five lengthy documents in all: (1) his will, (2) his funeral instructions, (3) his memoirs of all the great things he’d gotten done, (4) his personal account of the Empire’s military and financial status, and (5) final personal commandments for Tiberius and the people.

[13] This could have happened as early as September 3rd, if the revolt broke out quickly and news came to Rome right away. We’ll cover these Pannonian events a bit more later on in this yearbook. Still, there’s no way to tell how long Tiberius deliberated before responding.

[14] Legio VIII Augusta, IX Hispania & XV Appolonia were stationed at Poetovio, Siscia & Emona, respectively, but had come together at some central place for their summer camp. Their Governing Proconsul was Q. Junius Blaesus, the uncle of L. Aelius Sejanus, who we meet now.

[15] There was no more “Provincia Illyricum” since 9 AD, but the Romans continued using the term to refer to both Dalmatia (South I.) and Pannonia (North I.) in general.

[16] Not to be confused with the still living, but very elderly Strabo, the famous Geography writer.

[17] The Praetorian Guards were the Emperor’s personal bodyguards and special enforcers at Rome. Augustus established nine Praetorian Cohorts of 500 (or possibly 1000) men each, stationed (at this time) just outside the city of Rome.

[18] According to Tacitus, Tiberius sent “a staff of nobles” with two Praetorian Cohorts, some Cavalry and selected men from the city guard. Rome also held three Urban Cohorts of 500 men each, the local police force. Even if Tiberius had wanted to challenge the mutineers in battle, the whole city had no more than 10,000 troops. For now, diplomacy would have to do.

[19] There is some possibility Drusus stayed for the Senate meeting of the 17th and then caught up by making double-time. Either way, scholars agree that the troops left Rome some days before September 17th, and Drusus was either with them at that time or else he caught up to them quickly after the 17th.

[20] This is a unique situation that never repeated itself. After Tiberius, no one ever received full imperial powers until after the prior Emperor was dead. The uniqueness of Tiberiu’s “non-accession” (combined with the overwhelming prevalence of every succeeding Emperor, each of whom had one official “date of accession”) has confused historians from ancient time until recent decades. For more on this, see back matter.

[21] Scholars suggest this may be the central thesis of Dio Cassius’ whole History.

[22] The exact wording of this consular motion is lost. Levick borrows the language of Velleius Paterculus (“succeed to the position of his father”) and calls the motion complimentary and formal. Seager suggests the motion was an official renewal of Tiberius’ “province” (his particular and official duties). Whatever the exact wording, both Levick & Seager agree that the purpose of this consular motion was to formally invite Tiberius into actually wielding the full responsibilities of his already limitless authority. Of course, the aged & stoic Tiberius had a very different idea, as we are about to see.

[23] Fifty-five is VERY old in the ancient world. Common men didn’t live that long. Wealthy kings and emperors could make it past 70, but imagine going through what we call “middle age” without modern comforts! Augustus at age 55 was settling down to groom his successor. But Tiberius at 55 had to gear himself up for a much greater and – more critically – a much different challenge than anything he was used to.

[24] There are various and complicated reasons why historians – for centuries – misunderstood this debate, wrongly declaring it to be about Tiberius’ Imperial powers and position as Emperor. The biggest problem was that every Emperor after Tiberius had a specific day when the Senate proclaimed him and issued his powers. Even the ancient historians (beginning 102 years later with the Annals of Tacitus) misunderstood the “accession” of Tiberius by interpreting the records through their own familiarity with later traditions that stood from 37 AD on. It was not until the 20th century that classical scholarship finally showed a convincing way through the maze of conflicting ancient interpretations. See Bibliography (especially Levick & Seager) and other back matter for much more on this.

[25] Most Emperors had a mixture of military and political experience, but Tiberius was a pure soldier at heart who spent most of his adult life with the Legions. Tiberius never served more than a year of magistracy at Rome (3 other times he got called away) but he’d spent nearly all of the past 33 years commanding troops. Tiberius Caesar was unskilled at speaking and had trouble giving clear instructions in civilian life. Close, loyal subordinate commanders like Velleius Paterculus had always been there to help him relay orders on campaign – whereas Tiberius was bound to find no such compatriots in the Senate.

Frankly, Tiberius wasn’t cut out for Augustus’ job and he knew it, but somebody had to fill the position. The only way Tiberius is going to master politics is going to be when he turns it into a traitor hunt, almost like a wartime campaign, a few years from now. As a matter of fact, certain Senators named in the September 17th debate seem to have been secretly marked as enemies by Tiberius from this moment on, although Tiberius slow-played his hand, as he always preferred to do in any military campaign. The new Emperor surveyed the challenge like the expert military tactician that he was, measuring his advantages, noting all obstacles, calculating variables and considering his targets strategically. In all this, the old General was biding his time! When you consider these things together with the typical but incredible slowness of Tiberius’ preferred methods on campaign, the next 13 years begin to look like Tiberius decided to wage politics as war. Whatever the case, the new Emperor is going to play things very close-to-the-vest, so to speak, which was also very characteristic of Tiberius.

However, since his motives are so debatable, we will focus on his actions!

[26] Legions VIII Augusta, IX Hispania and XV Appolonia were camped together somewhere near the junction of the Balkans and the Alps, probably near the flats of Siscia (Segestica) on the Save River. Their usual winter quarters were at Poetovio, Siscia and Emona, respectively.

[27] We should wonder if Tiberius’ personal astrologer Thrysallus predicted this and led Drusus to consider the superstitious potential in advance. Otherwise, what was Drusus banking on, going up against Three Legions with nothing but 2,000 men and his father’s good name? Thrysallus might not have been at the strategy session in Rome, but he would certainly have known in advance about the eclipse, so it’s a plausible consideration.

[28] Approximately, I presume, as Israel is approximately one time zone East of NW Pannonia.

[29] It was the morning when they awoke before the festival was set to begin that night.

[30] The Feast of “Booths” or Tents was the third major feast after Passover and Pentecost. One major theme of the week was to remember the times of wandering and exile (by both the patriarchs and the nation) when the promised land or its restoration was still being expected. Since many Jews in 14 AD were waiting for an end to Roman occupation, the festival was pregnant with extra meaning to begin with. And since everyone in Israel remembered the Purim eclipse that preceded the death of Herod the Great, it’s likely there was some discussion about this Tabernacles eclipse that followed the death of Augustus. (Author’s note: Personally, I don’t think either eclipse means anything. But I bet some of them did, at the time.)

[31] Germanicus and his officers surveyed Gaul’s harvest for tax purposes, a menial chore which someone else should have been doing, and then he inducted the Belgian tribes into friendship with the empire, which gave Rome free access to the mouth of the Rhine. True, the North Sea was a key gain, but it could have been postponed.

[32] That harsh early winter hit the North Balkans, much further south, by late September. So how much earlier would it have hit the lower Rhine in North Gaul and Germany?

[33] History will record this woman as “Agrippina the Elder” and her daughter Agrippina will be more famous in her day. For now, we note that this present Agrippina was born to Augustus’ daughter Julia in her first marriage to Augustus’ top General, Marcus Agrippa. Her three brothers and her sister (Gaius, Lucius, Posthumous & Julia-the-younger) met death and exile in Volume One, but Agrippina sealed her fortune by marriage to Germanicus, grandson of the Empress Livia. This winter, Agrippina begins proving herself to be a powerful woman in her own right – a fact we will begin to explore more fully next year.

[34] Roman Imperial Family names repeat themselves often. This is the third Drusus in our Year Books. His grandfather Drusus died in 9 BC and his uncle Drusus we’ve followed this year. Secondly, this Nero is not the famous Emperor – not born until 37 AD – but “Nero” was actually the original surname of Tiberius’ family. And thirdly, this Gaius was named after his mom’s oldest brother (not to mention Gaius Julius Caesar the Dictator), but this Gaius IS a future Emperor-to-be, who we know better by his nickname, “Caligula” (on which, see above).

[35] I presume the German nocturnal festivals were always under the full moon, as in other cultures. This fits the timeline perfectly, but underscores how late in the season this was, and that being over six weeks into an early winter!

[36] Julia was exiled for adultery in 2 BC and Agrippa for various reasons in 8 AD.

[37] It’s unclear whether Augustus left the order himself, beforehand, or whether Augustus told a loyal nobleman to send the order as soon as he died. A leading theory is that the nobleman, one Sallustius Crispus, sent the order and somehow copied the Imperial Seal, which convinced the Centurion it was actually Tiberius’ order. Ancient sources split and qualified their judgments but leaned toward blaming Tiberius. Few present day scholars disagree, however, that Augustus instigated the order, either directly or indirectly.

[38] There was one beside Agrippina and her children – the separately exiled Julia-the-Younger. Sister of Agrippina and Mama Julia’s other daughter, this younger Julia was still in exile on the island of Trimerus, east of Italy. (See 8 AD in Volume One.) Although Tiberius killed mama Julia, younger Julia’s step-grandmother (Livia) had enough mercy to personally send the poor woman an allowance to live on. So the surviving Julia lives in exile until 28 AD. After that, Younger-Julia’s only daughter will one day have four children, three of whom will eventually die (under the Emperor Nero) simply for being in Augustus’ bloodline. Those deaths, under Nero, will end the line of Julia the Younger, in history, but none of these people become significant in and of themselves.

[39] For a rundown of family members at this time, skim this Year Book again, check the Character Glossary, or see the Bonus Material.

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