February 11, 2011

Tiberius the Wannabe Non-Leader

Rome's Senate wanted him to be Augustus, but the successor was hoping to be a kinder, gentler overlord.  Tiberius was a delegator, not a micromanager, and he was hoping the Senate would take up more initiative.  Of course, this only makes it sound like the new Emperor was being noble, as if Tiberius genuinely wanted to exert less control.  But nope.  In truth, Tiberius was merely hoping for less day to day burden, less responsibility, and the Senate saw right through it.

Barbara Levick does a masterful job of explaining the Senate's debate with their new Emperor, on 9/17/0014. From Tiberius the Politician:
They should not refer everything to one man, but take responsibility themselves.  ... [but] What Tiberius wanted was impossible because power was indivisible.  Once gathered into one pair of hands it could not be redistributed throughout the body politic; the sway of the Princeps extended far beyond his legal prerogatives and it was useless to pretend that it did not...

The debate petered out, and Tiberius stopped protesting that he was not going to be Princeps as Augustus had been, that he was not stepping into Augustus' shoes.  He had failed to get the Senators to acknowledge that the burden of government lay ultimately on them and so he seemed tacitly to accept the responsibility that they had fallen on their knees to avoid....

At the end of the debate, he must have had to content himself with a private resolve to educate his peers into their responsibilities... (end of Ch.5)
His very first day on the job, Tiberius Caesar wanted to surrender all the initiative, but maintain his veto power.  Naturally, that would only result in everyone guessing and second guessing themselves before initiating only those things they'd be sure their new overlord would ultimately favor.

It just goes to show, you cannot both BE in power and be NOT in power.  If you take the position as chief over all peons, don't start making speeches as if you want the peons to behave as if you're not the chief.  You're the chief.  And, as the chief, you're the only one you can temporarily fool into thinking you're not.

This is Roman Government.  Tiberius nearly ruined the Empire because he spent two decades trying to sit back and let others take initiative, and yet he always came back in at the end, awkwardly casting non-assertive non-judgments on whatever he found unacceptable.  It paralyzed just about everyone.  Thus, in a way, the very odd case of Tiberius' overlording is an exception that proves the rule.

Hierarchy is overlordship.  Period. Do it right, or else quit altogether.

But, Jesus told his Apostles, don't be like the overlords of the Gentiles...



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