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The Trial of Cnaeus Calpurnius Piso for the Murder of Germanicus Julius Caesar

Autor:   •  December 29, 2017  •  3,161 Words (13 Pages)  •  740 Views

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Germanicus was wise enough to refuse albeit politely because he understood it would increase a strain on his relationship with Tiberius. Instead, he offered to buy them off, and he forged Tiberius signature in a letter that promised them increase of funds and security in their positions. Germanicus is seen begging Claudius to lend him funds to enable him to pay the legions. However, this did not stop the unrest, and Germanicus feared for his family and moved them out of his kingdom. However on the legions noting this, they approach Germanicus and promise him to restore calm if he returns his son back in the kingdom (Powel, 2013). The legions believed that Caligula, Germanicus son was their good luck charm that helped them in overcoming battles (Ward, Heichelheim & Yeo, 2010).

Germanicus had used Tiberius’s signature with the hope that it would represent Tiberius as a great leader who showed concern over his legions. However, Tiberius himself did not approve this move and instead started doubting Germanicus loyalty. Germanicus continued with his cause of serving the empire and hoped to conquer the East German territory. In the AD 15, Germanicus attacked the Cherusci and Chatti and recovered one of the standards that had been lost during the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest by the Varus’s military. The Germanicus army also buried the Roman bones that had been left behind after the battle (Pagan, 2004).

Germanicus also helped in conquering German territory when he engaged in a battle with Arminius and won, conquering all the tribes in the west of the river Elbe. This win was significant to Germanicus because it connected to his father’s victories and also increased the Roman boundary. During this battle, Germanicus army recovered three more standards that had been lost during the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, and this continued to increase Germanicus popularity among his military and countrymen (Shotter, 1968).

Germanicus determination in restoring Roman and his sudden popularity among the Roman citizens evoked hatred and jealous on his uncle Tiberius. Tiberius wanted to avoid the chances of Germanicus ruling the Roman kingdom, and he sent him to the East. Tiberius later sent Piso to spy on Germanicus and establish his stand in the ruling of the empire. Tiberius made Piso a governor of Syria in a province that Germanicus ruled. His sole intention was to gather information of what Germanicus was plotting to do. In the AD 18, Tiberius appointed Germanicus the maius imperium a position that held power over all governors in the East (Rowe, 2012). Piso was strategically placed as governor in one of the Provinces, and they first interacted with Germanicus in Syria.

The notion of appointing Piso as a governor in the East and as a spy on Germanicus comes after Livia’s and Tiberius’s attempts to gain the complete ruling of the Roman Empire. Livia was Augustus second wife after Antonio passed on and she was determined to ensure that Tiberius acquired the throne. She did this through manipulating and intercepting any information that she believed would destroy her plans. One such instance is supported by the notion of Livia intercepting Claudius messages to Germanicus about the existence of Postumus in Rome. Claudius writes to his elder brother Germanicus in the hope that he will celebrate the news of Postumus existence since he was Augustus grandson. However, Claudius does not get a reply to his letter and assumes that Germanicus wants nothing to do with him. Later on, he learns that Livia intercepted all letters and told Tiberius of Postumus plan to attack from Rome. On learning of Postumus plan, Tiberius organizes an attack with Sejanus’s troops to ambush Postumus and his supporters; Tiberius manages to behead Postumus with the help of Livia and this further cements their relationship (Shannon, 2012).

Claudius is unable to tell Germanicus about the treachery of Tiberius and Livia because Livia advices Tiberius to send Claudius to Carthage until Germanicus leaves. When Germanicus arrives from his third battle victoriously, he approaches Tiberius and informs him about Livia’s conduct. Not knowing Tiberius was already working with Livia; Tiberius pretended to listen and gave Livia Germanicus report. Tiberius advices Livia to make friends with Germanicus in order to prove her perceived innocence and make Germanicus believe her innocence, Tiberius understood Germanicus popularity and wanted to stay in the good books with the Roman citizens (Shannon, 2012).

It is at this juncture that Tiberius finds a reason to send Germanicus to the west under the title of the maius imperium. Tiberius appoints Piso governor of Syria with the hope that Germanicus will often interact with him, and he will be able to report to Tiberius. Piso tries to upset the Germanicus ruling by appointing the wrong soldiers and disobeying or openly disagreeing to comply with Germanicus orders. Piso’s actions provoke Germanicus to anger and hatred. Piso, on the other hand, gives Tiberius negative reports about Germanicus that indicated he was plotting to overthrow Tiberius from Syria. Germanicus was frustrated by Piso’s actions when he returned from Egypt and found that Piso had changed his way of ruling and was mistreating his advisors and aides. He publicly denounced further relationship with Piso and relieved him of all the governor duties, rumors that emerged later explained that Germanicus could have asked Piso to move out of the province. Piso went to live on the island in the hope that an opportunity would open up and clear his return to Syria (Wiseman & Frosythe, 1996).

Soon after this incident, Germanicus falls ill, and his health deteriorates in a sudden manner making him suspect Piso of poisoning him. He finally succumbed and died. The people who viewed his body are rumored to have ruled out poisoning due to the black and blue spots in his corpse (Pagan, 2004). The news of Germanicus reached Rome, and the nation was left in confusion because they looked up to Germanicus to rule them, fight for them and guide them. Piso planned his return to the West along with the rest of the Romans who had followed Germanicus to Syria. Piso was a great suspect in the involvement of the death of Germanicus, and the Romans began to prepare for his trial.

The Trial

Piso and his wife Plancina were both suspected of arranging the poisoning of Germanicus due to their prior hostility towards Germanicus family. Tiberius is in charge of holding a trial for Piso, but he transfers the task to the Senate, which was reluctant of carrying on with Piso’s trial because they were on Germanicus side. Tiberius takes the case to the Senate with the hope of saving himself from any ties or links that would have associated


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