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Subsidia dominationi: The Early Careers of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Nero Claudius Drusus Revisited

Frederik Juliaan Vervaet
From the journal Klio

Summary

Whereas many aspects of the Augustan age continue to enjoy ongoing or renewed interest, the early careers of Tiberius Claudius Nero (born 16 November 42 BCE) and Nero Claudius Drusus (March/April 38 BCE), Livia’s sons from her marriage to Ti. Claudius Nero (pr. 42), have not been subject to much discussion or controversy of late. On the one hand, this could, perhaps, be explained in that they were quite young during the formative stages of the so-called Augustan monarchy, the critical settlements being those of 27, 23 and 19 BCE, the eye-catchers par excellence in the political history of the early Augustan era. On the other hand, Livia’s sons only really emerge into the spotlight of both ancient sources and modern scholarship after the untimely passing of M. Vipsanius Agrippa in 12 BCE. This paper aims at revisiting the evidence for Tiberius’ and Drusus’ careers in the decade or so before the latter’s premature death in Germany in 9 BCE, the period preceding the rapid rise (and demise) of Gaius and Lucius Caesar. There are, indeed, strong indications that Livia’s sons played a far more important part than has hitherto been recognized, both in terms of their official position and their role in assisting Augustus with one of his most important political objectives, namely the imperial monopolization of the public triumph.

Acknowledgments

An abridged version of this study was presented as work in progress in the form of a conference paper at the University of Sydney in September 2014 (“Augustus from a Distance”) and subsequently also as a seminar paper at Newcastle University in June 2017 and a public lecture at Princeton University in April 2018, during a marvelous stint as Member of the Institute for Advanced Study’s School of Historical Studies. The encouraging response and valuable feedback received on these occasions from a number of distinguished scholars and keen graduate students proved very useful in shaping and refining the argument. I alone, however, am to be held responsible for any views here espoused as well as any remaining flaws and errors. I would also like to express my profound and enduring gratitude to KLIO’s Editorial Board for their splendid generosity in providing space for articles of considerable substance, a prized privilege in an increasingly commercialized and competitive scholarly publishing environment. Since I would not be where I am today without the humbling friendship and tireless support of the late Fergus Millar, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Berkeley in 2003 and then again in Oxford in 2006, this study is dedicated to his memory.

List of Illustrations

Images 2–5 are sourced from the Numismatische Bilddatenbank Eichstätt (in the order in which they appear here: BMCRE: Augustus 449, 445, 448, 443) whilst Image 1 derives from the Bristish Museum (BrM. 1841,0726.1087).

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