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A mere equestrian?: Sejanus and the succession to Tiberius in its Augustan context

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posted on 29.03.2022, 01:29 by Timothy M. Jones
The issue of succession in the Roman Empire has long drawn scholarly attention. Since succession was anathema to Roman political sensibilities, Augustus was forced to take an indirect approach to perpetuating his regime, indicating potential candidates rather than designating them directly. This requisite subtlety introduced great instability into the heart of the principate, since succession was at once necessary and impossible. The position of leading political deputy was thus defined, as Augustus’ own position was, by legal, rather than hereditary, mechanisms. This definition of the position of princeps ironically widened the pool of potential successors, since it was the powers, rather than family connections, that defined the candidates. Even if Augustus used family connections, including marriage and adoption, to indicate potential successors, these connections did not, in and of themselves, allow a man to succeed. Detailed discussion of the legal powers granted to potential successors, as well as marriage and adoption, will lead to the definition of the ‘mechanics of succession’, that is, the means by which Augustus and then Tiberius attempted to perpetuate their regimes. These mechanics will then be applied to the career of Lucius Aelius Sejanus, prefect of the praetorian guard under Tiberius, to determine whether Sejanus was ever in a position to succeed as princeps. This approach deviates from the standard view that Sejanus, due to his equestrian status, was never a potential successor to Tiberius. If potential successors are defined in terms of the mechanics of succession, and Sejanus was granted parallel privileges, the issue of him as Tiberius’ successor is worthy of re-examination.


Table of Contents

1. Overview -- 2. The succession to Augustus -- 3. The succession to Tiberius -- 4. Sejanus -- 5. The case for Sejanus as Tiberius' successor.


Bibliography: pages 320-325

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Peter Keegan


Copyright Timothy M. Jones 2017. Copyright disclaimer: http://mq.edu.au/library/copyright






1 online resource (xiv, 326 pages)

Former Identifiers

mq:70528 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/1265149