Germanicus Julius Caesar

Deathbed of Germanicus

GERMANICUS (15BC-AD19) Germanicus Julius Caesar (24 May 16 BC or 15 BC 10 October AD 19) was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty of the early Roman Empire. He was born in Lugdunum, Gaul (modern Lyon). At birth he was named Nero Claudius Drusus . Germanicus was the charming and popular son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Through his mother, Antonia, Germanicus was great-nephew of Augustus, “Julian Blood” Germanicus grew up partly among soldiers. Unlike his infirm brother Emperor Nero Cladius (41–54), he was marked out early both as a general and as the successor to his father’s reputed republican principles.

By the time Tiberius became emperor in 14 AD, Germanicus had been appointed by Augustus as commander-in-chief of the Rhine forces, and Tiberius had had to adopt him as his son and heir even though Tiberius had a son of his own. Upon this adoption, Germanicus’s name was changed to Germanicus Julius Caesar. At about the same time, Germanicus married Augustus’ granddaughter, Vipsania Agrippina.

As consul in the year 12AD, he was appointed to command Gaul and the two Rhine armies. His personal popularity enabled him to quell the mutiny that broke out in his legions after Augustus’ death 14AD. Although pressed to claim the empire for himself, Germanicus remained firmly loyal to Tiberius. the Rhine commnad was much the biggest in the army, eight legions. He led his armies into Germany, where Varus had lost his life and three full legions of Roman troops where slaughtered in Germany’s Teutoberg Forest over 20,000 Romans brutally butchered on the battlefield, ambushed by an endless sea of Germanns it was one of the most humiliating and crushing defeats Imperial Rome would ever suffer.

Germanicus buried some of the remains of the dead legionaries and performed the last rites on the bodies, and buried the Romans with full military honors. In 14AD he launched a massive assault on the heartland of Arminius’ tribe his legions battle hardened troops some of whom had been veterans of the slaughter at the Teutoberg Forest inflicted several crushing defeats from his legions onslaught. The Germans regrouped for a last stand, but charging uphill under a hail of ballistae spears, arrows, and slings, the Romans smashed the enemy earthworks, broke through, and routed them.

Once the smoke cleared on the blood-soaked battlefield, Germanicus built a giant pile of weapons taken off of dead Germans and dedicated it to Mars, the God of War. He had conquered every tribe from the Rhine to the Elbe, and this would be the deepest Rome would ever penetrate into German lands. Arminius’ power was shattered, and Germanicus returned home to a triumphal parade, carrying two of the three Legionary Eagles one belonging to the 19th legion that had been stole by the Germans. It would be the last Triumph ever awarded to a man who was not the current sitting Emperor of Rome. However, Tiberius had no intention of resuming forward policy, he aroused the jealousy and fears of tiberius in 16AD Germanicus was recalled to rome.

Tacitus has him say, “i achieved more by diplomacy than by war… as for the Cherusci and other savage tribes, Rome’s vengeance has been asserted and we can leave them to quarrel among themselves.”

This proved true in May AD17 Germanicus celebrated a triumph in Rome. The following year he became consul for a second time however before taking office he was made supreme commander of all provinces in the east.

On the way he visited Egypt, thereby arousing Tiberius’ wrath incurring strong censure from Tiberius, because the latter’s predecessor, Augustus, had strictly forbidden Romans of senatorial rank to enter Egypt, Rome’s breadbasket without imperial permission. In Syria he soon quarrelled with the new governor, Gnaeus Piso. Although Piso criticized and sometimes frustrated his decisions, Germanicus managed to settle the Armenian succession, organize the previously independent states of Cappadocia and Commagene into provinces, and negotiate successfully with Artabanus III of Parthia.

Deathbed of Germanicus

Deathbed of Germanicus

When Germanicus returned to Antioch in October AD19, the differences with Piso became intolerable; finally Piso left the provinces shortly after Germanicus died. At age 34 the hero of rome was dead, when news of his death reached Rome the entire city shut down for three days. He was added to the Salian hymn, an epic song detailing the greatest heroes of Rome. It was rumoured that Piso has poisoned him through his wife, Plancina. Whether scapegoat or villain, Piso was tried for murder and he committed suicide soon after. Tiberius never escaped suspicion, if not of instigating Germanicus’ murder, at least of prompting the enmity that ended in tragedy. Germanicus had six children with his wife Agrippina, Augustus’ grand-daughter, (three sons and three daughters)of whom survived thier father became emperor: Gauis Caligula(37–41), and Julia Agrippina, mother of the emperor Nero.

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