A Student in the Art of Power?
The GAME of POWER is no easy chess match. Our player Lucius Aleius Sejanus, The Praetorian Prefect to the second Emperor of Rome. After his father held the position for the first Emperor Caesar Augustus. He placed his pieces on the board only to start out as a pone. Could he be called a would be king? Or just an ordinary man sailing to close to the sun? with 2,000 years of buried history and no clear answers it could well be both.
When playing the game of power. No matter where the pieces started out. The player only has so many moves before his or her game is up. And It would seem at the start at least Sejanus had a few moves to play.
Born into an equestrian family in Etruria Volsinii. Sejanus had a great start on life his mother was political well associated with the pillars of roman power. His father occupied the peak of offices afforded to his family’s low rank. Ascending to the post of Prefect of Egypt in 15 B.C.
in Sejanus early career he may have been a coeval. However, much of his early career is debatable. Tacitus a roman senator and historian accounts much of his background in the army to training and participating in parades. However, Sejanus quickly moves on abroad in the service of young Octavian during his bid for power.
Sejanus Career begins to pick up in the company of the future second emperor Tiberius son. Though the two didn’t know it their fates would collide with fatal consequences. For now, Sejanus was merely a commander of two praetorian cohorts. Though his command showed his strength of leadership. He held no senor position with Tiberius yet.
That would all change due in part for his loyalty to Tiberius and low rank. Which was a favorite power move by those born to it. Moreover this emperor was paranoid. Perhaps rightfully so. Agrippina the wife of Rome’s greatest war hero interfered in the political matters of the army. An Emperors main base of support. Sejanus played on this. Blacking the emperor’s heart towards her after her husband’s suspicious death.
Years later Sejanus influence over the affairs of state grew in prominent. Due to Tiberius trust in him as a man of action. However, why did Tiberius trust a man outside his own imperial family? His natural born son was in his prime there was an abundance of heirs in the family. The simple answer is Sejanus held a high standard of a true roman according to Tacitus. An effective statesman, a loved leader by his troops, and showed a great energy which Tiberius need which he could not find among his family. Above it all Sejanus showed loyalty and an iron hand. in a time were Tiberius wanted nothing to do with the state.
Yet just as quickly as Sejanus sail docked near to the rays of the sun. he would quickly be burn by the flames bursting out every so often.
If we are to believe Tacitus account of Sejanus wanting to dance with power. Sejanus next actions would set the beginning of the end for him. Or was Sejanus acting to defend his position form a prince or future emperor to destroy his career? Over the years it was no secret Darca the emperor’s son disliked the perfect which spelled disaster of one of them. Sejanus a man of action. Would strike first.
His next roll of the dice on the game board would be to find a way into the imperial family. He allies himself with a beautiful creature named Livlla. It is unclear if he truly loved her or just used her to further his ambition. The accounts all stem form Sejanus own wife Apicata. Which he divorced in the hopes of a high ranked marriage? Or something else?
The death of the Emperors son on September 14th caused a great fear within the imperial household and in Tiberius mind. Yet the imperial family had 4 heirs. If Sejanus wanted to be his heir. He had to wait it out and slowly remove the sons of Agrippina and his own grandson. All where to young with the emperor reaching the age of 64, he naturally looked to Sejanus as a regent until his heirs came of age. Tiberius couldn’t see pass the roman cast system. How could a commander of the guard dream so high? The laws of Power know no limitations on we’re the players start out.
The emperor Tiberius always enjoyed much support from the rich families of Rome. They made up his power structure after the army. These family pledged their loyal to the emperor not his unofficial adviser and commander of the guard. though Sejanus held unofficial power like an emperor after the removal of Agrippina and her son Nero. Sejanus game would be to continue his role as a loyal regent to Tiberius. Sejanus was still young. All he needed to do was wait for his time to come. The emperor increasing old age meant he doesn’t have to wait long to position himself as a potential heir in the future.
However, Sejanus over played his hand. Tiberius mood turned sour towards his right hand. With two letters one written by Antonia the daughter of mark Antony and one by his ex-wife. They wrote about Sejanus plot to seize supreme power.
Before Tiberius showed his hand, he bribes and enlists with Naevius Marcro then prefect of the Vigles. Marco wanted to be Perfect of the praetorian command. So, the plan inspires him to enter Rome with new men. Bringing with him the documents to arrange his superior be removed. The senate was in session when he presented them to Sejanus who when realized his favor. Begged Marcro to have it read before the senate. Sejanus outwardly seemed to rise at last as the document was read.
His body would be thrown down the Gemonian steps that night in 31 Bc. Along with his young son and daughter and all his supporters.
Sejanus miss steps to ascend above political norms of the day. Cost him a chance to dance in the final act with the mistress of power. Emperor Tiberius had her hand all along. Instead he is remembered if at all as a man who overstepped his position on the stage play. Possibly his chance at real power was there. With so few accounts of the time. He is remembered in the roman mind as the “exendibiles in homine” the expendable man.
Coin Details: ROMAN PROVINCIAL, Tiberius and L. Aelius Sejanus, Æ As (28mm, 11.45 g, 12h), Struck AD 31 in Bilbilis, Spain.