To the East, where our Lord dwelt, nay, to all the rest of the empire, the reign of Tiberius was a quiet time, with the good government arranged by Augustus working on. It was only his own family, and the senators and people of rank at Rome, who had much to fear from his strange, harsh, and jealous temper. The Claudian family had in all times been shy, proud, and stern, and to have such power as belonged to Augustus Caesar was more than their heads could bear. Tiberius hated and suspected everybody, and yet he did not like putting people to death, so he let Drusus be starved to death in his prison, and Agrippina chose the same way of dying in her island, while some of the chief senators received such messages that they put themselves to death. He led a wretched life, watching for treason and fearing everybody, and trying to drown the thought of danger in the banquets of Capreae, where the remains of his villa may still be seen. Once he set out, intending to visit Rome, but no sooner had he landed in Campania than the sight of hundreds of country people shouting welcome so disturbed him that he hastened on board ship again, and thus entered the Tiber; but at the very sight of the hills of Rome his terror returned, and he had his galley turned about and went back to his island, which he never again quitted.
Only two males of his family were left now—a great-nephew and a nephew, Caius, that son of the second Germanicus who had been nicknamed Caligula, a youth of a strange, exciteable, feverish nature, but who from his fright at Tiberius had managed to keep the peace with him, and had only once been for a short time in disgrace; and his uncle, the youngest son of the first Germanicus, commonly called Claudius, a very dull, heavy man, fond of books, but so slow and shy that he was considered to be wanting in brains, and thus had never fallen under suspicion.
At length Tiberius fell ill, and when he was known to be dying, he was smothered with pillows as he began to recover from a fainting fit, lest he should take vengeance on those who had for a moment thought him dead. He died A.D.. 37, and the power went to Caligula, properly called Caius, who was only twenty-five, and who began in a kindly, generous spirit, which pleased the people and gave them hope; but to have so much power was too much for his brain, and he can only be thought of as mad, especially after he had a severe illness, which made the people so anxious that he was puffed up with the notion of his own importance.
[Illustration: ROME IN THE TIME OF AUGUSTUS CAESAR.]
He put to death all who offended him, and, inheriting some of Tiberius’ distrust and hatred of the people, he cried out, when they did not admire one of his shows as much as he expected, “Would that the people of Rome had but one neck, so that I might behead them all at once.” He planned great public buildings, but had not steadiness to carry them out; and he became so greedy of the fame which, poor wretch, he could not earn, that he was jealous even of the dead. He burned the books of Livy and Virgil out of the libraries, and deprived the statues of the great men of old of the marks by which they were known—Cincinnatus of his curls, and Torquatus of his collar, and he forbade the last of the Pompeii to be called Magnus.