The 2 Theories Why Tiberius Retired Suddenly To Rhodes In 6 BC

Further ReadingThe 5 Roman Emperors Of The Julio Claudian Dynasty

During the reign of the first Roman Emperor Augustus (27BC-14) one of his adopted sons would announce a surprise retirement to the Island of Rhodes in 6 BC. Why Tiberius would announce a surprise retirement during the height of his military career remains one of the greatest mysteries of the reign of Augustus. Here are the two major theories why Tiberius retired suddenly to Rhodes in 6BC.

Today there are 2 theories as to why Tiberius mysteriously retired to the Greek Island of Rhodes in 6BC. First, Tiberius believed that he would hold power only until the two grandsons of Augustus, Lucius and Gaius, came of age. Second, Tiberius hated his second wife Julia so much that he purposely moved across the Empire to be away from her.

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Without further ado, here are the 2 theories why Tiberius retired suddenly to Rhodes in 6 BC.

Theory 1: Tiberius Recognized That His Stepsons Had Come Of Age So He Could Retire

The first theory as to why the future Roman emperor Tiberius suddenly retired to Rhodes was because he believed that his stepsons were finally old enough to administer the Empire.

Rhodes in 6BC was a quiet section of the empire. The island itself lies near modern Turkey in the Aegean Sea. During the time of Augustus it was known for its fierce loyalty to the Caesarian faction during Rome’s transition from Republic to Empire.

As such historians theorize that it would have been a bastion of Imperial power in the furthest reaches of the Empire. In 6BC Tiberius had just completed his military campaigns in Gaul and Germany and began to see that his step-sons were being lined up to become co-rulers after Augustus.

As such the theory is that in 6 BC Tiberius recognized that his step-sons were going to become the most powerful Roman’s after the death of Augustus. Not wanting to be an obstacle to their ascent Tiberius opted to instead go into an early retirement far away from the politics and city of Rome.

From 6 BC up until 4 AD Tiberius lived in luxury on the Island of Rhodes. We don’t know much of his time here in retirement but historians know that Rhodes during this time period would have been a relaxed fishing and trade center.

However, by 4 AD both of the co-rulers died from illness. This left Augustus with no other option than to adopt Tiberius and bring him back to Rome.

As such one of the main theories why Tiberius retired suddenly to Rhodes in 6 BC was because he did not want to be in the way of the ascent of his step-sons. After both of their deaths he would return to Rome to become the heir to Augustus.

Theory 2: Tiberius Hated His Second Wife Julia So Much He Moved Across The Empire To Be Away From Her

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Probably the most famous of the theories of why Tiberius retired suddenly to Rhodes in 6 BC was because of his hatred for his wife Julia the Elder.

Tiberius only loved one woman his entire life, his first wife Vipsania Agrippina. He was forced by Augustus to divorce Vipsania in 11 BC. Immediately afterwards Tiberius was instructed to marry Augustus’s daughter Julia the Elder. This was a disastrous marriage and made Tiberius incredibly upset.

The problem according to historians such as Roman historian Tacitus was that Julia would have multiple nightly affairs in the Roman public forum. This humiliated Tacitus who already resented the Imperial family for making him divorce Vipsania.

This theory put forth by historians states that Tiberius would flee Rome for two reasons.

First, Julia the Elder would routinely humiliate Tiberius by having multiple public affairs in the Roman Forum. Tiberius could not stop this as she was the Emperor’s daughter. The only option was to leave the city.

Second, sometimes around 9BC Augustus would put measures in place making sure that Tiberius and Vipsania would never again meet each other in public. We don’t know what was done as those sources have not survived but 3 years later Tiberius was so distraught that he sailed away from Rome to retire across the Empire.

The story goes that Augustus faked an illness to prevent Tiberius from leaving. Tiberius wanted to see Vipsania but was not given permission by Augustus who feared that it would drive apart Tiberius’s marriage to Julia. Once Tiberius got wind that Augustus had faked an illness he immediately sailed as far away as possible…to the Island of Rhodes.

As such, that is the second theory as to why Tiberius retired suddenly to the island of Rhodes in 6BC.


There you have it; an entire article dedicated to the two theories why Tiberius retired suddenly to the Island of Rhodes in 6 BC.

This famous fleeing of Tiberius from Augustus to Rhodes remains one of the most popular mysteries coming from the age of Augustus. Historians have long debated what would have happened if Tiberius remained married to Vipsania. Chances are that he would have still been adopted by Augustus as in 2 BC Julia the Elder was exiled for adultery to the island of Pandateria and removed from the Imperial family.

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