Sunday, 4 December 2016

Tiberius (ILI): Personality Type Analysis

Tiberius Claudius Nero, later Tiberius Julius Caesar, best known simply as Tiberius, was the second Roman Emperor, for 23 years, from 14 to 37. His reign is one of the best-documented of all, with many preserved speeches and letters, as well as observations from contemporaries and very detailed information on his personal decisions and preferences, providing material for his typing. His character and personality puzzled and fascinated contemporaries as well as historians, ancient and modern, and he is one of the most studied Roman Emperors. A prestigious Spanish physician, Gregorio Marañón, went as far as to analyse Tiberius’s psychology, in his classic “Tiberius: a Study in Resentment”, a book praised by Ronald Syme, the 20th century’s foremost Roman historian. I argue, therefore, that there is plenty of reliable material with which to deduce his Socionics type.

Tiberius belonged by birth to the ancient patrician clan Claudius, one of the most prestigious during the centuries of the Roman Republic. He was however born in the Republic’s final years, and his mother Livia divorced his father, when Tiberius was around four, to marry one of the men chiefly responsible for burying the Republic, the Triumvir Octavian, later known as the first emperor, Augustus (LIE). Tiberius grew up in the household of this stepfather, who promoted the politico-military careers of Tiberius and his younger brother Drusus. The brothers became the Empire’s foremost military commanders, chiefly responsible for the Empire’s expansion to the Danube and for expeditions across the Rhine, until Drusus’s death in 9 BC. Tiberius’s personal and political life then went through several ups and downs in the next few years, some of the downs arguably self-inflicted, including a period of political oblivion in retirement on the island of Rhodes. He bounced back, however, becoming Augustus’s adopted son (rather than merely stepson) and undisputed second man of the Empire, becoming Rome’s second emperor relatively smoothly upon Augustus’s death in 14.

Tiberius’s reign of twenty-three years was marked by never-ending political crises involving his own succession, since he was already fifty-five when becoming emperor. In a nutshell: his obvious likely successors, his adopted son (originally nephew) Germanicus, and then his own biological son Drusus, died within a few years of each other, in allegedly suspicious circumstances in Germanicus’s case. That led to a climate of political and personal bitterness between Tiberius and Germanicus’s widow, Agrippina, who hated Tiberius and suspected him of having had a hand on Germanicus’s death. Agrippina became the head of an informal “political party”, mostly a circle of people wanting to be in her good graces when Tiberius died, as her two elder sons were the likely successors. This left Agrippina vulnerable to suspicions that she was “conspiring” against Tiberius, made worse by her popularity (and Tiberius’s unpopularity) among Rome’s general population. This led Tiberius to relocate from Rome to the island of Capri, from where he continued to govern the Empire, and leaving Rome under the control of his trusted Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus. Sejanus launched an implacable political persecution of Agrippina’s circle, exploiting any chance to prosecute them for conspiracy or treason against Tiberius, the cowed Senate mostly agreeing to condemn them and Tiberius seldom interfering. This eventually led to Agrippina and her two elder sons being imprisoned by orders from Tiberius himself, leaving her youngest son Gaius (the future Emperor Caligula (EIE)) as the likeliest eventual successor, but with Sejanus the second most powerful man in the Empire. Suddenly, however, Tiberius, from Capri, launched a sort of undercover coup against Sejanus (he did not feel secure in his power to just dismiss him), whereby Sejanus was put under trial in the Senate by surprise, executed almost immediately (along with his immediate family) and with a bloody purge of those seen as Sejanus’s closest associates. After that, the remaining six years of Tiberius’s life and reign consisted essentially of him continuing to govern from Capri and the surroundings, never returning to Rome proper, until he died at the age of seventy-seven in 37, leading to the smooth ascension of Caligula as emperor, to the general relief of the Senate and the people of Rome (at least until they got to know Caligula better).

Let me finally move on to Tiberius’s most obvious personal traits, which were constant throughout his life. First, twice he chose voluntarily to move away from Rome, and even from people of his broader family and social circle, onto islands, first Rhodes, and then Capri. In both cases, by all accounts, he took along one very close friend of senatorial rank, as well as a limited entourage of Greek scholars of literature and astrology, his favourite subjects (besides the obvious servants, guards etc.). On Capri, as Emperor (and therefore with unlimited freedom of choice of what to do), he maintained the routine of scholarly discussions, very private dinners with a small circle, while governing the Empire by correspondence, and receiving – very selectively – Senators who asked to go see him, besides his trusted henchman, the Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus. His favourite villa on Capri, ruins of which can still be visited, the Villa Jovis, is of very difficult access upon a cliff, illustrating his desire for isolation.

This already points very clearly to man who would be called very introverted in the social sense, that is, a man who is clearly most comfortable in isolation, in the company of a very limited circle of individuals whom he likes or at least trusts. His style of governing the Empire also reflects this: at that early stage historically, being Roman Emperor meant governing with the help of the members of the Senatorial class, but in an atmosphere of sociability, with the Emperor having to know each Senator personally and judging how to manage their careers, rather like the CEO/HR manager of a large corporation, trying to keep as many as possible happy. Augustus excelled at that; Tiberius clearly hated it. He reacted in two ways: first, he kept the same provincial governors at their posts for many years, so minimising the “HR” part of his job (most famously the Prefect of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, for ten years); second, he outsourced a large part of that job to Sejanus, especially for more junior positions. In that, Tiberius’s style of governing is very similar to that of the later Emperor Antoninus Pius (SLI).

All ancient historians who described Tiberius, with basis on contemporary evidence, describe him as a man of very poor social skills, even as “the gloomiest of men” by Pliny the Elder (LSE). Further, although his predecessor, Augustus, behaved in public pretty much like a modern politician, seeking popularity among the general public by personal accessibility and populist gestures like giving, and attending, shows, races and the like, Tiberius had an aloof personality, seeming to disdain the seeking of general popularity, and he even reduced the number of shows and races in Rome to a minimum. Among his social near-equals, Tiberius was equally distant, with an inclination to sarcastic remarks mocking flattery and stupidity. When a delegation from the city of Troy came to see him to present their condolences on the death of his son Drusus – several months late – Tiberius replied, “and may I give you my condolences, gentlemen, on the death of Hector”. Further, most of his personal relationships ended in disaster in one way or the other: his marriage to his second wife, Julia, ended in mutual contempt and hatred; he was suspected (almost certainly wrongly) of conspiring to murder his own adopted son, Germanicus; he was unable, and perhaps unwilling, to address the poisonous relationship with his own step-daughter Agrippina, despite the catastrophic political consequences; and he placed his complete trust on Sejanus, a man who eventually betrayed him and whom he had to destroy through a scheme since he had made him too powerful. He also broke relations with his own mother, Livia. Nevertheless, Tiberius was known to have deep personal relations with a very limited number of individuals: his first wife, Vipsania, whom he had to divorce for political reasons (and which left him deeply depressed, by all accounts) and his brother Drusus. When he heard that his brother, based on the Rhine frontier (near where Mainz is today) was dying, Tiberius travelled there from Rome on horseback to see him, establishing a speed record that remained unbroken one hundred years later.

The above already points to a man with very weak E and R, but who values R far more, suggesting E4 or at most E3, and R5 or R6 most likely, already pointing to the Gamma or Delta quadras. Further, Tiberius’s approach to relationships was not generous but vindictive or resentful, with him able to hold grudges for decades, acting savagely on them. Once, in the Senate, already Emperor and secure in his position, he made a point of attacking one Marcus Lollius, dead by now, who had been his political enemy during his Rhodes years, while talking about a barely related matter. One story goes that, while in political oblivion on Rhodes, he applied to attend the lectures of a famous local teacher of rhetoric, who told him to try again in seven days; he might then have a vacancy. When, years later, the same teacher was in Rome and tried to pay his respects to the Emperor, Tiberius sent him a message, telling him to come back in seven years. Although his second wife Julia had been condemned to exile by her own father, Augustus, upon becoming emperor some twenty years after the event, Tiberius did not make her conditions of imprisonment easier, on the contrary, he made them harsher, although the opposite would have been even politically useful from a PR perspective. Because of those examples – and many more – Marañón described Tiberius as a man whose personal relationships were based on “resentment”, not “generosity” – except, again, to very few select individuals. That already makes Gamma a far likelier quadra than Delta, with R clearly blocked with F rather than I.

Despite the dark picture painted of Tiberius so far, from the point of view of the Empire as a whole he was a conscientious, capable, reasonable and benevolent ruler. He reversed Augustus’s policies of investing heavily on public works, causing maybe located “recessions” but compensating that by actually reducing taxes, while running a budget surplus throughout his reign. Tiberius explicitly ordered his provincial governors to not overtax the population; granted tax relief to regions hit by earthquake, and was responsive to the specific religious susceptibilities of the Jewish population in Judaea – Tiberius actually ordered Pilate to remove standards with his own image from the area near the Temple (where Pilate had placed them to show his loyalty to Tiberius), and eventually relieved Pilate of his position due to complaints by the locals. The historian Tacitus, who read all of Tiberius's speeches and preserved many of them, observed that Tiberius was not noted as an engaging or inspiring orator, but rather a master in weighing his words precisely, being as clear, or as obscure, as he wished. Among the speeches reproduced by Tacitus, there is one where Tiberius discourses at length, in the Senate, on the Empire’s macroeconomics, in response to a complaint, by some, on what were by comparison trivial economic matters, demonstrating clearly that Tiberius knew what he was talking about, and they didn’t. Finally, Tiberius's fiscal policies, added to archaic usury laws, led in 33 to a “financial crisis” comparable to modern ones; yet Tiberius reacted inventively by acting as a “central banker” and quickly solving the crisis.

With the exception of that small minority of the Roman elite caught in the political machinations of Sejanus and Tiberius, Tiberius’s policies as a ruler led to general peace and prosperity (in the context of the time), not necessarily because Tiberius was a kind or generous man, but because he was concerned with good and efficient government throughout, and he was justifiably confident in his own abilities to provide it. That provides evidence of a much stronger P than E, confirming what was already observed regarding his very weak and devalued E.

The information so far points to a Gamma of very low E and R, with confidence and strength in P. That already points to LIE or ILI. Looking at Tiberius’s F, though, what we see is this. Despite being able to successfully lead armies into battle, Tiberius was known as a very cautious commander – often too cautious for Augustus’s taste. His own personal inclinations, though, once he wasn’t under Augustus’s orders, were clearly towards low-level physical activity, preferring to govern from his desk. Even when toppling his own Praetorian Prefect – military and politically in a much weaker position than he – Tiberius still preferred an indirect approach based on cunning and strategy, rather than a more direct, confrontational approach. Finally, in the final years of his life, when he was based on Capri and the surrounding areas, Tiberius several times “tried” to visit Rome, on occasion getting close, but changing his mind at the last moment, once because of a supposed bad omen. All of that shows a man far more cautious, and indecisive, than decisive, pointing to F that seems weaker than even F6. It is also relevant that the man he chose to have as his most trusted sidekick was the famously tough-guy Sejanus, whom Tiberius called “partner of my labours”, and he often referred publicly to how laborious it was to govern on his own. This points to F5 rather than F6.

As with Integrating (i.e. “introverted”) lead functions generally, it is not easy to spot Tiberius's T1 directly, but hints to it can be seen in his confidence in strategic thinking, his focus on longer-term trends, and even his preferred activities for relaxation, as in discussing scholarly subjects and astrology.

What we have is maybe a somewhat depressing portrayal of man able and confident in ruling a huge empire efficiently and benevolently, and who longs for close personal relationships, but also extremely suspicious, vindictive, resentful, often indecisive, and very poor in public relations and social skills, seemingly indifferent to those even. The type that best fits what is known of Tiberius is ILI.

Sources:  as mentioned above, my  general impression of Tiberius’s psychology was first shaped by Gregorio Marañón’s Tiberius: A Study in Resentment, and the extensive ancient sources. The texts of the ancient historians,  Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio, can be found here,

To learn more about ILI, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

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