Tigellinus

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Gaius Ofonius Tigellinus, also known as Ophonius Tigellinus and Sophonius Tigellinus (c. 10–69), was a prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard, from 62 until 68, during the reign of emperor Nero. Tigellinus gained imperial favour through his acquaintance with Nero's mother Agrippina the Younger, and was appointed prefect upon the death of his predecessor Sextus Afranius Burrus, a position Tigellinus held first with Faenius Rufus and then Nymphidius Sabinus.

As a friend of Nero he quickly gained a reputation around Rome for cruelty and licentiousness. During the second half of the 60s however, the emperor became increasingly unpopular with the people and the army, leading to several rebellions which ultimately led to his downfall and suicide in 68. When Nero's demise appeared imminent, Tigellinus deserted him and shifted his allegiance to the new emperor Galba. Unfortunately for Tigellinus, Galba was replaced by Otho barely six months after his accession. Otho ordered the execution of Tigellinus, upon which he committed suicide.

Contents

Life

Tigellinus was a native of Agrigentum, of humble origin and possibly of Greek descent. In 39, during the reign of Caligula, he was banished. He had been accused of adultery with Agrippina the Younger and Julia Livilla, the two surviving sisters of the Roman Emperor. He was recalled by Claudius in 41.

Having inherited a fortune, he bought land in Apulia and Calabria and devoted himself to breeding race-horses. In this manner he gained the favour of Nero, whom he aided and abetted in his vices and cruelties. In 62 he was promoted to the prefecture of the praetorian guards. In 64 he made himself notorious for the orgies arranged by him in the Basin of Agrippa, and was suspected of incendiarism in connection with the Great Fire of Rome, which, after having subsided, broke out afresh in his Aemilian gardens.

In 65, during the investigation into the abortive conspiracy of Gaius Calpurnius Piso, he and Poppaea Sabina formed a kind of imperial privy council. In 67 he accompanied Nero on his tour in Greece. When the emperor's downfall appeared imminent, Tigellinus deserted him, and with Nymphidius Sabinus brought about the defection of the Praetorian Guard.

Under Galba he was obliged to give up his command, but managed to save his life by lavishing presents upon Titus Vinius, the favourite of Galba, and his daughter. Otho, upon his accession in January 69, determined to remove one so universally detested by the people. While in the baths at Sinuessa, Tigellinus received the news that he must die, and, having vainly endeavoured to gain a respite, cut his own throat with a razor.

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