Tiberiusis often considered the teleological end point of Velleius’ history (Gowing (2007), Schmitzer (2011)). Though he is characterized as the ultimate Republican leading the new republic, of all the virtues he is assigned, clementia is, surprisingly, not one of them. This omission is even more poignant considering that Tiberius advertised his clementia during his reign (see Levick (1975), 131-33). To explain this omission, Claudia Kuntze (1985) suggests that Velleiusis criticizing Tiberius ex silentio; Tiberius is not assigned clementia because, in Velleius’ opinion, he is not particularly clement.
Kuntze’s suggestion, though tempting,contradicts Velleius’ overall program of making Tiberius the sine qua non among leaders and Republican figures. My paper offers an alternate suggestion, namely that Velleius does not assign clmentia to Tiberius because in his Historiae he associates the virtue clementia with conflict, primarily civil conflict.
In the first part of my paper, I briefly discuss which figures are assigned a clement nature, particularly Scipio Africanus, Julius Caesar, and Augustus. Through this examination of when clementia is mentioned, I contend that Velleius links clementia to a past age of Rome’s history, particularly the period of decline and discord spanning the destruction of Carthage through the civil wars of the late Republic. For example, the highest concentration of uses of clementia and synonymous terms, such as mitis, occur in Velleius’ narrative of Caesar and Augustus, but only in the period of the civil wars. Similarly, Velleius’ assignment of clemency to Scipio Africanus, while not occurring in the context of civil war, comes to contrast his mercy toward the Carthaginians with his descendant’s destruction of Carthage, an act which is the catalyst for Rome’s decline. Clementiain Velleius is, in short, a virtue of times of war for Rome.
From here I show how Velleius chooses to portray the time after the civil war as a period of peace (pax). Velleius emphasizes the peace of empire at several points, particularly in his catalogue of the blessings Rome now enjoys under Tiberius’ reign (2.126.2-4). Once Rome enters this new phase of its history, punctuated by domestic peace, clementia is no longer necessary. In fact, Velleius finds it more useful that Tiberius exercise severitas against those who attempt to disrupt this Pax Tiberiana. Thus, Velleiuspasses over assigning clemency to Tiberius not in an attempt to criticize the emperor but because, as an emperor of a pacified Rome, Tiberius does not need clementia so much as vigilantia.