Agrippa, Tiberius, and Germanicus

Who was the greatest general of Augustus' reign?


  • Total voters
    21

Labienus

Ad Honorem
Jul 2009
6,479
Montreal, Canada
#1
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, Tiberius, and Germanicus were the three outstanding military figures of Augustus' reign. Which of the three was the best general?

I vote for Agrippa. Not only did he face Roman forces in the civil war but he also triumphed in many different settings, including naval battles.

However, I do hold Tiberius' abilities as a general in very high regard; he conquered more lands for the empire than almost any generals in Roman history, with perhaps the exception of Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Trajan. He also faced difficult opponents in the Illyrian war and in Germania.

Germanicus was also a formidable figure but I do not consider his achievements as noteworthy as those of his two predecessors.
 

Mangekyou

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
7,887
UK
#2
It's hard to choose between Agrippa and Tiberius.

Agrippa would probably get more votes because he was as excellent a politician as he was a military man. Tiberius though was an outstanding Roman general who fought in some of the toughest parts of the Roman empire. From a strictly military view I would edge towards Tiberius, but it's really hard to choose between these two, because I appreciate what both of them did to maintain the successful reign of Augustus.
 
Jan 2015
5,424
Ontario, Canada
#3
Agrippa's main contributions were in defeating Sextus Pompey and in leading Octavian's fleet against Mark Antony. The latter however was hardly the resounding victory that Octavian played it up to be. The sad truth is that while Agrippa performed quite well in the campaign against Antony the actual defeat of Antony and Cleopatra's fleet was due to factors that were out of Antony's control and in that sense Octavian and Agrippa had every advantage. The ultimate defeat of Antony had little to do with Agrippa however and much more related to Octavian's masterful political schemes and propaganda. I also don't hold his Cantabrian campaign to much regard and he ought mostly to be recognized as a highly skilled naval commander.

Germanicus defeated armies in Germania up to the Weser River and recovered the glory lost at Teutoburg. While this sets him apart as one of few Roman commanders to have success in Germania (not even long term though) it's not like Germania was all that important to the Roman Empire, he didn't even conquer anything (unlike his father). He shouldn't be put down for it but I think Tiberius outdid him over all. Germanicus I think just took part in the post-Teutoburg operations and served under Tiberius in Illyria.

Honestly it's a tough call between Agrippa and Tiberius. Tiberius won multiple campaigns and even put down some tough insurgencies. He might not have the "I beat Antony" or the "I beat Arminius" stigma but that doesn't make his actions any lesser. After all victory is victory and stigma only hovers around like an odor.
Just to be Devil's advocate I'll go with Tiberius.
 
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Labienus

Ad Honorem
Jul 2009
6,479
Montreal, Canada
#5
Honestly it's a tough call between Agrippa and Tiberius. Tiberius won multiple campaigns and even put down some tough insurgencies. He might not have the "I beat Antony" or the "I beat Arminius" stigma but that doesn't make his actions any lesser. After all victory is victory and stigma only hovers around like an odor.
Just to be Devil's advocate I'll go with Tiberius.
Agreed, there is not much between these two. I'm quite fond Tiberius, he was a fine, fine commander and a pretty good emperor until the death of his son Drusus, when he just seems to have stopped caring.

The Illyrian war was extremely bloody and hardly fought. Tiberius faced some very difficult tasks as a commander and he triumphed at every turn.
 

Labienus

Ad Honorem
Jul 2009
6,479
Montreal, Canada
#6
I voted Tiberius too, simply because his achievements have been far too overlooked.
Agreed, and I blame Suetonius for that.

Granted, Tiberius stopped caring about the empire once he retreated to Capri but most of what Suetonius wrote about his "activities" on Capri was probably fictitious and were most likely rumors that were uttered in Rome during his prolonged absence.
 
Jan 2008
18,733
Chile, Santiago
#7
Agreed, and I blame Suetonius for that.

Granted, Tiberius stopped caring about the empire once he retreated to Capri but most of what Suetonius wrote about his "activities" on Capri was probably fictitious and were most likely rumors that were uttered in Rome during his prolonged absence.
I don't think that it's entirely fair to say that Tiberius stopped caring even after his retreat to Capri. All indications seem to be that the administrative machinery of the empire kept running smoothly until the end of his reign.

I would venture that the 'retreat' was at least somewhat deceptive, in that while Tiberius was happy to seperate himself from the toxic atmosphere of the capital, he never lost touch with what was going on in his absence. Historians have often portrayed Sejanus as a machiavel, but I suspect that Tiberius had a method to his madness when he allowed the rogue to inflict a reign of terror on the capital, before destroying him when it became convenient to do so.

By and large I think Tiberius reflects the truism that the post-humous reputation of the early Roman Emperors was determined in large part by their relations with the Senate rather than their objective effectiveness as rulers.

Still, with that being said, I like to imagine that the rumors about what he got up to on Capri came close to the reality. Sometimes truth really is more wild and crazy than anything fiction could get away with.
 
Jan 2008
18,733
Chile, Santiago
#8
Agrippa's main contributions were in defeating Sextus Pompey and in leading Octavian's fleet against Mark Antony. The latter however was hardly the resounding victory that Octavian played it up to be. The sad truth is that while Agrippa performed quite well in the campaign against Antony the actual defeat of Antony and Cleopatra's fleet was due to factors that were out of Antony's control and in that sense Octavian and Agrippa had every advantage. The ultimate defeat of Antony had little to do with Agrippa however and much more related to Octavian's masterful political schemes and propaganda. I also don't hold his Cantabrian campaign to much regard and he ought mostly to be recognized as a highly skilled naval commander.
I think that this assessment is a bit ungenerous.

While it's true that pretty much everything that could have gone wrong for Antony & Cleopatra in the Greek campaign, did go wrong - Agrippa's strategic conduct was superb.

And the campaign against Sextus Pompey was a nothing short of brilliant. The creation of the Portus Julius alone was a master-stroke that any other great commander would have been proud to take credit for. Add in all his other achievements - technical and strategic - and one thinks that this campaign by itself would be enough to rank Agrippa as one of the best soldiers Rome ever produced.

Why don't you hold Agrippa's land campaigns in much regard?
 
Jan 2015
5,424
Ontario, Canada
#9
I don't hold Agrippa's land campaigns very highly at all. Mostly the reasons seem to be that his campaign on the Rhine was relatively minor, during Antony's invasion of Italy he slightly frustrated some of Antony's efforts but really didn't do much, he played a bigger role in the Illyrian campaign, the war against Fulvia and Lucius was mostly conducted by Quintus Salvidienus Rufus (albeit Agrippa played a larger role here) and his campaign in Cantabria was after a couple other Roman campaigns had reduced some of the territory of those Cantabrian tribes. There really isn't that much to talk about in my opinion.

As for the war against Antony well Agrippa only commanded Octavian's fleet and the land forces were commanded Titus Statilius Taurus. Yes Agrippa performed very well in this campaign and demonstrated much strategic acumen in some of the minor operations. However Actium is a largely misunderstood battle. Basically Antony was already at a strategic disadvantage because of the maneuvres of Agrippa for one and several other factors. But Antony's goal at this point was to have his fleet break out and change his base to Athens then advance northwards with his army. The only reason this plan failed was because several members from Antony's camp had defected and revealed the battle plan to Octavian. The other reason is that Lucius Gelius Publicola disobeyed orders in the middle of battle and decided to take the third naval squadron into battle against Agrippa's squadron rather than hold back and distract Octavian's squadrons. Even still Gaius Sosius, Marcus Insteius and Cleopatra's squadrons still managed to break through. After this battle Octavian began to sow discord within the ranks and also bribed key players of Antony's side, after relocating to Athens the majority of his troops on the front lines began to defect en masse and the only way to get out if this scenario was to retreat back to Egypt and await the inevitable.
 

Labienus

Ad Honorem
Jul 2009
6,479
Montreal, Canada
#10
Still, with that being said, I like to imagine that the rumors about what he got up to on Capri came close to the reality. Sometimes truth really is more wild and crazy than anything fiction could get away with.
Tiberius and his pisciculī :lol:

Or the story of Tiberius ordering the fastening of some men's "members" after having tricked them into drinking amphorae of wine. Oh lord.
 
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