the son of a native of Agrigentum, owed his rise from poverty and obscurity to his handsome person and his unscrupulous character.
He was banished to Scyllaceum (Squillace
) in Bruttii (A. D. 39-40), for an intrigue with Agrippina [AGRIPPINA, No. 2] and Julia Livilla [JULIA, No. 8], sisters of Caligula, and respectively the wives of L. Domitius Ahenobarbus [No. 10] and M. Vinucius, cos. A. D. 30. (Vet. Schol. in Juv.
1.155; D. C. 59.23
Tigellinus was probably among the exiles restored by Agrippina, after she became empress, since early in Nero's reign he was again in favour at court, and on the death of Burrus (A. D. 63) was appointed praetorian prefect jointly with Fenius Rufus. (Tac. A n.
14.48, 51.) Tigellinus ministered to Nero's worst passions, and of all his favourites was the most obnoxious to the Roman people.
He inflamed his jealousy or his avarice against the noblest members of the senate and the most pliant dependants of the court. C. Rubellius Plautus [Vol. II. p. 411], Cornelius Sulla, Minucius Thermus, and C. Petronius, Nero's master of the ceremonies, were successively his victims (Tac. Ann. 14.57
), and he actively promoted the emperor's divorce from Octavia and his marriage with Poppaea. A. D. 63. (Tac. Ann. 14.60
; D. C. 62.13
.) In A. D. 65, Tigellinus entertained Nero in his Aemilian gardens, with a sumptuous profligacy unsurpassed even in that age, and in the same year shared with him the odium of burning Rome, since the conflagration had broken out on the scene of the banquet. (Tac. Ann. 15.37
; D. C. 62.15
In the prosecutions that followed the discovery of Piso's conspiracy in the following year, Nero found in Tigellinus an able and merciless agent for his revenge. Tigellinus attached himself to Poppaea's faction, and it was said commonly in Rome, that the imperial privy-council (Tac. Ann. 15.61
) contained only three members, the praetorian prefect, Nero and his wife.
The cruelty and rapacity of Tigellinus filled all ranks with dismay. " Pone Tigellinum," says Juvenal (1.155) using his name proverbially, and the stake and faggot will be your portion. Annaeus Mela, the younger brother of Seneca the philosopher, was one only of many persons who bequeathed a large share of his property to Tigellinus and his son-in-law, Cossutianus Capito, that the residue might be secured to the rightful heirs (Tac. Ann. 16.17
; D. C. 62.27
), and those who escaped from the real or imputed guilt of conspiring with Piso owed their exemption, not to their innocence, but to their bribes. (Dio Cass. ib. 28
It was probably about this time that Apollonius of Tyana was brought before Tigellinus on a charge of having traduced the emperor.
But the philosopher managed to impress his judge with such a dread of his supernatural powers that he was dismissed unharmed. (Philostr. Ap. Tyan.
The history of Tigellinus is so inwoven with that of his master, that we may refer to the life of Nero and briefly add, that the minister presided at the emperor's nuptials with Sporus, that he accompanied him to Greece, and distinguished himself every where by his venality, his shamelessness, and his rapacity. (Tac. Ann. 15.59
; D. C. 63.11
He encouraged Nero to degrade the imperial dignity as a public singer on the stage, and contributed to his downfal as much by his own unpopularity as by pampering his master's vices. (Dio Cass. ib. 21.
) Tigellinus returned to Rome in A. D. 68, and shortly afterwards Nero was dethroned by the indignant legions and the long-suffering senate and people.
In his deepest distress (Suet. Ner. 48
) the emperor retained some faithful adherents, but Tigellinus was not of the number.
He joined with Nymphidius Sabinus, who had succeeded Fenius Rufus as praetorian prefect, in transferring the allegiance of the soldiers to Galba.
By large bribes to T. Vinius, Galba's freedman, and to Vinius's daughter he purchased a reprieve from the sentence which, on all occasions, the Roman people clamorously demanded, and he even obtained from Galba a decree rebuking the populace for their petition, and informing them that Tigellinus was sinking rapidly under consumption. On the accession of Otho however, in January, A. D. 70, his doom was no longer to be eluded.
A centurion and his company were despatched to Sinuessa, and Tigellinus, in the lap of luxury, and surrounded by the victims and ministers of his excesses, after a vain attempt to corrupt his executioners, perished by his own hand. (Tac. Hist. 1.72
; Plut. Galb. 2
,13, 17, 19, 23, 29, Oth. 2 ; D. C. 64.3
; Joseph. B. J.
4.9.2; Suet. Galb. 15