"Expelling Misconceptions: Astrologers at Rome"
HTML URL: https://www.academia.edu/11342716/Expelli...
…expulsions would come at the end of a long series of events causing popular dissatisfaction with the emperor or popular uncertainty over continued political stability. At this point, dire predictions of astrologers could seem to be the tipping point between order and chaos in the city, chaos that the emperor, bereft of the ability to command popular respect, would be unable to quell except with force. Consider the expulsion of 52., for example, a situation supposedly precipitated by Furius Scribonianus’ consultation of astrologers about Claudius’ demise. But a closer look at Tacitus’ description of the events makes it clear that there was more to it (Ann. 12.52) […]
While Scribonianus’ exile was clearly the result of his consultation of astrologers, it is not at all clear that this same consultation caused their mass expulsion. Claudius’ concern does not appear to have been rooted in an astrologically identified death date, or even in Scribonianus’ potential ability to unseat him; the problem seems to have been the rumors that circulated over the cause of Scribonianus’ death, which subverted Claudius’ magnanimous gestures designed to prove his clemency, and indeed, complete lack of concern on these same points. Astrologers may well have been behind the rumors that Scribonianus had died by mischief—death by poison is attested in astrological treatises and horoscopes and it is therefore presumably the broadcast of the rumors of Scribonianus’ death rather than Scribonianus’ earlier consultation of astrologers that got them expelled. But perhaps this expulsion would not have taken place if the previous year had not featured rioting in the forum over a grain shortage a shortage that had been construed as a prodigium, and a riot from which Claudius barely escaped with his life—and a host of other prodigies that were interpreted, again, possibly by astrologers, as evidence of further impending calamity. By 52, in short, it may have been that Claudius was sufficiently concerned about his ability o command respect in the city and so to ensure public order that the removal of rumormongering astrologers was seen as necessary.