Gaius Ofonius Tigellinus
Born c. 10
Agrigentum, Sicily
Died 69
Allegiance Roman Empire
Years of service 62–68
Rank Praetorian prefect
Commands held Praetorian Guard

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.



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, accusing the courtier and novelist Gaius Petronius Arbiter of treason; Petronius did not wait for a sentence, but instead chose to commit suicide by repeatedly slitting and rebinding his wrists until he was drained of blood. 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.

Tigellinus in later art

  • Tigellinus appears in both the play and film The Sign of the Cross. He is also a character in Henryk Sienkiewicz's Quo Vadis and in the 6 hour mini-series A.D. Anno Domini.
  • In the 1951 film Quo Vadis, based on the novel, Tigellinus (played by Ralph Truman) is (unhistorically) stabbed to death by a soldier spectator at the cry of A sword from Plautius! in the Colosseum when the Roman people revolt against Nero at the end of the film.
  • He also appears in the Waldorf play, The Road to Damascus, where he is the wily and cunning right-hand-man and chief advisor of Emperor Nero. According to some sources, it was really Tigellinus' idea to burn Rome, although this is disputed. In The Sign of the Cross, it is Nero's idea to burn Rome, but it is Tigellinus who gives him the idea of blaming it on the Christians.
  • He is a prominent character in the latter stages of the novel The Kingdom of the Wicked by Anthony Burgess.


External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Sextus Afranius Burrus
Praetorian prefect together with Faenius Rufus and then Nymphidius Sabinus
Succeeded by
Cornelius Laco

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tigellīnus — Tigellīnus, Sophonius, stammte aus Agrigentum u. lebte als vornehmer Mann in Rom, von wo er 39 n. Chr. vom Kaiser Caligula wegen seines sträflichen Umganges mit Agrippina u. Julia verbannt wurde; er ward von Claudius zurückgerufen u. von Nero,… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Tigellīnus — Tigellīnus, Sophonius, aus Agrigent gebürtig, niedern Standes, Günstling Neros und Teilnehmer an seinen Lastern, Ausschweifungen und Grausamkeiten, 62 sogar Praefectus praetorio, verriet Nero, als Galba sich erhob, wurde von Otho zum Tode… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Tigellinus — Gaius Ofonius Tigellinus (* in Agrigent; † 69) war Prätorianerpräfekt und Günstling des römischen Kaisers Nero. Er war von bescheidener, möglicherweise griechischer Herkunft.[1] Während der Herrschaft Caligulas wurde er wegen Ehebruch mit Iulia… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • TIGELLINUS Sophonius — vel Tigillinus, vir Romanus, vitae corruptissimae, qui neroni intimarum libidinum conscientiâ cum esset familiaris, plurimis summis viris per calumniam exitium machinatus est. Postea rerum potitô Othone, ad aquas Sinuessanas, supremae… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Tigellinus, Ofonius — ▪ Roman official died AD 69       the Roman emperor Nero s chief adviser from 62 to 68, notorious for the influence his cruelty and debauched behaviour had upon the emperor.       A Sicilian by birth, Tigellinus lived in the family of the sisters …   Universalium

  • OFONIUS Tigellinus — praenomine Caius: Patre Agrigentinô, homine obscurô natus, Scylaceum a Caio relegatus, quod formosus et egens in Agrippina L. Domitii et Livia Vinicii coniugibus, Germanici filiabus suspectus haberetur. A Nerone post mortem Burthi P. Mariô, L.… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • ТИГЕЛЛИН —    • Tigellīnus, Sofonius,          Софоний, родом из Агригента, в 39 г. от Р. X. послан был Калигулой в изгнание за его отношения с сестрами императора, Агриппиной и Юлией, но потом возвращен Клавдием. Впоследствии за разведение скаковых лошадей …   Реальный словарь классических древностей

  • Τιγελλίνος, Oφώνιος — (Tigellinus). Ευνοούμενος του Νέρωνα, από τη Σικελία. Κολακεύοντας τα ελαττώματα του παράφρονα αυτοκράτορα και ικανοποιώντας τις ορέξεις του, κατόρθωσε, μετά τον θάνατο του Βούρρου, να γίνει αρχηγός των πραιτωριανών και βοήθησε τον Νέρωνα, σε… …   Dictionary of Greek

  • Tigelino — Cayo Ofonio Tigelino Prefecto del Pretorio del Imperio Romano Nacimiento 10 Agrigentum Fallecimiento 69 (59 años) Mondragone Predecesor Sexto Afranio Burro …   Wikipedia Español

  • Im Zeichen des Kreuzes (1932) — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel Im Zeichen des Kreuzes Originaltitel The Sign of the Cross …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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