was born in September 42 BC. He was the son of Claudius and Livia Drusilla,
whose second husband was to be the emperor Augustus. Since the early years of
his youth he proved to be timid and reserved, as well as honest and endowed with
remarkable military skill.
he succeeded Augustus as emperor, he was fifty-five years old. He ruled wisely,
avoiding the pomp and the treacherous lure of Roman high society. That is the
reason why in 16 AD he left the capital and moved to Capri, that was his private
property. Tiberius turned “the Blue Island” into a place worthy of an
emperor by building no less than twelve villas, and each of them was dedicated
to a god. The most magnificent was named Villa Jovis. It stood in one of
the most inaccessible reaches of the island, on the top of Mount Tiberius, in
the eastern part of the island, and it was surrounded by luxuriant vegetation.
Its several floors were linked together by big marble staircases. On the highest
floor was the ambulatio,
the loggia from which Tiberius could see the whole of the gulf of Naples.
He dwelt in this villa. Nonetheless he kept on ruling the empire, keeping in
touch with Rome through a system of lighthouses and messengers. Not for nothing,
while dwelling in Capri, Tiberius managed to mitigate the effects of a financial
crisis by setting up a Loan Fund. Besides, he cut down public expenses for the
building trade and the maintenance of the court. He also managed to do away with
the unpopular purchase tax.
are a lot of writings on the free sexual behaviour and the vices that the
emperor indulged while living on his private island, in the pleasant environment
it provided. Until then he had always led an austere and controlled life. Many
instances of his debauchery are reported by Suetonius in his work Lives of
the Twelve Caesars, in the paragraph concerning Tiberius. In this chapter
the historian argues that the emperor’s corruption “one hardly dares depict
or hear about”. However, in Tiberius’ defence we might say that none of
these scandalous details were confirmed by the first century historians. The
unfavourable portrait of Tiberius that Tacitus and Suetonius provide us with
should be probably put down to sheer political bias, since they sympathized with
the senatorial party and hence could not help being hostile to this emperor of
the other hand, we know for sure that, in Capri, Tiberius surrounded himself
with scholars, men of letters, artists and astrologers. Suetonio himself
concedes that the emperor was fond of literature and philosophy, that he wrote
poetry in Greek and that he owned a large library. On his death, in March 37,
Tiberius left a country in peace and an empire still stronger and more intact.