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The REAL Tiberius

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A thought occurs to me. I wondered earlier if Tiberius was getting a bit flakey in his older days. Let me suggest something. Is it not possible that Tiberius wanted some sort of private world of his own? If true, then the young girls prancing around as 'wood nymphs' weren't there to satisfy any sexual urge, they were there to populate his fantasy. It was not paedophilia, just a desire to escape rome completely. Now this is just an idea for discussion but it would naturally be the source of many of the rumours we read of today.

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I have just finished Goldworthy's CAESAR (which was excellent!) and started Richard Hollands AUGUSTUS. I hope to continue onto TIBERIUS as soon as I have finished so I am going onto Amazon now to order one of the two books you recommend.

 

I would not dream of lending books as I love to own the copies I have read. It ticks me off to see shelves full of unread books, usually there for ornamental reasons.

I'll edit this post to tell you which I order.

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Your question seems akin to "are you still beating your spouse" Caldrail. It surely prejudges the answer.

 

I don't accept for a moment that there were ever any young girls, boys or even animals cavorting around the Capraean villas in Tiberius' day. The whole thing does not fit with his character, at least as I see it.

 

There is no evidence from his Rhodes exile that he indulged in such things, or had any sort of sexxual reputation.

 

Neither is there any reason to assume "flakeiness" or any motive for retirement save a fastidious liking for retreat and solitude. Tiberius may have been "odd" but it was in an anti-social way, not a perverse one. he found a way of ruling through Sejanus that suited him and - a reluctant emperor anyway - he retired. He may have been un-nerved somewhat by Sejanus' treachery, but we know comparatively little about that as key passages in Tacitus are lost. But I see no loss of grip or seniliity until perhaps the very end.

 

I think the way that damning comments are thrown around about characters in ancient history is no less reprehensible that similar slanders or libels would be for current or more recent figures. We know sexual invective was a common element of Roman political life and no one seems to have taken it particularly literally. It was like exchanges in the House of Commons between politicians who may respect each other outside the Chamber. Pretty meaningless.

 

So why do we accept what Suetonius says without critical assessment, and why do we repeat it so readily? Are we really that immature that we find it tittilating?

 

Graves perpetuated the stories because he was writing witty, ironic, cleverly researched, FICTION. We should not run the risk of assuming that his portrait, or its depiction by George Baker, is true. I like Andre morell's performance very much, and I think he gets as close as one can to the real man (given changes in culture) but neither is he accurate.

 

Please don't think I am getting at you, Caldrail - but I am concerned that much of the argument for retaining unlikely myths is that without Suetonius we would have less to go on. I think Suetonius is fun, he may have had access to lost sources, but I would regard him as evidence to be used cautiously and only when we have back-up from other sources including inscriptions and archaeology as well as written ones.

 

My view remains that in a vacuum created by Tiberius complete isolation on an island, the Roman wits and his political opponents FABRICATED a story to explain things intended to denigrate and weaken the princeps. The irony - it is still working.

 

So for me no fantasy and no children.

 

Phil

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A thought occurs to me. I wondered earlier if Tiberius was getting a bit flakey in his older days. Let me suggest something. Is it not possible that Tiberius wanted some sort of private world of his own? If true, then the young girls prancing around as 'wood nymphs' weren't there to satisfy any sexual urge, they were there to populate his fantasy. It was not paedophilia, just a desire to escape rome completely. Now this is just an idea for discussion but it would naturally be the source of many of the rumours we read of today.

 

I was just thinking caldrail that your hyothetical has a strong resemblance to the

 

Michael Jackson innocent sleepover hypothesis. One which I couldnt really believe! :)

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It was only a thought. As for your comments Phil, I'm very amused at your peception of these historical characters. I'm not as completely immersed in suetonius as you think but I have to insist that he was a roman writing about romans. Now I agree he was something of a tabloid journalist and wrote every shocking thing down that came to his attention. It might be argued he was only being thorough. Your vision of these roman emperors seems very stale and ordinary. Why? Those kind of people do not generally invite the sort of rumour that you mention. Take Elagabalus as an extreme example. The guy was a transvestite wierdo who left his mum in charge while he wandered down a behavioural blind alley. Look at all the rumour he generated. Most of the julio-claudians generated the same volume. I'm not suggesting they were similar, just that these characters were far from ordinary sane citizens (if indeed the romans were ever that!)

 

These people were in positions of power. They had authority, wealth, and status, the no1 job in the empire. Everyone around them jumped when they said frog (apart from claudius...) and told them they were wonderful. No-one in those circumstances can remain unaffected. We all respond to peer appraisal with our self image and esteem. Look at Nero. He was almost coming to believe he was Apollo personified. Caligula thought he could treat everyone as his personal plaything, and augustus stood on everything that moved. Our own john major used to be a prime minister of england. He was so ordinary wasn't he? Now he's almost forgotten. The roman emperors were extraordinary people. Not quite suetonius I'd say, but each was a colourful individual. I simply cannot accept that Tiberius was an ordinary person who wanted a country retreat. He was further down the road than that.

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As usual Caldrail, your view of the world - and clearly your judgement of men - differs from mine. So be it.

 

Phil

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Its based on my experience of human beings, most of whom aren't what they like to present as their public image. The romans were no diffeent.

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