Tiberius: Was he always a monster... or was he made one?
Classical Wisdom Litterae Magazine
Dear Classical Wisdom Members,
At times we like to simplify history. This can be forgiven easily enough; there is so much of it, after all, it’s nearly impossible to take everything in.
As such, complex events are reduced to neat timelines, multiple narratives are combined or excluded, and multifaceted characters are flattened and hastily separated into the childish categories of hero or villain, good or bad.
While this sketchy view of history has its practical necessities, allowing for grand overviews and basic frameworks, it also creates numerous problems.
The first should, hopefully, be obvious. It’s simply less true... and what we should always be after is the truth.
Consequently, we learn less from these historical summaries, both in regards to the events themselves, but also in what they tell us about human nature, universalities, and the significance of these discoveries.
This problem multiples when we try to take history’s lessons and apply them to our modern life. If you want to compare our current leaders, events and empires to ancient ones - and all that that implies - you should better well know what that ancient history was in the first place!
And so it was with that exact idea in mind that we decided on this month’s issue... dedicated to the often glossed over, but regularly compared, second emperor of Rome. Not a mere footnote in history, a second fiddle to the ever impressive Augustus, Tiberius was hugely impactful and much more complicated than most like to think.
Was he always the monster he’s made out to be or was he forced to become one?
Let’s look past his ‘evil’ branding for one moment in search of truth, whatever it may be...
In this month’s Classical Wisdom Litterae magazine, exclusively for our Society Members, we’ll ask, what was his mother like? His wife? His brother? His biographer? His number two? By looking at those around the infamous man, can we try to understand this essential historical person… and get to the bottom of who he really was?
We’ll begin with the initial question in the article below: Was he a great emperor or monster? It is a good clear overview and introduction to the subsequent ‘nuts and bolts’ in the magazine...
Classical Wisdom Members: please note that you can access this full magazine after the article to learn more about Tiberius, the captivating characters surrounding him, as well as an extremely fascinating moment in ancient Roman history.
[Not a member? Subscribe here and enjoy all our resources, including the full article and magazine below. Choose the best plan for you here.]
All the best,
Founder and Director
Tiberius: Great Emperor or Monster?
By Edward Whelan
Tiberius (42 BC –37 AD) was the second Roman Emperor and one of its greatest. He was a brilliant general, and yet, nowadays he is remembered as a gloomy tyrant who was very cruel.
Clearly, Tiberius was a very complex man and to this day he is something of an enigma.
The Early Life of Tiberius
The future Emperor was born to Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla of the ancient Claudian family. His father was a supporter of the Optimates and was opposed to the increasing power of Octavian (late Augustus). He was forced with his wife to flee for his life from the anger of Augustus but was eventually pardoned.
However, when Augustus saw Livia he fell in love with her, despite the fact that she was pregnant with her husband’s child. The first Emperor forced Tiberius’ father to divorce his mother.
The young Tiberius was at first raised by his father, but after he died, he went to live in the home of his Stepfather Augustus. The strange family circumstances of the young Tiberius are blamed by many for his gloomy and suspicious temper.
Tiberius’ Early Career
Augustus was very concerned about having an heir...
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Classical Wisdom to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.