Tiberius on Capri
Villa Iovis on Capri

High atop the easternmost crag of the mountainous island of Capri (ancient Capreae) in the Bay of Naples are the ruins of the largest of the twelve villas built by Tiberius during the eleven years that he lived on this island; the villas were named after the Olympian gods, and the highest and grandest was naturally named the Villa of Jupiter (Villa Iovis). The main reason Tiberius made his residence here was apparently his increasingly paranoid fear of assassination, since it was easy to control access to the emperor on this tiny island with its sheer cliffs. Moreover, his prickly personality and lack of social graces made Tiberius uncomfortable in society, and here he could associate only with a small number of carefully chosen companions. Doubtless Sejanus, the prefect of the Praetorian Guard, encouraged this isolation of Tiberius because of the power it gave him, since he was able to serve as the conduit by which Tiberius communicated with the Senate in Rome and they with him.

However, there were many lurid rumors about Tiberius's behavior while he lived in such splendid isolation. The gossipy imperial biographer, Suetonius, writes “Having found seclusion at last, and no longer feeling himself under public scrutiny, he rapidly succumbed to all the vicious passions which he had for a long time tried, not very successfully, to disguise” (Tiberius 42) and proceeds to give a “faithful account” of these vices in graphic detail. The scene below is allegedly the spot that Suetonius describes as “execution point”: “In Capreae they still show the place at the cliff top where Tiberius used to watch his victims being thrown into the sea after prolonged and exquisite tortures” (Tiberius 62, translated by Robert Graves).

"execution point"

This image shows the steep cliffs of “execution point” viewed from the sea below.

cliffs below Villa Iovis
Barbara F. McManus
Close this window when finished.