Capri is a small island very close to Naples – and especially Sorrento. Just some 25 minutes ferry trip. Capri is famous about many things but especially “blue cave” and Villa Jovis. It has also a long and influencial history. Roman emperor Tiberius ruled Rome from Capri during his last part of reign. Villa was completed at AD 27 and from that time to his death (AD 37) he lived mainly in Capri. Villa complex is located northeast of the island on monte Tiberio high above sea level (334 m). When you look around Capri it is not difficult to understand why he wanted to retire there away from Rome. Sceneries are so beautiful and the small island long enough from mainland to give emperor a nice and peacefull surroundings. Of course these days island is full of tourists.
Complex of Villa Jovis
Tacitus says that there were several villas but villa Jovis was the most magnificient one. Buildings of the villa were in different levels in total height of 40 m and whole complex took space about 7000 m2. There were several terraces and long staircases and high walls – so the building was really majestetic in its time. Nice piece for Roman architecture!
Because villa was used both for living and administrative use, it had several purposes. Nort part of building was used as living quarters and south together with east wing for administarion and reception of guests. West side of villa offered nice scenery with open walls to Anacapri. Because villa was located so high, the only option to get fresh water was to gather rain water to water tanks. In the southern part of villa complex there was a tower which probably was used to send signs to mainland – maybe with smoke. Because villa was located very high, it took about two kilometers to get there by walking uphill. Too bad! But probably Tiberius was carried with lectica by his slaves – so no problem for him!
Emperor Tiberius and his time in villa
We know that there have been many stories why Tiberius moved to Capri. It’s not far away to say that he was not very keen on being emperor – it was not natural for him like it was to Augustus. Because all natural relatives of Augustus died young (one can ask why), Augustus finally made Tiberius as his successor. Probably because of Tiberius mother Livia, who was also wife of Augustus. But Tiberius did not like his fellow Roman people and he hated politics. First of all he was a Roman soldier and a commander. He proved to be a good commander in wars against Germanic tribes. But when he became as an emperor in dubious circumstances he proved to be not so nice emperor. He feared assasination and his relatives, because they were more popular than him in peoples eyes. Like young Germanicus – son of his younger Brother – who was loved by Romans. And maybe because of that Germanicus died very young for poison.
There have been toughts that when Tiberius had to divorce from his loved wife, he turned to be a bitter person. This happened when was younger because Augustus ordered so – maybe it was will of his mother Livia. This could be the reason why he turned to be a bad person. Maybe he was dissapointed to life. As an emperor he did many bad things like persecuted his relatives and maybe the worst thing was that he left Rome and stayed in Capri. In Rome his praetorian prefect Sejanus ruled in the name of Tiberius and did bad things. Finally Tiberius understood situation and he destroyed Sejanus. But then he named Galicula to his successor which give us some thoughts. Did he want to left all power to a man that was even worse than him, so that he would be remembered as a better man in posterity?
But when Tiberius lived in Capri last ten years of his life, there were bad rumours about his activities in that island. Suetonius writes a picture of an old man, who did many discusting things wtihout any inhibitions. Was Suetonius right – who knows. But anywhere Capri was an isolated island, where Tiberius would have been able to do anything he liked. Also because villa was very heavily guarded. So probably he spent lustful life because as an emperor everything was possible for him. But I wonder what Augustus would have said about that? He would have been very dissapointed to his wifes son…
After Tiberius was dead Senate did not want to honour him and Roman mob shouted “To the Tiber with Tiberius” because they hated him. So Tiberius was cremated in silence and his ashes were laid in peace into Augustus mausoleum. And world went further…
Villa on high hill on easter side of Capri. It’s easy to see why Tiberius chose Capri. It is nearly impossible to conquer because of steep clifs. There everything was in his control – otherway than in Rome.