Friday, 15 July 2005

Tiberius, Orgies and Debauchery


Tiberius

Suetonius has alot to tell us of Tiberius's sexual appetites. (The faint-hearted and sensitive should not read on).


"On retiring to Capri he devised a pleasance for his secret orgies: teams of wantons of both sexes, selected as experts in deviant intercourse and dubbed analists, copulated before him in triple unions to excite his flagging passions. Its bedrooms were furnished with the most salacious paintings and sculptures, as well as with an erotic library, in case a performer should need an illustration of what was required. Then in Capri's woods and groves he arranged a number of nooks of venery where boys and girls got up as Pans and nymphs solicited outside bowers and grottoes: people openly called this "the old goat's garden," punning on the island's name.
He acquired a reputation for still grosser depravities that one can hardly bear to tell or be told, let alone believe. For example, he trained little boys (whom he termed tiddlers) to crawl between his thighs when he went swimming and tease him with their licks and nibbles; and unweaned babies he would put to his organ as though to the breast, being by both nature and age rather fond of this form of satisfaction. Left a painting of Parrhasius's depicting Atalanta pleasuring Meleager with her lips on condition that if the theme displeased him he was to have a million sesterces instead, he chose to keep it and actually hung it in his bedroom. The story is also told that once at a sacrifice, attracted by the acolyte's beauty, he lost control of himself and, hardly waiting for the ceremony to end, rushed him off and debauched him and his brother, the flute-player, too; and subsequently, when they complained of the assault, he had their legs broken. "

5 comments:

Light said...

Whilst I've no doubt that Tiberius was a phenominally dirty old goat, I would caution taking Suetonius at his word. Mainly he's recycling the old slanders dating from the time of Tiberius' absence from Rome. But (if I've got my chronology right) Suetonius also made many criticisms of Tiberius that were in fact criticisms of Domitian. The political situation in Rome prevented him from stating this, so he drew the parallel with Tiberius.

Again though, I must stress; I don't doubt he was a filthy old man. I just have my doubts as to the truth of a lot of the more lurid tales.

Alterior said...

It is wise to have doubts with historical accounts that are not easily verified. :-)

Light said...

Absolutely. I think that's why I have such a hard time with Egyptian History. I read a book about the early kingdom the other day; what a waste of time! We know sod all about 'em other than the dimensions of their pyramids! Very useful if you're thinking of a career in Archaeological Architecture, sod all use to anyone who actually wants to know what has happened...

Yet I also read of other books that, with the slimmest of evidence, try to say "This is what happened!". Damned annoying...

Anonymous said...

Suetonius is an ancient hack writer, vomitting nonsense and half truths blended with truths and calls them fact.
Tiberius was an outstanding roman, who spent his entire life serving the state. His retirement to capri was with a handful of old friends and intellectuals...
I wish, i wish, old suetonius's work had been swallowed by a fish.

David said...

It's hard to know how much was true, but the consistent nature of the stories suggests there may be some truth in them.

While Tiberius seemed to derive his greatest pleasure from molesting children, grown women weren't safe either. When Malonia, a high-ranking Roman woman, was summoned to his bed chamber, she killed herself rather than face "that stinking hairy foul-mouthed old man".