Ancient World

Tiberius and His Age: Myth, Sex, Luxury, and Power

    Edited by
  • Robert Kaster

A radical new portrait of the infamous Roman emperor


Published (US):
Nov 5, 2024
Published (UK):
Jan 7, 2025
6.12 x 9.25 in.
Ancient World
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Rome’s second emperor, Tiberius (42 BCE–CE 37), has traditionally been seen as a villainous hypocrite—treacherous, grasping, vindictive, and depraved. But in Tiberius and His Age, Edward Champlin draws on vast and diverse evidence to show that Tiberius was—and was seen by contemporaries to be—recognizably human and far more complex than the monster of the hostile tradition that began with Tacitus and Suetonius.

Focusing on the overlapping themes of luxury, sex, power, and, especially, myth, Tiberius and His Age examines Tiberius’s standing as a folkloric figure in the Roman popular imagination and his conscious use of mythological themes to consolidate his power. It argues that the striking stories of Tiberius’s sexual depravity, which literary sources passed on to later generations, are ultimately incoherent fictions, the work of a brilliant fantasist who hated the emperor. The book’s portraits of three important figures in Tiberius’s circle—the gourmands Asellius Sabinus and Marcus Apicius and the emperor’s lieutenant, Sejanus—provide new perspectives on the emperor and his age. Tiberius’s passions for astrology, gastronomy, and mythology, which have often been seen as eccentric scholarly diversions, are revealed instead to be central to contemporary Roman debates and keys to understanding his personality, his power, and the lasting image of Roman emperors.

Incisive, witty, and original, Tiberius and His Age presents a startlingly new picture of Tiberius and the culture and politics of the early Roman Empire.