Tuesday, 16 August 2005

Tiberius and Freedom of Speech


Tiberius

The Emperor Tiberius is not known for his support of democratic values. However, Suetonius has an interesting, if not amusing account of his attitude to people who said bad things about him or his family.

He was, moreover, quite unperturbed by abuse, slander, or lampoons on himself and his family and would often say that liberty to speak and think as one pleases is the test of a free country. When the Senate asked that those who had offended in this way should be brought to book, he replied: 'We cannot spare the time to undertake any such new enterprise. Open that window and you will let in such a rush of denunciations as to waste your whole working day; everyone will take this opportunity of airing some private feud.' A remarkably modest statement of his is recorded in the 'Proceedings of the Senate': 'If So-and-so challenges me, I shall lay before you a careful account of what I have said and done; if that does not satisfy him, I shall reciprocate his dislike of me.'

10 comments:

Light said...

I think it's notable that the treason trials:

A - Are only reported in detail by the chroniclers who had just survived Domitian's paranoia, and

B - Only started in Tiberius' reign once Sejanus, and then Macro, had insinuated themselves as his de facto Prime Minister.


But you know me; I'll stand up for the crazy old bastard on pretty much any topic...

Alterior said...

Heh heh, am starting to think you were Tiberius in a past life! :-))))

Light said...

Heh. I just think the guy gets a raw deal from History. But then, I have to confess my own bias; I've got unlimited reserves of pity for him and the upbringing he endured.

That, and his incredibly dry sense of humour appeals greatly to me!

Alterior said...

:-) I am already making assumptions about you.. :-)))

Light said...

Heh. Well, in my defence I would say this; no-one can read the account of his accidentally running into Vipsania and remain unmoved.

If you can, you're made of stone!

Alterior said...

I was not making bad assumptions about you - they were all good. You have obviously researched him very well and I admire that.
Anyone who knows me can assure you that I am not made of stone but am in fact very emotional.
:-)

Light said...

Heh. I assumed any bad assumptions would be based on my getting pissed with lenin last month!

Alterior said...

Ah, but lenin only told me good things about you! :-))) When you back down in London?

Light said...

Lord alone knows; I was down there with work last time, and I'm not due down for a while. Might be October or thereabouts. Rest assured, lenin will be told when I'm gonna be in the vicinity!

Alterior said...

Yes, I know, you were texting him yesterday. :-)))

See you soon then! :-)))