The quantity and quality of the archaeological material excavated from the site of Thonis-Heracleion show that this city had known a time of opulence and a peak in its occupation from the 6th to the 4th century BC.This is readily seen in the large quantity of coins and ceramics dated to this period.A good way into his reign Tiberius abandoned Rome, (some say shirking his imperial responsibilities), soon after losing his two sons, Drusus and Germaniscus and he never returned, making his home in his now famous villa in Capri.Interestingly, as a young man he had also retired from life and went to Rhodes to live as a recluse – he was clearly not one for human company.
Its name was almost razed from the memory of mankind, only preserved in ancient classic texts and rare inscriptions found on land by archaeologists.
The villa at Sperlonga had been in Tiberius’s family for several generations: it belonged to Marcus Aufidius (or Alfidius) Lurco, the grandfather of Livia, the Emperor’s mother who was originally from the nearby town of Fondi.
There is direct evidence from the ancient Roman historian Suetonius of a near fatal accident in the grotto of the villa, although the author seems to confuse Sperlonga with the nearby town of Terracina: “But after being bereft of both his sons,— Germanicus had died in Syria and Drusus at Rome,— he retired to Campania, and almost everyone firmly believed and openly declared that he would never come back, but would soon die there.
Adopted by the Emperor Augustus, it was uncharitably suggested at the time that Augustus’ gesture served merely to give greater dignity and resonance to his own reign by following it with that of Tiberius – which was sure to be a disaster by comparison.
Tiberius’s early reign was characterised by a certain diffidence on his part, expecting the Senate to run the country without his having to interfere continually.