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Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar (November 16, 42 BC – March 16, 37 AD) was a Roman emperor (14 AD – 37 AD) and general.



  • Quem maxime casum timens, partes sibi quas senatui liberet, tuendas in re p[ublica]. depoposcit, quando universae sufficere solus nemo posset nisi cum altero vel etiam cum pluribus.
    • Fear of this possibility in particular led Tiberius to ask the senate for any part in the administration that it might please them to assign him, saying that no one man could bear the whole burden without a colleague, or even several colleagues.
    • Variant translation (by Robert Graves): "Pray assign me any part in the government you please; but remember that no single man can bear the whole burden of Empire — I need a colleague, or perhaps several colleagues."
    • From Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, ch. 25
  • In civitate libera linguam mentemque liberas esse debere (jactabat).
    • In a free state there should be freedom of speech and thought.
    • Variant translation: In a free state, both the tongue and the mind ought to be free.
    • From Suetonius, The Twelves Caesars, ch. 28
  • Siquidem locutus aliter fuerit, dabo operam ut rationem factorum meorum dictorumque reddam; si perseveraverit, in vicem eum odero.
    • 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.
    • From Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, ch. 28
  • Dixi et nunc et saepe alias, p[atres]. c[onscripti]., bonum et salutarem principem, quem vos tanta et tam libera potestate instruxistis, senatui servire debere et universis civibus saepe et plerumque etiam singulis; neque id dixisse me paenitet, et bono et aequos et faventes vos habui dominos et adhuc habeo.
    • Let me repeat, gentlemen, that a right-minded and true-hearted statesman who has had as much sovereign power placed in his hands as you have placed in mine should regard himself as the servant of the Senate; and often of the people as a whole; and sometimes of private citizens, too. I do not regret this view, because I have always found you to be generous, just, and indulgent masters.
    • Variant translation: Conscript Fathers, I have often said it both now and at other times, that a good and useful prince, whom you have invested with so great and absolute power, ought to be a slave to the senate, to the whole body of the people, and often to individuals likewise: nor am I sorry that I have said it. I have always found you good, kind, and indulgent masters, and still find you so.
    • To the Senate, from Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, ch.29
  • Quid scribam vobis, p[atres]. c[onscripti]., aut quo modo scribam, aut quid omnino non scribam hoc tempore, dii me deaeque peius perdant quam cotidie perire sentio, si scio.
    • My Lords, if I know what to tell you, or how to tell it, or what to leave altogether untold for the present, may all the gods and goddesses in Heaven bring me to an even worse damnation than I now daily suffer!
    • Variant translation: What to write to you, Conscript Fathers, or how to write, or what not to write at this time, may all the gods and goddesses pour upon my head a more terrible vengeance than that under which I feel myself daily sinking, if I can tell.
    • Letter to the Senate, from Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, ch. 67 (cf. Tacitus, Annals, VI 6.1.)
  • As soon as the funeral of Augustus was over, a temple and divine worship were forthwith decreed him. The Senate then turned their instant supplications to Tiberius, to fill his vacant place; but received an abstruse answer, touching the greatness of the Empire and his own distrust of himself; he said that "nothing but the divine genius of Augustus was equal to the mighty task: that for himself, who had been called by him into a participation of his cares, he had learnt by feeling them, what a daring, what a difficult toil was that of government, and how perpetually subject to the caprices of fortune: that in a State supported by so many illustrious patriots they ought not to cast the whole administration upon one; and more easy to be administered were the several offices of the Government by the united pains and sufficiency of many."
    • The Annals of Tacitus - Book 1
  • Towards Livia, too, exorbitant was the flattering court of the Senate. Some were for decreeing her the general title of Mother; others the more particular one of Mother Of Her Country; and almost all moved, that to the name of Tiberius should be added, The Son Of Julia: Tiberius urged in answer, that "public honours to women ought to be warily adjudged, and with a sparing hand; and that with the same measure of moderation he would receive such as were presented to himself."
    • The Annals of Tacitus - Book 1

Indirect quotations

  • Praesidibus onerandas tributo provincias suadentibus rescripsit boni pastoris esse tondere pecus non deglubere.
    • To the governors who recommended burdensome taxes for his provinces, he [Tiberius] wrote in answer that it was the part of a good shepherd to shear his flock, not skin it.
      • From Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, III. Tiberius, Ch. 32; translation by J. C. Rolfe
      • Latter component of the quotation often paraphrased as Boni pastoris est tondere pecus non deglubere.

About Tiberius

  • Indeed, he was never without it; for he had raised beds made in frames upon wheels, by means of which the cucumbers were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with mirrorstone.
  • If Gods are made in the image of men, cosmogonies reflect the forms of terrestrial states. In an empire ruled absolutely by one man the notion of an universe under the control of a single God seemed obvious and reasonable.... The Christian God was a magnified and somewhat flattering portrait of Tiberius and Caligula.
    • Aldous Huxley, One and Many. Also quoted in Ram Swarup, On Hinduism: Reviews and Reflections (2000), Ch. 5
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