Villa Jovis (Tiberius' Villa)

The ancient villa of Tiberius on the island of Capri

Villa Jovis - Palazzo di Tiberio
Follow signs from Capri's Piazzetta up Via di Botteghe (a 40 min. hike).
tel. +39-081-837-4549
Open daily 9am–1 hr. before sunset (Oct–Nov 9am–1pm)

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Villa Jovis, Capri
Villa Jovis of the Emperor Tiberius, Capri. (Photo by Psychs)
Set majestically at the top of a 977-foot sheer bluff above the sea, this is but one of 12 villas that Roman Emperor Tiberius built on his favorite island.

You can clamber around the half-decayed walls that once defined the imperial apartments, baths complex, and servant’s quarters, but none of it is in very good shape—come more for the romantic setting than the archaeology.

Built into the ruins right on the cliff's edge at what is called the Salto di Tiberio ("Tiberius' Leap") is the tiny 17th-century church of Santa Maria del Soccorso, which treats you to a great sweeping view across the Bay of Naples.

The Emperor Tiberius
The Emperor Tiberius
Rome's second emperor, Tiberius, rose to power as an army general. After 12 years on the throne, he got tired of the political infighting of Rome and semi-retired to his beloved Capri.

A gruff, dour man, he was swift in meting out punishments, prudently modest in refusing most honors during his reign, tough to get along with, second guess, or bribe, and probably a little too fond of dallying with young boys and girls.

(Reportedly, this villa had rooms frescoed pornographically so that his servants and young playthings could study the positions and, ahem, services they were to perform on the Emperor).

Tiberius spent his final 10 years throwing banquets on the island and communicating imperial decrees to the mainland by signaling with flashing lights.

A room inside the Villa Jovis on Capri
A room in the Villa Jovis, Capri. (Photo by Tyler Bell)

For centuries, we moderns have taken the famous ancient chronicler Suetonius' depiction of the Emperor as gospel truth, which is why Tiberius has gone down in history as the man who, sitting in judgment at this clifftop villa, "...ordered his victims, after prolonged and skillful torture, to be precipitated into the sea before his very eyes. Below, a company of sailors beat them with boat hooks until the life was crushed from their bodies."

However, had Suetonius lived today, he probably would have been a reporter for The National Enquirer. There is little doubt his reports were greatly exaggerated if not outright fabricated.

The worst of Tiberius' crimes were letting the empire founder a bit while he was on his island retreat, and naming his certifiably deranged nephew Caligula as heir.

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This article was written by Reid Bramblett and was last updated in March 2011. All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 2008–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett