While notoriously debauched Roman emperors such as Caligula, Nero, and Heliogabalus, are better known because of their ostentatiously bizarre behavior and public displays of sexual deviancy, the Roman emperor Tiberius (42 BC – 37 AD, reigned 14 – 37 AD), while not as out of control insane as the aforementioned trio, matched and likely exceeded them in perversion. He just preferred to be a pervert in relative privacy and seclusion, rather than put it all out on public display.
Unlike Rome’s other notoriously perverse rulers, Caligula, Nero, and Heliogabalus, who ascended the throne as teenagers or immature young men and went crazy with the sudden power, Tiberius came to the throne as a mature middle-aged man approaching old age – he was in his mid-50s when he succeeded Augustus as Roman emperor in 14 AD. As such, he was not driven by youthful passions and the need to engage in ostentatious displays to shock and attract attention – behavior which would have run against his personality, anyhow, since even as a young man, Tiberius was taciturn, withdrawn, and introverted.
Instead, Tiberius built himself a vast pleasure palace and compound, secluded on the island of Capri. There, he wallowed in all kinds of sexual perversions, most notably pedophilia with children of both sexes. Among other things, he had toddlers trained to dive underwater while he was in a pool to “nibble” at him as he swam – he called them his “minnows”.
He also had pleasure gardens stocked with teenaged and prepubescent boys and girls, dressed in outfits from Greco-Roman myths and legends or running around naked, to frolic about, display themselves for his pleasure, and engage in sex on command with each other – as he grew older, Tiberius grew increasingly impotent, and so was often reduced to being a spectator in the perversions acted out for his pleasure.
Inside his palaces and villas, he had walls covered with erotic or explicitly pornographic paintings and murals of all kinds of sexual activity, from the routine to the shockingly depraved. The artwork served as a menu, and when Tiberius wanted to cut to the chase, all he had to do was point at a particular painting to communicate what he wanted done.
He even had anal experts on the imperial payroll: “On retiring to Capri he devised a pleasance for his secret orgies: teams of wantons of both sexes, selected as experts in deviant intercourse and dubbed analists, copulated before him in triple unions to excite his flagging passions.” To top it off, he got blowjobs from babies: “Unweaned babies he would put to his organ as though to the breast, being by both nature and age rather fond of this form of satisfaction.”
Tiberius was probably the dirtiest and seediest old man to have ever ruled Rome, and if perversion was a contest, he could make a credible challenge for the title of history’s most perverted ruler, ever.