14-37 AD: Tiberius

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (public domain)


Augustus’ successor Tiberius convicts speech crime offenders to death and burns the entire works of seditious writers. In 23 CE, the poet Aelius Saturninus is hurled to death from the Capitol Hill for “reciting improper verses about the emperor”. Two years later, the historian Cremutius Cordus is convicted of treason for calling Caesar’s assassins, Brutus and Cassius, “the last of the Romans”.


According to the historian Suetonius:

“Every crime was treated as capital, even the utterance of a few simple words. A poet was charged with having slandered Agamemnon in a tragedy, and a writer of history of having called Brutus and Cassius the last of the Romans. The writers were at once put to death and their works destroyed”
– Suetonius: The Life of Tiberius 61.2