Freedom of conscience and free speech: an invention of the modern world. Right?

Posted on Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 at 11:38
Bust of Tiberius

Bust of Tiberius. (Photo by Chris Nyborg)

Tiberius (Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus), November 16, 42 BC – March 16, AD 37, was the 2nd Emperor of the Roman Empire, and reigned from 14 AD to 37 AD.


He was, moreover, quite unperturbed by abuse, slander, or lampoons on himself and his family, and would often say that liberty to speak and think as one pleases is the test of a free country. When the Senate asked that those who had offended in this way should be brought to book, he replied: ‘We cannot spare the time to undertake any such new enterprise. Open that window, and you will let in such a rush of denunciations as to waste your whole working day; everyone will take this opportunity of airing some private feud.’ A remarkably modest statement of his is recorded in the Proceedings of the Senate: ‘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.’1


1 Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, trans. Robert Graves, London: The Folio Society, 1964, pp. 126.

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