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Queensland, Australia
I'm an Australian author of Contemporary Romance, Romantic Action/Adventure, and Historical fiction. I live in Queensland, Australia. www.noelleclark.net

Thursday, November 14, 2013

If these walls could talk - inside the Blue Grotto

Villa Jovis photo from http://www.capri.net
The Emperor Tiberius ruled the Roman Empire from the island of Capri for 10 years between 27 and 37 AD.  The reclusive and unconventional Tiberius loved the seclusion and mild climate the island offered, and built 12 villas there. His main residence was Villa Jovis, which stood atop the second highest mountain on the island, on the edge of a 1000 foot high cliff. It was an impregnable fortress, offering Tiberius safety and privacy.

It seems Tiberius frequented the famous Blue Grotto, or Grotta Azzurra, and had a quay carved from rock inside it, enabling him to indulge in his fondness for bathing in the other-worldly blue waters. It’s also said he built a marine nymphaeum, where he indulged in another passion – swimming naked with young boys and girls. Tiberius, from all accounts, was a depraved individual who held orgies of unorthodox sexual practices in several of the grottoes that dot the waterline around Capri.
In AD 121, Suetonius wrote De Vita Caesarum  - The Twelve Caesars. Although considered a primary source of Roman history, Suetonius had his critics, many questioning the truth of some of his claims. Suetonius has painted a picture of Tiberius which some scholars today say may not be true. But one only has to look at the paintings, statues, and other relics in Capri to see that he was probably close to the truth.

Suetonius graphically describes some of the lurid and debauched behaviour perpetrated by Tiberius on all who happened to cross his path. Not just sexual deviance, but murder and cruelty. At Villa Jovis, there is a ledge atop the cliff which is apparently where he would have people pushed to their death, merely on his whim.
This extract – a translation from the Latin – shows just how depraved Tiberius was, and it doesn’t take too much imagination to see what went on in his Blue Grotto nymphaeum.

“After retiring to Capri, where he had a private pleasure palace built, many young men and women trained in sexual practices were brought there for his pleasure, and would have sex in groups in front of him. Some rooms were furnished with pornography and sex manuals from Egypt - which let the people there know what was expected of them. Tiberius also created lechery nooks in the woods and had girls and boys dressed as nymphs and Pans prostitute themselves in the open. Some of the things he did are hard to believe. He had little boys trained as minnows to chase him when he went swimming and to get between his legs and nibble him.”  (Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum , XLIII,XLIV)

Painting from http://www.artvalue.com/auctionresult--italian-school-20-italy-the-emperor-tiberius-caesar-au-1901797.htm
For all his wayward and decadent behaviour, Tiberius was also a lover of the finer things in life. He gathered the best architects and craftsmen and set them to work creating complex and massive edifices which allowed him to play his games in luxury.
A statue of Neptune recovered from the Blue Grotto
As recently as 2012, researchers discovered several plinths and statue bases nearly 500 feet
underwater, on the floor of the Blue Grotto.  The number and positions of the bases suggests that there were many statues decorating the grotto. In 1964, archaeologists recovered three statues from the floor of the Blue Grotto – one of the sea god Neptune, and the others were of Triton. Considering seven statue bases in all have been found, experts are confident that another four statues have yet to be discovered.

Boats waiting to enter the small cave opening
Whilst local Caprese fishermen have always known about the existence of the Blue Grotto, it wasn’t until 1826 that the rest of the world heard about it. Two Germans, a writer and a painter visiting Capri, found the small, metre-high opening to the cave by chance.

The wonder of the Blue Grotto, is that it has remained so pristine over the centuries.

No one who visits can ever adequately describe the magical blue light within the cave, caused when sunlight enters the small underwater aperture and is then refracted through the water. The white sandy bottom of the cave reflects the light, producing a vivid blue hue. Any object that is dipped in the water turns silver white. Small fissures in the rock walls emanate a mysterious silver light, adding to the surreal beauty of the grotto.

The Blue Grotto is today one of the most magical of places I've ever been.
Rosamanti - out on November 29th


  1. Well, doll, the wall might not be talking as such, they don't need to with this great post. Amazing story. Especially the finding the place by chance bit.

  2. Thanks Shey. It really is an amazing place.