Charles Dickens shuddered at his memory, calling him a ‘deified beast’. Tacitus and Seutonius portrayed him as a monster, steeped in vice and guilty of atrocious cruelty. Yet Pliny called him the saddest of all men, and the German historian Mommsen thought him the most capable of emperors. Tiberius is an enigma – a great general and a prudent ruler who abruptly withdrew from the seat of power to live his last years on Capri – years which Tacitus depicted as a reign of horror. Yet to the end, Tiberius remained a conscientious and capable administrator. Now Tiberius speaks for himself, through the author: recounting the story of his life, brooding on the relationship with his mother Livia and his stepfather Augustus, his two wives, his protégé Sejanus and younger members of the Imperial family. The result is a portrait of a withdrawn, secretive man driven by duty rather than love of power.