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There is direct evidence from the ancient Roman historian Suetonius of a near fatal accident in the grotto of the villa, although the author seems to confuse Sperlonga with the nearby town of Terracina: “But after being bereft of both his sons,— Germanicus had died in Syria and Drusus at Rome,— he retired to Campania, and almost everyone firmly believed and openly declared that he would never come back, but would soon die there.
And both predictions were all but fulfilled; for he did not return again to Rome, and it chanced a few days later that as he was dining near Tarracina in a villa called the Grotto, many huge rocks fell from the ceiling and crushed a number of the guests and servants, while the emperor himself had a narrow escape”.
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Sperlonga is just a few hundred kilometres south of Rome, between the towns of Gaeta and Terracina.
The Emperor Tiberius chose this site for his summer residence: a beautiful natural setting right on the sea.
Tiberius’s early reign was characterised by a certain diffidence on his part, expecting the Senate to run the country without his having to interfere continually.
He wanted to appear as a servant of the state and not as an emperor.
His reluctance to participate merely led to confusion and mis-communication between him and the Senate.
A good way into his reign Tiberius abandoned Rome, (some say shirking his imperial responsibilities), soon after losing his two sons, Drusus and Germaniscus and he never returned, making his home in his now famous villa in Capri.
A circular pool (diameter 21.90m.) was dug out in the centre of the grotto and featured a Scylla sculpture mounted on a square base in the middle.
This pool was then extended 30m towards the north-west (and the sea) in a rectangular shape.
Once again according to Suetonius: He acquired a reputation for still grosser depravities that one can hardly bear to tell or be told, let alone believe.