In 12 BC, the Roman emperor Augustus forced his stepson Tiberius to divorce his pregnant wife Vipsania, whom he loved. Tiberius became second in command of the Roman Empire.

Six years later, Tiberius resigned and left Rome, sailing to the island of Rhodes - a short distance from where Vipsania was living with her new husband.

What happened next?

And how did Tiberius become emperor after all?

"Vipsania: A Roman Odyssey" tells what happened - and what might have happened.

A tale of love and power based on historical fact.


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Background for the Novel

What romantically inclined reader isn't intrigued by these lines from the Roman historian Suetonius?

"Tiberius married Vipsania Agrippina, the daughter of Marcus Agrippa and the grand-daughter of Caecilius Atticus, the Roman knight to whom Cicero's letters were addressed. After Tiberius had acknowledged as his own the son Drusus that she bore him, although she was a good match for him and was pregnant once again, he was forced to divorce her without delay and to marry Julia, the daughter of Augustus. This caused no small anguish in his heart, both because he was fixed in his devotion to Vipsania and because he disapproved of Julia's conduct - having perceived along with everyone else that she was lusting after him when she was still married to her previous husband. But after the divorce he was grief-stricken over having parted with Vipsania. On one occasion, he caught sight of her and followed her with such eager, tear-filled eyes that a watch was set up to ensure that she would never come into his view again."

(Suetonius, Tiberius VII, 2-3, translation by James R. Burns)

Vipsania: A Roman Odyssey assumes that the devotion Tiberius felt for his first wife never died and weaves a tale based on the following facts:

  • Tiberius separated from Julia shortly after their marriage and he never remarried.
  • To the astonishment of the Roman world, Tiberius resigned his position as second man in the empire and retired to Rhodes - just off the coast of the Roman province of Asia - IN THE VERY SAME YEAR (6 BC) that Vipsania's new husband became governor of that province. (At this time, governor's wives generally accompanied their husbands to their posts.)
  • Vipsania died just a few days after her son by Tiberius celebrated an ovation in Rome and only a few months after he became heir to the throne.
  • Seven months after Vipsania's death, Tiberius left Rome and retired to Campania "to recover his health."
  • Vipsania was posthumously restored to the imperial family and honored in monuments to it throughout the empire. It is even possible that she was depicted on coins issued in her son's name (see my article).
  • Unaccountably, ten years after Vipsania's death, Tiberius imprisoned her second husband and began the execution of men he had known thirty years before during his days on Rhodes. These included his host on the island and two Roman knights who had lived with him there.

Vipsania: A Roman Odyssey is a character study of Tiberius and Vipsania - and a vigorous yarn that just might be true. If so, it would explain much about Tiberius' character and behavior as emperor. But whether this saga of Tiberius and Vipsania's enduring love is true or not, the author believes it makes a lively, entertaining, and thought-provoking read.

Readers' Comments:

"...This is an intriguing book built around a number of recorded historical facts."


Brad Eden
Historical Novels Review Online
November, 2006

"...I really liked this book. The one criticism I have for Mr. Burns is that the book was far too short. I would have liked several of the scenes between Tiberius and Vipsania described in more detail and the character of Vipsania fleshed out a bit more. Overall, a very good story. I can see this book being made into a movie or a mini-series even."

"...a very entertaining, highly readable story. I enjoyed your book so much that I just hated to put it down. I have recommended it to several people and feel very lucky to have read it... I like the short chapters, the dialogue, the descriptions and just the general tone of your work. I enjoyed the 'possible answers to the puzzles of Tiberius' and do think that they rang true. I also enjoyed the afterward and was glad that you tied it all together in that way. You are a professional and my kind of writer. Thanks so much for offering this book... I'm glad I didn't miss it."

"...I really enjoyed the book alot - nicely done and cleverly crafted within the historical record... and an easy read, to boot..."

"...you make the characters sound like we know them and their feelings, yet get across the Roman setting too. For starters, it makes me want to read more about Rome..."

"...the most important part about a novel to me is, am I interested in continuing this and do I care what happens? I think you slam-dunked that part for sure..."

"I just LOVED it! Really! It's a great love story that is very plausible... in many aspects, your novel is one of the best dramatizations of historical events related to the Julio-Claudian dynasty I've read so far... most historical novels tend to present the members of the Julio-Claudian family as either monsters showing very little emotions other than cruelty, appetite for power or uncontrolled lust for sex, or just innocent victims of politics. In your novel, you remind to us that they were people of real flesh and blood with complicated personalities, capable to have feelings as anybody else, especially to love and to be loved, and to be deeply hurt in their soul... It's a very great book!"

"...Roman history is hardly my cup of tea, but with my memories of 'I Clavdivs' to help me set the stage and envision some of the people, I kept up with the story and flew through the book once I started reading. Congrats to you for holding the interest of someone who doesn't much like to read!..."

"...I have just finished it and really enjoyed it... the three different narrators all work really well together and keep it alive..."

"…I just finished the book last night. What a great story! I really enjoyed it… I learned a lot about Roman history that I didn't know. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to read it..."

"…I could not put it down, which is the highest praise I think there is for a book… Fantastic job, you really made the characters come alive…"

"Fascinating book…"


Book details: ISBN: 0-9785495-0-3
Retail price: US $14.95
Number of pages: 232
Publisher: PIETAS Publications, Charlottesville, VA


Copyright by Jasper Burns, 2006

Above, front cover illustrations: portrait of Vipsania based on photo of a sculpture from Leptis Magna,
Libya, Tripoli Archeological Museum, Africa Italiana 8 (1941); copper coin with portrait of Gaius Asinius Gallus (courtesy Münzen & Medaillen GmbH) above copper coin of Tiberius (courtesy Freeman and Sear).

Read about my new book on the Roman Empresses - publication by Routledge pending.

Contact Jasper Burns at (Email Address)
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