Detective in ancient Roman style, or How Emperor Tiberius solved the crime

Detective in ancient Roman style, or How Emperor Tiberius solved the crime

Categories: History

In ancient Rome there was no such thing as an investigator or detective. Any crime was investigated in court and, as a rule, the one who had a better reputation and more convincing arguments won the case. Few people were interested in evidence and witnesses. But there were exceptions. The Roman Emperor Tiberius once took up a real investigation and restored justice.

Detective in ancient Roman style, or How Emperor Tiberius solved the crime

In 24 AD, trouble struck the family of the patrician Lucius Apronius. His only daughter Apronia fell out of the window and died. It was a very strange death, not at all like suicide. The deceased was a quite prosperous and happy noble lady. The unfortunate woman's body was broken and mutilated. At the same time, no one heard the screams that almost always accompany such falls.

Detective in ancient Roman style, or How Emperor Tiberius solved the crime

The father of the deceased, Lucius Apronius, was a big man in Rome. Like most aristocrats of that time, he glorified his name in military campaigns. The man fought in Germany and Dalmatia, suppressed the uprising in Illyricum and participated in many smaller campaigns. For his military valor, the emperor allowed Lucius Apronius to wear triumphal regalia, and this was a great honor.

Lucius chose the talented young lawyer Marcus Plautius Silvanus as his daughter's husband. He was not particularly rich or famous, but had a good reputation in his field. With the help of his father-in-law, Mark quickly rose to the rank of praetor, which at that time was considered a brilliant career.

Detective in ancient Roman style, or How Emperor Tiberius solved the crime

The wife of praetor Marcus Plautius fell from the window of his house in the dead of night. The lawyer himself, according to him, was fast asleep at that time. Heartbroken, Lucius immediately accused his son-in-law of the murder. There was no evidence, but, as we have already said, this was not the main thing at that time. The patrician thirsted for revenge and therefore went straight to Emperor Tiberius, with whom he was on short terms.

Tiberius received the visitor and listened to him. But not everything was so simple. The emperor knew Lucius well, but the suspect Silvanus was also well known to him. Mark's grandmother Urgulania was once the best friend of the emperor's mother. Therefore, it was impossible to cut from the shoulder and Tiberius wanted to understand this matter.

Detective in ancient Roman style, or How Emperor Tiberius solved the crime

Excitement descended on the emperor and he decided to investigate the mysterious death of Apronia and get to the truth. Tiberius, of course, had no experience. Back then there was no forensic science at all and everything had to be invented from scratch. The emperor loved riddles, mysterious stories and inexplicable phenomena, which Pliny the Elder even wrote about in his Natural History.

Tiberius was not only the first criminologist. He can also be considered the founder of paleontology. He collected fossils, and once even made a cast of the tooth of a prehistoric megalodon shark himself. And the inquisitive monarch often wandered along the seashore after a storm, looking for mysterious creatures washed ashore.

Detective in ancient Roman style, or How Emperor Tiberius solved the crime

As befits an eccentric intellectual, Tiberius was grumpy, distrustful and loved to drink from the bottle. We can say that his character fits perfectly with the image of a private detective from a noir detective story. The emperor climbed into the palanquin and went to inspect the crime scene. As expected, he wandered through the rooms of Silvan’s villa, leaned out of the ill-fated window and stomped around for a long time in the courtyard, at the site of the death of unfortunate Apronia.

Important little things, of which there turned out to be many, did not escape the eyes of the novice detective. A fresh chip on the wall by the window, a torn curtain, missing furniture that was broken and taken to another room. Everything indicated that there was a struggle in the room. It is strange that Praetor Silvanus, occupying one of the highest legal positions in the empire, did not bother to hide the evidence.

Tiberius was not too lazy to turn to people’s rumors. He quickly learned that there were rumors on the streets of Rome that the praetor had seduced his own son. After this, a clear picture began to emerge. Apronia found out about violence against a minor child and started an unpleasant conversation. Fearing publicity, Silvan beat his wife and then threw him out of the window.

Detective in ancient Roman style, or How Emperor Tiberius solved the crime

The crime was discovered and the killer should have been punished immediately. But this was not at all in the spirit of that time. Tiberius summoned the praetor to the Senate for a hearing as a suspect. But Mark did not live to see the trial. That same grandmother Urgulania sent him a dagger with a servant so that her grandson could wash away the shame with blood. But Silvan turned out to be cowardly and could not commit suicide. He had to ask a servant to cut the veins on his wrists.

Thus ended the first detective story in history. As we can see, everything in it was according to the canons of the genre. A meticulous private detective, searching for evidence, rumors, exposure and an attempt to save the honor of the family.

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