Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors

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The Julio-Claudian Emperors

But far from simply being a way to stick it to the Senate, Caligula invited guests to dine with Incitatus and had the horse's stables made of marble, suggesting Caligula was simply mentally unstable himself. Nero ranks among the very worst of the Caesars, alongside the likes of mad Caligula, slothful Commodus, and paranoid Domitian, a figure so hated that, in many ancient Christian traditions, he is literally considered the Antichrist.

According to a notable Biblical scholar, the coming of the Beast and the number in the Book of Revelation are references to Nero. He was the man who famously "fiddled while Rome burned", an inveterate lecher, a murderous tyrant who showed little compunction in murdering his mother and who liked to use Christian martyrs as a source of illumination at night by burning them alive. Modern historians have put forward numerous theories in an attempt to explain these actions. This trip to the English Channel could have merely been a training and scouting mission. When several client kings came to Rome to pay their respects to him and argued about their nobility of descent, he allegedly cried out the Homeric line: [81] "Let there be one lord, one king.

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Caligula began appearing in public dressed as various gods and demigods such as Hercules , Mercury , Venus and Apollo. A sacred precinct was set apart for his worship at Miletus in the province of Asia and two temples were erected for worship of him in Rome.

Caligula had the heads removed from various statues of gods located across Rome and replaced them with his own. Indeed, he was represented as a sun god on Egyptian coins. Caligula's religious policy was a departure from that of his predecessors. According to Cassius Dio , living emperors could be worshipped as divine in the east and dead emperors could be worshipped as divine in Rome.

Caligula needed to quell several riots and conspiracies in the eastern territories during his reign. Aiding him in his actions was his good friend, Herod Agrippa , who became governor of the territories of Batanaea and Trachonitis after Caligula became emperor in The cause of tensions in the east was complicated, involving the spread of Greek culture , Roman Law and the rights of Jews in the empire. Caligula did not trust the prefect of Egypt, Aulus Avilius Flaccus. Flaccus had been loyal to Tiberius, had conspired against Caligula's mother and had connections with Egyptian separatists.

In 39, Agrippa accused Herod Antipas , the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea , of planning a rebellion against Roman rule with the help of Parthia.

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Herod Antipas confessed and Caligula exiled him. Agrippa was rewarded with his territories. Riots again erupted in Alexandria in 40 between Jews and Greeks. The Governor of Syria, Publius Petronius , fearing civil war if the order were carried out, delayed implementing it for nearly a year. In Rome, another statue of himself, of colossal size, was made of gilt brass for the purpose. Philo of Alexandria and Seneca the Younger , contemporaries of Caligula, describe him as an insane emperor who was self-absorbed, was angry, killed on a whim, and indulged in too much spending and sex.

While repeating the earlier stories, the later sources of Suetonius and Cassius Dio provide additional tales of insanity. They accuse Caligula of incest with his sisters, Agrippina the Younger , Drusilla , and Livilla , and say he prostituted them to other men. The validity of these accounts is debatable. In Roman political culture, insanity and sexual perversity were often presented hand-in-hand with poor government. Caligula's actions as emperor were described as being especially harsh to the Senate, to the nobility and to the equestrian order. The situation had escalated when, in 40, Caligula announced to the Senate that he planned to leave Rome permanently and to move to Alexandria in Egypt, where he hoped to be worshiped as a living god.

The prospect of Rome losing its emperor and thus its political power was the final straw for many. Such a move would have left both the Senate and the Praetorian Guard powerless to stop Caligula's repression and debauchery. With this in mind Chaerea convinced his fellow conspirators, who included Marcus Vinicius and Lucius Annius Vinicianus , to put their plot into action quickly.

According to Josephus, Chaerea had political motivations for the assassination.

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On 22 January 41 Suetonius gives the date as 24 January , Cassius Chaerea and other guardsmen accosted Caligula as he addressed an acting troupe of young men beneath the palace, during a series of games and dramatics being held for the Divine Augustus. The Germanic guard, stricken with grief and rage, responded with a rampaging attack on the assassins, conspirators, innocent senators and bystanders alike.

The cryptoporticus underground corridor beneath the imperial palaces on the Palatine Hill where this event took place was discovered by archaeologists in The senate attempted to use Caligula's death as an opportunity to restore the Republic. After a soldier, Gratus , found Claudius hiding behind a palace curtain, he was spirited out of the city by a sympathetic faction of the Praetorian Guard [] to their nearby camp. Claudius became emperor after procuring the support of the Praetorian Guard.

He ordered the execution of Chaerea and of any other known conspirators involved in the death of Caligula. He was buried within the Mausoleum of Augustus ; in , during the Sack of Rome , the ashes in the tomb were scattered. The facts and circumstances of Caligula's reign are mostly lost to history. Only two sources contemporary with Caligula have survived — the works of Philo and Seneca. Philo's works, On the Embassy to Gaius and Flaccus , give some details on Caligula's early reign, but mostly focus on events surrounding the Jewish population in Judea and Egypt with whom he sympathizes.

Seneca's various works give mostly scattered anecdotes on Caligula's personality. Seneca was almost put to death by Caligula in AD 39 likely due to his associations with conspirators.

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At one time, there were detailed contemporaneous histories on Caligula, but they are now lost. Additionally, the historians who wrote them are described as biased, either overly critical or praising of Caligula. A few of the contemporaneous historians are known by name.

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Fabius Rusticus and Cluvius Rufus both wrote condemning histories on Caligula that are now lost. Fabius Rusticus was a friend of Seneca who was known for historical embellishment and misrepresentation. Caligula's sister, Agrippina the Younger , wrote an autobiography that certainly included a detailed explanation of Caligula's reign, but it too is lost.

Agrippina was banished by Caligula for her connection to Marcus Lepidus , who conspired against him. Gaetulicus , a poet, produced a number of flattering writings about Caligula, but they are lost.

An Evil Who's Who of Ancient Rome

The bulk of what is known of Caligula comes from Suetonius and Cassius Dio. Suetonius wrote his history on Caligula 80 years after his death, while Cassius Dio wrote his history over years after Caligula's death. Cassius Dio's work is invaluable because it alone gives a loose chronology of Caligula's reign. A handful of other sources add a limited perspective on Caligula. Josephus gives a detailed description of Caligula's assassination. Tacitus provides some information on Caligula's life under Tiberius. In a now lost portion of his Annals , Tacitus gave a detailed history of Caligula.

Pliny the Elder 's Natural History has a few brief references to Caligula.

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There are few surviving sources on Caligula and none of them paints Caligula in a favourable light. The paucity of sources has resulted in significant gaps in modern knowledge of the reign of Caligula. Little is written on the first two years of Caligula's reign. Additionally, there are only limited details on later significant events, such as the annexation of Mauretania , Caligula's military actions in Britannia , and his feud with the Roman Senate.

All surviving sources, except Pliny the Elder , characterize Caligula as insane. However, it is not known whether they are speaking figuratively or literally.


Additionally, given Caligula's unpopularity among the surviving sources, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Recent sources are divided in attempting to ascribe a medical reason for his behavior, citing as possibilities encephalitis , epilepsy or meningitis. Philo of Alexandria , Josephus and Seneca state that Caligula was insane, but describe this madness as a personality trait that came through experience.

Suetonius said that Caligula suffered from "falling sickness", or epilepsy , when he was young. On physical appearance and health, Suetonius described Caligula as sickly-looking, skinny and pale: "he was tall, very pale, ill-shaped, his neck and legs very slender, his eyes and temples hollow, his brows broad and knit, his hair thin, and the crown of the head bald.

The other parts of his body were much covered with hair He was crazy both in body and mind, being subject, when a boy, to the falling sickness. When he arrived at the age of manhood he endured fatigue tolerably well; but still, occasionally, he was liable to a faintness, during which he remained incapable of any effort". Some modern historians think that Caligula suffered from hyperthyroidism.

On 17 January , police in Nemi , Italy, announced that they believed they had discovered the site of Caligula's burial, after arresting a thief caught smuggling a statue which they believed to be of the emperor.

Nero: Rome’s Antichrist

Caligula was also the force behind many public works, and the remains of one of the most important, the Claudian Aqueduct, can be seen near the Caelian and Palatine Hills in central Rome, or in the Parco degli Acquedotti. He kicked his second wife, Poppaea, to death when she was pregnant with their second child.

When saw a young boy who looked like Poppaea, he married him, forced him to dress as a woman, and had him castrated. He also killed his own mother… and there were rumors their relationship had been much more than mother-son. Compared to all that, the fact that Nero climbed a stage and sang not fiddled! But when the cost of rebuilding the city led Nero to extreme methods, like having rich men name him as their heir and then forcing them to commit suicide, the people had had it.

Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors
Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors
Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors
Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors
Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors
Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors
Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors
Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors Caligula & Nero: Rome’s Worst Emperors

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