Saturday, November 2, 2013

Imperial Rome Part 3: 3rd Emperor Caligula- The Man Who Lost His Mind

My other blogs are:

3rd Emperor Caligula
The Man Who Lost His Mind
Imperial Rome Part 3
GENERAL BACKGROUND: Gaius (Caligula) Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus... Yes, later in his life that whole thing became his name. Romans liked long names and fancy titles attached to them. His original name was Gaius Germanicus, and in the fashion of all Roman dictators, he just had to add the Julius Caesar Augustus to nail down the head. Being born in the Julio-Claudian dynasty (Nero's family!), it is understandable that he went insane. After all, wouldn't you feel like you had ants in your pants if one of your relatives celebrated at parties by hanging Christians by their feet on fire for candlelight? That whole family just had issues, and Octavian was the first fruit loop, although he never really went insane.
BIRTH AND ADOPTION: Born in A.D. 12, Gaius Germanicus, nicknamed Caligula in his youth, was the adopted son of his "father" Tiberius, the Augustus of the Roman Empire after Octavian died because Tiberius' real son Julius Caesar Drusus was generally not favored by him. Generally speaking, Augustus Tiberius seemed to do well with the Roman public and the senate, but like all Roman emperors, didn't always get along with the stodgy senate of old men and stiff rules. The senate never seemed to be anything more than a noose around all the emperors' throats throughout Roman history, even going so far as to assassinate emperors they didn't like or had conflicts with (Julius Caesar being the prime example). This made it important not to aggravate them too much, because although they were old and stodgy politicians, they knew how to deal with sassy emperors!
TIBERIUS AND CALIGULA-- B.F.F. !!! : Playing it safe for the early years, Tiberius (the new Roman Princeps) kept the senate fat and happy, however, Caligula used this time to show his own abilities while his adoptive father reigned. A great example of Caligula's youthful zeal and ability was when there was an uprising in the soldiers in Germania and Pannonia. When the soldiers' bonuses did not come in as promised, they all mutinied. Germanicus and Drusus were sent to quell the little rebellion by force, however, little Caligula had a better idea, and instead rallied the legions that rebelled, promising all riches from the Rhine all the way to the Elba if they stamped out the Germans there. And they did! Parts of Germania became occupied just before A.D. 17 and Caligula was celebrated for his obvious abilities and good leadership, and in A.D. 18 he was granted power over the eastern parts of the Roman Empire.
Tiberius on his deathbed about to be smothered by his new best friend Naevius
Tiberius became caught up in a little power struggle against Sejanus who attempted to covertly wrest power from Tiberius in his absence, to which Tiberius had him executed. This was a no-no, for the Romans simply never responded in such ways as to kill each other. This tarnished Tiberius' reputation with the public to such an extent that in A.D. 37 Naevius Sutorius Macro along with the Roman senate decided that Tiberius deserved to die. While he was in bed recovering, he was smothered. No one mourned his death, and some even celebrated his passing. In accordance with traditions, Caligula rose to the throne in A.D. 37 to reign as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.
This picture about sums up
Caligula's reign
Literally reigning for only 4 years, Caligula was said by countless sources to have suddenly realized the true scope of his authority after being made emperor, and he endlessly pushed the limits of that authority, testing the senate and all the things he was capable of doing in his new position. Conspiracy plots, assassinations, and cover ups were so commonplace with Caligula that the vast majority of sources label him as insane for just about every little thing he did. However, what made him become considered as unanimously insane in most historians' eyes was his outlandish behavior. He committed incest with his sisters regularly and was sexually perverse even by Roman standards, he lived extravagantly, was excessively cruel and murdered people on a whim, he tried to make his horse a consul, and he was generally seen as crazed or feverish in his actions, perhaps similar to Julius Caesar being seen as hyperactive (it is said he was ADHD or something). Call him what you will, there is so little evidence capable of explaining why Caligula was painted as a madman-- although the paranoia and locking himself away in a fortress in fear of assassination probably didn't help his case much...and then there's the incest and wanting to make his horse a consul...did I mention to outlandish cruelty, murder, and paranoia? I didn't? Ok, well, he was constantly paranoid with wild conspiracies of assassination plots from the senate since he broke all traditions and basically laughed in their faces. BUT aside from that, I couldn't imagine why he was labeled as insane...
Caligula was a fruit loop almost from beginning to end. He discovered within 2 years of his reign just how powerful he was, and then he spent his remaining 2 years abusing his power in the fullest. In A.D. 41, Caligula was the first Roman emperor to ever be assassinated in a conspiracy involving the Praetorian Guard, the senate, and the imperial court. Not even the plotters against Julius Caesar boasted such a unanimous will to end one man's life, as only the senate was involved in Julius' death. It seems that not a single soul wasn't in on Caligula's murder plot, though. Regardless of the wild opinions and the unbiased journals of historians of his time-- whatever Caligula did must have been awful, for his assassination involved the courts, the senate, and the Imagine our president being plotted against by the U.S. military generals, the supreme court and by the vice president, and then when he is killed the entire country celebrates. I really can't imagine this ever happening in America, but these incidents happened several times each century throughout Roman history. For your convenience, below I have made a comprehensive list of all insane, tyrannical or evil rulers in Roman history from its humble beginnings on Palatine Hill to the end:

1) ALL

It's a big list, but I think I got the main ones down for ya.

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