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Caligula’s stupidity

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Malcolm McDowell as Caligula (1979 film "Caligula")
Malcolm McDowell as Caligula (1979 film "Caligula")

Caligula, known for his madness and unreasonable rule, was the third emperor of Rome. We know about his pranks and unbelievable ideas thanks to the account of historians for whom he appeared to be a tyrant and opponent of the senate.

According to Roman historians in November 37 CE Caligula underwent a serious illness that changed his behaviour. The young, calm and promising emperor turned into a madman, who without any scruples ordered to kill people for any reason and gave senseless orders.

For example, one of his decisions was to ban talking about goats in his company. Any failure to comply with this restriction was punished with death. As it turns out, Caligula was often the object of jokes because of his appearance: he was tall and pale; moreover, he was balding, and his body was full of hair.

His next idea was to consider himself a living deity. To this end, he had a bridge built between his palace and the Temple of Jupiter, so that the “gods” could easily visit each other. What’s more, in the public documentation Caligula appeared as Jupiter, and walked around the city dressed as Hercules, Mercury, Apollo or Venus. In addition, many statues of Roman deities lost their heads, and in their place was put image of Caligula.

Caligula’s other idea was to declare war to Poseidon. He ordered his soldiers to go to the beach and stab the sea and waves with swords and throw spears at them. Then the legionaries, at the behest of the ruler, began to collect shells that were spoils of war and which were to be transported to the Capitol.

Eventually, Caligula’s madness ended as a result of a plot of Cassius Cherea – a high-ranking officer. The emperor laughed at his high, feminine voice at every turn, which clearly did not suit his powerful, athletic posture. Because of mocking he paid with his life.

  • The Madness of Caligula, "Ancient-Origins", 29 September 2014

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