Caius Caesar Caligula (From The Lives of the Twelve Caesars)

By C. Suetonius Tranquillus


I. Germanicus, the father of Caius Caesar, and son of Drusus and the
younger Antonia, was, after his adoption by Tiberius, his uncle,
preferred to the quaestorship [377] five years before he had attained the
legal age, and immediately upon the expiration of that office, to the
consulship [378]. Having been sent to the army in Germany, he restored
order among the legions, who, upon the news of Augustus’s death,
obstinately refused to acknowledge Tiberius as emperor [379], and offered
to place him at the head of the state. In which affair it is difficult
to say, whether his regard to filial duty, or the firmness of his
resolution, was most conspicuous. Soon afterwards he defeated the enemy,
and obtained the honours of a triumph. Being then made consul for the
second time [380], before he could enter upon his office he was obliged
to set out suddenly for the east, where, after he had conquered the king
of Armenia, and reduced Cappadocia into the form of a province, he died
at Antioch, of a lingering distemper, in the thirty-fourth year of his
age [381], not without the suspicion of being poisoned. For besides the
livid spots which appeared all over his body, and a foaming at the mouth;
when his corpse was burnt, the heart was found entire among the bones;
its nature being such, as it is supposed, that when tainted by poison, it
is indestructible by fire. [382]

II. It was a prevailing opinion, that he was taken off by the
contrivance of Tiberius, and through the means of Cneius Piso. This
person, who was about the same time prefect of Syria, and made no secret
of his position being such, that (252) he must either offend the father
or the son, loaded Germanicus, even during his sickness, with the most
unbounded and scurrilous abuse, both by word and deed; for which, upon
his return to Rome, he narrowly escaped being torn to pieces by the
people, and was condemned to death by the senate.

III. It is generally agreed, that Germanicus possessed all the noblest
endowments of body and mind in a higher degree than had ever before
fallen to the lot of any man; a handsome person, extraordinary courage,
great proficiency in eloquence and other branches of learning, both Greek
and Roman; besides a singular humanity, and a behaviour so engaging, as
to captivate the affections of all about him. The slenderness of his
legs did not correspond with the symmetry and beauty of his person in
other respects; but this defect was at length corrected by his habit of
riding after meals. In battle, he often engaged and slew an enemy in
single combat. He pleaded causes, even after he had the honour of a
triumph. Among other fruits of his studies, he left behind him some
Greek comedies. Both at home and abroad he always conducted himself in a
manner the most unassuming. On entering any free and confederate town,
he never would be attended by his lictors. Whenever he heard, in his
travels, of the tombs of illustrious men, he made offerings over them to
the infernal deities. He gave a common grave, under a mound of earth, to
the scattered relics of the legionaries slain under Varus, and was the
first to put his hand to the work of collecting and bringing them to the
place of burial. He was so extremely mild and gentle to his enemies,
whoever they were, or on what account soever they bore him enmity, that,
although Piso rescinded his decrees, and for a long time severely
harassed his dependents, he never showed the smallest resentment, until
he found himself attacked by magical charms and imprecations; and even
then the only steps he took was to renounce all friendship with him,
according to ancient custom, and to exhort his servants to avenge his
death, if any thing untoward should befall him.

IV. He reaped the fruit of his noble qualities in abundance, being so
much esteemed and beloved by his friends, that Augustus (to say nothing
of his other relations) being a long time in doubt, whether he should not
appoint him his successor, at last ordered Tiberius to adopt him. He was
so extremely popular, that many authors tell us, the crowds of those who
went to meet him upon his coming to any place, or to attend him at his
departure, were so prodigious, that he was sometimes in danger of his
life; and that upon his return from Germany, after he had quelled the
mutiny in the army there, all the cohorts of the pretorian guards marched
out to meet him, notwithstanding the order that only two should go; and
that all the people of Rome, both men and women, of every age, sex, and
rank, flocked as far as the twentieth milestone to attend his entrance.

V. At the time of his death, however, and afterwards, they displayed
still greater and stronger proofs of their extraordinary attachment to
him. The day on which he died, stones were thrown at the temples, the
altars of the gods demolished, the household gods, in some cases, thrown
into the streets, and new-born infants exposed. It is even said that
barbarous nations, both those engaged in intestine wars, and those in
hostilities against us, all agreed to a cessation of arms, as if they had
been mourning for some very near and common friend; that some petty kings
shaved their beards and their wives’ heads, in token of their extreme
sorrow; and that the king of kings [383] forbore his exercise of hunting
and feasting with his nobles, which, amongst the Parthians, is equivalent
to a cessation of all business in a time of public mourning with us.

VI. At Rome, upon the first news of his sickness, the city was thrown
into great consternation and grief, waiting impatiently for farther
intelligence; when suddenly, in the evening, a report, without any
certain author, was spread, that he was recovered; upon which the people
flocked with torches (254) and victims to the Capitol, and were in such
haste to pay the vows they had made for his recovery, that they almost
broke open the doors. Tiberius was roused from out of his sleep with the
noise of the people congratulating one another, and singing about the

Salva Roma, salva patria, salvus est Germanicus.
Rome is safe, our country safe, for our Germanicus is safe.

But when certain intelligence of his death arrived, the mourning of the
people could neither be assuaged by consolation, nor restrained by
edicts, and it continued during the holidays in the month of December.
The atrocities of the subsequent times contributed much to the glory of
Germanicus, and the endearment of his memory; all people supposing, and
with reason, that the fear and awe of him had laid a restraint upon the
cruelty of Tiberius, which broke out soon afterwards.

VII. Germanicus married Agrippina, the daughter of Marcus Agrippa and
Julia, by whom he had nine children, two of whom died in their infancy,
and another a few years after; a sprightly boy, whose effigy, in the
character of a Cupid, Livia set up in the temple of Venus in the Capitol.
Augustus also placed another statue of him in his bed-chamber, and used
to kiss it as often as he entered the apartment. The rest survived their
father; three daughters, Agrippina, Drusilla, and Livilla, who were born
in three successive years; and as many sons, Nero, Drusus, and Caius
Caesar. Nero and Drusus, at the accusation of Tiberius, were declared
public enemies.

VIII. Caius Caesar was born on the day before the calends [31st August] of September, at the time his father and Caius Fonteius Capito were
consuls [384]. But where he was born, is rendered uncertain from the
number of places which are said to have given him birth. Cneius Lentulus
Gaetulicus [385] says that he was born at Tibur; Pliny the younger, in
the country of the Treviri, at a village called Ambiatinus, above
Confluentes [386]; and he alleges, as a proof of it, that altars are
there shown with this inscription: “For Agrippina’s child-birth.” Some
verses which were published in his reign, intimate that he was born in
the winter quarters of the legions,

In castris natus, patriis nutritius in armis,
Jam designati principis omen erat.

Born in the camp, and train’d in every toil
Which taught his sire the haughtiest foes to foil;
Destin’d he seem’d by fate to raise his name,
And rule the empire with Augustan fame.

I find in the public registers that he was born at Antium. Pliny charges
Gaetulicus as guilty of an arrant forgery, merely to soothe the vanity of
a conceited young prince, by giving him the lustre of being born in a
city sacred to Hercules; and says that he advanced this false assertion
with the more assurance, because, the year before the birth of Caius,
Germanicus had a son of the same name born at Tibur; concerning whose
amiable childhood and premature death I have already spoken [387]. Dates
clearly prove that Pliny is mistaken; for the writers of Augustus’s
history all agree, that Germanicus, at the expiration of his consulship,
was sent into Gaul, after the birth of Caius. Nor will the inscription
upon the altar serve to establish Pliny’s opinion; because Agrippina was
delivered of two daughters in that country, and any child-birth, without
regard to sex, is called puerperium, as the ancients were used to call
girls puerae, and boys puelli. There is also extant a letter written by
Augustus, a few months before his death, to his granddaughter Agrippina,
about the same Caius (for there was then no other child of hers living
under that name). He writes as follows: “I gave orders yesterday for
Talarius and Asellius to set out on their journey towards you, if the
gods permit, with your child Caius, upon the fifteenth of the calends of
June [18th May]. I also send with him a physician of mine, and I wrote
to Germanicus that he may retain him if he pleases. Farewell, my dear
Agrippina, and take what care you can to (256) come safe and well to your
Germanicus.” I imagine it is sufficiently evident that Caius could not
be born at a place to which he was carried from The City when almost two
years old. The same considerations must likewise invalidate the evidence
of the verses, and the rather, because the author is unknown. The only
authority, therefore, upon which we can depend in this matter, is that of
the acts, and the public register; especially as he always preferred
Antium to every other place of retirement, and entertained for it all
that fondness which is commonly attached to one’s native soil. It is
said, too, that, upon his growing weary of the city, he designed to have
transferred thither the seat of empire.

IX. It was to the jokes of the soldiers in the camp that he owed the
name of Caligula [388], he having been brought up among them in the dress
of a common soldier. How much his education amongst them recommended him
to their favour and affection, was sufficiently apparent in the mutiny
upon the death of Augustus, when the mere sight of him appeased their
fury, though it had risen to a great height. For they persisted in it,
until they observed that he was sent away to a neighbouring city [389],
to secure him against all danger. Then, at last, they began to relent,
and, stopping the chariot in which he was conveyed, earnestly deprecated
the odium to which such a proceeding would expose them.

X. He likewise attended his father in his expedition to Syria. After
his return, he lived first with his mother, and, when she was banished,
with his great-grandmother, Livia Augusta, in praise of whom, after her
decease, though then only a boy, he pronounced a funeral oration in the
Rostra. He was then transferred to the family of his grandmother,
Antonia, and afterwards, in the twentieth year of his age, being called
by Tiberius to Capri, he in one and the same day assumed the manly habit,
and shaved his beard, but without receiving any of the honours which had
been paid to his brothers on a similar (257) occasion. While he remained
in that island, many insidious artifices were practised, to extort from
him complaints against Tiberius, but by his circumspection he avoided
falling into the snare [390]. He affected to take no more notice of the
ill-treatment of his relations, than if nothing had befallen them. With
regard to his own sufferings, he seemed utterly insensible of them, and
behaved with such obsequiousness to his grandfather [391] and all about
him, that it was justly said of him, “There never was a better servant,
nor a worse master.”

XI. But he could not even then conceal his natural disposition to
cruelty and lewdness. He delighted in witnessing the infliction of
punishments, and frequented taverns and bawdy-houses in the night-time,
disguised in a periwig and a long coat; and was passionately addicted to
the theatrical arts of singing and dancing. All these levities Tiberius
readily connived at, in hopes that they might perhaps correct the
roughness of his temper, which the sagacious old man so well understood,
that he often said, “That Caius was destined to be the ruin of himself
and all mankind; and that he was rearing a hydra [392] for the people of
Rome, and a Phaeton for all the world.” [393]

XII. Not long afterwards, he married Junia Claudilla, the daughter of
Marcus Silanus, a man of the highest rank. Being then chosen augur in
the room of his brother Drusus, before he could be inaugurated he was
advanced to the pontificate, with no small commendation of his dutiful
behaviour, and great capacity. The situation of the court likewise was
at this time favourable to his fortunes, as it was now left destitute of
support, Sejanus being suspected, and soon afterwards taken off; and he
was by degrees flattered with the hope of succeeding Tiberius in the
empire. In order more effectually to secure this object, upon Junia’s
dying in child-bed, he engaged in a criminal commerce with Ennia Naevia,
the wife (258) of Macro, at that time prefect of the pretorian cohorts;
promising to marry her if he became emperor, to which he bound himself,
not only by an oath, but by a written obligation under his hand. Having
by her means insinuated himself into Macro’s favour, some are of opinion
that he attempted to poison Tiberius, and ordered his ring to be taken
from him, before the breath was out of his body; and that, because he
seemed to hold it fast, he caused a pillow to be thrown upon him [394],
squeezing him by the throat, at the same time, with his own hand. One of
his freedmen crying out at this horrid barbarity, he was immediately
crucified. These circumstances are far from being improbable, as some
authors relate that, afterwards, though he did not acknowledge his having
a hand in the death of Tiberius, yet he frankly declared that he had
formerly entertained such a design; and as a proof of his affection for
his relations, he would frequently boast, “That, to revenge the death of
his mother and brothers, he had entered the chamber of Tiberius, when he
was asleep, with a poniard, but being seized with a fit of compassion,
threw it away, and retired; and that Tiberius, though aware of his
intention, durst not make any inquiries, or attempt revenge.”

XIII. Having thus secured the imperial power, he fulfilled by his
elevation the wish of the Roman people, I may venture to say, of all
mankind; for he had long been the object of expectation and desire to the
greater part of the provincials and soldiers, who had known him when a
child; and to the whole people of Rome, from their affection for the
memory of Germanicus, his father, and compassion for the family almost
entirely destroyed. Upon his moving from Misenum, therefore, although he
was in mourning, and following the corpse of Tiberius, he had to walk
amidst altars, victims, and lighted torches, with prodigious crowds of
people everywhere attending him, in transports of joy, and calling him,
besides other auspicious names, by those of “their star,” “their chick,”
“their pretty puppet,” and “bantling.”

XIV. Immediately on his entering the city, by the joint acclamations of
the senate, and people, who broke into the senate-house, Tiberius’s will
was set aside, it having left his (259) other grandson [395], then a
minor, coheir with him, the whole government and administration of
affairs was placed in his hands; so much to the joy and satisfaction of
the public, that, in less than three months after, above a hundred and
sixty thousand victims are said to have been offered in sacrifice. Upon
his going, a few days afterwards, to the nearest islands on the coast of
Campania [396], vows were made for his safe return; every person
emulously testifying their care and concern for his safety. And when he
fell ill, the people hung about the Palatium all night long; some vowed,
in public handbills, to risk their lives in the combats of the
amphitheatre, and others to lay them down, for his recovery. To this
extraordinary love entertained for him by his countrymen, was added an
uncommon regard by foreign nations. Even Artabanus, king of the
Parthians, who had always manifested hatred and contempt for Tiberius,
solicited his friendship; came to hold a conference with his consular
lieutenant, and passing the Euphrates, paid the highest honours to the
eagles, the Roman standards, and the images of the Caesars. [397]

XV. Caligula himself inflamed this devotion, by practising all the arts
of popularity. After he had delivered, with floods of tears, a speech in
praise of Tiberius, and buried him with the utmost pomp, he immediately
hastened over to Pandataria and the Pontian islands [398], to bring
thence the ashes of his mother and brother; and, to testify the great
regard he had for their memory, he performed the voyage in a very
tempestuous season. He approached their remains with profound
veneration, and deposited them in the urns with his own hands. Having
brought them in grand solemnity to Ostia [399], with an ensign flying in
the stern of the galley, and thence up the Tiber to Rome, they were borne
by persons of the first distinction in the equestrian order, on two
biers, into the mausoleum [400], (260) at noon-day. He appointed yearly
offerings to be solemnly and publicly celebrated to their memory, besides
Circensian games to that of his mother, and a chariot with her image to
be included in the procession [401]. The month of September he called
Germanicus, in honour of his father. By a single decree of the senate,
he heaped upon his grandmother, Antonia, all the honours which had been
ever conferred on the empress Livia. His uncle, Claudius, who till then
continued in the equestrian order, he took for his colleague in the
consulship. He adopted his brother, Tiberius [402], on the day he took
upon him the manly habit, and conferred upon him the title of “Prince of
the Youths.” As for his sisters, he ordered these words to be added to
the oaths of allegiance to himself: “Nor will I hold myself or my own
children more dear than I do Caius and his sisters:” [403] and commanded
all resolutions proposed by the consuls in the senate to be prefaced
thus: “May what we are going to do, prove fortunate and happy to Caius
Caesar and his sisters.” With the like popularity he restored all those
who had been condemned and banished, and granted an act of indemnity
against all impeachments and past offences. To relieve the informers and
witnesses against his mother and brothers from all apprehension, he
brought the records of their trials into the forum, and there burnt them,
calling loudly on the gods to witness that he had not read or handled
them. A memorial which was offered him relative to his own security, he
would not receive, declaring, “that he had done nothing to make any one
his enemy:” and said, at the same time, “he had no ears for informers.”

XVI. The Spintriae, those panderers to unnatural lusts [404], he
banished from the city, being prevailed upon not to throw them (261) into
the sea, as he had intended. The writings of Titus Labienus, Cordus
Cremutius, and Cassius Severus, which had been suppressed by an act of
the senate, he permitted to be drawn from obscurity, and universally
read; observing, “that it would be for his own advantage to have the
transactions of former times delivered to posterity.” He published
accounts of the proceedings of the government–a practice which had been
introduced by Augustus, but discontinued by Tiberius [405]. He granted
the magistrates a full and free jurisdiction, without any appeal to
himself. He made a very strict and exact review of the Roman knights,
but conducted it with moderation; publicly depriving of his horse every
knight who lay under the stigma of any thing base and dishonourable; but
passing over the names of those knights who were only guilty of venial
faults, in calling over the list of the order. To lighten the labours of
the judges, he added a fifth class to the former four. He attempted
likewise to restore to the people their ancient right of voting in the
choice of magistrates [406]. He paid very honourably, and without any
dispute, the legacies left by Tiberius in his will, though it had been
set aside; as likewise those left by the will of Livia Augusta, which
Tiberius had annulled. He remitted the hundredth penny, due to the
government in all auctions throughout Italy. He made up to many their
losses sustained by fire; and when he restored their kingdoms to any
princes, he likewise allowed them all the arrears of the taxes and
revenues which had accrued in the interval; as in the case of Antiochus
of Comagene, where the confiscation would have amounted to a hundred
millions of sesterces. To prove to the world that he was ready to
encourage good examples of every kind, he gave to a freed-woman eighty
thousand sesterces, for not discovering a crime committed by her patron,
though she had been put to exquisite torture for that purpose. For all
these acts of beneficence, amongst other honours, a golden shield was
decreed to him, which the colleges of priests were to carry annually,
upon a fixed day, into the Capitol, with the senate attending, and the
youth of the nobility, of both sexes, celebrating the praise of his
virtues in (262) songs. It was likewise ordained, that the day on which
he succeeded to the empire should be called Palilia, in token of the
city’s being at that time, as it were, new founded. [407]

XVII. He held the consulship four times; the first [408], from the
calends [the first] of July for two months: the second [409], from the
calends of January for thirty days; the third [410], until the ides [the
13th] of January; and the fourth [411], until the seventh of the same
ides [7th January]. Of these, the two last he held successively. The
third he assumed by his sole authority at Lyons; not, as some are of
opinion, from arrogance or neglect of rules; but because, at that
distance, it was impossible for him to know that his colleague had died a
little before the beginning of the new year. He twice distributed to the
people a bounty of three hundred sesterces a man, and as often gave a
splendid feast to the senate and the equestrian order, with their wives
and children. In the latter, he presented to the men forensic garments,
and to the women and children purple scarfs. To make a perpetual
addition to the public joy for ever, he added to the Saturnalia [412] one
day, which he called Juvenalis [the juvenile feast].

XVIII. He exhibited some combats of gladiators, either in the
amphitheatre of Taurus [413], or in the Septa, with which he intermingled
troops of the best pugilists from Campania and Africa. He did not always
preside in person upon those occasions, but sometimes gave a commission
to magistrates or friends to supply his place. He frequently entertained
the people with stage-plays (263) of various kinds, and in several parts
of the city, and sometimes by night, when he caused the whole city to be
lighted. He likewise gave various things to be scrambled for among the
people, and distributed to every man a basket of bread with other
victuals. Upon this occasion, he sent his own share to a Roman knight,
who was seated opposite to him, and was enjoying himself by eating
heartily. To a senator, who was doing the same, he sent an appointment
of praetor-extraordinary. He likewise exhibited a great number of
Circensian games from morning until night; intermixed with the hunting of
wild beasts from Africa, or the Trojan exhibition. Some of these games
were celebrated with peculiar circumstances; the Circus being overspread
with vermilion and chrysolite; and none drove in the chariot races who
were not of the senatorian order. For some of these he suddenly gave the
signal, when, upon his viewing from the Gelotiana [414] the preparations
in the Circus, he was asked to do so by a few persons in the neighbouring

XIX. He invented besides a new kind of spectacle, such as had never been
heard of before. For he made a bridge, of about three miles and a half
in length, from Baiae to the mole of Puteoli [415], collecting trading
vessels from all quarters, mooring them in two rows by their anchors, and
spreading earth upon them to form a viaduct, after the fashion of the
Appian Way [416]. This bridge he crossed and recrossed for two days
together; the first day mounted on a horse richly caparisoned, wearing on
his head a crown of oak leaves, armed with a battle-axe, a Spanish
buckler and a sword, and in a cloak made of cloth of gold; the day
following, in the habit of a charioteer, standing in a chariot, drawn by
two high-bred horses, having with him a young boy, Darius by name, one of
the Parthian hostages, with a cohort of the pretorian guards attending
him, and a (264) party of his friends in cars of Gaulish make [417].
Most people, I know, are of opinion, that this bridge was designed by
Caius, in imitation of Xerxes, who, to the astonishment of the world,
laid a bridge over the Hellespont, which is somewhat narrower than the
distance betwixt Baiae and Puteoli. Others, however, thought that he did
it to strike terror in Germany and Britain, which he was upon the point
of invading, by the fame of some prodigious work. But for myself, when I
was a boy, I heard my grandfather say [418], that the reason assigned by
some courtiers who were in habits of the greatest intimacy with him, was
this; when Tiberius was in some anxiety about the nomination of a
successor, and rather inclined to pitch upon his grandson, Thrasyllus the
astrologer had assured him, “That Caius would no more be emperor, than he
would ride on horseback across the gulf of Baiae.”

XX. He likewise exhibited public diversions in Sicily, Grecian games at
Syracuse, and Attic plays at Lyons in Gaul besides a contest for pre-
eminence in the Grecian and Roman eloquence; in which we are told that
such as were baffled bestowed rewards upon the best performers, and were
obliged to compose speeches in their praise: but that those who performed
the worst, were forced to blot out what they had written with a sponge or
their tongue, unless they preferred to be beaten with a rod, or plunged
over head and ears into the nearest river.

XXI. He completed the works which were left unfinished by Tiberius,
namely, the temple of Augustus, and the theatre (265) of Pompey [419].
He began, likewise, the aqueduct from the neighbourhood of Tibur [420],
and an amphitheatre near the Septa [421]; of which works, one was
completed by his successor Claudius, and the other remained as he left
it. The walls of Syracuse, which had fallen to decay by length of time,
he repaired, as he likewise did the temples of the gods. He formed plans
for rebuilding the palace of Polycrates at Samos, finishing the temple of
the Didymaean Apollo at Miletus, and building a town on a ridge of the
Alps; but, above all, for cutting through the isthmus in Achaia [422];
and even sent a centurion of the first rank to measure out the work.

XXII. Thus far we have spoken of him as a prince. What remains to be
said of him, bespeaks him rather a monster than a man. He assumed a
variety of titles, such as “Dutiful,” “The (266) Pious,” “The Child of
the Camp, the Father of the Armies,” and “The Greatest and Best Caesar.”
Upon hearing some kings, who came to the city to pay him court,
conversing together at supper, about their illustrious descent, he

Eis koiranos eto, eis basileus.
Let there be but one prince, one king.

He was strongly inclined to assume the diadem, and change the form of
government, from imperial to regal; but being told that he far exceeded
the grandeur of kings and princes, he began to arrogate to himself a
divine majesty. He ordered all the images of the gods, which were famous
either for their beauty, or the veneration paid them, among which was
that of Jupiter Olympius, to be brought from Greece, that he might take
the heads off, and put on his own. Having continued part of the Palatium
as far as the Forum, and the temple of Castor and Pollux being converted
into a kind of vestibule to his house, he often stationed himself between
the twin brothers, and so presented himself to be worshipped by all
votaries; some of whom saluted him by the name of Jupiter Latialis. He
also instituted a temple and priests, with choicest victims, in honour of
his own divinity. In his temple stood a statue of gold, the exact image
of himself, which was daily dressed in garments corresponding with those
he wore himself. The most opulent persons in the city offered themselves
as candidates for the honour of being his priests, and purchased it
successively at an immense price. The victims were flamingos, peacocks,
bustards, guinea-fowls, turkey and pheasant hens, each sacrificed on
their respective days. On nights when the moon was full, he was in the
constant habit of inviting her to his embraces and his bed. In the day-
time he talked in private to Jupiter Capitolinus; one while whispering to
him, and another turning his ear to him: sometimes he spoke aloud, and in
railing language. For he was overheard to threaten the god thus:

Hae em’ anaeir’, hae ego se; [423] Raise thou me up, or I’ll–

(267) until being at last prevailed upon by the entreaties of the god, as
he said, to take up his abode with him, he built a bridge over the temple
of the Deified Augustus, by which he joined the Palatium to the Capitol.
Afterwards, that he might be still nearer, he laid the foundations of a
new palace in the very court of the Capitol.

XXIII. He was unwilling to be thought or called the grandson of Agrippa,
because of the obscurity of his birth; and he was offended if any one,
either in prose or verse, ranked him amongst the Caesars. He said that
his mother was the fruit of an incestuous commerce, maintained by
Augustus with his daughter Julia. And not content with this vile
reflection upon the memory of Augustus, he forbad his victories at
Actium, and on the coast of Sicily, to be celebrated, as usual; affirming
that they had been most pernicious and fatal to the Roman people. He
called his grandmother Livia Augusta “Ulysses in a woman’s dress,” and
had the indecency to reflect upon her in a letter to the senate, as of
mean birth, and descended, by the mother’s side, from a grandfather who
was only one of the municipal magistrates of Fondi; whereas it is
certain, from the public records, that Aufidius Lurco held high offices
at Rome. His grandmother Antonia desiring a private conference with him,
he refused to grant it, unless Macro, the prefect of the pretorian
guards, were present. Indignities of this kind, and ill usage, were the
cause of her death; but some think he also gave her poison. Nor did he
pay the smallest respect to her memory after her death, but witnessed the
burning from his private apartment. His brother Tiberius, who had no
expectation of any violence, was suddenly dispatched by a military
tribune sent by his order for that purpose. He forced Silanus, his
father-in-law, to kill himself, by cutting his throat with a razor. The
pretext he alleged for these murders was, that the latter had not
followed him upon his putting to sea in stormy weather, but stayed behind
with the view of seizing the city, if he should perish. The other, he
said, smelt of an antidote, which he had taken to prevent his being
poisoned by him; whereas Silanus was only afraid of being sea-sick, and
the disagreeableness of a voyage; and Tiberius had merely taken a
medicine for an habitual cough, (268) which was continually growing
worse. As for his successor Claudius, he only saved him for a laughing-

XXIV. He lived in the habit of incest with all his sisters; and at
table, when much company was present, he placed each of them in turns
below him, whilst his wife reclined above him. It is believed, that he
deflowered one of them, Drusilla, before he had assumed the robe of
manhood; and was even caught in her embraces by his grandmother Antonia,
with whom they were educated together. When she was afterwards married
to Cassius Longinus, a man of consular rank, he took her from him, and
kept her constantly as if she were his lawful wife. In a fit of
sickness, he by his will appointed her heiress both of his estate and the
empire. After her death, he ordered a public mourning for her; during
which it was capital for any person to laugh, use the bath, or sup with
his parents, wife, or children. Being inconsolable under his affliction,
he went hastily, and in the night-time, from the City; going through
Campania to Syracuse, and then suddenly returned without shaving his
beard, or trimming his hair. Nor did he ever afterwards, in matters of
the greatest importance, not even in the assemblies of the people or
before the soldiers, swear any otherwise, than “By the divinity of
Drusilla.” The rest of his sisters he did not treat with so much
fondness or regard; but frequently prostituted them to his catamites. He
therefore the more readily condemned them in the case of Aemilius
Lepidus, as guilty of adultery, and privy to that conspiracy against him.
Nor did he only divulge their own hand-writing relative to the affair,
which he procured by base and lewd means, but likewise consecrated to
Mars the Avenger three swords which had been prepared to stab him, with
an inscription, setting forth the occasion of their consecration.

XXV. Whether in the marriage of his wives, in repudiating them, or
retaining them, he acted with greater infamy, it is difficult to say.
Being at the wedding of Caius Piso with Livia Orestilla, he ordered the
bride to be carried to his own house, but within a few days divorced her,
and two years after banished her; because it was thought, that upon her
divorce she returned to the embraces of her former husband. (269) Some
say, that being invited to the wedding-supper, he sent a messenger to
Piso, who sat opposite to him, in these words: “Do not be too fond with
my wife,” and that he immediately carried her off. Next day he published
a proclamation, importing, “That he had got a wife as Romulus and
Augustus had done.” [424] Lollia Paulina, who was married to a man of
consular rank in command of an army, he suddenly called from the province
where she was with her husband, upon mention being made that her
grandmother was formerly very beautiful, and married her; but he soon
afterwards parted with her, interdicting her from having ever afterwards
any commerce with man. He loved with a most passionate and constant
affection Caesonia, who was neither handsome nor young; and was besides
the mother of three daughters by another man; but a wanton of unbounded
lasciviousness. Her he would frequently exhibit to the soldiers, dressed
in a military cloak, with shield and helmet, and riding by his side. To
his friends he even showed her naked. After she had a child, he honoured
her with the title of wife; in one and the same day, declaring himself
her husband, and father of the child of which she was delivered. He
named it Julia Drusilla, and carrying it round the temples of all the
goddesses, laid it on the lap of Minerva; to whom he recommended the care
of bringing up and instructing her. He considered her as his own child
for no better reason than her savage temper, which was such even in her
infancy, that she would attack with her nails the face and eyes of the
children at play with her.

XXVI. It would be of little importance, as well as disgusting, to add to
all this an account of the manner in which he treated his relations and
friends; as Ptolemy, king Juba’s son, his cousin (for he was the grandson
of Mark Antony by his daughter Selene) [425], and especially Macro
himself, and Ennia likewise [426], by whose assistance he had obtained
the empire; all of whom, for their alliance and eminent services, he
rewarded with violent deaths. Nor was he more mild or respectful in his
behaviour towards the senate. Some who had borne the (270) highest
offices in the government, he suffered to run by his litter in their
togas for several miles together, and to attend him at supper, sometimes
at the head of his couch, sometimes at his feet, with napkins. Others of
them, after he had privately put them to death, he nevertheless continued
to send for, as if they were still alive, and after a few days pretended
that they had laid violent hands upon themselves. The consuls having
forgotten to give public notice of his birth-day, he displaced them; and
the republic was three days without any one in that high office. A
quaestor who was said to be concerned in a conspiracy against him, he
scourged severely, having first stripped off his clothes, and spread them
under the feet of the soldiers employed in the work, that they might
stand the more firm. The other orders likewise he treated with the same
insolence and violence. Being disturbed by the noise of people taking
their places at midnight in the circus, as they were to have free
admission, he drove them all away with clubs. In this tumult, above
twenty Roman knights were squeezed to death, with as many matrons, with a
great crowd besides. When stage-plays were acted, to occasion disputes
between the people and the knights, he distributed the money-tickets
sooner than usual, that the seats assigned to the knights might be all
occupied by the mob. In the spectacles of gladiators, sometimes, when
the sun was violently hot, he would order the curtains, which covered the
amphitheatre, to be drawn aside [427], and forbad any person to be let
out; withdrawing at the same time the usual apparatus for the
entertainment, and presenting wild beasts almost pined to death, the most
sorry gladiators, decrepit with age, and fit only to work the machinery,
and decent house-keepers, who were remarkable for some bodily infirmity.
Sometimes shutting up the public granaries, he would oblige the people to
starve for a while.

XXVII. He evinced the savage barbarity of his temper chiefly by the
following indications. When flesh was only to be had at a high price for
feeding his wild beasts reserved for the spectacles, he ordered that
criminals should be given them (271) to be devoured; and upon inspecting
them in a row, while he stood in the middle of the portico, without
troubling himself to examine their cases he ordered them to be dragged
away, from “bald-pate to bald-pate.” [428] Of one person who had made a
vow for his recovery to combat with a gladiator, he exacted its
performance; nor would he allow him to desist until he came off
conqueror, and after many entreaties. Another, who had vowed to give his
life for the same cause, having shrunk from the sacrifice, he delivered,
adorned as a victim, with garlands and fillets, to boys, who were to
drive him through the streets, calling on him to fulfil his vow, until he
was thrown headlong from the ramparts. After disfiguring many persons of
honourable rank, by branding them in the face with hot irons, he
condemned them to the mines, to work in repairing the high-ways, or to
fight with wild beasts; or tying them by the neck and heels, in the
manner of beasts carried to slaughter, would shut them up in cages, or
saw them asunder. Nor were these severities merely inflicted for crimes
of great enormity, but for making remarks on his public games, or for not
having sworn by the Genius of the emperor. He compelled parents to be
present at the execution of their sons; and to one who excused himself on
account of indisposition, he sent his own litter. Another he invited to
his table immediately after he had witnessed the spectacle, and coolly
challenged him to jest and be merry. He ordered the overseer of the
spectacles and wild beasts to be scourged in fetters, during several days
successively, in his own presence, and did not put him to death until he
was disgusted with the stench of his putrefied brain. He burned alive,
in the centre of the arena of the amphitheatre, the writer of a farce,
for some witty verse, which had a double meaning. A Roman knight, who
had been exposed to the wild beasts, crying out that he was innocent, he
called him back, and having had his tongue cut out, remanded him to the

XXVIII. Asking a certain person, whom he recalled after a long exile,
how he used to spend his time, he replied, with flattery, “I was always
praying the gods for what has happened, that Tiberius might die, and you
be emperor.” Concluding, therefore, that those he had himself banished
also (272) prayed for his death, he sent orders round the islands [429] to have them all put to death. Being very desirous to have a senator
torn to pieces, he employed some persons to call him a public enemy, fall
upon him as he entered the senate-house, stab him with their styles, and
deliver him to the rest to tear asunder. Nor was he satisfied, until he
saw the limbs and bowels of the man, after they had been dragged through
the streets, piled up in a heap before him.

XXIX. He aggravated his barbarous actions by language equally
outrageous. “There is nothing in my nature,” said he, “that I commend or
approve so much, as my adiatrepsia (inflexible rigour).” Upon his
grandmother Antonia’s giving him some advice, as if it was a small matter
to pay no regard to it, he said to her, “Remember that all things are
lawful for me.” When about to murder his brother, whom he suspected of
taking antidotes against poison, he said, “See then an antidote against
Caesar!” And when he banished his sisters, he told them in a menacing
tone, that he had not only islands at command, but likewise swords. One
of pretorian rank having sent several times from Anticyra [430], whither
he had gone for his health, to have his leave of absence prolonged, he
ordered him to be put to death; adding these words “Bleeding is necessary
for one that has taken hellebore so long, and found no benefit.” It was
his custom every tenth day to sign the lists of prisoners appointed for
execution; and this he called “clearing his accounts.” And having
condemned several Gauls and Greeks at one time, he exclaimed in triumph,
“I have conquered Gallograecia.” [431]

XXX. He generally prolonged the sufferings of his victims by causing
them to be inflicted by slight and frequently repeated strokes; this
being his well-known and constant order: (273) “Strike so that he may
feel himself die.” Having punished one person for another, by mistaking
his name, he said, “he deserved it quite as much.” He had frequently in
his mouth these words of the tragedian,

Oderint dum metuant. [432] I scorn their hatred, if they do but fear me.

He would often inveigh against all the senators without exception, as
clients of Sejanus, and informers against his mother and brothers,
producing the memorials which he had pretended to burn, and excusing the
cruelty of Tiberius as necessary, since it was impossible to question the
veracity of such a number of accusers [433]. He continually reproached
the whole equestrian order, as devoting themselves to nothing but acting
on the stage, and fighting as gladiators. Being incensed at the people’s
applauding a party at the Circensian games in opposition to him, he
exclaimed, “I wish the Roman people had but one neck.” [434] When
Tetrinius, the highwayman, was denounced, he said his persecutors too
were all Tetrinius’s. Five Retiarii [435], in tunics, fighting in a
company, yielded without a struggle to the same number of opponents; and
being ordered to be slain, one of them taking up his lance again, killed
all the conquerors. This he lamented in a proclamation as a most cruel
butchery, and cursed all those who had borne the sight of it.

XXXI. He used also to complain aloud of the state of the times, because
it was not rendered remarkable by any public (274) calamities; for, while
the reign of Augustus had been made memorable to posterity by the
disaster of Varus [436], and that of Tiberius by the fall of the theatre
at Fidenae [437], his was likely to pass into oblivion, from an
uninterrupted series of prosperity. And, at times, he wished for some
terrible slaughter of his troops, a famine, a pestilence, conflagrations,
or an earthquake.

XXXII. Even in the midst of his diversions, while gaming or feasting,
this savage ferocity, both in his language and actions, never forsook
him. Persons were often put to the torture in his presence, whilst he
was dining or carousing. A soldier, who was an adept in the art of
beheading, used at such times to take off the heads of prisoners, who
were brought in for that purpose. At Puteoli, at the dedication of the
bridge which he planned, as already mentioned [438], he invited a number
of people to come to him from the shore, and then suddenly, threw them
headlong into the sea; thrusting down with poles and oars those who, to
save themselves, had got hold of the rudders of the ships. At Rome, in a
public feast, a slave having stolen some thin plates of silver with which
the couches were inlaid, he delivered him immediately to an executioner,
with orders to cut off his hands, and lead him round the guests, with
them hanging from his neck before his breast, and a label, signifying the
cause of his punishment. A gladiator who was practising with him, and
voluntarily threw himself at his feet, he stabbed with a poniard, and
then ran about with a palm branch in his hand, after the manner of those
who are victorious in the games. When a victim was to be offered upon an
altar, he, clad in the habit of the Popae [439], and holding the axe
aloft for a while, at last, instead of the animal, slaughtered an officer
who attended to cut up the sacrifice. And at a sumptuous entertainment,
he fell suddenly into a violent fit of laughter, and upon the consuls,
who reclined next to him, respectfully asking him the occasion,
“Nothing,” replied he, “but that, upon a single nod of mine, you might
both have your throats cut.”

(275) XXXIII. Among many other jests, this was one: As he stood by the
statue of Jupiter, he asked Apelles, the tragedian, which of them he
thought was biggest? Upon his demurring about it, he lashed him most
severely, now and then commending his voice, whilst he entreated for
mercy, as being well modulated even when he was venting his grief. As
often as he kissed the neck of his wife or mistress, he would say, “So
beautiful a throat must be cut whenever I please;” and now and then he
would threaten to put his dear Caesonia to the torture, that he might
discover why he loved her so passionately.

XXXIV. In his behaviour towards men of almost all ages, he discovered a
degree of jealousy and malignity equal to that of his cruelty and pride.
He so demolished and dispersed the statues of several illustrious
persons, which had been removed by Augustus, for want of room, from the
court of the Capitol into the Campus Martius, that it was impossible to
set them up again with their inscriptions entire. And, for the future,
he forbad any statue whatever to be erected without his knowledge and
leave. He had thoughts too of suppressing Homer’s poems: “For why,” said
he, “may not I do what Plato has done before me, who excluded him from
his commonwealth?” [440] He was likewise very near banishing the
writings and the busts of Virgil and Livy from all libraries; censuring
one of them as “a man of no genius and very little learning;” and the
other as “a verbose and careless historian.” He often talked of the
lawyers as if he intended to abolish their profession. “By Hercules!”
he would say, “I shall put it out of their power to answer any questions
in law, otherwise than by referring to me!”

XXXV. He took from the noblest persons in the city the ancient marks of
distinction used by their families; as the collar from Torquatus [441];
from Cincinnatus the curl of (276) hair [442]; and from Cneius Pompey,
the surname of Great, belonging to that ancient family. Ptolemy,
mentioned before, whom he invited from his kingdom, and received with
great honours, he suddenly put to death, for no other reason, but because
he observed that upon entering the theatre, at a public exhibition, he
attracted the eyes of all the spectators, by the splendour of his purple
robe. As often as he met with handsome men, who had fine heads of hair,
he would order the back of their heads to be shaved, to make them appear
ridiculous. There was one Esius Proculus, the son of a centurion of the
first rank, who, for his great stature and fine proportions, was called
the Colossal. Him he ordered to be dragged from his seat in the arena,
and matched with a gladiator in light armour, and afterwards with another
completely armed; and upon his worsting them both, commanded him
forthwith to be bound, to be led clothed in rags up and down the streets
of the city, and, after being exhibited in that plight to the women, to
be then butchered. There was no man of so abject or mean condition,
whose excellency in any kind he did not envy. The Rex Nemorensis [443] having many years enjoyed the honour of the priesthood, he procured a
still stronger antagonist to oppose him. One Porius, who fought in a
chariot [444], having been victorious in an exhibition, and in his joy
given freedom to a slave, was applauded so vehemently, that Caligula rose
in such haste from his seat, that, treading upon the hem of his toga, he
tumbled down the steps, full of indignation, (277) and crying out, “A
people who are masters of the world, pay greater respect to a gladiator
for a trifle, than to princes admitted amongst the gods, or to my own
majesty here present amongst them.”

XXXVI. He never had the least regard either to the chastity of his own
person, or that of others. He is said to have been inflamed with an
unnatural passion for Marcus Lepidus Mnester, an actor in pantomimes, and
for certain hostages; and to have engaged with them in the practice of
mutual pollution. Valerius Catullus, a young man of a consular family,
bawled aloud in public that he had been exhausted by him in that
abominable act. Besides his incest with his sisters, and his notorious
passion for Pyrallis, the prostitute, there was hardly any lady of
distinction with whom he did not make free. He used commonly to invite
them with their husbands to supper, and as they passed by the couch on
which he reclined at table, examine them very closely, like those who
traffic in slaves; and if any one from modesty held down her face, he
raised it up with his hand. Afterwards, as often as he was in the
humour, he would quit the room, send for her he liked best, and in a
short time return with marks of recent disorder about them. He would
then commend or disparage her in the presence of the company, recounting
the charms or defects of her person and behaviour in private. To some he
sent a divorce in the name of their absent husbands, and ordered it to be
registered in the public acts.

XXXVII. In the devices of his profuse expenditure, he surpassed all the
prodigals that ever lived; inventing a new kind of bath, with strange
dishes and suppers, washing in precious unguents, both warm and cold,
drinking pearls of immense value dissolved in vinegar, and serving up for
his guests loaves and other victuals modelled in gold; often saying,
“that a man ought either to be a good economist or an emperor.” Besides,
he scattered money to a prodigious amount among the people, from the top
of the Julian Basilica [445], during several days successively. He built
two ships with ten banks of oars, after the Liburnian fashion, the poops
of which blazed with jewels, and the sails were of various parti-colours.
They were fitted up with ample baths, galleries, and saloons, and
supplied with a great variety of vines and other fruit-trees. In these
he would sail in the day-time along the coast of Campania, feasting (278)
amidst dancing and concerts of music. In building his palaces and
villas, there was nothing he desired to effect so much, in defiance of
all reason, as what was considered impossible. Accordingly, moles were
formed in the deep and adverse sea [446], rocks of the hardest stone cut
away, plains raised to the height of mountains with a vast mass of earth,
and the tops of mountains levelled by digging; and all these were to be
executed with incredible speed, for the least remissness was a capital
offence. Not to mention particulars, he spent enormous sums, and the
whole treasures which had been amassed by Tiberius Caesar, amounting to
two thousand seven hundred millions of sesterces, within less than a

XXXVIII. Having therefore quite exhausted these funds, and being in want
of money, he had recourse to plundering the people, by every mode of
false accusation, confiscation, and taxation, that could be invented. He
declared that no one had any right to the freedom of Rome, although their
ancestors had acquired it for themselves and their posterity, unless they
were sons; for that none beyond that degree ought to be considered as
posterity. When the grants of the Divine Julius and Augustus were
produced to him, he only said, that he was very sorry they were obsolete
and out of date. He also charged all those with making false returns,
who, after the taking of the census, had by any means whatever increased
their property. He annulled the wills of all who had been centurions of
the first rank, as testimonies of their base ingratitude, if from the
beginning of Tiberius’s reign they had not left either that prince or
himself their heir. He also set aside the wills of all others, if any
person only pretended to say, that they designed at their death to leave
Caesar their heir. The public becoming terrified at this proceeding, he
was now appointed joint-heir with their friends, and in the case of
parents with their children, by persons unknown to him. Those who lived
any considerable time after making such a will, he said, were only making
game of him; and accordingly he sent many of them poisoned cakes. He
used to try such causes himself; fixing previously the sum he proposed to
raise during the sitting, and, after he had secured it, quitting the
tribunal. Impatient of the least delay, he condemned by a single
sentence forty (279) persons, against whom there were different charges;
boasting to Caesonia when she awoke, “how much business he had dispatched
while she was taking her mid-day sleep.” He exposed to sale by auction,
the remains of the apparatus used in the public spectacles; and exacted
such biddings, and raised the prices so high, that some of the purchasers
were ruined, and bled themselves to death. There is a well-known story
told of Aponius Saturninus, who happening to fall asleep as he sat on a
bench at the sale, Caius called out to the auctioneer, not to overlook
the praetorian personage who nodded to him so often; and accordingly the
salesman went on, pretending to take the nods for tokens of assent, until
thirteen gladiators were knocked down to him at the sum of nine millions
of sesterces [447], he being in total ignorance of what was doing.

XXXIX. Having also sold in Gaul all the clothes, furniture, slaves, and
even freedmen belonging to his sisters, at prodigious prices, after their
condemnation, he was so much delighted with his gains, that he sent to
Rome for all the furniture of the old palace [448]; pressing for its
conveyance all the carriages let to hire in the city, with the horses and
mules belonging to the bakers, so that they often wanted bread at Rome;
and many who had suits at law in progress, lost their causes, because
they could not make their appearance in due time according to their
recognizances. In the sale of this furniture, every artifice of fraud
and imposition was employed. Sometimes he would rail at the bidders for
being niggardly, and ask them “if they were not ashamed to be richer than
he was?” at another, he would affect to be sorry that the property of
princes should be passing into the hands of private persons. He had
found out that a rich provincial had given two hundred thousand sesterces
to his chamberlains for an underhand invitation to his table, and he was
much pleased to find that honour valued at so high a rate. The day
following, as the same person was sitting at the sale, he sent him some
bauble, for which he told him he must pay two hundred thousand sesterces,
and “that he should sup with Caesar upon his own invitation.”

(280) XL. He levied new taxes, and such as were never before known, at
first by the publicans, but afterwards, because their profit was
enormous, by centurions and tribunes of the pretorian guards; no
description of property or persons being exempted from some kind of tax
or other. For all eatables brought into the city, a certain excise was
exacted: for all law-suits or trials in whatever court, the fortieth part
of the sum in dispute; and such as were convicted of compromising
litigations, were made liable to a penalty. Out of the daily wages of
the porters, he received an eighth, and from the gains of common
prostitutes, what they received for one favour granted. There was a
clause in the law, that all bawds who kept women for prostitution or
sale, should be liable to pay, and that marriage itself should not be

XLI. These taxes being imposed, but the act by which they were levied
never submitted to public inspection, great grievances were experienced
from the want of sufficient knowledge of the law. At length, on the
urgent demands of the Roman people, he published the law, but it was
written in a very small hand, and posted up in a corner, so that no one
could make a copy of it. To leave no sort of gain untried, he opened
brothels in the Palatium, with a number of cells, furnished suitably to
the dignity of the place; in which married women and free-born youths
were ready for the reception of visitors. He sent likewise his
nomenclators about the forums and courts, to invite people of all ages,
the old as well as the young, to his brothel, to come and satisfy their
lusts; and he was ready to lend his customers money upon interest; clerks
attending to take down their names in public, as persons who contributed
to the emperor’s revenue. Another method of raising money, which he
thought not below his notice, was gaming; which, by the help of lying and
perjury, he turned to considerable account. Leaving once the management
of his play to his partner in the game, he stepped into the court, and
observing two rich Roman knights passing by, he ordered them immediately
to be seized, and their estates confiscated. Then returning, in great
glee, he boasted that he had never made a better throw in his life.

XLII. After the birth of his daughter, complaining of his (281) poverty,
and the burdens to which he was subjected, not only as an emperor, but a
father, he made a general collection for her maintenance and fortune. He
likewise gave public notice, that he would receive new-year’s gifts on
the calends of January following; and accordingly stood in the vestibule
of his house, to clutch the presents which people of all ranks threw down
before him by handfuls and lapfuls. At last, being seized with an
invincible desire of feeling money, taking off his slippers, he
repeatedly walked over great heaps of gold coin spread upon the spacious
floor, and then laying himself down, rolled his whole body in gold over
and over again.

XLIII. Only once in his life did he take an active part in military
affairs, and then not from any set purpose, but during his journey to
Mevania, to see the grove and river of Clitumnus [449]. Being
recommended to recruit a body of Batavians, who attended him, he resolved
upon an expedition into Germany. Immediately he drew together several
legions, and auxiliary forces from all quarters, and made every where new
levies with the utmost rigour. Collecting supplies of all kinds, such as
never had been assembled upon the like occasion, he set forward on his
march, and pursued it sometimes with so much haste and precipitation,
that the pretorian cohorts were obliged, contrary to custom, to pack
their standards on horses or mules, and so follow him. At other times,
he would march so slow and luxuriously, that he was carried in a litter
by eight men; ordering the roads to be swept by the people of the
neighbouring towns, and sprinkled with water to lay the dust.

XLIV. On arriving at the camp, in order to show himself an active
general, and severe disciplinarian, he cashiered the lieutenants who came
up late with the auxiliary forces from different quarters. In reviewing
the army, he deprived of their companies most of the centurions of the
first rank, who had now served their legal time in the wars, and some
whose time would have expired in a few days; alleging against them their
age and infirmity; and railing at the covetous disposition (282) of the
rest of them, he reduced the bounty due to those who had served out their
time to the sum of six thousand sesterces. Though he only received the
submission of Adminius, the son of Cunobeline, a British king, who being
driven from his native country by his father, came over to him with a
small body of troops [450], yet, as if the whole island had been
surrendered to him, he dispatched magnificent letters to Rome, ordering
the bearers to proceed in their carriages directly up to the forum and
the senate-house, and not to deliver the letters but to the consuls in
the temple of Mars, and in the presence of a full assembly of the

XLV. Soon after this, there being no hostilities, he ordered a few
Germans of his guard to be carried over and placed in concealment on the
other side of the Rhine, and word to be brought him after dinner, that an
enemy was advancing with great impetuosity. This being accordingly done,
he immediately threw himself, with his friends, and a party of the
pretorian knights, into the adjoining wood, where lopping branches from
the trees, and forming trophies of them, he returned by torch-light,
upbraiding those who did not follow him, with timorousness and cowardice;
but he presented the companions, and sharers of his victory with crowns
of a new form, and under a new name, having the sun, moon, and stars
represented on them, and which he called Exploratoriae. Again, some
hostages were by his order taken from the school, and privately sent off;
upon notice of which he immediately rose from table, pursued them with
the cavalry, as if they had run away, and coming up with them, brought
them back in fetters; proceeding to an extravagant pitch of ostentation
likewise in this military comedy. Upon his again sitting down to table,
it being reported to him that the troops were all reassembled, he ordered
them to sit down as they were, in their armour, animating them in the
words of that well-known verse of Virgil:

(283) Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis.–Aen. 1.
Bear up, and save yourselves for better days.

In the mean time, he reprimanded the senate and people of Rome in a very
severe proclamation, “For revelling and frequenting the diversions of the
circus and theatre, and enjoying themselves at their villas, whilst their
emperor was fighting, and exposing himself to the greatest dangers.”

XLVI. At last, as if resolved to make war in earnest, he drew up his
army upon the shore of the ocean, with his balistae and other engines of
war, and while no one could imagine what he intended to do, on a sudden
commanded them to gather up the sea shells, and fill their helmets, and
the folds of their dress with them, calling them “the spoils of the ocean
due to the Capitol and the Palatium.” As a monument of his success, he
raised a lofty tower, upon which, as at Pharos [451], he ordered lights
to be burnt in the night-time, for the direction of ships at sea; and
then promising the soldiers a donative of a hundred denarii [452] a man,
as if he had surpassed the most eminent examples of generosity, “Go your
ways,” said he, “and be merry: go, ye are rich.”

XLVII. In making preparations for his triumph, besides the prisoners and
deserters from the barbarian armies, he picked out the men of greatest
stature in all Gaul, such as he said were fittest to grace a triumph,
with some of the chiefs, and reserved them to appear in the procession;
obliging them not only to dye their hair yellow, and let it grow long,
but to learn the German language, and assume the names commonly used in
that country. He ordered likewise the gallies in which he had entered
the ocean, to be conveyed to Rome a great part of the way by land, and
wrote to his comptrollers in the city, “to make proper preparations for a
triumph against (284) his arrival, at as small expense as possible; but
on a scale such as had never been seen before, since they had full power
over the property of every one.”

XLVIII. Before he left the province, he formed a design of the most
horrid cruelty–to massacre the legions which had mutinied upon the death
of Augustus, for seizing and detaining by force his father, Germanicus,
their commander, and himself, then an infant, in the camp. Though he was
with great difficulty dissuaded from this rash attempt, yet neither the
most urgent entreaties nor representations could prevent him from
persisting in the design of decimating these legions. Accordingly, he
ordered them to assemble unarmed, without so much as their swords; and
then surrounded them with armed horse. But finding that many of them,
suspecting that violence was intended, were making off, to arm in their
own defence, he quitted the assembly as fast as he could, and immediately
marched for Rome; bending now all his fury against the senate, whom he
publicly threatened, to divert the general attention from the clamour
excited by his disgraceful conduct. Amongst other pretexts of offence,
he complained that he was defrauded of a triumph, which was justly his
due, though he had just before forbidden, upon pain of death, any honour
to be decreed him.

XLIX. In his march he was waited upon by deputies from the senatorian
order, entreating him to hasten his return. He replied to them, “I will
come, I will come, and this with me,” striking at the same time the hilt
of his sword. He issued likewise this proclamation: “I am coming, but
for those only who wish for me, the equestrian order and the people; for
I shall no longer treat the senate as their fellow-citizen or prince.”
He forbad any of the senators to come to meet him; and either abandoning
or deferring his triumph, he entered the city in ovation on his birth-
day. Within four months from this period he was slain, after he had
perpetrated enormous crimes, and while he was meditating the execution,
if possible, of still greater. He had entertained a design of removing
to Antium, and afterwards to Alexandria; having first cut off the flower
of the equestrian and senatorian orders. This is placed beyond all
question, by two books which were found in his cabinet (285) under
different titles; one being called the sword, and the other, the dagger.
They both contained private marks, and the names of those who were
devoted to death. There was also found a large chest, filled with a
variety of poisons which being afterwards thrown into the sea by order of
Claudius, are said to have so infected the waters, that the fish were
poisoned, and cast dead by the tide upon the neighbouring shores.

L. He was tall, of a pale complexion, 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. On this account, it was reckoned a capital crime
for any person to look down from above, as he was passing by, or so much
as to name a goat. His countenance, which was naturally hideous and
frightful, he purposely rendered more so, forming it before a mirror into
the most horrible contortions. 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. He was not insensible of the disorder of his mind, and sometimes
had thoughts of retiring to clear his brain [453]. It is believed that
his wife Caesonia administered to him a love potion which threw him into
a frenzy. What most of all disordered him, was want of sleep, for he
seldom had more than three or four hours’ rest in a night; and even then
his sleep was not sound, but disturbed by strange dreams; fancying, among
other things, that a form representing the ocean spoke to him. Being
therefore often weary with lying awake so long, sometimes he sat up in
his bed, at others, walked in the longest porticos about the house, and
from time to time, invoked and looked out for the approach of day.

LI. To this crazy constitution of his mind may, I think, very justly be
ascribed two faults which he had, of a nature directly repugnant one to
the other, namely, an excessive confidence and the most abject timidity.
For he, who affected so (286) much to despise the gods, was ready to shut
his eyes, and wrap up his head in his cloak at the slightest storm of
thunder and lightning; and if it was violent, he got up and hid himself
under his bed. In his visit to Sicily, after ridiculing many strange
objects which that country affords, he ran away suddenly in the night
from Messini, terrified by the smoke and rumbling at the summit of Mount
Aetna. And though in words he was very valiant against the barbarians,
yet upon passing a narrow defile in Germany in his light car, surrounded
by a strong body of his troops, some one happening to say, “There would
be no small consternation amongst us, if an enemy were to appear,” he
immediately mounted his horse, and rode towards the bridges in great
haste; but finding them blocked up with camp-followers and baggage-
waggons, he was in such a hurry, that he caused himself to be carried in
men’s hands over the heads of the crowd. Soon afterwards, upon hearing
that the Germans were again in rebellion, he prepared to quit Rome, and
equipped a fleet; comforting himself with this consideration, that if the
enemy should prove victorious, and possess themselves of the heights of
the Alps, as the Cimbri [454] had done, or of the city, as the Senones
[455] formerly did, he should still have in reserve the transmarine
provinces [456]. Hence it was, I suppose, that it occurred to his
assassins, to invent the story intended to pacify the troops who mutinied
at his death, that he had laid violent hands upon himself, in a fit of
terror occasioned by the news brought him of the defeat of his army.

LII. In the fashion of his clothes, shoes, and all the rest of his
dress, he did not wear what was either national, or properly civic, or
peculiar to the male sex, or appropriate to mere mortals. He often
appeared abroad in a short coat of stout cloth, richly embroidered and
blazing with jewels, in a tunic with sleeves, and with bracelets upon his
arms; sometimes all in silks and (287) habited like a woman; at other
times in the crepidae or buskins; sometimes in the sort of shoes used by
the light-armed soldiers, or in the sock used by women, and commonly with
a golden beard fixed to his chin, holding in his hand a thunderbolt, a
trident, or a caduceus, marks of distinction belonging to the gods only.
Sometimes, too, he appeared in the habit of Venus. He wore very commonly
the triumphal ornaments, even before his expedition, and sometimes the
breast-plate of Alexander the Great, taken out of his coffin. [457]

LIII. With regard to the liberal sciences, he was little conversant in
philology, but applied himself with assiduity to the study of eloquence,
being indeed in point of enunciation tolerably elegant and ready; and in
his perorations, when he was moved to anger, there was an abundant flow
of words and periods. In speaking, his action was vehement, and his
voice so strong, that he was heard at a great distance. When winding up
an harangue, he threatened to draw “the sword of his lucubration,”
holding a loose and smooth style in such contempt, that he said Seneca,
who was then much admired, “wrote only detached essays,” and that “his
language was nothing but sand without lime.” He often wrote answers to
the speeches of successful orators; and employed himself in composing
accusations or vindications of eminent persons, who were impeached before
the senate; and gave his vote for or against the party accused, according
to his success in speaking, inviting the equestrian order, by
proclamation, to hear him.

LIV. He also zealously applied himself to the practice of several other
arts of different kinds, such as fencing, charioteering, singing, and
dancing. In the first of these, he practised with the weapons used in
war; and drove the chariot in circuses built in several places. He was
so extremely fond of singing and dancing, that he could not refrain in
the theatre from singing with the tragedians, and imitating the gestures
of the actors, either by way of applause or correction. A night
exhibition which he had ordered the day he was slain, was thought to be
intended for no other reason, than to take the opportunity afforded by
the licentiousness of the season, to make his first appearance upon the
stage. Sometimes, also, (288) he danced in the night. Summoning once to
the Palatium, in the second watch of the night [458], three men of
consular rank, who feared the words from the message, he placed them on
the proscenium of the stage, and then suddenly came bursting out, with a
loud noise of flutes and castanets [459], dressed in a mantle and tunic
reaching down to his heels. Having danced out a song, he retired. Yet
he who had acquired such dexterity in other exercises, never learnt to

LV. Those for whom he once conceived a regard, he favoured even to
madness. He used to kiss Mnester, the pantomimic actor, publicly in the
theatre; and if any person made the least noise while he was dancing, he
would order him to be dragged from his seat, and scourged him with his
own hand. A Roman knight once making some bustle, he sent him, by a
centurion, an order to depart forthwith for Ostia [460], and carry a
letter from him to king Ptolemy in Mauritania. The letter was comprised
in these words: “Do neither good nor harm to the bearer.” He made some
gladiators captains of his German guards. He deprived the gladiators
called Mirmillones of some of their arms. One Columbus coming off with
victory in a combat, but being slightly wounded, he ordered some poison
to be infused in the wound, which he thence called Columbinum. For thus
it was certainly named with his own hand in a list of other poisons. He
was so extravagantly fond of the party of charioteers whose colours were
green [461], that he supped and lodged for some time constantly in the
stable where their horses were kept. At a certain revel, he made a
present of two millions of sesterces to one Cythicus, a driver of a
chariot. The day before the Circensian games, he used to send his
soldiers to enjoin silence in the (289) neighbourhood, that the repose of
his horse Incitatus [462] might not be disturbed. For this favourite
animal, besides a marble stable, an ivory manger, purple housings, and a
jewelled frontlet, he appointed a house, with a retinue of slaves, and
fine furniture, for the reception of such as were invited in the horse’s
name to sup with him. It is even said that he intended to make him

LVI. In this frantic and savage career, numbers had formed designs for
cutting him off; but one or two conspiracies being discovered, and others
postponed for want of opportunity, at last two men concerted a plan
together, and accomplished their purpose; not without the privity of some
of the greatest favourites amongst his freedmen, and the prefects of the
pretorian guards; because, having been named, though falsely, as
concerned in one conspiracy against him, they perceived that they were
suspected and become objects of his hatred. For he had immediately
endeavoured to render them obnoxious to the soldiery, drawing his sword,
and declaring, “That he would kill himself if they thought him worthy of
death;” and ever after he was continually accusing them to one another,
and setting them all mutually at variance. The conspirators having
resolved to fall upon him as he returned at noon from the Palatine games,
Cassius Chaerea, tribune of the pretorian guards, claimed the part of
making the onset. This Chaerea was now an elderly man, and had been
often reproached by Caius for effeminacy. When he came for the
watchword, the latter would give “Priapus,” or “Venus;” and if on any
occasion he returned thanks, would offer him his hand to kiss, making
with his fingers an obscene gesture.

LVII. His approaching fate was indicated by many prodigies. The statue
of Jupiter at Olympia, which he had ordered to be taken down and brought
to Rome, suddenly burst out into such a violent fit of laughter, that,
the machines employed in the work giving way, the workmen took to their
heels. When this accident happened, there came up a man named Cassius,
who said that he was commanded in a dream to sacrifice a bull to Jupiter.
The Capitol at Capua was (290) struck with lightning upon the ides of
March [15th March] as was also, at Rome, the apartment of the chief
porter of the Palatium. Some construed the latter into a presage that
the master of the place was in danger from his own guards; and the other
they regarded as a sign, that an illustrious person would be cut off, as
had happened before on that day. Sylla, the astrologer, being, consulted
by him respecting his nativity, assured him, “That death would
unavoidably and speedily befall him.” The oracle of Fortune at Antium
likewise forewarned him of Cassius; on which account he had given orders
for putting to death Cassius Longinus, at that time proconsul of Asia,
not considering that Chaerea bore also that name. The day preceding his
death he dreamt that he was standing in heaven near the throne of
Jupiter, who giving him a push with the great toe of his right foot, he
fell headlong upon the earth. Some things which happened the very day of
his death, and only a little before it, were likewise considered as
ominous presages of that event. Whilst he was at sacrifice, he was
bespattered with the blood of a flamingo. And Mnester, the pantomimic
actor, performed in a play, which the tragedian Neoptolemus had formerly
acted at the games in which Philip, the king of Macedon, was slain. And
in the piece called Laureolus, in which the principal actor, running out
in a hurry, and falling, vomited blood, several of the inferior actors
vying with each other to give the best specimen of their art, made the
whole stage flow with blood. A spectacle had been purposed to be
performed that night, in which the fables of the infernal regions were to
be represented by Egyptians and Ethiopians.

LVIII. On the ninth of the calends of February [24th January], and about
the seventh hour of the day, after hesitating whether he should rise to
dinner, as his stomach was disordered by what he had eaten the day
before, at last, by the advice of his friends, he came forth. In the
vaulted passage through which he had to pass, were some boys of noble
extraction, who had been brought from Asia to act upon the stage, waiting
for him in a private corridor, and he stopped to see and speak to them;
and had not the leader of the party said that he was suffering from cold,
he would have gone back, and made them act immediately. Respecting what
followed, (291) two different accounts are given. Some say, that, whilst
he was speaking to the boys, Chaerea came behind him, and gave him a
heavy blow on the neck with his sword, first crying out, “Take this:”
that then a tribune, by name Cornelius Sabinus, another of the
conspirators, ran him through the breast. Others say, that the crowd
being kept at a distance by some centurions who were in the plot, Sabinus
came, according to custom, for the word, and that Caius gave him
“Jupiter,” upon which Chaerea cried out, “Be it so!” and then, on his
looking round, clove one of his jaws with a blow. As he lay on the
ground, crying out that he was still alive [463], the rest dispatched him
with thirty wounds. For the word agreed upon among them all was, “Strike
again.” Some likewise ran their swords through his privy parts. Upon
the first bustle, the litter bearers came running in with their poles to
his assistance, and, immediately afterwards, his German body guards, who
killed some of the assassins, and also some senators who had no concern
in the affair.

LIX. He lived twenty-nine years, and reigned three years, ten months,
and eight days. His body was carried privately into the Lamian Gardens
[464], where it was half burnt upon a pile hastily raised, and then had
some earth carelessly thrown over it. It was afterwards disinterred by
his sisters, on their return from banishment, burnt to ashes, and buried.
Before this was done, it is well known that the keepers of the gardens
were greatly disturbed by apparitions; and that not a night passed
without some terrible alarm or other in the house where he was slain,
until it was destroyed by fire. His wife Caesonia was killed with him,
being stabbed by a centurion; and his daughter had her brains knocked out
against a wall.

LX. Of the miserable condition of those times, any person (292) may
easily form an estimate from the following circumstances. When his death
was made public, it was not immediately credited. People entertained a
suspicion that a report of his being killed had been contrived and spread
by himself, with the view of discovering how they stood affected towards
him. Nor had the conspirators fixed upon any one to succeed him. The
senators were so unanimous in their resolution to assert the liberty of
their country, that the consuls assembled them at first not in the usual
place of meeting, because it was named after Julius Caesar, but in the
Capitol. Some proposed to abolish the memory of the Caesars, and level
their temples with the ground. It was particularly remarked on this
occasion, that all the Caesars, who had the praenomen of Caius, died by
the sword, from the Caius Caesar who was slain in the times of Cinna.

* * * * * *

Unfortunately, a great chasm in the Annals of Tacitus, at this period,
precludes all information from that historian respecting the reign of
Caligula; but from what he mentions towards the close of the preceding
chapter, it is evident that Caligula was forward to seize the reins of
government, upon the death of Tiberius, whom, though he rivalled him in
his vices, he was far from imitating in his dissimulation. Amongst the
people, the remembrance of Germanicus’ virtues cherished for his family
an attachment which was probably, increased by its misfortunes; and they
were anxious to see revived in the son the popularity of the father.
Considering, however, that Caligula’s vicious disposition was already
known, and that it had even been an inducement with Tiberius to procure
his succession, in order that it might prove a foil to his own memory; it
is surprising that no effort was made at this juncture to shake off the
despotism which had been so intolerable in the last reign, and restore
the ancient liberty of the republic. Since the commencement of the
imperial dominion, there never had been any period so favourable for a
counter-revolution as the present crisis. There existed now no Livia, to
influence the minds of the senate and people in respect of the
government; nor was there any other person allied to the family of
Germanicus, whose countenance or intrigues could promote the views of
Caligula. He himself was now only in the twenty-fifth year of his age,
was totally inexperienced in the administration of public affairs, had
never performed even the smallest service to his country, and was
generally known to be of a character which (293) disgraced his
illustrious descent. Yet, in spite of all these circumstances, such was
the destiny of Rome, that his accession afforded joy to the soldiers, who
had known him in his childhood, and to the populace in the capital, as
well as the people in the provinces, who were flattered with the delusive
expectation of receiving a prince who should adorn the throne with the
amiable virtues of Germanicus.

It is difficult to say, whether weakness of understanding, or corruption
of morals, were more conspicuous in the character of Caligula. He seems
to have discovered from his earliest years an innate depravity of mind,
which was undoubtedly much increased by defect of education. He had lost
both his parents at an early period of life; and from Tiberius’ own
character, as well as his views in training the person who should succeed
him on the throne, there is reason to think, that if any attention
whatever was paid to the education of Caligula, it was directed to
vitiate all his faculties and passions, rather than to correct and
improve them. If such was really the object, it was indeed prosecuted
with success.

The commencement, however, of his reign was such as by no means
prognosticated its subsequent transition. The sudden change of his
conduct, the astonishing mixture of imbecility and presumption, of moral
turpitude and frantic extravagance, which he afterwards evinced; such as
rolling himself over heaps of gold, his treatment of his horse Incitatus,
and his design of making him consul, seem to justify a suspicion that his
brain had actually been affected, either by the potion, said to have been
given him by his wife Caesonia, or otherwise. Philtres, or love-potions,
as they were called, were frequent in those times; and the people
believed that they operated upon the mind by a mysterious and sympathetic
power. It is, however, beyond a doubt, that their effects were produced
entirely by the action of their physical qualities upon the organs of the
body. They were usually made of the satyrion, which, according to Pliny,
was a provocative. They were generally given by women to their husbands
at bed-time; and it was necessary towards their successful operation,
that the parties should sleep together. This circumstance explains the
whole mystery. The philtres were nothing more than medicines of a
stimulating quality, which, after exciting violent, but temporary
effects, enfeebled the constitution, and occasioned nervous disorders, by
which the mental faculties, as well as the corporeal, might be injured.
That this was really the case with Caligula, seems probable, not only
from the falling sickness, to which he was subject, but from the habitual
wakefulness of which he complained.

(294) The profusion of this emperor, during his short reign of three
years and ten months, is unexampled in history. In the midst of profound
peace, without any extraordinary charges either civil or military, he
expended, in less than one year, besides the current revenue of the
empire, the sum of 21,796,875 pounds sterling, which had been left by
Tiberius at his death. To supply the extravagance of future years, new
and exorbitant taxes were imposed upon the people, and those too on the
necessaries of life. There existed now amongst the Romans every motive
that could excite a general indignation against the government; yet such
was still the dread of imperial power, though vested in the hands of so
weak and despicable a sovereign, that no insurrection was attempted, nor
any extensive conspiracy formed; but the obnoxious emperor fell at last a
sacrifice to a few centurions of his own guard.

This reign was of too short duration to afford any new productions in
literature; but, had it been extended to a much longer period, the
effects would probably have been the same. Polite learning never could
flourish under an emperor who entertained a design of destroying the
writings of Virgil and Livy. It is fortunate that these, and other
valuable productions of antiquity, were too widely diffused over the
world, and too carefully preserved, to be in danger of perishing through
the frenzy of this capricious barbarian.