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

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–

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 | View All | Next -»