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

(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.

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