Being the terrible blogger that I am, I totally forgot to laud some people who saw fit to include my blog on their daily turn about the blogosphere. Apparently, my tale of the encounter with the Checkout Girl and the Deli Hag from last weekend tickled the fancy of the keepers of Hippest Snippets, and they linked me in their Tuesday round-up of all things bloggy. I am humbled, and I thank you for the kind words of praise.
Secondly, this morning...damn. I finally succumbed to the illness that has been clinging to me for days, or maybe it's a new one. I'm not sure. All I know is that I had had enough of chemistry for the day yesterday and so I left, came home and ate some hot dogs, watched an episode of House, and then took a two hour nap.
I'm feeling better...ish...now. So, hopefully I can make it through a full day.
In the past, I've done little snippets on Roman life, Roman history, Roman religious practices, Roman holidays, Roman gods, and Roman law. I even talked about Caesar a little bit, but he's been the only historical figure I've really ever discussed here. So, I thought I might try introducing you to some of Rome's more...colorful...denizens. If nothing else, would-be authors (like myself) can pattern various characters off these guys for whatever reason you may need--and believe me when I refer to them as "characters".
Today, let's learn about Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, more commonly known as Caligula. Caligula earned his nickname when he accompanied his father, Germanicus, on military missions in Germania (see the connection?). Caligula's name means "little boot". Apparently, Caligula was only about two or three when he went off with daddy and the army to fight those unwashed barbarians across the Rhine.
Germanicus was the nephew and the adopted son of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. However, before Germanicus could assume the throne of Rome, he was killed at Antioch in 19 AD. Germanicus's wife and Caligula's mother Agrippina the Elder returned to Rome with her family and had a falling out with Tiberius. In those days, you didn't really have a falling out with the Emperor; instead, you said something he didn't like, and the Emperor killed your family.
So it was with Agrippina. Suddenly, she found all the males in her family dead--except for Caligula, who was fancied by Tiberius. Apparently, Caligula was a great actor and praised the old man for his wisdom and knowledge, which tickled Tiberius' cold, rock-like heart. Eventually, Tiberius named Caligula a co-heir with Tiberius' grandson, Gemellus--who just so happened to be a weak-minded fool.
Finally, Tiberius died at the ripe old age of 77...though he might have been helped along by a friend of Caligula's named Macro. At any rate, Tiberius was a bastard of the first order and was much-hated by the Roman people. Caligula was able to take this and wrest away any claim that Gemellus had for the Emperorship through various Jedi mind tricks and accusations of insanity. Thus, Caligula became emperor.
The people rejoiced. They fucking loved Caligula, partially because they had fucking loved Germanicus, as well. The other main reason why they loved Caligula so much was they fucking hated Tiberius with the white-hot passion of a thousand burning sons--er--suns (pun intended). In fact, when he was ushered into power, the people of Rome threw a party that lasted for three months! That's a lot of vino being put down, my friends.
And...for the first two years of his reign, Caligula was still much-loved. He built some nice public works, improved some key ports, expanded the empire in the western part of Africa, gave raises to the military, and got rid of Tiberius' treason executions. Blah blah blah.
Then...something happened. Around AD 39, Caligula began to lose it. Some people think he was actually insane, some think he had some sort of brain disorder, and some people think that he is the pinnacle of Lord Acton's maxim "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
It might have been a mixture of any of these, but without a doubt Caligula suddenly turned into "douchius maximus" about two years into his reign. He would be eating dinner with guests when he would stand up, point to someone's wife, and then he'd take her off and fuck her. He'd return to the table and tell the guy--whose wife he just banged--whether she was a good lay or a bad one. And then he'd return to eating.
But it doesn't stop there. Once during some gladitorial games, during halftime, he forced an entire section of the crowd onto the floor of the circus to be eaten by the wild animals that were part of the games "because he was bored". He had a long list of accusations of killing people in cold blood for his own personal amusement. He also started sending the military off on pointless campaigns and missions. He wasted money on creating a pontoon bridge across a stretch of water between the ports of Baiae and Puteoli, simply so he could thumb his nose at a friend of Tiberius' who said that Caligula had as much chance of becoming Emperor as he did of riding across the Bay of Baiae.
On top of that, he really disliked the Jews. Coupled with the megalomaniacy of the Emperors, Caligula wanted a statue of himself erected in the Jewish temple. This guy made a habit of pissing off everyone.
And then, perhaps the greatest story surrounding Caligula. He was so at odds with the Roman Senate that he named his horse, Incitatus (which means "swift") a Senator. This really didn't sit well with the Senators, which only managed to further put the two parties at odds.
Of course, while he's being a bastard and a fuckhole, he upped the ante by fucking his sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla, and Livilla. That wasn't enough for him. He decided to prostitute them out, as well, mostly because he could. He turned the imperial palace into a brothel, for his delight as well as his friends. However, the incest charges were not unique to when he was Emperor; there's some thought that he was banging Drusilla while they were the wards of their grandmother and various aunts.
Which brings us to today's Latin lesson, which you can almost hear young Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus saying while being caught creeping down the hall...
Pronounced: "Kwid? Nay skeel-ee-kate! May-uh sore-ore aye-uh est!"
I certainly hope that you get the reference I've made here...
Anyway, after fucking, killing and spending his way to the top of the Public Enemy list, the Senate conspired with a guy named Cassius Chaerea to put an end to Caligula's reign of terror. On the morning of January 24th, 41 AD, Chaerea and some of his cohorts found Caligula in an underground passage beneath the palace. Chaerea stabbed him. In a sort of poetic symmetry, Caligula was stabbed 30 times by a man named Cassius; Julius Caesar was also stabbed 30 times by a group of conspirators led by a man named Cassius.
Not satisfied with purging the Empire of Caligula, the assassins also killed Caligula's wife, Caesonia, and dashed the daughter of Caligula and Caesonia brains out on the walls. However, before they could find Caligula's uncle, Claudius, he had escaped and was being protected by the Praetorian guards.
The Senate, at this point, tried to wrest the power in the Empire back to themselves, hoping to restore the Roman Republic. This was not to be, however, because the military and the Praetorians rallied around Claudius, who became the fourth Roman Emperor. Claudius hunted down Chaerea and his co-conspirators and slaughtered them ruthlessly and told the Senate that he wouldn't be having any of that Republic bullshit.
Claudius went on to be a pretty good Emperor...but that's a story for another day.
Hopefully you enjoyed this little history lesson. Just remember, college football starts in two weekends...unless you're a Notre Dame fan, and then you have to wait another three achingly long weeks...
Oh, and that's Juliet Landau, who played Drusilla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.