Another day another Roman, but this one is up there with the crème de la crème of psycho nutters, so no apologies for revisiting the same place two days in a row!
On this day in 37A.D. Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus became the Emperor of Rome. If the name doesn’t ring any bells with you, worry not. Gaius was far more commonly known as Caligula. Yes, the one they made that porno film about!
Before we get down to the nutjobbery, I have to get a few things out of the way and be scrupulously fair to Mr Caligula. There is a possibility that he wasn’t as much of a headcase as we’ve been led to believe. We don’t have much in the way of primary source material and it’s highly possible that the secondary sources got their information from now defunct sources that had an axe to grind. That said, he was almost certainly at least a bit of a nutter and as the “he did what now?!” stories are too interesting to ignore and we don’t actually have any evidence of him being a decent misunderstood little emperor,we’ll go with the loco in the coco angle.
We’ll be a little more fair to Caligula now. Given his early life, which was all pretty much conspiracies, his family being exiled or murdered and being sent hither and thither to this elderly relative and another, it’s not surprising that he grew up with strange ideas. Also his adopted granddad – for future reference, Roman emperors, especially the early bunch, were great ones for “adopting” nephews and the like and making them their heirs. A sort of extended nepotism for when their own kids were either dead or a bit rubbish – Tiberius was hardly a great role model. He’d started out as a pretty good emperor, although he was a miserable bugger all his life, but for the last fifteen years of his life he was paranoid, killy and basically not in Rome much at all. He had Caligula come and live with him on Capri for the last six years of his long and miserable life. Consider what it was like for young Gaius. You’re there with your pretend grandfather , you’re 19, you know he orders the death of anyone he thinks is looking at him funny and you have to be well clever to be that close to him, that much of a perceived threat to him and to stay alive.
The fact that Caligula did stay alive says a lot for his ability to dissemble. There were rumours that he murdered Tiberius, but it’s unlikely as Tiberius was 77 when he shuffled off this mortal coil and pretty much desiccated by disease and grouchiness. In his will he left everything to Caligula and his actual grandson Tiberius Gemellus. Caligula did what anyone would have done in the same situation, had TG executed and claimed the lot for himself. Thus began his four years as Roman Emperor.
At first he was very popular. The populous had hated Tiberius, were glad to see the back of him and welcomed young-blood to the
throne. He made a few good decisions, like stopping all the treason trials Tiberius had been so keen on and commissioning a couple of aqueducts. Everyone thought they were in for a nice golden age, but they were wrong. Within two years Caligula decided the treason trials were very good idea, mostly because he got to make lots of money from them by confiscating the estates of dead traitors and Caligula loved to spend money. He had bankrupted the state treasury within two years. He was also probably doing sex with his sister Julia Drusilla (as an aside, I used to have a cat called Drusilla), although to be fair to them, they were pretty much emulating the whole Ptolemaic thing where it was customary for brothers and sisters to get married. Anyway, when Drusilla died of a fever he was pretty much in bits and went even more batshit. Anyway, enough of that, we all know that he did it with his sister and that he made his horse Invictus a senator, had his stable furnished with gold and stuff and also made him a priest. This is for finding out new things about Caligula to further cement our idea of him as the biggest insaniac ever to wear the laurel crown!
Okay, here goes. He killed an awful lot of people; he shagged other men’s wives and then mocked the men with that information; he let his people starve while he spent money on fripperies. So far so dull? You’re right. He also proclaimed himself a living god, demanded that people worship him and went about dressed up like a different god every day. More? Okay, the pièce de résistance. Once, when he was at the games, he got bored because there weren’t enough criminals to be prosecuted and killed during the interval, so he got his guards to throw a section of the audience into the arena where they were killed and eaten by animals.
He got away with this behaviour for nearly four years, but eventually enough was enough. No one knows exactly which straw broke the imperial camel’s back, but like Julius Caesar before him, he was attacked and stabbed to death by a group of men who couldn’t take any more of his lunacy. These men also hoped to bring the Republic back, but that ship had long sailed. Romans were delighted to see the back of Caligula, but happy enough to give his successor, his Uncle Claudius, a good crack of the whip. Claudius was one of Caligula’s only surviving relatives and he only got to live because of his stutter which Caligula liked to rip the piss out of. If I was Alanis Morrisette, I’d probably say that that was ironic, but it wasn’t so I won’t.
One last thing, for anyone who’s wondering. Caligula was a pet name meaning little boots. He got it when he was a wee lad who’d on campaigns with his father the general and wear a little replica of Roman army garb with his “little boots”. Alas even sweet little children can grow up to be tyrannical bastards. cf. Adolf Hitler.
Today is the birthday of a policeman called Eric Estrada. He used to be in a documentary about the California Highway Patrol, called CHiPs, but when that finished he found fame in reality programmes and starring in stuff like The Bold and The Beautiful.
The documentary about the police was odd because although his name is Erica Estrada (One of the lecturers at my university was
called Erica Strata. She did not look like Eric Estrada) in the programme he pretended it was Frank Poncherello. My only guess on this is that he was undercover the whole time.
Eric Estrada has also turned himself into a cartoon to appear in things like King of the Hill and Family Guy where once again he gets to be a policeman like he is in real life and … hang on.
I’ve just done some more research and apparently CHiPs wasn’t a documentary and Eric Estrada is an actor. This is a shame because as an actor he makes a very good policeman. So, now I realise that he has spent his whole career feeding off his fifteen minutes of fame in the early eighties and he’s not just an undercover police officer who made good. How tragic.
Anyway, I’ve nothing more to say about this faker other than it’s his birthday today and he should be utterly ashamed of himself!