Up until now I have been discussing Caligula in his
capacity as an emperor. We must now consider him in his capacity as
When Caligula was on the verge of assuming a royal
crown, converting the appearance of the Principate into the
institution of monarchy, and someone pointed out to him that he
already rose above both emperors and kings, Caligula began to claim
for himself divine status. He gave out orders that the exceptionally
revered and beautiful statues of deities, such as the Jupiter at
Olympia, were to be brought to Rome from Greece, decapitated, and
supplied with a head of his own likeness. He also extended a part of
the Palatine palace all the way out to the Forum, transforming the
Temple of Castor and Pollux into an entrance hall for the Palace.
There in the temple he would often take his seat between the twin
gods, presenting himself for worship to those who approached. Some
even greeted him as Jupiter Latiaris, [a form of Jupiter worshipped
on Mt. Albanus].
On clear nights when the Moon was full, he would
welcome the lunar deity into his bed with passionate embraces, but
by day he had private words with Jupiter Capitolinus, and would
whisper in the god's ear or put his own ear to Jupiter's lips. At
times he would raise his voice and even quarrel with the god: once
he was heard to quote Homer in threatening tones, “Either
you move me, or I move you…!” Finally Caligula announced
that he had been won over by Jupiter's entreaties to live together.
He then built a bridge above the Temple of the Deified Augustus to
connect the Palatine and the Capitoline, and soon laid the
foundations of a new house near the Temple of Jupiter.
[The praetorian conspirators assassinated Caligula.]
Even when the emperor fell dead they did not hold back, but kept
stabbing him savagely, some of them even tasting his flesh.… Thus
did Caligula learn that he was not in fact a god.
[Claudius, the uncle of Caligula, was long the object
of jokes and humiliation. But when Caligula was assassinated in a
conspiracy of centurions and tribunes,] Claudius, at the age of
fifty, became emperor in the strangest manner imaginable.
When the conspirators had killed Caligula
and were dispersing the crowd by pretending that the emperor was
still alive and just wanted to be alone, Claudius, excluded along
with the others, withdrew into a summer room called the Hermaeum. A
short time later he heard a report that Caligula had been murdered.
In terror, Claudius slipped outside to a balcony off the Hermaeum,
concealing himself behind the curtains that hung across the doorway.
By chance, one of the rank-and-file wandering around the Palace saw
his feet sticking out from under the curtain. Checking to see who it
was, the soldier recognized Claudius and pulled him inside. As
Claudius fell to his knees in fear, the soldier hailed him emperor.
The soldier led Claudius back to his fellow soldiers,
who were still raging and roaming about without a plan. They placed
Claudius on a litter, and since his own litter-bearers had run off,
they took turns carrying him back to the [Praetorian] Camp.… But on
the following day, while the Senate delayed out of weariness and
disagreement over what should be done next, and while the crowd that
had gathered outside demanded a single ruler and shouted for
Claudius by name, Claudius allowed the soldiers to assemble in arms
to swear an oath of allegiance to him. Claudius also paid them
15,000 sesterces each (becoming the first of the Caesars to secure
the loyalty of troops with a cash payment).
You're shocked by the vices of an ordinary woman?
Regard the ones who rival gods, and hear what Claudius
Endured in Messalina. No sooner was he snoring
Than our hooker for a Highness donned a hooded cloak,
Willing to trade her Palatine sheets for a tattered blanket
And leave the Hill behind with a single servant in tow.
No longer brunette but blonde, thanks to a wig, and wrapped
In a ragged quilt, she'd sneak inside a hopping whorehouse
To the room reserved for the Empress under the name of
Then stripping down to her gilded nipples she went to work,
Offering up the loins that bore the prince Britannicus,
Absorbing the impact of man after man without a break,
And when the boss dismissed his girls, it was too soon
for Messalina; reluctantly she'd close up shop
and sadly limp her way back up the Palatine.
The emperor Vespasian resided infrequently on the
Palatine, spending most of his time at the estate called the Gardens
of Sallust, where he would receive anyone who wished to see him, not
just the senators.… He was considered an autocrat only in his care
of the public welfare; in all other respects he lived a
common life on the level of others.
At the beginning of his reign [c. AD 81], Domitian
customarily spent hours in seclusion each day, doing nothing other
than catching flies and stabbing them with a finely-pointed stylus.
When someone once asked if anyone was inside with Caesar, Vibius
Crispus aptly quipped: “No one … not even a
[There are many examples of Antoninus Pius's (AD
138-161) peaceful and generous character.] There was a Greek
philosopher from Chalcis named Apollonius who had been summoned to
Rome by the emperor. When Antoninus sent word for him to come to the
Domus Tiberiana (where the emperor was then living) to tutor Marcus
Aurelius, Apollonius said, “The teacher should not come to
the pupil, but the pupil to the teacher.” Antoninus only
smiled, saying “It was easier for Apollonius to get from
Greece to Rome than from his own house to the Palatine.”
Imperial Lives, Antoninus Pius
[A tomb inscription:] Julia Gemella, wife of Isidorus,
died at age 25. Albanus, slave of Caesar, assigned to the
furnishings at the Domus Tiberiana, died at age 45.
1773 = CIL