Favourite Caligula story

Mar 2017
854
Colorado
#62
I think we've just touched on a problem with the histories. The really bad stories of Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero are all suspect. The historians of the time had reason to demonize them, reflecting public hatred. How much is really true?

Most people who have heard of Incitatus say "Yeah! He made a horse a Senator!" Well, that didn't happen but that's what survived the history in common thought. Propaganda successful.

Cassius Dio & Suetonius talk about his favorite sister Drusilla. Cassius Dio says he treated her like a "concubine". Suetonius, apparently much more offended, goes into greater detail. Caligula gets sick, gets better, then one yr later Drusilla gets sick from a widespread disease and dies. When sick, Caligula names Drusilla as his heir (first female in Roman history) possibly to continue the Julian line through her children. Neither historian likes the inheritance or incest. If she were pregnant and Caligula cut out the baby, don't you think that would be mentioned? His other two sisters were exiled, so it can't be one of them. Probably everyone on Historum has heard the "cut out the baby" story ... it's not in the text. In fact, there's no historical reference outside of Robert Graves' "I Claudius".

Caligula slept with a lot of Senator's wives .. as did Julius Caesar ... as did Augustus. It's hardly mentioned for the other two. It seems it was important to pile onto Caligula.

I just realized it's very reminiscent of American politics right now. If the media favors a politician, they're very quiet about the same indiscretions that they crucify the opposition for. What did Samuel Clemens say? "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes."

Nero was so reviled they just waved their hands, gave up, and buried his entire palace ... then moved on. What are the odds his histories have been layered with revulsion (there's an awful lot to work with: killed his first wife <Claudius' daughter>, he killed his mother, possibly killed his 2nd wife by kicking/punching her abdomen in late pregnancy <this could be fake news, it could've been a miscarriage>, dressed up as a woman and married a man as his husband, castrated a man and married him as a wife, forced the suicide of his last wife's husband so he could marry her --- and that's just his immediate family).

It's more complicated to figure out the truth than you'd think:
Of course you have to compare the different narratives.
You have to see when they were written ... who was first?
You have to examine the loyalties of the writers.
--- and STILL you have to guess.

I like the Cleopatra story because I can trace it through historians. Strabo writes two sentences about her death (citing two rumors), Plutarch writes three paragraphs (and cites two sources that were THERE). Suetonius was a contemporary of Plutarch, but doesn't read him. Instead, he reads Strabo, figures "it NEEDS something", and rewrites it ... adding guys trying to suck out the poison from a corpse for color. The honorable Cassius Dio is no fool and reads both Plutarch and Suetonius: he combines them and says "these guys are boring" ... and just invents PAGES out of thin air ... all kinds of dialogue, a body search, changes Plutarch's begging to a seduction, keeps the poison sucking guys (good idea!). . He read Strabo's one sentence, borrowed a couple of details from Plutarch, and decided to "punch up" the narrative. It reads like a teenage romance novel and just needs Fabio on the cover as Augustus. Given that, what did Cassius Dio add to Caligula?

[See what I did there? Brought it back around? :) ]
 
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#63
So Dios, have you reached any conclusions about anything?
The really bad stories of Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero are all suspect.
Why? I mean, are the good stories about them suspect? You are saying that the bad stories are suspect becuase they were hated - how do you know they were hated? Because bad stories were written about them ?- if so that is circular reasoning.

How do you know Julius Caesar, as well as Augustus, slept with a lot of Senators wives? Maybe that was just propaganda?
 
Mar 2017
854
Colorado
#64
So Dios, have you reached any conclusions about anything?

Why? I mean, are the good stories about them suspect? You are saying that the bad stories are suspect becuase they were hated - how do you know they were hated? Because bad stories were written about them ?- if so that is circular reasoning.

How do you know Julius Caesar, as well as Augustus, slept with a lot of Senators wives? Maybe that was just propaganda?
Augustus is easy. When Antony moved to Egypt, he exchanged letters with Augustus ... as part of Triumvirate business, I suppose. There's a nastigram from Augustus talking about the "whore queen" that Antony is sleeping with. Antony replies with "You mean my wife of 9 yrs? You sleep with anyone in a skirt." ... and then he names some of the elite women of Rome. It's either Suetonius or Cassius Dio. I believe there are references from Cicero as well. Cicero is still quoted today from his speeches about republics and dictators, but in his private life he was an unpleasant weasel: many of his letters are filled with his hate for Caesar, Cleopatra, Augustus, and especially Antony ... as well as practically everybody else. I think he mentions some of Augustus' philandering.

Caesar is a little harder. He was a known womanizer as far back as Gaul. I can't remember the source, but Cleopatra "wasn't his first queen." The military made up an epigram when he "stayed too long" with one king. "Caesar is every woman's man, and every man's woman" (easy to Google). No historian really believes he swung both ways, and think it was meant to be funny ... but as dictator, he maintained a mistress who I'm pretty sure was married. I don't know how that worked out when Cleopatra came to visit for a couple of yrs. It's kind of odd that Sulla didn't want him to marry his first wife & he nearly died for it (had to run away). You'd think it would indicate he had a good heart .... but there you go.

As an opposite example, they went a little easy on Claudius. Maybe killing off enemies that might or might not want to kill you was more acceptable at that time? I'm guessing he was just a relief from Caligula ... and did do a LOT of good stuff. The whole thread of "I Claudius" is that he's writing a secret history of Rome that survives Nero's fires. He actually wrote a history of the Epi-<somethings>. He rebuilt & restocked the Great Library of Alexandria under the provision that they read his history aloud in their amphitheater once every year. -- Anyway, this is a case of making Claudius look a little better than he actually was.

I think the example of Cassius Dio is pretty clear. He followed the Augustinian Propaganda about Cleopatra and just made stuff up ... pages of stuff .... for something that happened 150 yrs before he was born ... details documented in no previous history ... including quoted dialogue. What else did he make up? Plutarch is the absolute reference for Cleopatra because he tells us his sources. There's other problems with Plutarch, but not for that section.

My "Eureka!" moment with history was when I realized it wasn't all pomp & ceremony, and actors speaking with upper class British accents. They were real people. They weren't "like"us... they "WERE" us. You can find Caesar & Marc Antony equivalents in any organized govt in the modern world. This goes for the media as well (poets & historians for Rome). How did Crassus become the richest man in Rome? He bought buildings that had been in fires and/or were falling apart at dirt cheap prices, rebuilt a little, slapped on a new coat of paint, and rented them out. I'm guessing he'd be at home in any major metropolis in the world.

Are the histories "tainted" with opinion? Of course they are. Even Plutarch that I respect so much spun "Marc Antony" into a morality tale: he starts out as a drunk frat boy, rises to his peak as a military commander ruling 1/3 of the Roman world (for a short time, he runs the entire empire), then is brought to his destruction by a woman. There's good historic detail in there, but there's also a theme that's been added.
 
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#65
I think we've just touched on a problem with the histories. The really bad stories of Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero are all suspect. The historians of the time had reason to demonize them, reflecting public hatred. How much is really true?

Most people who have heard of Incitatus say "Yeah! He made a horse a Senator!" Well, that didn't happen but that's what survived the history in common thought. Propaganda successful.

Cassius Dio & Suetonius talk about his favorite sister Drusilla. Cassius Dio says he treated her like a "concubine". Suetonius, apparently much more offended, goes into greater detail. Caligula gets sick, gets better, then one yr later Drusilla gets sick from a widespread disease and dies. When sick, Caligula names Drusilla as his heir (first female in Roman history) possibly to continue the Julian line through her children. Neither historian likes the inheritance or incest. If she were pregnant and Caligula cut out the baby, don't you think that would be mentioned? His other two sisters were exiled, so it can't be one of them. Probably everyone on Historum has heard the "cut out the baby" story ... it's not in the text. In fact, there's no historical reference outside of Robert Graves' "I Claudius".

Caligula slept with a lot of Senator's wives .. as did Julius Caesar ... as did Augustus. It's hardly mentioned for the other two. It seems it was important to pile onto Caligula.

I just realized it's very reminiscent of American politics right now. If the media favors a politician, they're very quiet about the same indiscretions that they crucify the opposition for. What did Samuel Clemens say? "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes."

Nero was so reviled they just waved their hands, gave up, and buried his entire palace ... then moved on. What are the odds his histories have been layered with revulsion (there's an awful lot to work with: killed his first wife <Claudius' daughter>, he killed his mother, possibly killed his 2nd wife by kicking/punching her abdomen in late pregnancy <this could be fake news, it could've been a miscarriage>, dressed up as a woman and married a man as his husband, castrated a man and married him as a wife, forced the suicide of his last wife's husband so he could marry her --- and that's just his immediate family).

It's more complicated to figure out the truth than you'd think:
Of course you have to compare the different narratives.
You have to see when they were written ... who was first?
You have to examine the loyalties of the writers.
--- and STILL you have to guess.

I like the Cleopatra story because I can trace it through historians. Strabo writes two sentences about her death (citing two rumors), Plutarch writes three paragraphs (and cites two sources that were THERE). Suetonius was a contemporary of Plutarch, but doesn't read him. Instead, he reads Strabo, figures "it NEEDS something", and rewrites it ... adding guys trying to suck out the poison from a corpse for color. The honorable Cassius Dio is no fool and reads both Plutarch and Suetonius: he combines them and says "these guys are boring" ... and just invents PAGES out of thin air ... all kinds of dialogue, a body search, changes Plutarch's begging to a seduction, keeps the poison sucking guys (good idea!). . He read Strabo's one sentence, borrowed a couple of details from Plutarch, and decided to "punch up" the narrative. It reads like a teenage romance novel and just needs Fabio on the cover as Augustus. Given that, what did Cassius Dio add to Caligula?

[See what I did there? Brought it back around? :) ]
Sir, I will say just this :
If Caligula see all those messages and threads about him, I am sure he would cry of happiness and say : Tiberius I did it! Look how many people talk about me!!! I am so proud!!
*Tiberius stares at him* : Just wait for MY threads and messages. I am far more superior than you!

Also, sir I enjoy so much when I read your messages XD they are so awesome :)
 
#66
Are the histories "tainted" with opinion? Of course they are. Even Plutarch that I respect so much spun "Marc Antony" into a morality tale: he starts out as a drunk frat boy, rises to his peak as a military commander ruling 1/3 of the Roman world (for a short time, he runs the entire empire), then is brought to his destruction by a woman. There's good historic detail in there, but there's also a theme that's been added.
Indeed, while Plutarch does record reliable details and mentions his sources, all his lives are morality tales. He was after all a philosopher. Three of my favourites are his lives of Theseus, Pyrrhus and Marius, which comment on unbridled ambition.
 
#67
Augustus is easy. When Antony moved to Egypt, he exchanged letters with Augustus ... as part of Triumvirate business, I suppose. There's a nastigram from Augustus talking about the "whore queen" that Antony is sleeping with. Antony replies with "You mean my wife of 9 yrs? You sleep with anyone in a skirt." ... and then he names some of the elite women of Rome. It's either Suetonius or Cassius Dio. I believe there are references from Cicero as well. Cicero is still quoted today from his speeches about republics and dictators, but in his private life he was an unpleasant weasel: many of his letters are filled with his hate for Caesar, Cleopatra, Augustus, and especially Antony ... as well as practically everybody else. I think he mentions some of Augustus' philandering.

Caesar is a little harder. He was a known womanizer as far back as Gaul. I can't remember the source, but Cleopatra "wasn't his first queen." The military made up an epigram when he "stayed too long" with one king. "Caesar is every woman's man, and every man's woman" (easy to Google). No historian really believes he swung both ways, and think it was meant to be funny ... but as dictator, he maintained a mistress who I'm pretty sure was married. I don't know how that worked out when Cleopatra came to visit for a couple of yrs. It's kind of odd that Sulla didn't want him to marry his first wife & he nearly died for it (had to run away). You'd think it would indicate he had a good heart .... but there you go.

As an opposite example, they went a little easy on Claudius. Maybe killing off enemies that might or might not want to kill you was more acceptable at that time? I'm guessing he was just a relief from Caligula ... and did do a LOT of good stuff. The whole thread of "I Claudius" is that he's writing a secret history of Rome that survives Nero's fires. He actually wrote a history of the Epi-<somethings>. He rebuilt & restocked the Great Library of Alexandria under the provision that they read his history aloud in their amphitheater once every year. -- Anyway, this is a case of making Claudius look a little better than he actually was.

I think the example of Cassius Dio is pretty clear. He followed the Augustinian Propaganda about Cleopatra and just made stuff up ... pages of stuff .... for something that happened 150 yrs before he was born ... details documented in no previous history ... including quoted dialogue. What else did he make up? Plutarch is the absolute reference for Cleopatra because he tells us his sources. There's other problems with Plutarch, but not for that section.

My "Eureka!" moment with history was when I realized it wasn't all pomp & ceremony, and actors speaking with upper class British accents. They were real people. They weren't "like"us... they "WERE" us. You can find Caesar & Marc Antony equivalents in any organized govt in the modern world. This goes for the media as well (poets & historians for Rome). How did Crassus become the richest man in Rome? He bought buildings that had been in fires and/or were falling apart at dirt cheap prices, rebuilt a little, slapped on a new coat of paint, and rented them out. I'm guessing he'd be at home in any major metropolis in the world.

Are the histories "tainted" with opinion? Of course they are. Even Plutarch that I respect so much spun "Marc Antony" into a morality tale: he starts out as a drunk frat boy, rises to his peak as a military commander ruling 1/3 of the Roman world (for a short time, he runs the entire empire), then is brought to his destruction by a woman. There's good historic detail in there, but there's also a theme that's been added.
So your evidence of Augustus' philandering is an open letter from his sworn enemy?? And for Caesar you present a soldier's joke and not really much else of substance. Mind you, I do assume that men of such power would readily take advantage of the opposite sex.

You say that Cassius Dio "made stuff up". He was a senator who would have access to government records and other literature. (Remember that a vast amount has been lost to us by now). I think it is possible that he found some writings relating to his subject, which perhaps better historians such as Tacitus would regard as suspect, but he decided to include, maybe out of a certain naivete.

I agree with you about "They were real people". But they were also extraordinary people with extraordinary power. And that is what I emphasise, there isn't much limit to what real people with such power and wealth can get up to. Often truth is stranger than fiction. I would rather believe most of the stories attached to Caligula were false, but I am afraid they are all too believable. This idea that they were just propaganda - who was supposed to be ordering false stories to be written about him, and why?
 
Mar 2017
854
Colorado
#68
The point of this is ... to support this idea: most historians "suspect" that Caligula and Nero were made to look worse than they were because they were hated by the Roman people. I "suggest" that Caesar, Augustus, and Claudius were made to look BETTER than they actually were, for the same reason ... in the most part, the Roman people liked them.

================

Caesar:
"Throughout his career his sex life would return as ammunition for his enemies trying to discredit him or cast doubt on his character or motivations.Julius Caesar was one of the most prolific womanizers of all time. Despite being married three times, one of which seems to have been for love, Caesar had a plethora of mistresses. Many high profile divorces in Rome had the name of Gaius Julius Caesar named as a problem in the marriage. His continual womanizing continued up until his dying day, when Cleopatra VII and their son, Caesarion, were holding court in a villa outside Rome. Not only was Caesar continually pursuing women to satisfy his personal appetites, but he was rumored to use sex to his political advantage by seducing the wives, sisters, or cousins of his political opponents."
A Man of the People: Julius Caesar and his Manipulation of the Crowd in Rome

=============

Augustus:
"As a young man Augustus was accused of various improprieties. For instance, Sextus Pompey jeered at his effeminacy; Mark Antony alleged that Julius Caesar made him submit to unnatural relations as the price of adoption; Antony’s brother Lucius added that after sacrificing his virtue to Caesar, Augustus had sold his favours to Aulus Hirtius in Spain, for 3,000 gold pieces and that he used to soften the hair in his legs by singeing them with red-hot walnut shells.
Not even his friends could deny that he often commited adultery, though of course they said, in justification, that he did so for reasons of state, not simply passion – he wanted to discover what his enemies were at by getting intimate with their wives or daughters. Mark antony accused him not only of indecent haste in marrying Livia, but of hauling an ex-consul’s wife from her husband’s dining room into the bedroom – before his eyes too! He brought the woman back, says Antony, blushing to the ears and with her hair in disorder. Antony also writes that Scribonia was divorced for having said a little too much when a rival got her claws into Augustus and that his friends used to behave like Toranius, the slave dealer, in arranging his pleasures for him – they would strip mothers of families, or grown girls of their clothes and inspect them as though they were up for sale. A racy letter of Antony’s survives, written before he and Augustus had quarrelled privately or publicly:
“What has come over you? Do you object to my sleeping with Cleopatra? But we are married; and it is not even as though this were anything new – the affair started nine years ago. And what about you? Are you faithful to Livia Drusilla? My congratulations if, when this letter arrives, you have not been in bed with Tertullia, or Terentilla, or Rufilla, or Salvia Titisenia – or all of them. Does it really matter so much where, or with whom you perform the sexual act?”

And Suetonius goes on to say:
"The charge of being a womanizer stuck, and as an elderly man he is said to have still harboured a passion for deflowering girls, who were collected for him from every quarter, even by his wife!"
Fascinating History: Suetonius on Augustus's Sexual Proclivities

=============

Claudius:
"But the man whom many considered too weak to rule could also be as merciless as those who ruled before him. Like his predecessors, he was paranoid, quick to anger, and did not hesitate to put supposed enemies to death. This paranoia was not without foundation. Although a revolt led by Scribimanus, governor of Upper Illyricum, was easily put down with many of the participants being executed, ties to the conspirators led to many high ranking officials in Rome. Claudius had thirty-five senators and four hundred others executed or forced to commit suicide."
Claudius

==========

Again, look at Cleopatra. The story starts small and then grows & grows to satisfy public tastes.
In the case of these three emperors, they did bad stuff ... but it didn't seem important in respect to the good they did, and later historians just didn't dwell on it and emphasised the good stuff.
Caesar in his own journals describes wiping out entire villages: men, women, & children ... "putting them to the sword." He was brutal ... apparently not important to later historians who considered it "accepted practice."

THAT's why I think Caligula & Nero stories might be "embellished" ... to fulfill what the public wanted to hear. However, I doubt they were telling full out lies. What makes me think that is the Incitatus story: they COULD have said he was made consul, but they didn't ... they said he "suggested" it (implying an insult). It would have been so easy to tell a lie & they didn't ... so, probably, most of the Caligula stories are based on some fact.

I've read a least 1/2 dozen versions of the death of Caesar. The hard details: the day, the stabbing, delaying Antony ... all agree. But details about the plotting, what happened afterwards, the handling and contents of the will ... all are just a little bit different ... about one of the most significant events of history. In one of the versions, Antony is quoted in two speeches. I thought that was interesting that "someone" remembered enough of a spur of the moment speech to write it down later. If it was Cassius Dio, I suspect a good portion of it was made up ... but probably expressed the general "feel" of the words.
 
#69
to support this idea: most historians "suspect" that Caligula and Nero were made to look worse than they were because they were hated by the Roman people
The fact that modern historians suspect something is not evidence of anything. Nor is that writing by George Zedan about Caesar really. You then quote from Suetonius about Augustus and Caesar and Claudius, so that is evidence, I am inclined to believe the jist of what he writes (but perhaps not all the details). But what point are you making? I thought you were suggesting that Suetonius was involved in trying to make them look "better"?

I think you are right that stories could well have got embellished (it happened with the Gospels). But at the same time, I think there is a root of truth in them. I consider it telling that Claudius is not recorded as making any move to honour his nephew's memory, all he seems to have done is adopt a policy of "best forgotten". He didn't seem to make any attempt to gain political capital (by, for example, trying to pretend that he had worked to undermine Caligula's decisions, or suggesting acted behind the scenes to encourage the assassins).

If only half of what Suetonius and others wrote about Caligula is true, that confirms him as psychotic, in my opinion anyway.
 
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Mar 2017
854
Colorado
#70
I haven't looked up the divorce documents implicating Caesar. They shouldn't be to hard to find. There's a *LOT* of Roman legal documents online. I actually may do that to get references ... for something else.

Suetonius says some bad stuff, but no other historians repeat him. Usually, they use Suetonius and expand it. They didn't have any problem repeating Caligula stuff. That's pretty much all my evidence for "hiding" the dark side of Caesar, Augustus, & Claudius: other historians chose to ignore those Suetonius (and other) references. Absolutely no one (except Caesar), talks about his brutality in Gaul ... I guess it was an expected thing.

And yes, I absolutely agree. Caligula was absolutely a sociopath, psychotic, and maybe schizophrenic (I "think" one of the histories reports him thinking he talked to Jupiter). Even if you take all his stories and cut down their degree by 50%, he's still a monster. Without any interpretation at all, he divorced his 2nd wife after one day then banished her, he forced the suicide of his 3rd wife, and killed Cleopatra's grandson for no solid reason anyone can figure. Caligula called him to Rome, he came to a party, Caligula had him killed (or killed him directly): one of the primaries says "he wore too much purple" (he was king, he was allowed, Mauretania was a major producer of purple) .... of course, we ARE talking Caligula.
 

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