Saturday, 19 March 2016

Book #11

Caligula by Suetonius


The biography of the brutal, crazed and incestuous Roman Emperor Caligula, who tried to appoint his own horse consul.

Written by Roman historian Suetonius, this instalment in the Little Black Classics range describes the cruel, sadistic and mad deeds of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. Remembered as the most insane emperor of Rome, we're treated to recountings of his capricious killings, his wanton sex life (sisters, other men's wives, other men - he wasn't fussy), and his determination to appoint his favourite horse head of the Senate.

Caligula is a fascinating figure, particularly in that he began his reign well-respected and loved. The people rejoiced at Tiberius' death and were delighted to have Caligula appointed as emperor. Something seems to have snapped in him along the way, whether it be the stress and influence of power, or otherwise, and led to the madness of his ruling. Suetonius touches on Caligula's mental illness and insomnia to give us an insight into the mind of the man, but it must be remembered that this account relies entirely on story and rumour as all official documentation was destroyed.

Suetonius lists Caligula's deeds one after the other; a seemingly endless list of macabre whims which become a tiresome narrative with no sense of a story. This style isn't entirely engaging, however I may be greedy with my literary needs considering this was written in the first century.

An interesting look into first century Rome, and the terror and fear that can be induced by a powerful leader.

No comments: