American Caligula

     “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana) It also may be said that people who don’t learn from their mistakes don’t mature. This would help to explain the underlying conundrum surrounding the infantile behavior of our present White House squatter, although I sincerely doubt he’s ever learned anything, ergo: remembering is not a factor in his case.

      The history of the United States is young in comparison to those of other countries. I believe, at this precarious moment on our brief time-line, it would be worthwhile to take a quick look at a once great empire, Rome – specifically at one of its more selfish and capricious rulers, Caligula. This exercise could prove to be, for those who see the strong analogy and can connect the dots, a potentially valuable learning opportunity.  

Famous Last Words:

     The soothsayer Thrasyllus of Mendes, declared that Tiberius’ nephew, Caligula (Little Boots), had “no more chance of becoming emperor than of riding a horse across the Bay of Baiae.” 

A Brief History of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Emperor Caligula:

     In 37 AD, when Caligula became Rome’s third emperor, he already was enthralled with real estate. He poured money into building projects, including luxurious dwellings for himself and his beloved horse, lavish pleasure barges, and city walls. Little Boots used his military for theatrical displays including mock battles, gladiatorial games, and parades. He requisitioned hundreds of Roman merchant ships to halt their work in order to construct for him a 2-mile bridge spanning the Bay of Baiae just so he could spend two days galloping back and forth across it – thus disproving old Thrasyllus’ prediction. (A famine occurred as grain exports were disrupted in the repurposing of the merchant grain boats as pontoons for the bridge.)

     His personal and fiscal excesses were renown. When he was a boy, he followed his father, Germanicus, around on the job. His older brother, Nero was actually his father’s favorite, but he eventually committed suicide. Their father was a stern presence and Caligula may have become germaphobic at this time in his life, but I digress. 

     In his first year as the emperor, he managed to blow through the 2.7 billion sesterces his uncle, the Emperor Tiberius had amassed. He wallowed in luxury. His 4-year reign, from 37 AD to 41 AD was a period of waste and carnage in Ancient Rome. The division between the private wealth of the emperor and his income as head of state became blurred and Little Boots drained the Roman treasury faster than he could replenish it through taxes and extortion.

     According to his biographer, Suetonious, Caligula’s favorite saying was, “Remember, I have the right to do anything to anybody.” He worked diligently to extend the powers of the ruler over that of the principate and used fear to sublimate those around him, turning them into his personal toadies.  Senators were degraded – forced to wait on him and to run in front of his chariot. He relished publicly insulting people, was jealous and distrustful of others in power, called for investigations and trials, and ordered the execution of several senators.  He was an adulterer who had affairs with the wives of friends and harbored incestuous thoughts about his sisters and daughter. 

     In the third year of his reign, Boots began seeing himself as a god; appearing in public dressed as Hercules, Mercury, Venus, and Appollo and in public documents, he was referred to as Jupiter. Two temples were erected in Rome to worship him. He had the heads of statues of the gods removed to be replaced by a replica of his own, and he was represented as the new sun god, Neos Helios, on Egyptian coins. 

The Bitter End and a Moral on Which to Reflect:

     Contemporaries of Caligula described him as “an insane emperor who was self-absorbed, short-tempered, killed on a whim, and indulged in too much spending and sex.” Apparently, the tipping point for his toadies was when he planned to make his horse, Incitatus, a consul and actually appointed him as priest.  Feeling powerless to stop the repression and debauchery, the Senate and Praetorian Guard, under the leadership of Cassius Chaerea  who was often mocked by Boots with feminine nicknames like Venus and Priapus (which I think means pussy, but again I digress) plotted against him. On January 22, 41 AD, Caligula met his end. He was stabbed 30 times by the conspirators.
     Cassius Dios noted: “Caligula learned by actual experience that he was not a god.”

History’s View of Little Boots:

     Most surviving sources characterize Caligula as incompetent and insane. They put forth medical reasons for his abhorrent behavior. Suetonius described him as tall, sickly-looking, and pale. Some scholars have suggested he suffered from Wilson’s Disease, an inherited disorder that can cause mental instability due to copper accumulating in the liver, brain, and other vital organs. Symptoms include unusual skin pigmentation golden-brown eye discoloration, fluid build-up in the legs and abdomen, uncontrolled movements, and speech difficulties particularly in articulating words. These physical symptoms along with psychiatric symptoms often result in decreased cognition and behavioral manifestations such as anxiety disorders, changes in mood, apathy, promiscuity, irritability, aggressiveness, depression, inability to maintain social relationships, impulsivity, impaired judgment, and executive dysfunction with poor planning and decision making.

Crazy Conspiracy Theory or Parallels Too Real for Comfort?

     What have we discovered from delving into this short-term, historical period in Ancient Rome? Does any of this resonate with us? Could history be reincarnating its worst errors right here in the USA? Is it giving us yet another teaching moment, this time hoping we can reflect and possibly learn from the mistakes of others? Our American Caligula does not own a horse, so what will our tipping point be? We are a nation sadly being divided by a leader with no ethical boundaries. Can our present chaos eventually be remedied without resorting to violence, even though violence is a solution this narcissist obviously finds palatable when it involves those who disagree with him or thwart his ill-conceived plans? How will this end? And in the end, will we be a better, a greater country because of tough lessons learned?

      to be continued

Vote on Tuesday, November 3, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 


34 thoughts on “American Caligula

      1. Lucy! I just got my WP account back up and running. (That would be the account I was told I did not have but received a bill for. this month.) I have been to your blog and have not been able to publish my comments because it has asked for my email and password and then rejected. I hope that has been corrected now. How are you and your grand babies? Take care and stay safe. Love, Ethel

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh no!! I don’t know to correct anything. 😦 I will see if my daughter can. I’m sorry. I know, WP did that to me too. “You don’t have an account.” Then how was I able to publish posts??? We are all good, thx. Please tell me Roxie D hasn’t lost her easy going temperment , due to cabin fever!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. She has mellowed in the past year. Her newest routine is to wait until I’m lying on the couch, give me an adorable head butt, and then swiftly take a chunk out of my forehead with her pointy teeth before I can swat her.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Kate, I’ve tipped over and gone into a series of somersaults for the past 3 and a half years. I’ve been reading your posts and have been unable to respond because my password has not been accepted when I have to sign in after making a comment. I will keep trying now that my WP account is back up. Roxie D. sends her love to you and all of your kitties.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hoping the country can hold out for 9 1/2 months and praying for the continued good health of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. I am too old to worry for myself but I have children and grandchildren, and I’m deeply concerned for the state of this country and the world. Their lives will always be impacted the whims of the WH squatter and the moral calcification of the repug Congressmen who flop bellies up declaring their loyalty to Orange Head.

    I was thinking about you a few days ago, wondering how you and your hubby are doing. So glad to see you back here.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Same, hunkered down, pining for my sons and their families, especially missing the 4 grands. Had some fun FaceTime with the 2 littlest ones, stood ten feet away from the 2 older ones and blew kisses at each other. Really worried for the future of our country, of the whole world, especially if Agent Orange steals the election again. Stay safe, you guys.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Clare, good to see you here again, as well as on FB. The similarities are startling, aren’t they? I think Incitatus has been reincarnated as Ivanka. Priapus, whose name has evolved into the term ‘priapism,’ was a Greek god of fertility, distinguished by his huge appendage. As most of us think that Numpty Trumpty is a massive dick this also seems an appropriate analogy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I could not agree more, Clive. Yes, I’m back after much frustration with my WP account. I almost closed it. Then I found a computer person here in South County who seems to be able to fix anything technological. I’m helping her with writingher first mystery and she is helping me keep connected. Win/win It’s good to hear from you. Your American Chum, Clare

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Glad you’ve managed to find someone for a trade of mutual skills – sounds a good plan for both of you! Hope you’re keeping safe and well in these crazy times. Say hi to Roxie for me 😺

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Mary. I have had major problems with my WP account and finally was able to find someone who could straighten it out for me. Every time I tried to get into my dashboard, I was told I did not have an account. Finally, they sent be a notice that my credit card had exoired and I needed to update the information to continue with my site (the one they kept telling me I did not have). Hopefully, it is fixed for good and I can post and comment. Roxie is chomping at the bit to have her say about all that is happening. I hope all is well with you, too and will be trying to catch up with everyone in the next few weeks. Is it spring yet in Scotland? In RI, we hardly saw winter this year and the daffodils and crocuses have popped out of the ground and are already ready to bloom.
      Yayyyyyy!

      Like

      1. I hope the problem has been fixed. I’d love to hear from Roxie. Yes, spring has sprung in Scotland and today was really beautiful. The crocuses and daffodils are out, the birds are singing their hearts out and there is a faint greening on the trees. It would be perfect apart from your man in the White House, ours in No 10 and the Corona virus. I hope you and Charley are keeping well. So good to hear from you again.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Whew! That was some history lesson Clare. The parallels are frightening. Reincarnation anyone? I’m looking forward to the next re-instalment – both history and current situation. Perhaps COVID19 is the tipping point.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Clare, I’m pleased to be back too. I agree about being sent a message from the universe. We’re already seeing blue skies – and I don’t just mean that metaphorically. We will all be different and hopefully better people as we emerge from the other side. Stay well my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

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