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keturion

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About keturion

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  1. keturion

    Was Caligula really a monster?

    I think there is a difference between being the monster depicted by Suetonius and exercising normal, political judgment. It always seemed so unlikely that Tiberius or Caius were the depraved criminals their Senatorial biographers would have them believe. My assumption has always been that until the time of Nerva, there was a struggle to find the balance between the powers of the Senate and the princeps. The princeps had the powers of a tribune for life and could also order executions, so any leverage granted the Senate could only be because of custom and the desire to placate would-be assassins. Octavian was smart and the Senate accepted him; Tiberius had a harder time of it. I think Caius - being young and impetuous - sought to sideline them altogether. That is to say, truly make them irrelevant. At the same time, there were still those loyal to the form of government where the consuls were supreme (the Republic) who were willing to take action, and I think these two forces combined to bring out Caius' assassination after a brief reign. After that came all the character assassination. I just find it interesting that Plutarch says he served with "distinction". He must have done very well by some people in the Empire. It's fun to speculate...
  2. Okay, here it goes: in popular culture, there is a certain definite impression of who Caius Caligula might have been. Robert Graves has (brilliantly) cemented that impression for us. But I wonder. Almost all of the sources are Senatorial. And none that I have read is contemporary, except Josephus, and there is nothing disturbing there. If you consider that 1) oratory in the time of the Caesars was nothing more than a mere rhetorical (and profitable) exercise, 2) Cicero's speeches show how lying to make a point was not beyond the norm, and 3) the story from the time of the Gracchi brothers until Nerva's succession was one of struggle between Senate and the equites... I am piqued by what I read at the end of Plutarch's life of Antonius. Maybe it shouldn't matter, but I trust Plutarch more than any other of the other historians covering that period. He is so open, so fresh, and feels so honest. I've read a lot of him, and I trust him more than any Pope. And he writes: "From this marriage [Antonia and Drusus] sprang Germanicus and Claudius; of these, Claudius afterwards came to the throne, and of the children of Germanicus, Caius reigned with distinction, but for a short time only, and was then put to death with his wife and child..." [Life of Antonius, 87] Caius can only be the infamous Caligula. Or am I wrong?
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