Caligula: A Biography

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University of California Press, Sep 1, 2011 - Political Science - 240 pages
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The infamous emperor Caligula ruled Rome from A.D. 37 to 41 as a tyrant who ultimately became a monster. An exceptionally smart and cruelly witty man, Caligula made his contemporaries worship him as a god. He drank pearls dissolved in vinegar and ate food covered in gold leaf. He forced men and women of high rank to have sex with him, turned part of his palace into a brothel, and committed incest with his sisters. He wanted to make his horse a consul. Torture and executions were the order of the day. Both modern and ancient interpretations have concluded from this alleged evidence that Caligula was insane. But was he?

This biography tells a different story of the well-known emperor. In a deft account written for a general audience, Aloys Winterling opens a new perspective on the man and his times. Basing Caligula on a thorough new assessment of the ancient sources, he sets the emperor's story into the context of the political system and the changing relations between the senate and the emperor during Caligula's time and finds a new rationality explaining his notorious brutality.

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A superb read and well written, not the usual nonsense associated with the Caligula imagery. This is more an in depth view of the political struggles between the Senate/Aristocracy and Caligula as the Emperor and their quest for ultimate power. Of course interpretation of the documents available for historical research and presentation is always subjective but there are many many notes for backing up Aloys Winterling's interesting and feasible account of the true Caligula. If you are looking for the Malcolm McDowell version of Caligula this is not a book for you, this book is an intellectual voyage of the mindset in Rome post Augustus through to Nero in a world where the Aristocracy/Inner circle are almost as treacherous as Caligula.
The workmanship of this biography is well crafted and tracks the story of Caligula in a very clear and informative manner.

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - NLytle - LibraryThing

A revisionist biography advocating persuasively that Caligula was not insane, only portrayed as mad because the aristocracy so hated him. Read full review


A Mad Emperor?
1 Childhood and Youth
2 Two Years as Princeps
3 The Conflicts Escalate
4 Five Months of Monarchy
5 Murder on the Palatine
Inventing the Mad Emperor
Epilogue to the English Edition

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About the author (2011)

Aloys Winterling holds a chair for Ancient History at Humboldt-University Berlin. He is the author of Aula Caesaris and Politics and Society in Imperial Rome, among other books.

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