|The Story of the Romans|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Rome, presenting short stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the western empire. Around the famous characters of Rome are graphically grouped the great events with which their names will forever stand connected. Vivid descriptions bring to life the events narrated, making history attractive to the young, and awakening their enthusiasm for further reading and study. Ages 10-14 |
THE WILD CALIGULA
AS Caligula was the son of virtuous parents, everybody
expected that he would prove to be a good man. But he
had lost both father and mother when he was very young,
and had been brought up among wicked people. It is no
wonder, therefore, that he followed the example he had
so long had under his eyes, and turned out to be even
worse than Tiberius.
Caligula, like his great-uncle, was a hypocrite, so at
first he pretended to be very good; but, before many
months had passed, the Romans discovered that he was as
cruel and vicious as he could be.
Among his many other failings, Caligula was very vain.
Not content with adopting all the pomp of an Eastern
king, he soon wished to be worshiped as one of the
 and he struck off the heads of their statues, so as to
have them replaced by copies of his own.
Sometimes, too, he stood in the temple, dressed as Mars
or even as Venus, and forced the people to worship him.
He often pretended to hold conversations with the gods,
and even to threaten and scold them whenever things did
not suit him.
Sometimes he went out to woo the full moon, as if he
had been its lover, and he treated his horse far better
than any of his subjects. This animal, whose name was
Incitatus, lived in a white marble stable, and ate
out of an ivory manger; and sentinels were placed all
around to see that no sound, however slight, should
disturb him when asleep.
Caligula often invited Incitatus to his own banquets,
and there the horse was made to eat oats off a golden
plate and drink wine out of the emperor's own cup.
Caligula was on the point of sending the name of
Incitatus to the senate, and of having him elected as
consul of Rome, when this favorite horse died, and thus
put a stop to his master's extravagance.
Many historians think that Caligula was not responsible
for all the harm that he did; for he was once very ill,
and it was only after that illness that he began to do
all these crazy things. Some of his courtiers had
exclaimed that they would gladly die if the emperor
could only be well; so as soon as he was able to be up
again, he forced them to kill themselves.
As time went on, Caligula's madness and cruelty
increased, and he did many more absurd things. For
instance, he once started out with a large army, saying
 that he was going to make war against the Germans.
But, when he came to the Rhine, he gave orders that a
few German slaves should hide on the other side of the
river. Then, rushing into their midst, he made believe
to take them captive; and when he came back to Rome he
insisted upon having a triumph.
Before going back home, however, he started out to
conquer Britain; but when he came to the sea he
directed his soldiers to pick up a lot of shells on the
shore. These he brought back to Rome, as booty, and he
pompously called them the spoils of the ocean.
An astrologer once told him that he was as likely to
become emperor as to walk over the sea; and he wished
to prove his ability to do both. As he was emperor
already, he ordered that a bridge of boats should be
built across an arm of the sea; and then he walked over
it simply to show how wrong the astrologer had been.
An ordinary boat to travel about in would not have
suited Caligula, so he had a galley built of cedar
wood. The oars were gilded, the sails were made of
silk, and on the deck was a pleasure garden with real
plants and trees bearing fruit of all kinds.
The cruelty of this emperor was quite as great as his
folly. We are told that he killed his own grandmother,
caused many Romans to die in slow torture, and once
exclaimed, "I wish that the Roman people had but one
head so that I might cut it off at a blow!"
Caligula's tyranny lasted about three years. Unable to
endure it any longer, some of the Romans formed a
conspiracy, and Caligula was murdered by one of his
guards whom he had taunted. The first blow having been
 by this man, the other conspirators closed around
Caligula, and it was found later that he had been
pierced by no less than thirty mortal wounds.
Such was the end of this monster, of whom Seneca, a Roman writer, has said: "Nature seemed to have brought
him forth to show what mischief could be effected by
the greatest vices supported by the greatest
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