Caligula: A Biography

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Overview


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...
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Caligula: A Biography

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Overview


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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this lively biography of Rome's infamous third emperor, readers will not find the wild-eyed dictator the public has, for nearly two millennia, come to expect. Offering not an apology for the "mad" emperor but a thoughtful argument for his sanity, Winterling, ancient history professor at the University of Basel, Switzerland (Aula Caesaris), debunks Caligula's most grotesque and oft repeated crimes. Accounts of his incestuous relationship with his sisters and his creation of a brothel on palace grounds (with senators' wives as prostitutes) were slander by biased historical sources such as Suetonius. Caligula's supposed plan to appoint his favorite race horse as consul (the highest ranking position below emperor) and his claim to be in direct contact with various gods, says Winterling, were cruel jokes misinterpreted over time. The emperor's crossing of the Bay of Baiae on a bridge of ships was not an expensive folly but an unprecedented display of power to the Germanic tribes he was targeting. Like a police interrogator, Winterling plays his ancient sources off each other, identifying holes in their accounts, "blatant contradictions," and conflicts of interest. In this brisk and well-measured biography, Caligula emerges a troubled and cruel man, but not a crazy one. Photos. (Sept.)
New Yorker

“Seeks to rehabilitate one of the most infamous Roman emperors, commonly believed to have been deranged.”
Maclean's

“A persuasive new Caligula emerges from this elegant revision: not mad at all, but just as bad and dangerous to know.”
London Review Of Books

“An eloquent and compelling study of Roman imperial history, and especially of the difficult relations between the imperial monarch and the traditional aristocracy.”
Booklist

“Presents Roman emperor Caligula in a new light.”
Cathnews Perspectives

“No Roman emperor cries out more obviously for redemption, but Aloys Winterling’s Caligula, a calm reassessment of his reign, avoids revisionist whitewashing and takes the residue of hatred as inescapable.”
The New Criterion

“Makes it clear that the behavior of the third emperor were the acts of a diffident, slightly paranoid youth, who lacked the patience that the most quarrelsome and important of his subjects required.”
Ancient History Bulletin - Geoff W. Adams

“A worthy study, which covers significant aspects of Caligula’s reign and provides some new interpretations on this fascinating subject.”
Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR)

“Winterling has produced an innovative biography which takes a novel approach to interpreting the historiography of Caligula’s reign.”
History

“[Winterling] gives us a biography that brings the man and his times to life.”
Choice

“Accessible and graceful. . . . Highly recommended.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520248953
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2011
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 360,339
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


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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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations vii

Introduction: A Mad Emperor? 1

1 Childhood and Youth 9

2 Two Years as Princeps 52

3 The Conflicts Escalate 90

4 Five Months of Monarchy 132

5 Murder on the Palatine 172

Conclusion: Inventing the Mad Emperor 187

Epilogue to the English Edition 195

Notes 197

Bibliography 215

Index 219

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    The most prominant historians called him a madman

    Convinced He was a God, Caligula did not think of how to better Rome, or even worsen it, but rather an emporer who would think of what his position was capable of doing on a bizzare level and pursuing only that.

    I would not reccomend the movie Caligula with Malcome Macdowel or this book (the book is more professional) unless you truly want to witness the disgust that power can bring. They made the movie and the book alike Firsty to appall those interested in sickness of the mind, and those who have an interest in actual true happenings.

    He did not like the senators of Rome, so he sold them off as whores in a part of his palace, that that day he fealt like turning into a brothel. He had a fondess for his horse so he want to give the second most powerful office in Rome, That of the Consul.

    He liked his sisters on a seductive level. When his sister died he passed strange laws for days of morning where fornication was punishable by death.

    They say he was insane, like Nero. Nero let bad people influence him and pursued a life of acting and play writing and chariot racing where only he would win, he wanted to be an artist but being the most powerful man in Rome did not grant him this. Caligula wanted to go down in history as being the man who could get away with the most of doing exactly as he wanted, and he wanted to appall any and all with a sober mind.

    He would kill his friends for not bowing down long enough before they approached him, he would kill his heir, Germanicus for being drunk at a drinking partuy at the same time as him, everyone else was spared.

    He would defile male and female virgins before their marriage because h wanted every sacred right that anyone could enjoy. His friends were more likely to be put to death by hm than anyone else. It was dangerous to attend the same party as him because he would rally off those to kill for the entertainment/paranoia of the rest.

    He wouyld never leed armies into battle or make glorious reforms. He took up the throne for his own amusement, the populace simply wanted to see what he would do next, he had no desire to kill them or make their lives better. He had to be the center of attention and never failed to outdo himself in insanity. Though it may be said he was so full of himself and his position his insanity was simply how he liked to be seen, not neccisarily that he was off in the head. When Tiberius passed the throne to him he was afraid of Tiberius, he kept a low profile before he took the throne. Did little harm to anyone and showed no signs of mental unstableness until he became emporer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2013

    Caligula

    The book well explained his reign of terror.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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