When one tries to decide who the most evil Roman Emperor was, then one has a very tough task. Notable candidates include Diocletian who martyred at least 3000 Catholic Christians in some of the most painful ways possible, or Tiberius who was an unabashed pedophile who raped countless infants, toddlers and young boys well into his seventies, or Caracalla who slaughtered 20,000 citizens of Alexandria as he heard there was a play that made fun of him performed there.
For me however, Caligula takes the biscuit. “Little Boots” took the throne on the death of his second cousin Tiberias, something of a great Uncle to him. Some say Caligula ordered the head of the Praetorian Guard to smother him with a pillow. Upon his ascension, everyone in the Empire rejoiced. For the first seven months or so, he was loved by all. He paid handsome bonuses to the military, to get them on his side, and recalled many whom Augustus and Tiberias exiled. But he became very sick in October of 37, and the disease has never been pinned down. Philo blames it on his extravagant lifestyle of too much food, wine, and sex. After the disease passed and Caligula made a full recovery, he had turned into one of the most evil men in human history. Some Jewish, Christian and Muslim historians of centuries afterward even considered that Caligula might have been possessed by a demon. He has been accused of the most awesomely disgusting, insane, luridly depraved crimes against humanity and morality, and sadly the accusations are all absolutely true.
He began ordering the murders of anyone who had ever crossed him, or even disagreed with him on mundane matters. He had a very good memory. He exiled his own wife, and proclaimed himself a god, dressing up as Apollo, Venus (a goddess), Mercury and Hercules. He demanded that everyone, from senators to Guards to guests and public crowds, refer to him as divine in his presence. When he was a boy, a seer told him that he would never be emperor until he walked on water. So he built a pontoon bridge across the Bay of Naples, put on the breastplate of Alexander the Great, and paraded night and day across the Bay, throwing lavish sex orgies in the light of bonfires.
He attempted to instate his favorite horse, Incitatus (“Galloper”), as a priest and consul, and ordered a beautiful marble stable built for him, complete with chairs and couches on which Incitatus never sat. Once, at the Circus Maximus, the games ran out of criminals, and the next event was the lions, his favorite. He ordered his Guards to drag the first five rows of spectators into the arena, which they did. These hundreds of people were all devoured for his amusement.
A citizen once insulted him to his face in a fit of rage, and Caligula responded by having him tied down, and beaten with heavy chains. He made this last for 3 months, having the man brought out from a dungeon and beaten, until Caligula and the whole crowds that gathered were too offended by the smell of the man’s gangrenous brain, whereupon he was beheaded.
Caligula’s favorite torture was sawing. The saw-blade filleted the spine and spinal cord from crotch up to chest, and the victim was unable to pass out due to excess blood to the brain. He also relished chewing up the testicles of victims, without biting them off, while they were restrained upside down before him.
He had another insulter and his entire family publicly executed one after another in front of a crowd. The husband and wife were first, followed by the oldest child and so on. The crowd became outraged and began to disperse, but many stayed in morbid fascination. The last of the family was a 12 year old girl, who was sobbing hysterically at what she had been forced to watch. A member of the crowd shouted that she was exempt from execution as a virgin. Caligula smiled and ordered the executioner to rape her, then strangle her, which he did.
He publicly had sex with his three sisters at banquets and games, sometimes on the table amid the food. He was finally murdered by the Praetorian Guard and some senators, leaving the Circus Maximus after the games. His body was left in the street to rot, and dogs finally ate it. He had ruled for 4 years.
What do you think – is he your worst too…?