Just about every Roman emperor has a few crazy stories attached to their name but by far Gaius Caesar Augustaus Germanicus, also known by his nickname Caligula, was the most certifiably insane. Six ancient Romans wrote about him and his crazy escapades, and every single one of them came to the conclusion that he was a few fries short of a happy meal. Some of these stories are so crazy that some people are even skeptical that they even happened. Here are five reasons that solidifies Caligula’s title as Rome’s looniest emperor.
1. He Wouldn’t Let Anyone Mention Goats Around Him
As rash as he was, Caligula was very sensitive when it came to his hair. It pretty much grew everywhere except where he wanted it the most: his head. He had a bald spot, one that he went to great lengths to make sure that no one could make fun of. So much so that he made it illegal to mention the word “goat” in his presence. It is also reported that he stopped artists from drawing his bald spot, though it did show up in written descriptions.
2. He Threatened to Beat Up a God
It is believed that Caligula may have been severely mentally ill. Aside from his brash and sadistic personality, he also suffered hallucinations which affected his sleep because they were worse at night. According to the philosopher Seneca, he once witnessed Caligula threaten Jupiter, the god of thunder. Apparently the emperor became furious when thunder started to roar during a ballet show, which led to Caligula storming outside and threatening to beat the god to death.
3. He Invited His Horse to Drink Wine at His Dinner Table
According to multiple sources, Caligula treated his horse Incitatus way better than he did most people. The horse lived in a multiple room house fitted complete furniture and a crew of slaves who were ordered to follow the horse’s every command. He even invited Incitatus to dine with him where the horse was served wine in golden goblets. Caligula made sure that Incitatus was well rested: it is said that he sent his soldiers to threaten the crowd at a game into silence after noticing that their cheering was bothering the horse.
4. He Rode a Horse Across a Gulf Just to Prove a Fortune-Teller Wrong
When an astrologer named Thrasyllus predicted that Caligula had “no more chance of becoming emperor than of riding a horse across the Gulf of Baiae,” he made it his duty to do exactly that. He rounded up every ship he could find and had them line up across the gulf, then ordered slaves to lay earth upon them, creating a huge bridge in the process. And in true to his word, Caligula strutted across the bridge back and forth for two days straight on his favorite horse, Incitatus.
5. He Tried to Replace the Head on the Statue of Zeus with His Own
Not even the title of emperor could satisfy Caligula’s ego. He wanted to be a god with a cult who worshiped his very being. So much so that he had temples constructed in his honor, both in Rome and Syria. He even had plans to place a stone carving of his face in place of that of Zeus at Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And bull sacrifices just wouldn’t cut it either: his followers had to sacrifice peacocks and flamingos in his honor—only the finest animals would do.
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