CALIGULA by Arther Ferrill


Emperor of Rome
Age Range: 12 - 41
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 Grim biography of Rome's greatest monster, Caligula (A.D. 12- 41). Ferrill (History/Univ. of Washington) dismisses the Caligula of Lloyd C. Douglas's The Robe, Robert Graves's I, Claudius, Bob Guccione's X-rated film, and J.P.V.D. Balsdon's The Emperor Gaius (1934) as largely bad jobs, and argues that Anthony Barrett's Caligula: The Corruption of Power (1989) rationalizes that Caligula ``was not insane and that he was intelligent.'' Not so, Ferrill insists: Caligula was as mad as mad can be. He sees the young prince coddled and treated almost as a god since birth. As a child, Caligula knew much terror, with his father apparently being poisoned and his mother forever raving against the emperor. Caligula was not in direct line for the crown, but political machinations (by others, not himself) landed him in the purple. Before that, he seduced his two younger sisters, then went to live with Uncle Tiberius, the emperor, on Capri, where Tiberius reveled as a wildly inventive sex maniac. At Tiberius's death, a Praetorian slipped Caligula in as emperor, and for his first six months the young emperor was well liked for his insane generosity. He fell sick briefly, and upon his recovery joy turned to civil terror. Murder was the least of his sins and the smart died first. He had one senator's body chopped up before him. At parties he had sex with anyone's wife, with the husband attending. He deified his dead sister, and tried to have his own statue put into Jewish temples, which would have caused civil war had he not been assassinated. And that's only a skim of his crimes. Feels padded even at 184 pages, and Ferrill's dismissiveness of others grates and does not make for happy reading. (Twenty-two illustrations and copious footnotes--not seen.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-500-25112-6
Page count: 184pp
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991


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