Caligula and the Fine Print

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Concerning the Roman emperor Gaius Caligula

Dio Cassius

Roman History 59.28

28 Gaius ordered that a sacred precinct should be set apart for his worship at Miletus in the province of Asia. The reason he gave for choosing this city was that Diana had pre-empted Ephesus, Augustus Pergamum and Tiberius Smyrna; but the truth of the matter was that he desired to appropriate to his own use the large and exceedingly beautiful temple which the Milesians were building to Apollo. 2 Thereupon he went to still greater lengths, and actually built in Rome itself two temples of his own, one that had been granted him by vote of the senate and another at his own expense on the Palatine. It seems that he had constructed a sort of lodge on the Capitoline, in order, as he said, that he might dwell with Jupiter; 3 but disdaining to take second place in this union of households, and blaming the god for occupying the Capitoline ahead of him, he hastened to erect another temple on the Palatine, and wished to themselves to it the statue of the Olympian Zeus after remodelling it to resemble himself. 4 But he found this to be impossible, for the ship built to bring it was shattered by thunderbolts, and loud laughter was heard every time that anybody approached as if to take hold of the pedestal; accordingly, after uttering threats against the statue, he set up a new one of himself. 5 He cut in two the temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum and made through it an approach to the palace running directly between the two statues, in order, as he was wont to say, that he might have the Dioscuri for gate-keepers. Styling himself Jupiter Latiaris, he attached to his service as priests his wife Caesonia, Claudius, and other persons who were wealthy, receiving ten million sesterces from each of them in return for this honour. 6 He also consecrated himself to his own service and appointed his horse a fellow-priest; and dainty and expensive birds were sacrificed to him daily. He had a contrivance by which he gave answering peals when it thundered and sent return flashes when it lightened. Likewise, whenever a bolt fell, he would in turn hurl a javelin at a rock, repeating each time the words of Homer, “Either lift me or I will thee.” 7 When Caesonia bore a daughter only a month after her marriage, he pretended that this had come about through supernatural means, and gave himself airs over the fact that in so few days after becoming a husband he was now a father. He named the girl Drusilla, and taking her up to the Capitol placed her on the knees of Jupiter, thereby hinting that she was his child, and put her in charge of Minerva ….

8 This god, now, this Jupiter (for he was called by these names so much at the last that they even found their way into documents) at the same time that he was doing all this was also collecting money in most shameful and dreadful ways. One might, indeed, pass over in silence the wares and the taverns, the prostitutes and the courts, the artisans and the wage-earning slaves, and other such sources, from which he collected every conceivable tribute; 9 but how could one keep silent about ….. using them as a means of milking everybody alike? Some of those who thus contributed to his need did so willingly, but others very much against their will, lest they should be thought to be vexed. 10 The multitude, however, was not greatly displeased by these proceedings, but actually rejoiced with him in his licentiousness and in the fact that he used to throw himself each time on the gold and silver collected from these sources and roll in it. 11 But when, after enacting severe laws in regard to the taxes, he inscribed them in exceedingly small letters on a tablet which he then hung up in a high place, so that it should be read by as few as possible and that many through ignorance of what was bidden or forbidden should lay themselves liable to the penalties provided, they straightway rushed together excitedly into the Circus and raised a terrible outcry. Once when the people had come together in the Circus and were objecting to his conduct, he had them slain by the soldiers; after this all kept quiet.


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