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Caligula: A Study in Roman Imperial Insanity by Ludwig Quidde (1894)

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The penchant for excesses, the wallowing in bloodshed, the enjoyment of cruel tortures – the image of Caesarean fury is perfectly complete. That pathological sexual proclivities often go hand in hand with a pathological pleasure in cruelty, in blood victims, and in cruel torments is well known everywhere from psychiatric observation. And how this combined manifestation is connected in turn with Caesarean madness is easily understood by the layman in broad terms, even if the precise dissection of the phenomenon still poses some problems to the expert. Already, the external advantages of the very position invite an early lack of restraint, examples of which are provided by the life stories of countless princely sons, no doubt from all dynasties. If there is then added the Caesarean idea of the unlimited nature of one's own pretensions and the irrelevance of all other rights (70), and if this is joined by the passing on of these factors over several generations – then, of course, all restraints are gone.

Caesarean madness shows itself in its perfect form, as it were, when bloodthirstiness, cruelty, and the lack of restraint are put in the service of the idea of deification. It seems that Caligula wanted to leave the world a grand example also of this intensification of the outgrowths of his madness, when the Jews – and they alone, it would appear – refused to erect his statue in their temple and to worship it. He was on the verge of forcing the entire people to serve him with fire and sword when death struck him down (71).

But even quite apart from such an aggregation of all traits of Caesarean madness, Caligula's penchant for excesses and his bloodthirstiness seem gruesome enough all on their own. He seems to have imposed some restraint on himself in the first period following his assumption of power, but soon the proclivities of his youth, of which I have already spoken, re-emerged, and since he was now the absolute, autocratic ruler, he indulged all the more unrestrainedly in his desires, to which countless women and girls fell victim (72).

At the same time he began in truly horrible fashion, often times incited further by financial motives, to give free rein to his lust for murder and pleasure in tortures (73). It was not only later writers who told us about it, his contemporary Seneca also recounts the bestial pleasure the emperor took at the sight of executions, and the cruelties with which he tormented the survivors (74).

(70) One saying of Caligula’s goes like this: “Memento omnia mihi et in omnes licere”: “Remember that I am allowed to do anything and against anyone.”
(71) Josephus, Antiq. 8.2-8. Philo, Legatio ad Gaium.
(72) Suetonius 36. Dio Cassius 59.3 and 10.
(73) Suetonius 26 ff. Dio Cassius 59.10. Jos. Flav., XIX, 1.1.
(74) Seneca, De ira II, 33.3; III, 18.3 ff.; 19; De benef. II, 21.5; Quest. nat. IV, praef. 17.

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