Caligula, the third emperor of Rome, figures today as the classic template for a Mad King. To a man, antique historians—Seneca, Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio, the whole bunch—reported that he was “mentally ill,” “sick,” and “insane.” Their list of his abominations is long and includes bloodthirstiness; incest; delusions of godhood; transvestism (a consequence of his appearances at state functions as Diana); the use of the legions to make war on Olympus (specifically, Neptune); the forcible prostitution of highborn Roman matrons; and the appointment of a favorite racehorse, Incitatus, to the Senate.

In the introduction to his new biography, Caligula, the Swiss classicist Aloys Winterling ranges himself in the camp of contemporary historians—by no means a tiny minority—who claim that the third emperor was not, in fact, mad. The argument is based both on the unreliability...


A Message from the Editors

As a reader of our efforts, you have stood with us on the front lines in the battle for culture. Learn how your support contributes to our continued defense of truth.

Popular Right Now