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Caligula’s Diatribes

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During a recent excavation in Rome it was determined that the tattered remnants of what looked like a journal had been the handiwork of the Emperor Caligula.  Indeed, it has now been established that the following entry was written just days before his assassination by members of the Praetorian Guard and disgruntled Senators.  I, Publicus, have provided the following translation:

“….(unintelligible gibberish)…I feel so persecuted.  Probably in the history of all the Roman Emperors no one has been as mistreated as I.  These so-called scribes and political philosophers, like Seneca the Younger, writing for the cosmopolitan elites have been spreading demonstrably false stories about me.  Ye Gods! These nattering nabobs of negativity have the audacity even to challenge my sanity. Just because I like to indulge my whims, to which, as Emperor and Neos Helios, I am justly entitled. Seneca and others begrudge me my sexual conquests, suggesting that lusting after those of my own flesh and blood is somehow beneath any Emperor.  If an Emperor cannot brag about such licentious behavior what is to become of Roman masculus?!

….(unintelligible gibberish)…And what of my great works?  Why I have erected more glittering structures than anyone in history.  Of course, some are intended to promote my name, as it should be with any Caesar.  But my vision for protecting any territory claimed by Rome from invading hordes may soon be extended to a vast wall in Brittania.  If only those bickering Senators would just obey my demands.

…(unintelligible gibberish)…Those traitorous Senators, some of whom I had to put to death because their betrayals, are intolerable.  What is the good of having an Absolute Ruler if there are petty checks on my decrees?  Fortunately, I have the adoring crowds who pay no attention to the outlandish charges against me whether from the Senate or their allies among the scribes with their bogus gossip.

…(unintelligible gibberish)…Now I am besieged with challenges to my authority and the empire by some puny Eastern ruler. These threats do not disturb me in the least given all of the firepower that I command with my Roman legions and their technical prowess.  I will reign down fire and fury on this little dictator. While some may counsel diplomacy, I cannot abide such brazen efforts to undermine my dominion.  Starting a little war will be of great service to the empire and will help distract the rabble.  I’m sure this will be another magnificent win for…

Here the entry breaks off.  Apparently, some of Caligula’s inner circle was even concerned that he might order a pre-emptive attack that would cause havoc in that part of the world and, perhaps, even lead to unintended consequences, as do all wars.  It is not known if this bellicose behavior on Caligula’s part was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.  But, shortly after his ranting about eliminating the Eastern nemesis and the frightful preparations for war, the assassination plot was carried out.  But, of course, instead of the restoration of the Republic, another Caesar, Claudius, took his place.  Thus, the Empire continued…

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Fran Shor is a Michigan-based retired teacher, author, and political activist.  

CounterPunch Magazine


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