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Classical Interviews: Caligula

Ancient World

Classical Interviews: Caligula

Bust of Caligula


By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB

This series of fictitious interviews is based on the Italian writer Papini’s novel Gog. In it, the main character interviews contemporary celebrities, like Freud and Einstein. In this series I’ve done the same, but with well-known personalities from the ancient Greek and Roman world.

Today I will be interviewing a Roman emperor whose name is associated with madness and tyranny. That’s right! Caligula, the third emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. On the day we spoke, though, the mad emperor appeared utterly sane.


Q. Ave, Caligule. Thanks for receiving us, and congratulations on becoming emperor of Rome. Are you enjoying your new life?

A. I’m having a wonderful time! Being an emperor is great, but I hope I don’t end up obsessed with power like the ancient kings. In fact, my being chosen as emperor was a total surprise. I realize how big a responsibility it is, but I will endeavor to do my best. I hope to maintain a good relationship with everyone, especially Rome’s senators, though I sometimes have the feeling that they are lazy and decadent old men. I can’t say all of them are like this, but there are some that never knew a good day’s work. Even my horse Incitatus could do a better job! The only thing I don’t like about becoming emperor is this atmosphere of paranoia. I miss eating my lunch without slaves tasting it for poison. And I feel like I’m being watched all the time. I’ve even started to hear voices in my head!


Q. What are your plans for the future?

A. I am very fond of building. I’m also very interested in other cultures, so I was thinking that I might build some pyramids here. Let’s hope the senate agrees. I’m also looking forward to building a new Circus Maximus. I feel the people really do need “panem et circenses”, especially circenses, or their lives will be so terribly boring! During my rule, I think that people will appreciate all the games I’m planning. I’m sure they’ll have the time of their lives! In fact, I’m planning a riparian party by the Tiber next week and I would love it if you could come!


Q. Thanks so much for the invitation, majesty. I’ll do my best to make it. Anyway, I was wondering if you could talk a little about your relationship with your family. Do you get along with them well?

A. I feel like family is the most important thing in the whole world. I love my family, especially my sisters. We have arguments once in a while, mostly because I feel they’re too overprotective, but otherwise we’re one big happy family. They’re the ones who gave me this nickname Caligula, which I hated at first but I eventually got used to. I even like my half-wit uncle Claudius. Even though everybody in our family despises him, I always try to be nice to him. Let me tell you something, just between us. People may think I’m nuts, but I have the feeling Claudius is going to play an important role in history. In fact, sometimes I get the feeling he’s only pretending to be dumb. They say he is the last Roman who understands Etruscan!


Q. They say that some of your predecessors had republican views. How do you feel about the idea of a republic?

A. Well, I don’t think a republic is a bad idea at all. Just between us, I worry that the emperors have too much power. Still, a republic only works well when the senate isn’t corrupt. Nowadays, the senate is overwhelmed by corruption, which was once a symbol of honesty and justice in the early days of the republic, after the expulsion of the kings. Plus, an empire is a lot more fun! There’s much less corruption since the power of the senate is greatly reduced. Senators often have no idea of the real aspirations of the people, but an emperor certainly does. I always do my best to help the needy. That’s why
I abolished so many taxes. The senate hated me for this!


Q. We know you have many friends, especially in the Praetorian Guard. Who would you say is your best friend?

A. Ah, that’s a difficult question. It’s so hard to pick just one! I always like to quote Cicero and say “vere amicitiae sempiternae sunt”. The Pretorian Guard is known for their fierce loyalty to the emperor, and I am sure my life is in good hands. They are all my most trusted friends, and they would never betray their sovereign. They would rather die! Still, if I had to pick one person, I would say Cassius Chaerea is my true BFF.


Q. What is your opinion about turning emperors into gods?

A. Honestly, I think it’s a stupid idea, and I would hate it if the Romans ever made me a god as they did with my predecessors. We emperors are certainly very powerful, but we will never be as powerful as Jupiter or Apollo. I hope this tradition is abolished as soon as possible. A man is a man; a god is a god. Argumentum finitum est. I am as human as you are. Besides, it’s sacrilege. How can a mortal become a god? That only happens in mythology!


Q. What message would you like to give to people in the future?

A. I hope people will remember me as a just ruler who did his duty for his country. And I certainly hope they won’t make me into a god. Nevertheless, I would love it if my name were immortalized and always associated with wise and just rule.


André Bastos Gurgel
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.

Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.



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