Tuesday, 30 July 2013
The Original Badman: Caligula
Being the stereo-typical teenager I am, a relaxing holiday is all very well and good, but I may as well be living in a third-world country without the telly. Without the telly, there is very little to stop my world descending into the pits of madness, as I loose all remnants of civilization and become reminiscent of Jack in 'Lord of the Flies'. Yesterday evening, I was made aware of the beginning of the fall into savagery slowly taking place, by the zeal with which I devoured the barbecued pork I had had for dinner, and so decided it was time to top up on my good old telly fix. Bored, I picked up the remote, settled myself in the corner of the caravan, dropped the spear I had made (the promise of telly already reversing the process), and settled on a programme: Caligula. I recognized the name vaguely from the 'Horrible Histories' books that I had read in primary school, remembering that the reason good old Caligula had stuck in my memory was that he was certifiably nuts, and (as you've probably noticed), I've always had a bit of a thing for the crazy ones. So it was with interest that I settled down, preparing for an hour of good old Roman history.
The first surprise, probably, came from the presenter herself: Mary Beard. Now, I'm not quite sure who is responsible for this reprehensible and, frankly, criminal idea, but somebody had clearly told Mary that she needed to be slightly more 'down with the kids'. Dear god, the horror. I first realized that something was so very wrong, when she told us that Caligula ''had a bit of a hangover'', when (steel yourself), ''he was jumped by a posse''. Nope, you didn't hear wrong: Caligula, jumped, with a hangover, by a posse. Not a cohort, or an assembly. A posse. From the first sentence of this documentary, it was obviously meant to become apparent that Beard had gone street. Like, she's chatting some proper slang to the yoof about history and ting, aight? Don't go messing with Caligula cos he will mess you up big time bruva.
Or maybe the hungover posse-jumping was just Beards way of leading up to the first big secret: Caligula isn't really Caligula's real name. Confused? Me too. Apparently, Caligula's Mum had decided he was to be like an army mascot, and so dressed him up in a little soldiers uniform, right down to the shoes, or caliga. You see where I'm going here... Caligula, was in fact a nickname, and translates as 'Little Boots', or as the new street-wise Mary tells us, 'Diddums'. According to her, he would have told people to call him by his real name: Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, and been horrified to think that people knew him as 'Emperor Diddums'. But then again, his full name is a bit difficult for the yoof to get their teeth around.
Then we move on, to the crib of emperor Tiberius, the previous Emperor of Rome, where Caligula is taught about the art of being an emperor: the skills of terror and largess. Mary tells us that Tiberius, Caligula's uncle, 'chucked' his enemies off a cliff face into the sea below, and that young Caligula would have been taught not to show emotions, even when his mother and brothers had been killed.
I'm not going to tell you the tales of Caligula's madness and cruelty, because I feel that it's been done to death by pretty much everybody. And it wasn't in the programme. Instead, I'm going to dispel a few of the rumors, my eyes having been opened by my main girl, Mary Beard. For example, there is no official record that Caligula actually did make his horse Incitatus a consul, and Mary tells us that the idea was nothing more than 'a bit of banter', something he had joked about in order to play around with his human consuls. We are also told that the tales of incest between him and his sister are never verified, so sorry if you were expecting Caligula to be slightly more dramatically deranged.
Anyway, you don't have to commit incest and make your horse a consul to come across as 'a sandwich short of a picnic'. You could always tell the British public that Caligula was a bit hungover when he got jumped by a posse. Innit Bruv.