Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Twevle Caesars - page 156, Caligula

Gaius Caesar was born on 31 August, A.D. 12, during the consulship shared by his father with Gaius Fonteius Capito. His birthplace is disputed. According to Gnaeus Lentulus Gaetulicus, he was born at Tibur; but, according to Pliny the Elder, near Treveri, in the village of Ambitarvium, just above the junction of the Moselle and the Rhine. Pliny supports his view by mentioning certain local altars inscribed 'IN HONOUR OF AGRIPPINA'S PUERPERIUM' (i.e. child-bearing), also a verse, which went the rounds at Gaius' accession and suggests that he was born in the winter quarters of the legions:
Born in a barracks,
Reared in the arts of war:
A noble nativity
For a Roman Emperor!

Gaius Caesar is, of course, also known as "Caligula", a childhood nickname that stuck with him throughout his life and throughout history. Often seen as the epitome of Roman debauchery, corruption, and cruelty, he was actually quite popular in his youth and when he first became Emperor. He was also the subject of a pitiful movie that tried to be serious cinema and pornography at the same time (it was produced by Bob Guccione of Penthouse magazine fame), a motion picture that has since become as infamous as its main character.

You've probably already heard about Caligula's excesses and bad decisions, though, but have you heard about his red hair?

No, really.

Yep, that's a bust of Caligula, and it has been given period colors based on the analysis of paint particles found embedded in the marble. In fact, nowadays science says that ancient marble statues were actually painted in bright colors and not left the stark, haunting white we are accustomed to seeing in museums. Whether or not that is a better aesthetic is best left up to your personal taste, but, in this case, the restoration gives us a hint as to the appearance of one of our most intriguing Roman leaders.

And we see that Caligula was a ginger.

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