Obama: America’s god-emperor

obama_roman1Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also known as Caligula, was the emperor of Rome from A.D. 37 to 41. It is generally accepted by historians that he probably murdered Tiberius, his predecessor, and also killed off his cousin, whom Tiberius had appointed co-ruler with Caligula upon his death. Caligula became something of a cult curiosity during the last century, particularly in the media (a handful of films were made about him), most likely because he was Rome’s most depraved emperor.

Showcasing the ancient ruler’s depravity in a society that was itself fast becoming markedly depraved made for titillating entertainment, I suppose – as well as garnering moviegoers’ dollars.

Caligula also believed he was a god. No, really: Shortly after he ascended to his high office, Caligula reportedly suffered from some sort of terrible physical malady that laid him up for weeks. When he recovered – if you could call it that – he revealed to his family and advisers that he had undergone a transfiguration that left him “a god.” There are a plethora of stories detailing his subsequent unhinged escapades – that he married and impregnated his sister, then eviscerated her and ate the fetus being among them. It is likely that some of these are Roman urban legends, but others are well-documented.

While his predecessors had gotten away with a lot, Caligula was the first of the Roman emperors to wholly disregard the Roman Senate and wield absolute power. He was said to have delighted in watching torture and executions, and spent his nights in orgies of gluttony and lust. His tendencies toward public sexual degeneracy and the summary execution of individuals for trifles offended even the questionable Roman sensibilities of the day. The Praetorian Guard assassinated him in January of 41.

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