*Includes pictures of famous art depicting Caligula, Nero and important people, places, and events. *Discusses the facts and legends surrounding Caligula's madness and the excesses of his turbulent reign. *Describes ancient accounts of Nero's reign, including the murder of his mother, the Great Fire of Rome, and his suicide. *Includes a bibliography for further reading. *Includes Suetonius's accounts of the lives of Caligula and Nero *Includes a Table of Contents. Given how bad some of Rome’s emperors were, it’s a testament to just how insane and reviled Caligula was that he is still remembered nearly 2,000 years later as the epitome of everything that could be wrong with a tyrant. The Romans had high hopes for him after he succeeded Tiberius in 37 A.D., and by all accounts he was a noble and just ruler during his first few months in power. But after that, he suffered some sort of mysterious illness that apparently rendered him insane. Indeed, the list of Caligula’s strange actions is long. Among other things, Caligula began appearing in public dressed as gods and goddesses, and his incest, sexual perversion, and thirst for blood were legendary at the time, difficult accomplishments considering Roman society was fairly accustomed to and tolerant of such things. In fact, the Romans were so taken aback by some of Caligula’s behavior that historians catalogued some of his strangest antics. Suetonius wrote that as Caligula’s relationship with the Senate deteriorated, he ordered that Incitatus be made a member of the Roman Senate and a Consul. Incitatus, Latin for “swift,” was Caligula’s favorite horse. But far from simply being a way to stick it to the Senate, Caligula invited guests to dine with Incitatus and had the horse’s stables made of marble, suggesting Caligula was simply mentally unstable himself. In 41 A.D., the Praetorian Guard turned on Caligula and assassinated him.
Caligula’s reign was so traumatic to the Romans that they even considered restoring the Republic, but military officials ultimately installed Claudius, the only male left in the Julian family line, as emperor. Claudius's short reign was followed by Caligula’s nephew Nero, a man whose excesses sometimes made Caligula seem tame.
Nero ranks among the very worst of the Caesars, alongside the likes of mad Caligula, slothful Commodus, and paranoid Domitian, a figure so hated that, in many ancient Christian traditions, he is literally considered the Antichrist. According to a notable Biblical scholar, the coming of the Beast and the number 666 in the Book of Revelation are references to Nero. He was the man who famously “fiddled while Rome burned”, an inveterate lecher, a murderous tyrant who showed little compunction in murdering his mother and who liked to use Christian martyrs as a source of illumination at night by burning them alive. His economic policies, according to many historians, virtually bankrupted Rome. Even his appearance, apparently, was unattractive. His busts show him to be fleshy-faced, with a weak chin that he attempted to disguise with a distinctly unprepossessing beard, and according to Suetionius he was also spotty, stinking, pot-bellied and thin-legged – not a pretty picture. The best known accounts of Nero come from biographers like Tacitus, Cassius Dio, Suetionius and Josephus, but there are also indications that, to some extent, reports of Nero’s cruelty were exaggerated. Nero was popular with the common people and much of the army, and during his reign the Empire enjoyed a period of remarkable peace and stability. Many historians, including some of his ancient biographers – such as Josephus – suggest that there existed a strong bias against Nero.