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A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 1

Dmitri Gheorgheni

Entry: Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE - A87927637
Author: Dmitri Gheorgheni - U1590784

For some reason, I was drawn to the story of Caligula's war with the sea. Why this should happen at this particular time, I have no idea. smiley - angel

smiley - dragon

A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 2

SashaQ - happysad

This is a neat summary of a curious event smiley - ok

Caligula may have won his battle, but the ocean won the war indeed...

A couple of minor points:

smiley - orib "Gaius Caesar Caligula" makes it look like "Caligula" is the third part of his name rather than the nickname so I wonder if there is a way of making that clearer...

smiley - orib Footnote 1: "Caligula" means "*little* army boots"?

That's interesting that 'Pharos' has come to mean 'lighthouse' and not just the place where the wondrous lighthouse was... I didn't know that!

smiley - ok

A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 3

Dmitri Gheorgheni

Thanks for reading, Sasha! smiley - smiley

smiley - biro I put in a footnote about praenomen, nomen, cognomen. I decided not to go on about it, but he was named for Julius Caesar, who of course was Gaius Julius Caesar. So 'Caesar' was Gaius Julius' cognomen, which is funny because I think he was bald...ils sont fou, le romaines... It's just different from English. We usually put the cognomen in the middle, like Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson. smiley - winkeye

smiley - biro You're right, of course. The caligae are 'ula', as Vlad's 'drac' was '-ula'. Changed.

smiley - biro Yeah, I double-checked about 'pharos' being generic for 'lighthouse', after the island. And it is the Greek word for lighthouse.

A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 4

SashaQ - happysad

Was it his cognomen, or an actual nickname? I thought his cognomen was Germanicus and it was other people who disparagingly called him Caligula...

A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 5


This entry does suggest comparisons with another leader of doubtful credentials.smiley - winkeye

One question to ask, I suppose, is how reliable was Suetonius? Was he contemporary? Was he unbiased? The story reminds me a bit of King Canute, where the popular version says that the king tried to hold back the tide and failed. The longer version said that he did this as a rebuke to his flattering courtiers.

A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 6

Dmitri Gheorgheni

smiley - doh You're right, Sasha. It was a nickname. I completely forgot his cognomen, which was Germanicus. Thanks for setting me right! Corrected footnote has ensued. Let me know if I've sorted it out, or am still tied in knots.

'Caligula' wasn't originally an insult. He was a cute little monster, and the soldiers thought he was the regimental pet with his little boots. smiley - winkeye Of course, he grew to dislike it.

MVP, Suetonius was born about 30 years later. The short answer about all Roman historians is, 'It depends on who you talk to.' Their supply of sources wasn't what we're used to. They hadn't been trained in objectivity, and might not have known what that was. And, of course, what they might think was likely to happen certainly wouldn't completely overlap with what the average 21st-century newspaper reader would consider plausible, so....

I'm guessing, though, that a triumph would be kind of hard to make up. Also, Suetonius comes across as less biased than, say, Josephus, or even Tacitus when he's talking about his father-in-law...

That said, Suetonius was a librarian, well-read, and a friend of Pliny the Younger's, so if anybody could write a good history, he was probably the one.


I wish we had his version of the 'Urban Dictionary'. More Latin swear words would always be fun to read. smiley - smiley

A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 7

SashaQ - happysad

Excellent footnote, thank you smiley - ok

Yes, good point that the nickname was originally affectionate and it was only later that the name was used to disparage him and it stuck!

A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 8

Dmitri Gheorgheni

smiley - ok

A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 9

Tavaron da Quirm - Arts Editor

Great Entry!smiley - laugh

A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 10


Great entry, and coincidentally I'm currently sitting just along the road from where King Cnut failed to hold back the tide.

For me the definitive translation of Suetonius' 'Twelve Cæsars' was by Robert Graves, the author of 'I, Claudius'. In fact, 'I, Claudius' (though it has roughly 24 other sources, including Tacitus) pretty much follows Suetonius' interpretation of events in the days of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. (Not that I'm suggesting that anyone studying Roman history merely has to watch the award-winning 1976 BBC television series 'I, Claudius' and then, in their exams, all they have to do is remember events that happened in the series and write 'According to Suetonius…' No – a true Roman historian has to watch 'Asterix' cartoons too.)

In fact the television series 'I, Claudius' apparently when broadcast in the US was marketed as being a true reconstruction of exactly what happened in the Roman Empire. I wouldn't go that far – while every event in 'I, Claudius' has a historical source (most of which written after the events depicted) the interpretation of the event was very much Graves' own. He presents the events in ways that suggest that key figures were behind those events, manipulating what happened to their own ends, ascribing motivations and causal relationships that are probably unlikely.

It's still a cracking read.


A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

Post 11

Dmitri Gheorgheni

You left out that fact that the 'I, Claudius' television series was definitive historically because of the obvious fact that all Romans speak with British accents. smiley - winkeye I would never have wanted to miss Patrick Stewart's portrayal of Sejanus, or John Hurt's creepy Caligula. And yeah, Graves wasn't too shabby, either.

May I also recommend Colleen McCullough's 'Masters of Rome' series? She does good research, and you'd love her appendices. She knows all the cuss words, too.

I used to suggest that my Latin students - okay, the college baseball team, in particular - go read one of the 'Heroes in Hell' novels. Lots of Latin cuss words. smiley - smiley Their grades improved. One has to properly motivate....

In terms of interpreting Caligula, we realise we need to avoid imposing attitudes from another era. Camus' version of the emperor as an existentialist hero, for example, isn't history. smiley - laugh And it's hard to tell these things from historiography of the past, which is likely to be even more biased than the kind we read today, which is far from neutral, most of the time. smiley - sigh We do the best we can. smiley - winkeye

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A87927637 - Caligula's Lighthouse: A Border Crisis, 40 CE

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