Hollywood vs. History
in the 1979 movie Caligula
The third Roman Emperor was Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, most commonly known by the nickname Caligula. The nickname Caligula, meaning "Little boots," was given to him as a child while accompanying his father's army on military campaigns. Caligula became Emperor of Rome at the age of 24, after the death of his great-uncle in 37 AD, the second Roman Emperor Tiberius. Throughout his reign, Caligula was famous for his cruelty and bizarre behavior, marked by wild extravagance and brutality. After the death of Caligula in 41 AD, his uncle Claudius was appointed the new Emperor of Rome. The movie Caligula depicts the rise and fall of Caligula from 37-41 AD. This paper will analyze key facts of the movie and compare them to facts in history. The key facts that will be analyzed are: the portrayal of Caligula's sister Drusilla;
Caligula's accession to the throne; the portrayal of Caligula's wife Caesonia; the charge of treason by Gemellus; and the assassination of Caligula. In the movie, Caligula is portrayed as having only one sibling, a sister. The accounts of Caligula and sister Drusilla throughout the movie are that of an unnatural bond between siblings. In the beginning of the movie before the opening credits, Caligula and Drusilla are frolicking in the forest and concluded with an act of incest. Incest does not seem to be an accepted act due to a scene where Macro walks in on him and Drusilla. Drusilla hides as Macro walks in and Caligula pretends to be asleep. This also seems the case when Tiberius asks about the relationship of him and Drusilla and he claims that she is only his sister. Though they did not marry in the movie, Drusilla lived with Caligula as if they were. According to history, Caligula had in fact eight siblings. He had four brothers (Tiberius, Gaius Julius, Nero and Drusus) and three sisters (Drusilla, Agrippina, and Julia Livilla).i Caligula did in fact live in incest with Drusilla as well as Agrippina and Julia Livilla. Of the three sisters, he is believed to have been caught with Drusilla while still a minor. Drusilla married Longinus, but was taken away from him by
Caligula. She then lived with him and was treated as his lawful wife and made heir to his throne. Caligula's accession to the throne was quite dramatic in the movie. Caligula was summoned by Tiberius to join him in his villa. He gets his first taste of power, after watching Tiberius approve and sign laws, by using Tiberius' seal to sign law himself. During their meeting, Tiberius talked down to Caligula and attempted to poison him. His hatred, along with his hunger for power, fueled his urge to become emperor. While Tiberius was ill in bed, Caligula took his ring and modeled it on his own hand. With the ring on his hand, Caligula became consumed with the feeling of power. Tiberius then awoke and demanded back his ring. Caligula then attempted to strike Tiberius with a mirror but was stopped by Macro. Macro then wrapped a cloth around the neck of Tiberius and strangled him. Macro then reported that he had died in his sleep. At the funeral, Caligula dismisses the will of Tiberius and claims sole heir of the throne. One story of Caligula's accession to the throne is quite different from the movie. The story claims that Caligula took the ring of Tiberius and was greeted as emperor by the crowd.
News of Tiberius' recovery made him terrified of revenge. Macro then rushed inside and suffocated him with a pillow. While historians of modern time treat the death of Tiberius as being of natural causes, there is another story in history which is different as well. It is claimed that while Tiberius was ill, in a weakened condition and approaching his end, he took the ring off himself. As he lay in bed, he held the ring in his hand for a long period of time, seemingly to give it to someone. He then put the...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document