The Madness of the Emperor Caligula
Throughout the centuries the name of Caligula has been synonymous with madness and infamy, sadism and perversion. It has been said that Marshal Gilles de Rais, perhaps the most notorious sadist of all time, modelled his behaviour. on that of the evil Caesars described by Suetonius, among whom is numbered Caligula. Of recent years, however, Caligula has acquired his apologists, e.g. Willrich; so also, with more reason, has the Emperor Tiberius, whose reputation has been largely rehabilitated by modern scholarship. Our knowledge of the life of Caligula depends largely on Suetonius, whose work De vita Caesarum was not published, until some eighty years after the death of Caligula in A.D. 41. Unfortunately that part of Tacitus’s Annals which treated of the reign. of Caligula has been lost. Other ancient sources are Dio Cassius, whose History of Rome was written in the early third century and, to a lesser extent, Josephus, whose Anhtitates Judaicac was published in A.D. 93, and Philo Judaeus, whose pamphlet Legatio ad Gaium and In Flaccum may be considered as contemporary writings. It seems probable that all these ancient sour¢es are to some extent prejudiced and highly coloured. Suetonius’s Gaius Caligula in De vita Caesarum is full of scabrous and sometimes entertaining stories, on some of which little reliability can be plated.
Medical History, Vol.2:3 (1958)