WTF Fun Fact 12547 – Caligula’s Equine Obsession

There’s not a lot of love in the history books for the madman/Roman emperor Caligula. Much of what we know about him comes from ancient historians Suetonius and Cassius Dio, who weren’t big fans.

If you look up Caligula’s horse Incitatus (and he does have his own Wikipedia page!), you’ll see stories about how the emperor decided he had so little respect for the Roman Senate that he installed the horse as a senator and even made him consul. (A Roman consul is a senator elected to the executive office for a 1-year term.)

And while that may have been one of Caligula’s half-baked plans, he was assassinated before it became a reality.

Not everyone believes this was a real plan, however. Some historians think it was simply the result of a one-off remark the emperor made about his senators being “asses.” But one thing is likely, and that’s Caligula’s love for his horse. It’s possible that he even held parties in Incitatus’ grand stable where the horse served as “host.”

Interestingly, Caligula’s horse comes up in the “Rights of Great Britain Asserted against the Claims of America,” the British response to the American Declaration of Independence. Believing the ancient historians’ accounts that the horse did become consul, the author uses it as an example of what happens when a state goes rogue:

The extension of the right of electing Magistrates to the people at large, was the principal cause of the fall of freedom in Old Rome. The prejudices and fears of the rabble were the steps by which ambitious men ascended to a power, which they converted into tyranny over their foolish Constituents…the grandsons of voters who placed Marius, Cinna, and Caesar at the head of the State, were employed by Caligula in raising his horse to the Consulship.

True or not, the story of Caligula’s horse serves as a pretty striking talking point, especially for anyone who wants to call a politician an “ass.”

–  WTF fun fact

Source: “Mythbusting Ancient Rome – Caligula’s Horse” — The Conversation

WTF Fun Fact 12433 – Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

The city of Cincinnati, Ohio, is named after the Roman statesman and general Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.

After serving as Roman consul (the highest elected position) in the 5th century BCE, he retired to his farm.

In 458 BCE, the Aequi people broke a treaty with Rome and launched an invasion in the city of Tusculum. Rome raised two armies to fight them off, but the consuls at the time were unable to get an advantage over the invaders. The Roman army was surrounded.

In times like this, the Roman Senate was entitled to appoint a “dictator” for a 6-month term. This man would have ultimate power over political affairs and the armies. Remembering that Cincinnatus was a great general and consul, a group of senators traveled to his farm and asked him to become dictator until the crisis was over.

As the historian Livy describes it, Cincinnatus called for his toga (the proper attire to meet with Roman leadership), wiped off the sweat and dirt, put down his plow, and finally agreed to the request – but it took some convincing. He eventually agreed for the good of Rome.

Cincinnatus took over the army and led to Romans to a swift victory. He returned to the city as a hero and could have lived a life of luxury and power. However, immediately afterward, he relinquished the title of dictator, returned to his farm, and picked up his plow in the very same place he left it.

He was in power for 15 full days, retiring on the 16th day.

Cincinnatus is held up as a paragon of civic virtue. US President George Washington, who also could have maintained absolute power but put it aside in favor of the new Constitution, is referred to as The American Cincinnatus. – WTF fun facts 

Source: “Our history: Who was Cincinnatus, inspiration for city’s name?” —