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

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