Zwarte inkt: de karaktermoord op Gaius Caligula | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 134 Number 2
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163



This article analyses how ancient media were used for the character assassination of the Roman emperor Gaius Caligula. Why was Caligula’s reputation so severely damaged? How was this done? In the complicated situation in which Caligula came to power, the Augustan system of an autocratic rule hidden behind a republican veil was pushed aside. As a result, the conflict between Caligula and the Roman elite became insuperable. When Caligula demonstrated the realities of absolute power, he was assassinated. Shortly after, senatorial authors used the medium of historiography to start their character assassination, depicting Caligula as an insane psychopath. This article discerns between three different groups of attackers with different motives for their character assassination: eyewitnesses, Jewish writers, and later Roman senatorial authors. The article concludes with an assessment of the differences and similarities of the attacks by the three groups. The defamation of Caligula turned out to be highly successful.


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