If Trump Is Caligula, There Could Be Some Unexpected BenefitsHistorians in the News
tags: Rome, Roman Empire, Donald Trump
The ancient historian Suetonius wrote that the Roman emperor known as Caligula intended to appoint his beloved horse, Incitatus, as consul and only failed to do so because he was assassinated in the fourth year of his reign, before the appointment could be made. One modern historian, Aloys Winterling, suggests that the equine elevation was not so much indicative of madness — although there was plenty of that — as it was a showy humiliation ritual to demonstrate to the senators and senior politicos of Rome that their work was so trivial to his grand project that a thoroughbred could do it as well as they could.
So let’s see — a narcissistic power-grasping man of doubtful stability or genius decides to humiliate everyone else in government by appointing his horse to one of the top positions in a huge empire. And to be fair to Caligula, he really loved that horse, giving it a marble stall, an ivory manger, and meals of oats mixed with gold flakes (giving new meaning to mucking out a stall). While few mourned Caligula, his idea of appointing a horse to high office might not be such a bad idea in today’s world.
Yes, Incitatus was only appointed because he had connections: He knew the emperor; his rising to the top of governance was not due to being one of “the best horses.” But then would a horse appointed today because of his “in” with our emperor talk about cancelling the election or propose a Middle East peace plan that even Likud might find too hard-line? Would a horse with origins elsewhere seek to prevent other horses from coming into the country? Would he try to separate mares and foals?
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