Augustus and Caligula: A Grandfather's Response


My Dear Livia, I am writing to you because even among all the heavenly splendor of my divine existence, I still need your support and ever attentive ear. As you know, my only wish since I became the primus inter pares, has been to find an heir to carry on the Julian line. However, I also counted on the fact that their beliefs would coincide with mine, and my traditions would be carried on. The thought never crossed my mind that I could produce an heir so ruthless and utterly corrupt. Yes dear, you know I must be talking about our grandson Caligula. At first, like the rest of the populace, I believed that he would become an able ruler, but instead he has turned out to be the worst possible candidate to carry on the name of Caesar. His wanton disregard for anyone's feelings or needs is appalling, and I am horrified at his method of running the business of the Empire.

As you are well aware, my views on morality are conservative. I believed, and still do, that Rome needs to be brought back to the old waysof religion and marriage. This beloved city will not remain great if leaders are not bred and raised in stable families. Some people have dared to say that the "...steady decrease in the number of births became an obsession with [me]"(Graves 92) while I was Emperor. This is not at all true. I only wanted to protect Rome from the trouble that I saw coming down the road. Now I see that all my efforts have been in vain. Caligula is every day undoing the laws and precautions I put in place.

First of all, in the two years since he began ruling, he has almost emptied the treasury. He spends the people's money on the most trivial things like circuses and chariot races. Because these pastimes entertain the public, they have not noticed that their homes may be stolen from them at any minute in order to replenish the Empire's banks; and as soon as Caligula realizes that his fun cannot be funded by the state much longer, he will do just that. I hear that now he not only continually holds all these games, but he also makes a mockery of their importance as a Roman tradition by allowing people "in hot whether, to wear straw hats, and to come barefooted"(Graves 404)!

In addition to this disregard for money, Caligula breaks a new moral law every day. His perversions have grown to monstrous proportions, and he has no compunction in increasing them still more. Just the other day I heard a rumor or that he committed a blasphemy on top of admitting to one of the most horrible crimes. He supposedly said, "And whereas Jupiter only lay with one sister, I have lain with all three of mine"(Graves 391). I could not believe my ears when I heard that! He has violated a sacred law and has boasted about it, saying he is greater than Jupiter himself. His actions have been irresponsible and perverse; he has taken the Imperial seat and spat upon it. Dear, I want so badly to be able to hold him back from desecrating the family of Augustus, but I know that I cannot interfere.

Livia, I long to be with you again, and I hope every day that Caligula will do one honorable deed in his life, and make you a deified being so we can be together once more. However, as I look back on this letter that records just a few of his horrible actions, I see that such a decent action would be in total contradiction to life he is leading, and the character he displays. We can only hope that his reign will be short-lived, and the succeeding Emperor will have respect for his heritage.

Your beautiful face is ever in my thoughts. Love,


Faith Racette