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Caligula: A Biography Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520248953
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520248953
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Seeks to rehabilitate one of the most infamous Roman emperors, commonly believed to have been deranged.”
(New Yorker 2012-01-09)

“A persuasive new Caligula emerges from this elegant revision: not mad at all, but just as bad and dangerous to know.”
(Maclean's 2011-10-12)

“In this lively biography of Rome’s infamous third emperor, readers will not find the wild-eyed dictator . . . but a thoughtful argument for his sanity.”
(Publishers Weekly 2011-05-30)

“A revisionist take on the man.”
(Library Journal 2011-11-18)

“An eloquent and compelling study of Roman imperial history, and especially of the difficult relations between the imperial monarch and the traditional aristocracy.”
(London Review Of Books 2012-04-26)

“Presents Roman emperor Caligula in a new light.”
(Booklist 2011-06-01)

“No Roman emperor cries out more obviously for redemption, but Aloys Winterling’s Caligula, a calm reassessment of his reign, avoids revisionist whitewashing and takes the residue of hatred as inescapable.”
(Cathnews Perspectives 2012-09-14)

“Makes it clear that the behavior of the third emperor were the acts of a diffident, slightly paranoid youth, who lacked the patience that the most quarrelsome and important of his subjects required.”
(The New Criterion 2011-09-06)

“A worthy study, which covers significant aspects of Caligula’s reign and provides some new interpretations on this fascinating subject.”
(Geoff W. Adams Ancient History Bulletin 2012-09-01)

“Winterling has produced an innovative biography which takes a novel approach to interpreting the historiography of Caligula’s reign.”
(Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR) 2012-04-10)

“[Winterling] gives us a biography that brings the man and his times to life.”
(History 2012-10-01)

“Accessible and graceful. . . . Highly recommended.”
(Choice 2011-12-01)

From the Inside Flap

“Caligula enjoys a reputation as one of the most brutal and tyrannical Roman emperors. In this accessible narrative of Caligula’s life, Winterling uses his deep knowledge of Roman society and the imperial court to investigate why contemporaries chose to assassinate Caligula’s reputation as well as his person. Caligula emerges here as rather less insane, if no less loathsome, than his posthumous reputation made him out to be.”

—Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, author of Rome’s Cultural Revolution


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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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This book is extremely well written.
Arch Stanton
The book is an excellent assessment of Caligula's personality, failures and accomplishments.
David A. Wend
A quite interesting reading for those who like Roman history.
Roberto Tadeu D. Almeida

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jared Branch on April 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In his newest book, Aloys Winterling argues against the claim of "imperial madness" leveled against Caligula by Suetonius, Seneca, Philo of Alexandria, Pliny the Elder, Flavius Josephus, Tacitus, and Cassios Dio by revealing their inaccuracies and inconsistencies and concluding these ancient historians pursued the "clearly recognizable goal of depicting the emperor as an irrational monster" by providing "demonstrably false information to support this picture of him and omit information that could contradict it."

As its history had shown, the idea of a monarch in Rome was anathema and, in order to be one, Augustus had to pretend at something he was not. Because the "Principate died with the princeps," each new ruler had to be proclaimed emperor by the army and confirmed by the senate. Inherent within Roman society and the system established by Augustus were familial rivalries that often involved groups of aristocrats and devolved into conspiracies. Tiberius "failed to manage the paradoxical situation" that Augustus had established - a monarchy overseeing a senatorial body without any real power - and Caligula was born into a world that "could not have been less suited to fostering humanity," full of intrigues and political machinations that left both his mother and brother dead.

Winterling uses only ancient sources and, while digging deep to reveal the inaccuracies in Caligula's story, he accepts at face value all of the horrors perpetrated by Tiberius. While I can allow the conclusions he reaches with Caligula, I find his treatment of Tiberius lacking, especially given that he establishes Caligula's cruelty as an outgrowth of the inhospitable nature of Tiberius's regime.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Arch Stanton on March 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I rather liked this book, though it has its limitations. It sets out to be a strictly narrative history of the reign of Caligula. There is no room here for discussions of the state apparatus or social problems. This is just a straight biography of Caligula's career. The kind that was written by every ancient historian. This is the sort of book that isn't written anymore, and it's very interesting to see someone attempt it.

This book sets off with one major goal: to show that the Emperor Caligula was not insane. In doing this it goes against all of the sources, who are highly polemical and not very picky about accusations of insanity. Towards this end it features a good deal of questioning of sources. Earlier sources get greater credibility while the later ones who report the more outrageous stories are shown to be contradicted by contemporary writers. Since everybody hated Caligula, the earlier writers would have reported every last bit of slander. If he truly had been sleeping with his sisters then somebody would have mentioned it before Suetonius. After all, Tacitus considers one of them willing to sleep with her son Nero, so why wouldn't he say the same of her brother? The only problem with this approach is that it spends so much time deconstructing the madness myth that it neglects to put anything else in its place. Perhaps there is no getting around that and his true personality is lost forever, but it would have been nice to see more of an attempt.

The use of sources in this book is rather simple. It is almost entirely an interpretation of the original sources. Very little is added in from more recent scholars. It is easy to see why he did this considering his goal, but it is unfortunate that he never accesses more recent scholarship.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steampunkish on January 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A scholarly but interestingly new approach to a fascinating topic, this accessibly written book is thought-provoking and paradigm-changing. The author's unique theory, that Caligula was not insane but painted that way by historians and others who were burnt by his disregard for established aristocratic niceties, is convincingly argued and ultimately intriguing. Highly recommended!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Overall, I thought this was a very good book and offered a different point of view of Caligula. For example, he wasn't a mad man and all of his actions were done on purpose to control the senate and keep them in place. The only negative part of the book is that I feel it was too short and wish it went in further detail about Caligula reign.
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By Thomas Vaughn on January 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read a good bit in this area and the author makes a compelling case. I have always been troubled by the portrayal of Caligula in other books, both fiction and history. I Claudius comes to mind as an example. As usual truth is more interesting than myth. It never made sense to me that Tiberius would let him live out of some malice toward Rome itself. The fact that Caligula survived says something for his rationality. I do not want to spoil the thesis, but the author places Caligula's actions in a rational framework. The metacommunication between emperor and Senate was fascinating. Well done. And I am picky.
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By Marc Thibault on January 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting book. Examines Roman political culture and inconsistencies in historical texts to build arguments Caligua was not as "mad" (mentally ill) as classic historians want us to believe. Book's shortcoming is that it assumes readers know about Caligua. Good book for folks with basic understanding of the the Julio-Claudian emperors (Julius, Augustus, etc)
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