Emperor Gaius Trump?

Caligula’s rule offers insights about how defiance and obstinacy can lead to one’s downfall.

Simon Pastor

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© Tim O’Brien

As I was reading Camus’ Caligula, though I struggled to understand the main protagonist’s nature, I couldn’t help being reminded of Trump. He shares the mysterious and surly trait of the emperor’s temperament. With regards to truth, Caligula states that “Everything around me is lies, and I, I want to live in truth!”. Trump has ceaselessly called out the “fake news media”, claiming that only he is right, that only he tells the truth.

Caligula is Rome’s most infamous emperor. History remembers him for his extravagance, his arbitrary killings and his incestual relationships ; or to put it simply, his madness. While there is some truth to it, most of these accounts are exaggerations or fabrications. That is not to say that he wasn’t evil or that he doesn’t deserve this reputation, but it shows that whoever the real Caligula was, there was something about him or his actions that led historians and people to willingly worsen their accounts and vilify his character. Something he shares with Trump.

Let me be clear, Trump is no tyrant and the United States is no Ancient Rome. Yet, there’s something about these two complex yet often caricatured figures, that make them worth comparing.

As Trump experiences the biggest crisis of his mandate, and of our world since WWII, Caligula’s rule offers insights about how obstinacy and defiance can lead to one’s downfall.

Caligula becomes Emperor

Caligula had a troubled childhood, to say the least. He was born the son of Germanicus, a very popular General and Aggripina, Emperor Augustus’ granddaughter. A few years after his birth, both his father and the Emperor died, resulting in a dangerous period for young Roman aristocrats as Tiberius’ consolidated his power. Aged 18, he was forced to live with Tiberius on the Island of Capri, where the Emperor had moved his Palace fearing plots in Rome. He stayed there for 6 years, treated both like a hostage and an adoptive son. This undoubtedly forged Caligula’s character, as he was constantly watched by Tiberius’ people and uncertain about his fate. According to some accounts, Tiberius had mentioned having him killed on…

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Simon Pastor

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