The tales of Caligula’s reign over Rome are so rich with gore, sadism and opulence that few bother even to check if they’re true. That blithe disregard for factual accuracy is hard not to excuse, what with stories like this: one contemporary, writing in the first century A.D., wrote that the Caligula once had the father of a man he was executing watch his son die. Then, he had the father eat with him at dinner. Other contemporary sources tell of Caligula’s alleged madness: he is said to have talked to horses, and insist that his own be installed in the Senate.
In our secular, liberal age, the Bible and the classics often get a bad rap. The Bible represents everything modernity is not—free inquiry, divested of hoary beliefs—while the classics are often snidely dismissed as the hubristic fantasies of aging, if not already dead white males.