|Further Reading||The 5 Roman Emperors Of The Julio Claudian Dynasty and Caligula: 3 Reasons He Is Known As The Mad Emperor|
The 3rd Roman emperor Caligula was one of the worst emperors the Roman Empire would ever see. We have stories that come from later Roman historians who had access to sources now lost to us that depict some of the atrocities committed by Caligula. One of these events was when Caligula ordered an entire section of a crowd present at an arena game thrown into the arena to fight against hungry animals.
Did Caligula throw random Roman’s from the audience into the arena to fight against wild beasts? While Caligula was known for his barbaric and insane acts he more than likely did not throw an entire crowd into the arena. Instead he likely orchestrated an event with Romans he simply did not like being thrown into the arena.
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Without further ado, here is a full answer to the question of whether or not Caligula threw spectators into the arena for amusement.
The Source For Caligula’s Supposed Throwing Of Spectators Into The Arena To Fight Wild Animals
Much of what we know about Caligula’s reign comes from a Roman historian called Cassius Dio who wrote nearly 200 years after Caligula.
The reason Cassius Dio is considered the primary source of choice is because he had access to ancient sources that today are lost to us. These ancient sources would have included the now lost books 7-10 of Tacitius’s Annals which would have covered Caligula’s reign in thorough detail.
As such Cassius Dio was writing a history of the Roman people for his contemporary audience. Dio would have extensive works surrounding the reign of Caligula and as such he remains the primary source.
However, Dio’s histories is a biased history. Cassius Dio himself was a proponent of the empire and the office of Emperor. However, he saw emperors as being held responsible for their actions and having to act in the best interest of the people.
Because of this we need to understand that Dio was presenting Roman history in a certain way which would change the way we perceive history.
That being said, Dio would have had to base his history of the Roman people on some degree of truth. By looking at his histories through this lens we can begin to piece together what Caligula actually did to the people in the arena of Rome.
Did Caligula Throw Spectators Into The Arena To Fight Wild Beasts?
Was Caligula so insane that he threw random Roman’s from the crown into the arena to fight against wild hungry animals?
According to primary sources Caligula loved gladiatorial games. He would try to attend these games as much as possible and at first they were enjoyable.
However, in October of 37 AD Caligula fell seriously ill. After recovering from this sickness something happened to Caligula. Typically a gladiator in the arena would be spared according to tradition. However, now Caligula began to auction off the right to spare the Gladiator’s life to the highest bidder.
This alone did not satisfy Caligula. We have reports that Caligula then appealed to the Roman senate to pass a law where he could select people to be gladiators and design the battles.
Cassius Dio states that Caligula would draw random groups of Gladiators to fight in a kind of “battle array.” Further Dio states that among these gladiators Caligula would design the fight to be as one sided as possible with professional fighters on one side and normal Roman’s on the other.
Because the Roman Senate made a law that allowed Caligula to pick and choose people to fight in his gladiatorial games it could have led to Caligula picking an entire section of the audience to fight for his amusement.
However, more than likely this event did not happen. Caligula only reigned for four years before getting removed by the senate. Instead it was more than likely that Caligula practiced a form of gladiatorial proscription for both enjoyment and to remove potential threats to his power.
Did Caligula throw random people into gladiatorial combat for fun? Yes. Did he do it in a random fashion? Probably not. After he fell ill sources detail the rest of his reign as being fearful of his mortality and selectively eliminating threats to his rule.
There you have it; an entire article dedicated to answering the question of whether or not Caligula threw random spectators into the arena for amusement.
The study of Caligula is a fascinating subject. He only ruled for 4 years but in those 4 years he demonstrated how one crazy Roman emperor could nearly destroy the whole empire.
Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article then consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing around the web.
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