The Death of Caligula

BookThe Death of Caligula

The Death of Caligula

Flavius Josephus

2013

December 2nd, 2013

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The emperor Gaius ('Caligula') was assassinated in January A.D.41. Since he was the last of the Julii, and he left no heir, it seemed that the dynasty of Caesar and Augustus was finished. Accordingly, the Republic was restored, but then a coup d'etat by the Praetorian Guard put Claudius in power . . . the dramatic events of these few days are a crucial turning-point in Roman history - the moment when the military basis of the Principate was first made explicit. Tacitus' account has not survived, and Suetonius and Dio Cassisu offer no adequate substitute. Fortunately, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus chose to insert into his 'Jewish Antiquities' - as an example of the providence of God - a detailed narrative of the assassination plot and its aftermath taken from contemporary and well-informed Roman sources. This new edition of T.P. Wiseman’s acclaimed Death of an Emperor (his translation and commentary of Josephus’ account of Caligula’s assassination) includes an updated bibliography, revised introduction, translation and commentary. Appendix 1 on the Augustan Palatine has been completely revised to take account of recent archaeological information.

Josephus' account of the murder of the Emperor Gaius (now better known as Caligula) is the most vivid and detailed ancient account we have of the final moments of any Roman emperor. It's full of intriguing detail -- from Gaius' tummy upset (or hangover) which made him skip lunch on the day he died, to the words spoken by the assassins as they put the knife in. Peter Wiseman is a learned and most engaging guide to the whole story, exploring many of the puzzles and questions that it raises. Where did Josephus get his information from? Where exactly did the murder take place? Wiseman knows the layout of the Julio-Claudian Palatine better than anyone else in the world, and he takes us down its back alleys and dark passages to pinpoint the very spot where the emperor met his very nasty end.

A guide to this significant material has long been needed and this gap has now been filled by Wiseman's admirable book. He offers a translation that is free and idiomatic - a good decision, since Jospehus' anacoloutha and corruptions made a literal rendering almost unreadable, even where the general drift is clear. [ . . .] This is a useful book, by someone who knows his topic well. It should go a long way towards making senior students recognise the historical interest of a chapter of Roman history that they might have tended to regard only as lurid and sensational.
Anthony A. Barrett, Classical Review, Vol. XLII No. 2

Wiseman's 'Death of an Emperor' is a successful commentary on Josephus' text depicting the last dramatic days of Caligula, a remarkable turning-point in the history of the Principate. Josephus' narrative is an important historical document; for, as is well-know, Tacitus' account did not survive, Suetonius concentrates on gossip and Cassius Dio's account is late and inadequate. [ . . .] Wiseman's comments are terse, focussing attention on the essential; and his skillful translation powerfully captures the atmosphere created by Josephus.

Grazer Beitrage XIX

Those examing the earlier crisis in the imperial succession in A.D.41 will find Peter Wiseman's translation and commentary of Josephus' account of Caligula's assassination in Book 19, 1-273 of the 'Antiquities' indispensible.

Greece and Rome

Full of intriguing detail ... Peter Wiseman is a learned and most engaging guide.

In a concise and readable way, W. walks through the early imperial development of the [Augustan Palatine] in light of recent archaeology, locating the original houses of Augustus and Tiberius to recreate the scene at the time of Gaius. This may not be indispensable for the foregoing study, but it is a welcome bonus in the new edition...W.’s book remains as valuable as it always was. Students of ancient history in all subdisciplines should be pleased that it is available again, and with a particularly useful update in the new appendix.

Steve Mason, Histos 10

Histos 10

About The Author

T. P. Wiseman is Emeritus Professor of Roman History at the University of Exeter and a Fellow of the British Academy. He came to Exeter in 1977, and was Head of Department from 1977 to 1990. His published books include Catullan Questions (1969), New Men in the Roman Senate (1971), Cinna the Poet (1974), Catullus and his World (1985), Roman Political Life (1985), and Remembering the Roman People (2009). And on the study of Roman historiography, and from there to the myth-history of early Rome: see Clio’s Cosmetics (1979), Historiography and Imagination (1994), Remus: A Roman Myth (1995), Roman Drama and Roman History (1998), The Myths of Rome (2004), which won the American Philological Association’s Goodwin Award of Merit, and Unwritten Rome (2008)