“Caligula Speaks”

May 14, 2013 by History in a Hurry

The insanity and idiocy of the current age bring to mind the Roman emperor Caligula, who attempted to have his horse, Incitatus, named consul of Rome. Here is Zbigniew Herbert’s poem inspired by Caligula.


Caligula Speaks

by Zbigniew Herbert

Among all the citizens of Rome
I loved only one
Incitatus–a horse

when he entered the Senate
the unstainable toga of his coat
gleamed in the midst
of purple-lined assassins

Incitatus possessed many merits
he never made speeches
had a stoic temperament
I think at night in the stable he read the philosophers

I loved him so much that one day I decided to crucify him
but his noble anatomy made it impossible

he accepted the honor of consulship with indifference
exercised authority in the best manner
that is not at all

he would not be persuaded toward a lasting liason
with my second wife Caesonia
thus unfortunately the lineage of centaur ceasars
was not engendered

that’s why Rome fell

I determined to have him declared a god
but on the ninth day before the February calends
Cherea Cornelius Sabinus and the other fools
interfered with my pious plans

he accepted the news of my death with calm
was thrown out of the palace and condemned to exile
he bore this blow with dignity

he died without descendants
slaughtered by a thick-skinned butcher from Ancium

Tacitus is silent
about the posthumous fate of his meat


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