The Madness of Rome

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August 21, 2015 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

When it comes to politicians, no one is ever happy with who’s in charge.  Whether it’s political practices or their personal lives, everything is fair game for criticism and lampooning.  And while it’s true that we have had some comically inept and eccentric leaders like LBJ, Warren G. Harding, and George W. Bush, compared to the rest of the world, and the rest of history, America has done comparatively well for itself.  In terms of both frequency and severity, it’s the Roman Empire that’s been home to the wackiest leaders who have ever ruled.

With all the dissention, assassinations, and civil wars, it’s kinda impressive that the Roman Empire lasted until the 460s.  What’s more, is that out of the literally hundreds of emperors, the vast majority of them were either insane, sadistic, sexual deviants, sociopathic, addled with syphilis, or some combination of the above.  Here are just a few of the more memorably bad Roman Emperors.

Nero (r. 54 AD-68 AD)

  • He had a personal apothecary who would poison anyone who got in his way
  • He had his own mother put to death. Some sources claim he even personally killed her
  • Forced a freedman to be castrated and then married him because he bore a resemblance to Nero’s dead wife. He then would only refer to his castrated boy-toy by his wife’s name, Sabina
  • Rumored to have started the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD
  • After having someone burned at the stake, he would then breath in their smoldering ashes

Caligula (r. 37 AD-41 AD)

  • Believed that he was an immortal god
  • Named his horse, Incitatus, as high priest of his own church
  • Included his horse in ritualistic orgies
  • Had affairs with three of his sisters, sometimes in the middle of dinner
  • Knocked up one of his sisters and then proceeded to eat the fetus in order to ingest its power
  • Declared war on the god Poseidon and ordered his navy to throw spears into the ocean to wound the god
  • One of his favorite forms of torture was to hang his victims upside down and chew on their testicles
  • Like Kim Jung-Il, Caligula believed that he could control the Sun
  • He was often heard yelling and arguing with the Moon
  • Would often throw in about 500 civilian spectators into the coliseum for his own amusement after they ran out of gladiators
  • Routinely picked off random civilians and fed them to the lions
  • Would have sex with married women and then either brag about it to their husbands or execute their husbands
  • As he was being stabbed to death, his last words were “I still live!”

Elagabalus (r. 218 AD-222 AD)

  • Became emperor at age 14
  • Dressed in drag and spent his nights working at a brothel
  • Under penalty of death would force men to buy(?) his services as a prostitute
  • As an emperor, he would still try and compete with other hookers as being the best in the business
  • Would constantly sexually harass his bodyguard by: jerking off on them, roaming the halls of the palace naked, and forcing them to have sex with him
  • Paid a legion of physicians enormous amounts of money to turn him into a woman
  • Would routinely chop bits and pieces of his penis off
  • Might have had incestuous relations with his mother
  • His assassination was organized by his grandmother
  • Murdered at age 18

Commodus (r. 180 AD-192 AD)

  • Arguably the first WWE superstar, Commodus would often enter the coliseum under the name “Hercules”
  • He would often charge the Roman Empire large sums of money to see him fight in the coliseum, despite no one ever asking him to enter
  • During sparring practice he would often kill his trainers while no one was looking
  • The vast majority of his opponents in the coliseum were either physically or mentally handicapped
  • Killed 100 lions in one day
  • Killed a panther with his bare hands
  • Shot an ostrich’s head off for no reason and then proceed to throw the bird’s head around the coliseum
  • Slaughtered a passing giraffe, which even in Roman culture was seen as a defenseless animal
  • For a sanguinary culture like Ancient Rome, even Commodus’s bloodlust was seen as excessive, cruel, and disgusting

Domitian (r. 81 AD-96 AD)

  • Incredibly self-conscious about his baldness and wrote many self-help books on hair care
  • No one is certain if he left the Roman economy in debt or with a budget surplus
  • Was constantly paranoid that he would die at precisely noon
  • His alleged favorite method of torture involved igniting his victims genitals on fire
  • Stabbed, and then initially bled out through his penis
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