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Nova tellus

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CHAZAL, Benoît. Caligula: the Making of a Myth. Dramatisation of the Figure of the Tyrant in the Biography by Suetonius, enlightened by some Extracts from Historia Augusta. Nova tellus [online]. 2018, vol.36, n.2, pp.53-68. ISSN 0185-3058.

How could a reign as ephemeral as Caligula’s (three years and a few months) have such an important impact on our collective memory? For many people, Caius Caesar, the great-grand-son of August, is known for being the mad emperor. His eccentricities were indeed plentiful: he maintained incestuous relationships with his sisters, ordered the construction of a one-kilometre bridge made out of boats, appointed his horse as consul, claimed to be deified whilst still alive, slaughtered sons before the eyes of their fathers. But was he truly insane, or is his an image manufactured by an unfavourable subsequent tradition? This article intends through the study of Suetonius’s text to better identify the key elements in terms of literary production which gave birth to the myth of the mad emperor.

Keywords : Caligula; Myth; Representation; Tyrant; Tyranny; hybris.

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