The Lazy Person’s Guide to Early Roman Emperors

Sometimes I cannot explain my fixations with history, nor my devilish need to mock it. I could argue that certain topics, such as Roman Emperors, are discussed with such reverence and so little endeavor at levity, that there is a vacuum of historical entertainment. I am painting these men as mortals, defying the dusty, pretentious misconceptions of their demigod natures. Or I could just confess that my trivia and quizzing skills were a little less than on-point in this arena. (Get it?) And the only way I could bring myself to actually learn about the Emperors was to thoroughly laugh at them. I’ll leave it to you.

“Don’t ‘asp’ me what happened to Cleopatra [snicker, snicker]”

1. Augustus

(Sep, 63 BC – Aug, 14 AD)
Reputation: Ushered in an era of peace, development, and innovation.
What He Was Known For: Augustus (aka “Octavian”) was Julius Caesar’s heir before Caesar was poked to death. Augustus fought Mark Antony and Cleopatra for control of Rome until it drove the lovers to suicide, allowing Augustus to consolidate power as the first Emperor of Rome. He built roads and infrastructure. Oh, and he named the month of “August” for himself, since it was his most successful month for battles. I wish I had a month named Katius.
Age at Death: 75
Cause of Death: Unknown natural causes


“Poor Sejanus, I guess Mercury was in retrograde [glug, glug]. Heh-heh.
I can’t wait to tell Caligula that one.”

2. Tiberius

(Sep, 14 AD – Mar, 37 AD)
Reputation: Mama’s boy, brooding, disliked, really unpopular with the Senate
What He Was Known For: He was Augustus’s stepson who wasn’t up to the challenge. Lots of people wanted his throne, and he became tyrannical and murdery to keep it. He kept a pet henchman, Sejanus, for murdering his rivals and their kind, until the henchman was also whacked, under Tibby’s orders, completing the circle of death. In his old age, Tiberius ran and hid in Capri, drank wine, and studied astrology until his dying day.
Age at Death: 77
Cause of Death: Probably natural causes (maybe a pillow to the face)


“What did you just say to me?”

3. Caligula

(Mar, 37 AD – Jan, 41 AD)
Reputation: Really sick and twisted dude, hated
What He Was Known For: He was named as Tiberius’s heir, even though Caligula HATED the emperor for murdering his father. Living with the old emperor in Capri really messed up Caligula in the head, and he may have snuffed out his predecessor with a pillow to the face. His reign started off fine enough, but after a brief illness, Caligula became a strange sort of monster. It wasn’t so much that he liked to pace the halls dressed as a woman (which, hey, ya know, whatever), it was more that he enjoyed the cruelty of executions and declared himself a god. His people hated and feared him.
Age at Death: 28
Cause of Death: Stabbed 30 times by his own guards, and dumped in a shallow grave


“Who threw that chicken leg?”

4. Claudius

(Jan, 41 AD – Oct, 54 AD)
Reputation: Disfigured, weird, but beloved. Also, kinda looked like Daniel Craig.
What He Was Known For: As Augustus’s last remaining direct descendant, Claudius was a disfigured weird dude whose family would pelt him with food when he fell asleep at the dinner table. Despite this, the people of Rome adored him. He was a friend to the poor, the sick, women’s interests, and people in general. He also made his mark by conquering Britain–where many had tried, he, Claudius finally succeeded.
Age at Death: 63
Cause of Death: He was somewhat ill, but his power-grabbing wife, Agrippina, may have had a physician posion him, or fed him bad mushrooms

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