2 – He Loved Incest
Once again, Suetonius is our primary source for tales about Caligula’s penchant for incest. The historian wrote that the emperor had an incredible high libido which bordered on perversion. Incestuous relationships were quite common in ancient times. For example, the Egyptian Pharaohs regularly married their sisters, and the Ptolemies continued the custom. Therefore, Caligula’s relationship with his sister Drusilla, while undoubtedly perverted in the modern era, was not a big deal 2,000 years ago.
It does appear that stories of Caligula’s incest are exaggerated. Suetonius suggests that the emperor had sex with his three sisters. However, historians that lived during the age of Caligula (such as Seneca and Philo) fail to mention anything about his incestuous behavior. Both chroniclers are extremely critical of Caligula, so they can’t be accused of favoring him.
There seems to be no question that he loved his sister Drusilla and almost certainly committed incest with her. His obsession with her began long before he became emperor and was supposedly caught having sex with her by his grandmother Antonia. Caligula probably viewed her as the only person worthy of being his wife, and she was apparently a calming influence on him. When she died from a fever in June 38 AD, he predictably went wild with grief and had her deified as the Divine Drusilla and proclaimed her as a living descendent of the goddess Venus.
He didn’t show the same level of affection towards his other sisters, so it is hard to say if he committed incest with them. Indeed, he prostituted them to his catamites (young homosexual lovers). Therefore, it seems likely that he ‘only’ committed incest with Drusilla and not the other sisters.
Caligula certainly had an insatiable sexual appetite and would have sex with men or women. He had an intense relationship with an actor called Marcus Lepidus Mnester and another man from a high-class family called Valerius Catullus. When he wasn’t having homosexual relationships, he was committing adultery with various women around Rome. When a woman called Olivia Orestilla was married, he ordered his men to take her to his home. Caligula also married a woman named Lollia Paulina who was already married to a Roman in charge of the army.
The emperor allegedly used his love of debauchery to make some money for the royal coffers. Caligula spent money freely but wasn’t so good at earning it. However, one day, he had the idea to turn the palace into a whorehouse. He sent his pages around Rome to alert wealthy men to the opening of the brothel and encouraged young and old people to come and enjoy themselves.