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Incitatus: Caligula’s Horse October 18, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient , trackback

The mad and bad Gaius Caligula (37-41 AD), third emperor of Rome had a reputation for cruel insanity and was responsible for the death of his grandmother, his father and several thousand Romans. But no one could say that he didn’t treat his horses well. The most celebrated, Incitatus, was given a retinue of eighteen servants, a marble stable and a stall of ivory; while on days before the races, when poor ‘Incity’ might be suffering from nerves, a cohort of the praetorian guard were sent to quieten down the neighbourhood where he was housed – indeed, one can almost see the bulky captain whispering threats at a mother with her crying baby. Caligula enjoyed too the company of his beloved and Incitatus was regularly invited to dine with the emperor. History has swallowed up the details of their conversations. But we do know something of the menu. Caligula offered his favourite barley with gold flakes, wine, as well as a variety of meats, including mice, squid, mussels, and chicken. In fact, one even begins to wonder whether Incitatus did not pay rather a high-price for his friendship with Caligula, at least in terms of digestion. Only Gaius’s early death – assassinated by some unreasonable Romans who cared more for the welfare of the Empire than for that of the emperor’s horse – prevented Incitatus being made a senator, so highly did his master think of him: Incitatus would have been the first and last animal member of parliament in history. We know nothing of Incitatus’ retirement. But we might imagine him in a simple stable in the Italian countryside outside Rome, finally eating well – a little grain and some well-drawn water. And sometimes, only sometimes, perhaps when the chickens made too much noise, dreaming of sending in the legions to have his neighbours pipe down.

Beachcombing has long dreamt of a series on preeminent horses, historically famous steeds: any other examples? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com