Most evil Roman emperor ever ?

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Who was the most evil Roman emperor ever ?

Caligula
6
35%
Nero
3
17%
Domitianus
4
23%
Commodus
3
17%
Heliogabalus
1
5%
 
Total votes : 17

Most evil Roman emperor ever ?

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Fri Mar 05, 2004 5:26 pm

Salvete,

A year ago, Draco noster launched a poll about the best Roman emperor ever. But who, in your opinion, was the most evil one ? And why ?

Valete,

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Fri Mar 05, 2004 8:33 pm

One could argue whether or not Caligula was truly evil because he was as mad as a brush (and I am a socratic moralist too, by the way, so I don't believe True Evil exists), but if the result of their actions and their behaviour is to be tallied up, I would say it's Caligula.

I wouldn't even characterise Heliogabalus as truly evil, just decadent and indifferent.

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Postby M Arminius Maior on Tue Jun 08, 2004 5:04 am

Is difficult to separate between legend and history. What did those cruel emperors really? What is calumny written by his opponents?
For example, the legend says that Caius (Caligula) send the army to catch "seashells" in the beaches; absolutely pathetic, soldiers crossing the empire to catch colorful shells in the beach.
But, a certain David Wend, some years ago, said that, "seashells" is the name for small fisher boats. If true, this changed the meaning of the legend entirely; Gaius Caligula was not mad (at least not that mad), he was only trying to have some trophies. The original history (by Suetonius, i believe) perhaps meant that the best trophies that Caligula had was some of those poor fishboats (and so he was unworthy of a Triumph), not that he was mad.
Make sense, eh?
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Tue Jun 08, 2004 12:24 pm

Salve Armini !

An excelllent point. Good to see you returned, too :lol:

(Sorry 'bout the smilie, but it seems I have to include at least one to please some people around here)

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Tue Jun 08, 2004 3:56 pm

Salvete,

Now that this topic appears to be resurrected, I thought I would also add that I think Commudus, although he represented one of the 'fulcra' of Roman history for me, may have been cruel, but his predominant characteristic was stupidity, whereas Caligula was both cunning, vicious, intelligent and cruel.

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Postby Curio Agelastus on Tue Jun 08, 2004 10:27 pm

Salvete omnes,

I think Domitian probably comes close, although I too remain dubious about the existence of absolute evil, or even true evil.

BTW Piscine, you don't have to use smileys, I was just mockingly pointing out the incongruity of your previous hatred of smileys with your current usage of them. 8) :P :twisted: :roll: :D :) :lol: :wink:

In a sardonic mood is....
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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Wed Jun 09, 2004 12:10 am

Okay, one more posting full of smilies and I'll have the aediles censor you all!!!!

BWAHAHAHAHAAHA

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Postby Marcus Ulpius Trajanus on Wed Jun 09, 2004 4:17 pm

Salve,

I am new to the board, so this is the first topic I've actually posted on.

This is difficult to answer. What technically defines madness, and what technically defines evil. For my part, Domitian does not seem to exhibit any of the signs of madness (apart from paranoia, which basically came with the position of being emperor, no? ;-) ). So is he then evil, becuase his actions do not seem to be inspired by evil? When we look at Nero, there are signs of madness, and Caligula definately exhibited megalomaniacal tendencies, as well as other signs of mental illness...although, in his case, can it be justified that the sickness he suffered caused the illness. Also, with Elegabalus (or Heliogabalus), as a friend of mine wrote in his thesis paper, Elegabalus does not seem to be mad, but rather he was a devout believer and worshipper of El Gabal. This brought rituals and practices which many Romans considered mad or irrational, and suspicious because they originated in the East.

For my money, the most evil emperor is Justinian. He displays no tendancies that would signal madness, and yet he is wantonly brutal, hostile and vicious.

Vale bene,

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Wed Jun 09, 2004 5:39 pm

Salve Traiane,

Welcome to the community.

Iustinianus as an evil emperor? Hmm, this is the first time I hear someone saying this. So why do you think he was evil? There were more brutal, vicious or cold-hearted Roman leaders in the history of the Empire...

Of course, as you say, a lot depends on what you define as evil. Some disregard emperors like Caligula in saying that they were insane (and thus morally not accountable for their actions). I however think that pure evil is a form of insanity.

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Postby Marcus Ulpius Trajanus on Wed Jun 09, 2004 6:44 pm

Salve,

My theory is this:

When a person commits an act, if they are not in rational possesion of their mind, they can only be held accountable to a certain extent. No-one can be truly exhonerated of guilt because of insanity, because to some degree there is at least some part of the mind that remains rational and cognitive. To be completely insane and irrational would surely devolve someone to the level of a gibbering wreck, unable to think lucidly, incapable of movement.

In the case of Domitian, as I said above, his paranoia came with the position. Also, his religious convictions (as he was pius for the religio) drove him to such conclusions.

In the case of Justinian, he was destructively paranoid, constantly moving troops and generals about. He also allowed and ordered brutal acts. The Nika riots can be understood, but his brutal behavior in other areas is inexcusable. Also, his shutting down of forms of entertainment were uncalled for. But one thing comes to the forefront. He was a Christian. I'm not saying that that is why he was evil (I'm using it as a qualifier), but he blatantly went against the tenents of his beliefs. I know that we can claim this for Theodosius the Great and his massacre at Thessalonica and Constantine in his persecution of the Donatist sect, but surely the handling of the conquered peoples could have been handled much better. He caused much unnecessary death by needlessly moving troops back and forth, for example, from Italy (especially Rome). His honor record is also not untouched, as his treaty violations show. But I guess, for me, it is more a gut feeling. I see more logic and rational in Domitian or Tiberius than in Justinian.

Vale bene,

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Postby M Arminius Maior on Fri Jun 18, 2004 7:21 am

Who was the most evil? At a personal level? Or perhaps who DID more evil?

To answer this question, we need to measure evilness.
We can begin with this:
- Whose emperor killed / hurted most people (well, we can exchange "people" for "romans", perhaps) ?
- Whose emperor did more damage to the empire (civil wars, revolts, bureaucratic mismanagement) ?
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Postby Curio Agelastus on Sat Jun 19, 2004 12:15 am

Salvete omnes,

Traiane, surely if Tiberius or Domitian were more logical and rational than Justinian in their actions that makes them more culpable for their actions and thus more liable to be considered evil?

Maior, it seems to me that we should measure intention and thought rather than action in this case.

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Mark of the Beast

Postby Titus Marius Crispus on Mon Jul 12, 2004 9:52 pm

Salvete!
I really know nothing about imperial history, but I remember reading something strange about Nero. Supposedly, his name written in Hebrew, when interpreted as a number, is 666. In Greek, it adds up to 636, which was commonly found in Greek versions of the bible.

Not sure if that's true or not, but interesting nonetheless..

Valete,
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Postby Curio Agelastus on Mon Jul 12, 2004 11:19 pm

Salve Tite,

That is interesting, although, in my opinion, co-incidental.
In my opinion, given some of the people in the story of the Roman Empire, I actually think that Nero is a fairly mediocre villain at best. I still hold both Domitian and Caligula far below Nero, and although he wasn't an emperor, Sejanus was fairly villainous.

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Re: Mark of the Beast

Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Tue Jul 13, 2004 12:19 am

Salve Crispe,

Titus Marius Crispus wrote:Salvete!
I really know nothing about imperial history, but I remember reading something strange about Nero. Supposedly, his name written in Hebrew, when interpreted as a number, is 666. In Greek, it adds up to 636, which was commonly found in Greek versions of the bible.

Not sure if that's true or not, but interesting nonetheless..


Nero wasn't the first Nero in imperial history, I think Tiberius's cognomen was also Nero. Although the Early Christians definitely refer to Nero as some sort of Devil in the Apocalypse, according to some theologists.

Vale,
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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Thu Aug 26, 2004 5:59 pm

Salvete omnes,

Reading Suetonius' "Lives of the Emperors" I was thinking about this topic again and wondered if any psychologist has ever published a book analysing 'cases' such as Caligula, who, in my opinion, was clearly a psychopath. Does anyone perhance know any authors or titles ?

Valete,

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Thu Aug 26, 2004 7:27 pm

Salvete iterum,

Perhaps I should've mentioned that Suetionius himself considered Caligula mentally disturbed.

Valitudo ei neque corporis neque animi constitit (§50)
Caligula was, in fact, sick both physically and mentally (trans. R. Graves)*

He even suggests that Caligula was himself aware of his illness :

Mentis valitudinem et ipse senserat ac subinde de secessu deque purgando cerebro cogitavit. (§50)
He was well aware that he had mental trouble, and sometimes proposed taking a leave of absence from Rome to clear his brain. (trans. R. Graves)

And, most importantly, he believes Caligula's behaviour must be attributed to his sickness :

Non inmerito mentis valitudini attribuerim diversissima in eodem vitia, summam confidentiam et contra nimium metum. (§51)
I am convinced that his brain-sickness accounted for his two contradictory vices, over-confidence and extreme timorousness (trans. R. Graves) .

Valete optime,

Q. Pomponius Atticus

*Though perhaps Suetonius' subtlety of expression could be better rendered as "The state of health of both his body and his mind were uncertain".
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Postby L CLAVDIVS INVICTVS on Fri Aug 27, 2004 7:21 pm

Salvete!

For the consequences of his mistakes, behavior, and bad informed decisions ( political or not...), the most "evil" emperor ( councerning to the fall of the Roman empire )was Comodus...

Valete,
PAX ET LAETITIA

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Depends...

Postby Aldus Marius on Fri Aug 27, 2004 10:45 pm

That depends...

I rather liked his granting of universal Citizenship to every adult male in the Empire. I understand that others may differ, but I think that was a vital shot in the arm for Mother Roma...even if C. only did do it to broaden his tax base.

It all kind of gets into that Immigration-&-Naturalization debate, dunnit? Old Romans said then what conservative Americans say now: that we were becoming a mongrel nation, that traditional ways would weaken and disappear, that such measures would be the ruin of both "real Romans" and Rome. As one of the Provincials in question, I would have to politely disagree. Commodus' extension of the Citizenship gave millions of people a stake in the Empire; it may have been one reason why Rome hung on for another few hundred years.

Tha' much having been said for his policy, he really was a despicable man.

Sometimes, the right things really do get done for the wrong reasons...

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sat Aug 28, 2004 8:46 am

Salvete,

Marius scripsit :

I rather liked his granting of universal Citizenship to every adult male in the Empire. I understand that others may differ, but I think that was a vital shot in the arm for Mother Roma...even if C. only did do it to broaden his tax base.


Although called "constitutio Antoniniana", I read it was Caracalla (who adopted the gentilicium "Antoninus" to suggest a sort of legitimacy for the succession of the Antonines by the Severi) who, in 212 AD, granted Roman citizenship to all inhabitants of the imperium.

Valete optime,

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