n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - Caligula as auctioneer

Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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In the winter of AD 39/40 the emperor Caligula was based at Lyons for a considerable time. It was in the aftermath of a most dangerous crisis in his brief reign. The favourite for the succession, M. Aemilius Lepidus, had earlier been executed on the accusation of having conspired against Caligula. The latter's sisters, Agrippina and Livilla, were accused of having entertained improper relations with Lepidus and were subsequently banished. The governor of Upper Germany, Cn. Cornelius Lentulus Gaetulicus, had been executed 'ob detecta nefaria con[silia in Germani]cum'. At Lyons Caligula organised two auctions, one of the possessions of his sisters, the other of imperial paraphernalia. This particular episode of the emperor's stay in Gaul is presented by our sources as a continuation of his tyrannical performance in Rome. Several aspects of the auctions, however, do not tally with that picture and have to be explained in a different way. As will be shown in detail, there is some justification for arguing that at the second auction Caligula was playing the benevolent prince rather than the cruel tyrant.

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