Caligula Trump

Frankly Speaking with Frank Likely

Published on August 23, 2017

You know things are going badly when people start comparing the President of the United States with the infamous Emperor Caligula, with Caligula coming out the better man.  

But that's just what happened this week following Donald Trump's tirades following the Charlottesville terror attack.
Caligula was Emperor of the Roman Empire for slightly more than three years beginning in 37AD. By most accounts he started out as a moderate ruler but swiftly showed himself to be an insane tyrant. Within months of his coronation he was being derided for his cruelty, sadism, extravagance and sexual perversity. He used his position to increase his own personal power and paid much attention to ambitious construction projects exalting himself.
This week, both the New York Times and the Guardian features articles comparing the two, with the London paper noting the “fascinating parallels” between the pair. Author Tom Holland cites Caligula's “great love of spectacle and dressing up” and his enjoyment at “hurting and humiliating people.”
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman also notes the similarities, but says the comparison is unfair, to Caligula. The Emperor, he notes, did not “foment ethnic violence within the empire” as the President has been doing this week.
The political elite, which Caligula attempted to suppress, eventually came to the conclusion that the Emperor must go, and he was assassinated
by a military official he had insulted.
There does not appear to be any danger of that happening to President Trump, but already political leaders, friends and foe alike, are raising the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment, which provides for the removal of the President for unfitness.
There may be another similarity that could help explain the two of them and their actions. The name Caligula means “little boots”. Wasn't there also something about Trump and “little hands”?

Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister and past president of the Springhill and Area Chamber of Commerce.