Incitatus: Caligula’s Horse Who Would Be Senator

ADVERTISEMENT

Even if you’re less than pleased with your congressman, chances are you’d prefer them over a horse. Back in Ancient Rome, Emperor Caligula loved one of his horses so much that in addition to giving the animal it’s own house, he planned on making it a consul of Rome.

Incitatus, meaning “swift” in Latin, was one of Caligula’s most prized possessions. It allegedly had servants who fed it oats mixed with gold flakes, a stable made of marble, an ivory manger, and a collar of precious stones.

Since Incitatus already lived like a high statesman, it made perfect sense to actually make him one right?

Before Caligula had a chance to appoint Incitatus, the tyrant was assassinated by fellow Roman and veteran soldier Cassius Chaerea. But if he wasn’t killed, historians debate whether or not he really would have created the first horse senator.

Fact or fiction?

Much of the information we have on Incitatus’ consulship comes from ancient historians Sueotnius and Dio, both of whom lived decades after Caligula’s four year reign of terror.

Modern historians believe that many of the outlandish tales about Caligula may be based completely on rumors and myths that only existed to further demonize the “mad emperor”.

Why have a horse senator?

While insanity may be one logical explanation for Caligula’s odd desire to appoint a horse, historian Aloys Winterling believes there may be another.

In his book, “Caligula: A Biography” (2011) he explains that many of the emperor’s more bizarre stunts were designed to humiliate and insult other senators and nobles.

What greater insult could there be than implying a horse could do your job?

Reply