Caligula Was The Most Sinister Psychology Essay

Caligulas father, Germanicus, was the grandson of the well-regarded Emperor Augustus and the nephew of Emperor Tiberius, the adopted son and the successor to his father’s throne of power. When Emperor Augustus died, he left Tiberius in command to become the royal heir to the emperor. Although, Tiberius knew that Geramanicus was next in line to rule, his jealousy and insecurities kept him from appointing him as the next emperor of Rome. Unfortunately, Germaicus died mysteriously, leaving his dedicated supporters and his family, grief stricken. After Caligula’s father demise, he moved three times until he joined Tiberius on the island of Capri. It was rumored that during one of those moves, Caligula began an incestuous relationships with his sisters.

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While on the island of Capri, Caligula was forced to suppress his feelings, once he learned that Tiberius were responsible for the death of his father, mother and siblings. However, due to Caligula ability to control his emotions, he began to act out his aggression through sexual deviant behaviors on men and women; sometimes, making the men watch as he had sex with their wives and daughters.

Tiberius had two sons, Nero and Drusus, who he was grooming to succeed him as emperor, but as fate would have it, both died too young, leaving Caligula next in line to become emperor.

After Tiberius died, Caligula became the emperor of Rome. He was generous, thoughtful and prodigious during the first months of his reign. He freed political prisoners, pardon those who were exiled and terminated the treason trials. He implemented games and chariot races, in which became quite popular during his reign. He established a rapport with the Senate and later adopted his cousin, Tiberius Germanicus as his son and heir. Approximately six months later, the Emperor who was well-revered, became the well feared.

An illness fell upon the Emperor when he was thirty-seven years old, causing possibly delirium. Although, Caligula may have been cruel and sexual perverted before his illness, but after his recovery, there were significant changes his behavior. His behaviors were even more bizarre, brutal and deviant. He later regarded himself as a God; would lavishly spend money to build a marble house for his horse; tormented his prominent and influential senators by ordering them to run for miles in front of the chariot; had sex with his supporters wives; built a two miles bridge out of boats, so he could ride his horse back and forward over the floating bridge; and ordering the men to shave their hair, because he was losing his hair. As to make matters worse, Caligula had his adopted son and heir to the throne, Tiberius Germanicus murdered. Next, he ordered the revitalization of the treason trials, so he could confiscate the loser’s property for money. This infamous tyrant was murdered by several of guards after serving merely fourteen hundred days in office.

Caligula’s personality could best be explained by identifying the most obvious characteristic or social skills of a person (McAdams, 2009). In reviewing the set of psychological traits and mechanisms within the individual, is to comprehend the influences and interactions Caligula had to adapt to within his environment, which includes the six domains of knowledge: dispositional, biological, intrapsychic, cognitive-experimental, social and cultural and adjustment.

During 12 AD, there were no means to detect lead in the water system, so this could have effected Caligula’s body development and growth. According to the Mayo Clinics (2011), small amounts of lead in children who are exposed to lead poisoning can experience mental and physical problems. From infancy to toddlerhood, the most important physical development is an infant’s body weight, motor skills and reflexes, as well as, sensory and perceptual abilities. Although, there is limited information about Caligula’s early childhood, there are documentation’s of Caligula experiencing irritability and behavioral problems as a child. Historian documents more about biological changes during early adolescence to early adulthood, such as Caligula’s unusual body weight and height. Caligula’s body structure could be the results of exposure to lead poisoning. In examining how environmental factors that can influence an individual’s growth, is to consider ideas from William Sheldon (McAdams, 2009). Sheldon (McAdams, 2009) was one of the most interesting philosophers of his time as he examined and introduced the idea that body feature may influence and possibly predict certain characteristics of an individual’s personality. During his exploration into this area, he identified three different forms of human physiques, for example, endomorph visceratonic, mesomorph somatotonic and ectomorph cerebrotonic. Sheldon argued that a high correlation occurs between physique and behavior, in which could have affected Caligula’s mental state. Historian documented that Caligula was tall in height with a skinny neck and scrawny legs. Also, he had a receding hair line, hairy body and his forehead was unusually large. One can only image the names he was called growing up and how it shaped his personality.

Piaget (McAdams, 2009) contended that an individual’s mental mode of thinking can relate to schemata. Schemata are defined as an individual who understands the basic concept of the world (McAdams, 2009). The basic concepts of these ideas are centered on three basic schemata, for example, sensorimotor, symbolic and operational schemata. These three basic concepts of the world, lays down a framework for a child to begin with concrete interactions and progress to a more symbolic and intellectual thinking process.

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During the sensorimotor or cognitive development stage, it was undetermined if Caligula experienced a delay in object performance (McAdams, 2009). Piaget maintained that when an infant’s develops the capability to imitate what they see, their reflex goes far beyond, what’s in their environment (McAdams, 2009).

As Caligula’s personality and cognitive skills began to transform into a dictator, a more controversial theory emerged that could explain his behavior that is dissimilar from Sheldon and Piaget’s theories. Raymond Cattell, psychologist, argued that an individual’s personality is defined as behavioral prediction (McAdams, 2009). During Cattell’s exploration in this personality arena, he identified three different classification of personality data, such as, life data, questionnaire data, and test data (McAdams, 2009). If historian was able to use this type of analysis during Caligula’s reign of terror, the data combination from all three sources and the sixteen personality factor questionnaire, could have accurately foretold his character traits and improve behavioral predictions (McAdams, 2009). McAdams (2009) contended that a person’s personality can be best described as inappropriate behavior and characteristics that can deviate from the norm that is explained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders. Several theorist and historians suggest that Caligula exhibited a combination of narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder (McAdams, 2009). The mixture of the two makes one reflect on several of the most prolific serial killers of the century, for example, Manson, Gacy, Bundy and Dahmer. All were grandiose, lack sympathy for others, need or commanded admiration, cruel, aggressive, lack remorse, destroyed property or deliberately injured people (McAdams, 2009). The combination of the two was Emperor Caligula’s character.

McAdams (2009) discussed Kohlberg’s theory concerning moral thinking or reasoning. Kohlberg contended that an individual’s moral reasoning is undeveloped and this is the reason a person commits a crime. Kohlberg’s stages of moral development are best described as preconventional, conventional and postconventional. Hans Eysenck’s theories differed from Eysenck’s personality theories (McAdams, 2009). Eysenck argued that certain personalities are born to commit atrocities (McAdams, 2009). He contended that a person’s environment such as exposure to poverty and the wrong criminal element, can possibly account for criminal behavior. This can be better explained with terms proximal and distal contribution. Eysenck makes the argument that there are only three personality types, instead of Cattell’s sixteen traits. The four types of traits are extraversion, introversion, neuroticism and psychoticism. Psychoticism appeared to be the trait that Caligula displayed, gradually from childhood to adulthood. Although, it was documented by historians, Caligula was secretively cruel towards his followers, but after his close death experience due to an elevated fever, his behavior seemed to blatantly escalate to delusion of grandeur, extreme cruelty and antisocial behavior (McAdams, 2009). The torture techniques he ordered or participated in behind closed doors, was now done openly for his own personal amusement. Also, Eysenck questioned if genetics and biological functioning has anything to deal with genetics after investigating criminal behavior with the twin adoption method. In examining this concept is to examine Costa and McRae’s Big Five traits, such as, extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness, Caligula’s personality matched the facets of neuroticism, such as anxiety, angry hostility, depression, self-consciousness, impulsiveness and vulnerability. These traits sketched an outline of the person’s personality and psychological qualities, yet, Allport contended that a person’s trait is characterized as the consistency and coherence of human behavior which is called common traits and personal disposition. He further broke down these comparison and personal dispositions into different varieties, such as cardinal disposition, central disposition and secondary disposition. Building on the works of other theorists and causing years of controversy, Michel maintained that behavior is much more situationally specific than cross-situationally reliability (McAdams, 2009). He proposed that trait labels occurs more in the minds of spectators than in the actual personality of the individual being observed. In Caligula’s case, his overall pattern of cruelty was linked to a certain stimuli, for instance, as a result of his excessive spending habits; he would raise taxes or extorted money from individuals who participated in the treason trials.

In examining the behaviorist and the socialist view pertaining to Caligula’s personality is to study the behavior that is learned in the environment. There are two different fundamental forms of learning such as classical and instrumental conditioning, in which Caligula displayed quite often. He would reward those who worship him and executed individuals who spoke against him. In studying personality, the most comprehensive and controversial theories of Sigmund Freud was his in-depth case studies. His original and cutting edge theory of personality was based on the hypothesis that there are two key elements of which our personality is based on, the consciousness and unconsciousness, whereas, Psychologists, John Dollard and Neil Miller maintained that observed drive, cue, response, and reinforcement was the critical component in personality. This was regarded as a series of learned behaviors. Freud argued that a person’s personality is an organized in a psychological and physical component inside a person. This component has the ability to create and determine the individual’s unique characteristic behaviors. Historian documented that when Caligula was three years old, he would accompany his father on several of his military campaigns. One can only guess, how many times Caligula was left unattended in the company of soldiers, who either demonstrated or exposed him to perverted desires that he locked in his unconsciousness that were too disturbing or horrible to keep consciously aware. Although, there are historians who chronicled Caligula’s childhood, there is limited information if he was molested as a child; yet, there are chronological record of events of him observing Emperor Tiberius’s brutal behavior towards men and women, especially those who spoke against him. This may have been the foundation that shaped Caligula’s behavior and personality, in which psychologists’ calls observational learning. The positive version of this behavior is called modeling, yet, as Caligula exposure wasn’t exactly positive. Bandura argued that when children imitate adult’s behavior, they can astonishingly create and plot torture strategies of their own. At a young age, Caligula’s early message was that aggressive behaviors towards others were acceptable and being merciful with their captive does not stimulate the same aberrant responses. Caligula innate and thirst for control and power molded a miniature Tiberius. Even though, Freud ideas has met harsh criticism, he may have been on to something in understanding the basic structure and psyche of an individual’s psychosexual development. Freud contended that a person’s personality represents a power struggle hidden within himself; that the id controls our impulses, therefore, when the ego is able to negotiate between the id and superego, the superego is able to keep a person on the path of moral integrity and proper conduct. Furthermore, Freud argued that a person’s unique character is the product of how an individual’s behavior develops during childhood. As a child, Caligula suffered many challenges during his early stages of development in which possibly effected his growth and maturity, wherein Freud called the oral stage, anal stage, phallic stage, latency stage and genital stage. Probably during the psychosexual development called the latency stage, the onset of the puberty stages became dominated. Historian writes of Caligula’s selfishness and pleasure seeking behavior, as he engaged in inappropriate conduct to get what he wanted, in which was acquired through, abnormal, calculating, heartless and unpleasant manner.


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