From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Revision as of 13:32, 15 October 2011; view current revision
←Older revision | Newer revision→
Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Incitatus was the favored horse of Roman emperor Caligula. Its name is a Latin adjective meaning "swift" or "at full gallop".

According to Suetonius's Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Incitatus had a stable of marble, with an ivory manger, purple blankets, and a collar of precious stones. Others have indicated that the horse was attended to by eighteen servants, and was fed oats mixed with gold flake. Suetonius also wrote that Caligula planned to make Incitatus a consul.

Incitatus was named not only a citizen of Rome, but a member of the Roman Senate.

The horse would "invite" dignitaries to dine with him in a house outfitted with servants there to entertain such events.

Caligula's folly

The accuracy of the received history has been question by Historical revisionists such as Anthony A. Barrett. They suggest that later Roman chroniclers such as Suetonius and Dio Cassius were influenced by the political situation of their own times, when it may have been useful to the current Emperors to discredit the later Julio-Claudian Emperors. Also, the lurid nature of the story added spice to their narratives, winning them additional readers.

One suggestion is that Caligula's treatment of Incitatus was an elaborate prank, intended to ridicule and provoking the Senate, rather than a sign of insanity, or perhaps a form of satire, with the implication that a horse could perform a Senator's duties.

Barrett notes that "Many stories were spread about Incitatus, originating most likely from Caligula's own humorous quips." "Possibly out of perverted sense of humor Caligula would pour libations to Incitatus' Salus [health and well-being], and claimed that he intended to co-opt him as his priest."

In popular culture

Incitatus appears as a character in Bill Willingham's comic book series Jack of Fables. In the comic, Incitatus has the power of speech, and assists the Big Bad Wolf in tracking down the title character during a flashback sequence set in the Old West.

In Atlas Shrugged: Cherryl Brooks, a dime-store salesgirl who marries James Taggart, is compared to Incitatus during a high society party.

Incitatus is also referred to in the Randy Newman song "A few words in defense of our country".

In Wanted! by Kate Thompson, a baker's son finds Incitatus just as the Emperor's death is announced.

The incident has often been used as an epitome of Roman decadence. The comic poet Ogden Nash once wrote

You will be glad to hear the party turned out absolutely fabulous;
Some say the best since the one at which a horse was named consul by the late Emperor Heliogabalus.

(Nash substituted Heliogabalus for the sake of the absurd rhyme.)

A Melbourne lawyer once remarked that Incitatus would have the numbers for premier in Victoria.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Consul" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools