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A Tale of Two Roman Emperors (An op-ed)

by Mike Kimel

A Tale of Two Roman Emperors

It has been about 1,975 years since the death of the Roman emperor Caligula, but his name is still associated with horrors. If contemporary accounts are within a mile of being reliable, he was an insane megalomaniac with delusions of divinity. He was also into large buildings, and he picked up the habit of accusing people of treason. Physically, he was described as being a tall man with noteworthy hair issues. Reputedly, he required very little sleep and had incestuous relations with his sister. Despite all his blustering, Caligula also was one of the few Roman emperors not to get himself embroiled in wars, whether foreign or domestic. Nevertheless, his lack of self-control, his recklessness with the public purse and his apparent lack of basic economic skills caused a lot of damage to Rome’s finances. By then, however, Caligula had alienated pretty much everyone and most Romans were pleased when he was assassinated. Valens, who lived a few hundred years later, was a much less remembered and certainly less hated emperor. (Hopefully I got the details below mostly right.) Valens was appointed co-emperor by hisolder brother, the emperor Valentinian. Valentinian sent Valens to deal with troubles in the Eastern half of the Empire. And Valens had one way of dealing with issues: militarily. He started out by putting down the mutiny of a usurper. Then he crossed the Danube and fought the Goths. After that there was trouble with the Armenians, and the Persians. At about that time, Valentinian died, leaving Valens as the senior Roman Emperor, with Valentinian’s son as his junior partner.

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