Rolph David

CALIGULA: “Oderint, dum metuant!“ - A Tragedy

Dramatis Personae:

Caligula - Emperor of Rome, consumed by madness and tyranny.
Messalina - Courtier and confidante to Caligula, navigating the treacherous waters of the palace.
Drusilla – Favorite sister to Caligula, torn between loyalty to her brother and the welfare of Rome.
Senator Cassius - Senator of Rome, vocal opponent of Caligula's tyranny.
Senator Octavius - Senator of Rome, wary of Caligula's growing madness.
Senator Marcus - Senator of Rome, cautious in his approach to the emperor's madness.
Senator Lucius - Senator of Rome, urging prudence in the face of Caligula's paranoia.
Praetorian Guard - Guardians of the emperor, torn between duty and conscience.
Messenger - Bearer of news and rumors within the palace.
High Priest - Guardian of Rome's religious traditions and omens.
Oracle - Interpreter of divine messages and prophecies.
Lepidus - Citizen of Rome, advocating for the city's liberation.
Claudius - Future emperor of Rome, witnessing the downfall of Caligula's reign.
Citizens - The people of Rome, caught in the tumultuous events unfolding in the empire.

Act I: The Rise of Caligula

Scene 1: The Coronation (The Roman Senate)

The Roman Senate is gathered, with Caligula addressing them

Caligula: “Esteemed colleagues, we stand at the precipice of destiny, entrusted with the sacred mantle of leadership by both the divine and the citizens of Rome. Together shall we usher in a new era of prosperity and glory for our empire.“

Senators: “Long live Emperor Caligula! Long live Rome!“

Praetorian Guard: “All hail Emperor Caligula, may his reign shower blessings upon our glorious Rome! In the recesses of the Senate chamber, hushed conversations betray doubts and fears.“

Senator Decimus (Aside to Senator Cassius): “Dost thou believe this youthful emperor‘s capable of leading Rome to greatness? His tender years blind him to the harsh truths of governance.“

Senator Cassius: “Indeed, Decimus. But we must proceed carefully, for his sway over both the populace and the Praetorian Guard renders him a formidable and unpredictable foe.“

Amidst the murmurs, Senator Flavius steps forward, his words seeking to inspire confidence and unity

Senator Flavius: [Addressing the Senate] “Fellow senators, though our new emperor may yet be in the bloom of youth, let us not underestimate the potential that lies within him. With our seasoned guidance, he may yet ascend the throne of history and lead Rome to unparalleled glory!“

Scene 2: The Flattery of the Courtiers (The Imperial Palace)

In the opulent halls of power, within the Imperial Palace, courtiers dance delicately around Caligula, masking their unease with honeyed words

Messalina, her voice dripping with sycophancy, approaches the emperor, comparing his vision to the blazing sun, casting themselves as mere echoes in his radiant presence, yet beneath her adulation, a tremor of fear festers. "My liege," she begins, "your vision for Rome shines brighter than the sun itself. We, your humble subjects, are but fleeting shadows in the brilliance of your reign."

Courtier 1 steps forward, his words laced with flattery, seeking to appease the emperor's fragile ego. "Your wisdom knows no bounds, Your Majesty," he proclaims. "Surely, your rule shall be etched in the annals of history for eternity, a resplendent star illuminating Rome's path to unprecedented glory."

Yet even as these words of flattery flow, concerns are exchanged in hushed tones, for rumors of the emperor's madness spread like wildfire

Courtier 3, leaning close to Courtier 2, shares a dark truth: “The emperor's sanity is faltering, his once noble intentions obscured by the shadows of his growing insanity.

Yet still, they flatter, for fear of invoking his wrath

Courtier 4, nodding in feigned agreement, acknowledges the perilous path they pursue, where one misstep could lead to their undoing. Yet, for now, they bask in the emperor's favor, praying fervently that his madness does not turn upon them like a ravenous beast.

Scene 3: The Rise of Paranoia (The Imperial Chambers)

Caligula strides through the chamber, his mind ensnared by the coils of paranoia that tighten with each passing moment

Caligula: “Betrayal, that venomous serpent, lies hidden, poised to strike and poison the very heart of Rome. We must remain vigilant, for the fate of our empire teeters on the edge of a precipice.“

Praetorian Guard: “Your Majesty, though the darkness may speak deceit, fear not, for your loyal guardians stand as vigilant sentinels, ready to fend off the treacherous whispers that assail you.“

Messenger: “Your Excellency, the voices of dissent grow louder with each passing hour. Shall I dispatch our most skilled agents to uncover the roots of this insidious plot?“

Caligula: “Aye, with all haste. Spare no effort in our quest to unearth the traitors, let no stone be left unturn’d in our mission to root out the traitors for Rome's survival depends on it.“

Senator Lucius: “My liege, we must be wary of sowing discord amongst ourselves, lest our own actions sow the seeds of discord and hasten Rome's downfall.“

Caligula: “Indeed, Lucius, the echoes of betrayal reverberate through these hallowed halls, casting doubt upon every alliance and bond. Trust is a fragile thread, easily severed by the slightest sign of suspicion.“

Scene 4: The Seeds of Tyranny (The Colosseum)

Amidst the grandeur of the Colosseum, Caligula stands, his voice thundering like a tempest, commanding the attention of the gathered throng, the people of Rome

Caligula: “Witness the unrivaled might of Rome! Let the crimson tide of our enemies' blood flow freely, for we are the masters of this world, and all who dare oppose us shall meet their end!“

The crowd roars in fervent adulation, their voices rising like a chorus of thunderous applause

Crowd: “Hail Caesar! Hail Caligula! May his glory shine brighter than the sun itself!“

Yet amidst the spectacle, Senator Octavius, his eyes keen as a hawk's, perceives the shadow stashed behind the emperor's facade

Senator Octavius: “Hast thou beheld the emperor's gaze? Madness, that foul specter, dwells within. We must act swiftly, lest Rome succumb to the tempest that rages within his breast!“

Senator Marcus, his voice a low rumble of thunder, urges caution, mindful of the dangers that lie in ambush in the shadows of power

Senator Marcus: “Aye, Octavius. But let us speak in private, where the walls do not betray our secrets. Treachery, like a viper at night, curled in a ball, lies in wait to strike the unwary.“

Amidst the whispered councils of the Senate, Senator Lucius, his words a plea for prudence, implores the emperor to heed the warnings that echo through the corridors of power

Senator Lucius: “My Emperor, let us walk the path of caution, for discord, that insidious toxin, weakens the very foundations of Rome. Trust, a rare and precious gem, must be safeguarded at all costs.“

Caligula, his brow furrowed with the weight of his burdens, acknowledges the phantasm of betrayal that haunts his every waking moment

Caligula: “Words of betrayal, like hidden threats, haunt our every step, defiling the very air we breathe. Trust, that fragile thread that binds us together, is a precious commodity in these treacherous halls.“

Act II: Reign of Madness

Scene 1: Whispers of Conspiracy (The Roman Senate)

Senator Cassius, his voice thick with concern and his eyes burning with righteous indignation, declares, “The emperor's madness knows no bounds! Like a tempest unleashed upon the seas, it threatens to engulf us all in its fury. We must not falter, my comrades! We must gather allies and steel our hearts for the storm that brews on the horizon.“

Senator Octavius, his gaze wary and his words measured, adds his voice to the fray, “Aye, Cassius speaks true. Yet, let us not rush headlong into the abyss. Caligula's spies, like phantoms creeping silently in the night, haunt unseen amongst us. We must proceed with caution, each step weighed and measured, lest we unknowingly stray into the grasp of treachery.“

Senator Decimus, his tone resolute and unwavering, offers a glimmer of hope amidst the encroaching darkness, “Fear not, noble friends! Though the night seems long and treacherous, the dawn of freedom approaches. The people yearn for liberation from the chains of tyranny, and we, as guardians of Rome's legacy, must act decisively. Let us stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and forge a path to victory!“

Senator Livius, his voice a piercing call amidst the gathering storm, issues a dire warning to all who would listen, “Beware, my brethren, for the emperor tightens his grip around the throat of Rome! Like a beast ensnared in its own web, he seeks to crush all who oppose him. But let us not cower in fear! Let us stand tall and resolute, united in our purpose, and together, we shall save Rome from the clutches of despotism!“

Scene 2: A Lover's Warning (The Imperial Chambers)

In the chamber's dim light, Messalina, her voice edged with urgency, pleads with her lord, “My sovereign, lend me thine ear. Danger prowls, a cunning predator stalking our every move.“

Caligula, his demeanor a mask of confidence, reassures his beloved, “Worry not, my dearest. We are Caesar, invincible amidst the tempests of fate.“

Drusilla, her tone tinged with desperation, implores her brother, “Prithee brother, heed our entreaties. Trust in the love that binds us, for it is our strongest armor.“

Senator Marcus, his words heavy with the burden of caution, speaks forth, “My liege, behold the bonds of kinship, a force that may sway even the firmest resolve.“

This portrayal captures the tension and uncertainty within the palace walls, painting a picture of loyalty, fear, and the delicate balance of power

Scene 3: The Descent into Madness (The Palace Corridors)

Caligula, his voice thundering with authority, proclaims, “Behold, for we are Caesar, ruler of worlds, sovereign of realms both mortal and divine! Our will shapes the very fabric of the universe!“

Praetorian Guard, his tone laced with concern, implores his lord, “Majesty, grant yourself respite. Thy thoughts wander amidst the maelstrom of ambition and fear.“

Senator Octavius, his words a mere mumbling in the corridors of power, reveals a truth veiled in shadows, “Senators murmur of insurrection, their voices but echoes of discontent in the hallowed halls of governance.“

Senator Marcus, his voice trembling with both fear and conviction, steps forward

Senator Marcus: “My liege, thou hast appointed thine own horse, Incitatus, to the rank of consul. Such actions, driven by whims and folly, sow seeds of doubt and madness in the hearts of Rome's loyal servants. Thy decree hath sparked rumblings of concern and unrest.“

Caligula's eyes blaze with defiance, his expression a mix of fury and madness

Caligula: “Incitatus shall serve Rome with more loyalty than these treacherous senators! Dost thou question Caesar's wisdom? Our divine will shall not be challenged!“

Senator Octavius, his tone urgent, adds his plea

Senator Octavius: “Majesty, hear our counsel. These acts, borne of a mind strained by the weight of empire, do unsettle the very foundations of our state. We beg thee, restore thine honor and thy reason, lest Rome herself crumble.“

The scene continues, steeped in the growing tension and paranoia within the palace walls, as Caligula's madness becomes ever more apparent

Scene 4: Omens of Doom (The Temple of Jupiter)

High Priest: “Beware fate's hand!“

Oracle: “Rome weeps, darkness gather, and the whispering winds carry the secrets of unrest. The stars dim, veiled by the cloak of uncertainty. In the depths of obscurity, a serpent skulks around the pillars of power, awaiting its moment to strike.“

Caligula: “We are Caesar, fate bends to our will.“

Senator Decimus: “Your Majesty, heed the gods' warnings, for even the mightiest of rulers are but pawns in the cosmic game of destiny.“

Act III: The Tyrant Unleashed

Scene 1: A Reign of Terror (The Roman Forum)

Caligula: “We are the voice of Rome! Oppose us and tremble, for the wrath of Caesar knows no bounds! Let the rivers of dissent run dry, or they shall drown in the torrents of our fury!“

Senator Decimus: “Caligula's tyranny threatens all, casting a gloom darker than the depths of Hades itself, where even the bravest souls cower in fear.“

Senator Cassius: “We must gather strength, not merely in numbers but in the steel of our resolve, lest we be crushed beneath the weight of Caligula's unbridled ambition.“

Senator Octavius: “We must inspire hope, for in the darkest hour, it is the flickering flame of hope that shall guide us through the labyrinth of Caligula's madness, lest we lose ourselves in the abyss of despair.“

Scene 2: The Festivities of Despair (The Imperial Palace)

Caligula: “Let revelry drown dissent, let the wine flow like rivers of blood, and the laughter mask the screams of those who dare to defy us! For in the halls of debauchery, dissent shall wither and die, suffocated by the intoxicating fumes of our power!“

Messalina: “Behind the facade lies the unknown, where the glittering surface of Caligula's court conceals the rot within. Beware, for beneath the gilded masks and silken robes, treachery slithers like a monster in the garden, ready to pounce when least expected.“

Courtier 1: “Madness taints his eyes, turning the windows to his soul into mirrors reflecting the twisted corridors of his mind. Beware the gaze of the emperor, for behind those eyes lies the chaos of a storm unleashed, consuming all who dare to look too closely.“

Scene 3: Shadows of Rebellion (The Praetorian Barracks)

Praetorian Guard 1: “We, as the guardians of Rome, are duty-bound to act, not for the whims of an emperor gone mad, but for the enduring welfare of our beloved city. Let the blaring call of duty ring louder than the seductive muttering of tyranny.“

Lepidus: “Rome, once the mark of civilization, now languishes in the gloom of despotism. Her cries for salvation echo through the streets, pleading for liberation from the chains of oppression that bind her. We must answer her call, for in her redemption lies the redemption of us all.“

Senator Octavius: “The guardians of the city stand united with us, their loyalty not to a tyrant, but to the noble ideals upon which Rome was founded. Let us harness their strength, for together, with the might of the Praetorian Guard at our side, we shall confront the outrageous that threatens to engulf our beloved Republic.“

Scene 4: Treason in the Shadows (The Imperial Chambers)

Messalina: “Empowered by the unwavering support of the Praetorian Guard, we seize the moment to defy the shackles of fear and oppression. Their valor emboldens us to step into the fray, to confront the looming menace of tyranny with righteous determination.“

Senator Decimus: “In unity lies our strength, and in defiance of tyranny, we find our common cause. With each alliance forged, we weave a tapestry of resistance against the tyrant's grip, binding together those who dare to challenge the veil that threatens to engulf our beloved Rome.“

Praetorian Guard 1: “Our oath is not to a despot, but to the sacred duty of protecting Rome and her people. With unwavering resolve, we stand ready to bring an end to the reign of terror that has cast a bad light on our once-great empire.“

Act IV: The Fall of a Tyrant

Scene 1: The Dagger's Edge (The Imperial Chambers)

Caligula: “In the dim chambers of power, where opacity reigns and murmurs entwine like winding vines, the walls draw near, confining the emperor within his own labyrinth of fear. Each susurration, a noxious dart, each dimness, a silent specter of doubt, closing in around him like the inexorable clasp of fate itself.“

Praetorian Guard: “Your Majesty, amidst the tempest of uncertainty, your safety stands as the North Star amidst a tumultuous sea. In this maelstrom of intrigue and peril, our vigilance knows no bounds, for your well-being is the lodestar by which we navigate the treacherous waters of conspiracy and deceit.“

Senator Octavius: “Behold, as paranoia, that insidious viper, entangles the heart of the emperor, tightening its grip with each passing moment. Suspicion, like a relentless tempest, ravages the corridors of his mind, casting shadows where none exist, and turning allies into adversaries in the twisted maze of his fears.“

Scene 2: The Emperor's Demise (The Streets of Rome)

Lepidus: “Hark, the curtain falls on thy reign, Caligula! The stage, once yours, now shifts, and Rome, weary of thy tyrannous grip, bids thee farewell.“

Caligula: “We are the colossus that bestrides Rome's might! Yet, like the colossus of old, even the mightiest must yield to the tides of change.“

Citizens: “Down, down with the tyrant! Let the reverberation of our defiance ring through the streets, a chorus of liberation that pierces the veil of oppression!“

Scene 3: The Tyrant's Last Stand (The Imperial Palace)

Caligula: “Guards, behold your sovereign! The epitome of Rome's destiny, the custodian of its fate, stands before thee! Rally to me, as the sea to the moon, for I am the bastion of Rome's glory, the steadfast guardian of her legacy!“

Praetorian Guard Captain: “Majesty, thy reign descends into madness, a tempest that ravages the very foundations of Rome. We, the guardians of her honor, can no longer abide by thy tyranny. Our loyalty lies not with the whims of a madman, but with the enduring spirit of Rome herself.“

Senator Decimus: “Caligula, thy reign of terror ends here! The Senate stands united against thee, our voices raised as one in defiance of thy tyranny. No longer shall we suffer beneath the weight of thy madness, for Rome cries out for liberation!“

Caligula, his eyes ablaze with fury and madness, raises his hand in a futile gesture of defiance, his voice a thunderous roar that echoes through the palace halls

Caligula: “You dare defy me, the chosen of the gods, the rightful ruler of Rome?! Tremble before my wrath, for none shall stand against the might of Caesar!“

With a swift and decisive motion, the Praetorian Guard advances, their swords gleaming in the dim light of the chamber, their resolve unyielding in the face of Caligula's madness

Praetorian Guard Captain: “Your reign ends here, Caligula. May the gods have mercy on your soul.“

In a final, desperate act of defiance, Caligula lunges forward, his sword flashing in the flickering torchlight, but it is too late. The Praetorian Guard closes in around him, their blades finding their mark with lethal precision. As Caligula falls, his screams of rage and agony are drowned out by the triumphant cries of the Senate and the people of Rome, who emerge from the abysms of fear to welcome the dawn of a new era

Epilogue: The Fate of Caligula's Body (The Imperial Gardens, Rome; After the downfall of Caligula)

As the city begins to recover from the chaos of Caligula's reign, rumors swirl about the fate of his body

Claudius: “'Tis imperative we address Caligula's ashes with dignity, despite his rule.“

Praetorian Guard: “Caligula's cremated residue was disposed of in the Tiber River, as per conspirators' orders.“

Citizens: “What fate could be worse for a tyrant cast aside, but to be forgotten by the river's flow?“

Claudius: “Yet even he, though mad and cruel, was Caesar once. We shall ensure his memory, though dark, is not erased from history's annals.“

Senator Decimus: “Let his tale be a warning to those who would follow the path of tyranny.“

Messalina:“And let us hope that Rome shall now find peace and wisdom under our new emperor.“

Claudius: “Together, we shall rebuild and restore the honor and glory of our great empire. Let Rome rise anew from these dark times, and let us lead with justice and wisdom.“

The citizens and senators bow in agreement, and the scene fades to the vision of a new, hopeful dawn over Rome

Chorus: Thus ends the tale of Caligula's fall,
                 A tyrant's reign, a shadow o'er us all.
                 From madness' grip, Rome shall arise,
                 With wisdom's light and justice in our eyes.

Curtain falls.


All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Rolph David.
Published on on 05/19/2024.


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