chapter  12
23 Pages

Assassination

Domitian once famously observed that no one believed emperors when they complained about conspiracies, until the final one. Domitian was certainly not alone; to a greater or lesser degree all the early Roman emperors were dogged by the fear of plots.1 Caligula was no exception, and after his return from the north, where he had faced hostile Germans and perhaps anticipated facing hostile Britons, he was now obsessed by the threat posed by hostile Romans. He was once again in the vicinity of Rome by the end of May 40, although he seems to have lingered outside the city limits and delayed his official entry into Rome proper until the end of August, when he celebrated his ovation.2 It was possibly not very long after his return that the Jewish embassy from Alexandria, led by Philo, first met him, in his mother’s gardens by the Vatican Hill (also outside the city limits).3 If so, whatever setbacks the emperor may have encountered in the previous months, he seems to have been in an affable mood on this occasion. He greeted the delegation amiably and promised to meet them when he had the time. We should not take this as a hollow excuse. Considerable public business would have accumulated while the emperor was in the north, and apart from the Alexandrians there were several other foreign rulers and embassies awaiting him. At some point after this he seems to have moved south to Campania, travelling from one villa to another. If he hoped to escape from the tedium of meeting foreign deputations, he was to be disappointed. It was almost certainly in this summer that Herod Antipas, tetrarch of part of his late father’s (Herod the Great’s) dominion, and his wife Herodias (sister of Herod Agrippa) made their journey to see Caligula, lured by the prospect of Antipas being granted the title of king (see Chapter 10). 4 Philo’s deputation made a second, presumably unsuccessful, attempt to meet Caligula while he was in Campania, and it was there that they heard the devastating news that Caligula had ordered his own statue to be placed within the temple at Jerusalem (Chapter 10).