On Caesar’s Favorite

It is wonderful when a rich and powerful benefactor makes you his favorite. Such was the case in ancient Rome when an emperor bestowed his kindness and largesse on one such favorite named Incitatus. This Incitatus was the recipient of Emperor Gaius Germanicus’s favor and blessing. Caesar gave Incitatus a marble-lined bedroom equipped with expensive purple bed linens. He held great banquets in Incitatus’s honor, invited famous poets, musicians, actors, and senators to dine with them to honor Incitatus.

Caesar also gifted him expensive jewelry, had servants feed him by hand (and the food he gave for Incitatus had gold flakes in it), and also sent people who would bathe Incitatus. We don’t know what Incitatus thought or felt about this unusual attention from Caesar. History is not sure of his origins nor of how he came to catch the eye of Caesar. We know nothing of his parentage, and we can only guess that he came from decent stock or otherwise he would never have come under the gaze of the most powerful man in the world at that time. But, again, all of this is conjecture.

We do know that a female named Penelope shared his house. Penelope, also, received great attention from Caesar. In fact, Caesar liked her so much that he took Penelope on a military campaign with him after Incitatus died. This raised some eyebrows in Roman society to be sure. Some wondered why Caesar seemed to care so much about Incitatus and Penelope to practically adopt the couple.

Another time, Caesar wanted Incitatus to join the Roman Senate, that most august institution of Roman politics and society. The trouble was (and here we have some clue about his background), being a senator cost money in ancient Rome, and it seems Incitatus had none. So, Caesar decreed that the financial contribution requirement for all senators would be eliminated. With that hurdle taken away, it seems that Caesar got his wish and had Incitatus made a senator. That decision, also, aroused much speculation about the favoritism Caesar showed. Some said that Caesar was doing this as a joke to make fun of the senators who thought themselves high and mighty, and that to appoint a senator who had no money would take some of the wind out of their sails. Others said that to do this showed that the emperor was slowly losing his grip on reality and becoming mad.

History also records that it is likely Caesar had Incitatus made a priest as well. That role was also a political move since appointed priests would be in direct service to the emperor. Again, we still have no idea how Incitatus reacted to all this attention. One major reason we don’t know is because Incitatus could not speak Latin or Greek.

In fact, horses don’t speak at all, usually.

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