Incitatus was a horse that belonged to the Roman Emperor Caligula. The horse was treated very well by Caligula and was even given a marble stall and his own house according to some historians. This brief piece will explore what we know about Incitatus and Caligula’s relationship with him, and maybe by the end of it, we’ll have a better understanding of their relationship and why Incitatus ended up so famous in the end.
Caligula was known for his love of horses and he is thought to have owned as many as 30 of them. He would often give them names that reflected his own imperial status, such as Incitatus, which means “the spurred one”.
Incitatus was reportedly Caligula’s favorite horse and sources indicate that he was treated like a human companion. Stories tell that he was was given a marble stall and his own house, complete with a bronze statue of himself. He was also reportedly fed oats mixed with gold flakes and was given wine to drink.
Caligula even went so far as to consider making Incitatus a consul, which was the highest political position in Rome at the time. This plan was never carried out, but it just goes to show how much Caligula loved and respected his horse.
The History of Caligula & Incitatus
Caligula did a lot of unusual things that made him famous. For instance, he replaced the faces of gods and goddesses with his own image. He was also known for spending ridiculous sums of money on frivolous things. Though Caligula is best known for his eccentricities, one of the things he was quite good at was caring for horses.
He especially loved racing and he undoubtedly owned multiple racehorses throughout his life. The name of his most prized horse horse, Incitatus was given by Caligula himself who reasoned that the original name of Porcellus wasn’t as good because it resembled “little piggy”. Say what you will about Caligula but the man had specific tastes.
When it comes to caring for this special horse, it’s said that human soldiers stood guard outside of his stall and were in charge of making sure that he had a nice, clean environment to rest in. Caligula was obsessed with making sure that his horse got everything he needed.
Caligula wanted to make Incitatus a consul. In fact, this is one of the things for which Caligula is notorious. He often said “And now I introduce to you… the noble senator Incitatus” in his best voice while senators had no choice but to sit there and accept the situation.
While some historians believe that Incitatus was definitely a real horse, others believe he was nothing more than a symbol of Caligula’s power and excess. Regardless of his true identity, Incitatus remains one of the most famous animals in history.
According to modern historians, Caligula’s appointment of his horse as a senator and the fact that the deed was to be taken very seriously, could be one way of mocking the Roman elite. However, others say that Caligula genuinely thought this would be a good idea. Either way, it shows that Caligula valued his horse higher than he did the senate. And it was this resentment towards the aristocracy in Rome which led to Caligula’s early demise.
How did Incitatus live?
Apart from his luxurious accommodations, fancy meals and jewelry adornments, the horse was also allowed to watch gladiatorial games from the emperor’s box. If everything that we’ve heard about this special horse is true, it means that Incitatus led a more luxurious life than some humans do today, to say nothing of the way regular folk lived during Caligula’s reign.
What happened to Incitatus after Caligula’s death?
Incitatus was likely put to death after the death of Caligula. This was a common practice for horses belonging to Roman emperors, as they were seen as symbols of the emperor’s power. It is possible that Incitatus was spared and allowed to live out his days in retirement, but this is unlikely given the usual fate of imperial horses.
Possible Descendants of Incitatus
Some historians affirm that Incitatus was put to stud after Caligula’s death and there is evidence that he did indeed had some offspring. One of his supposed sons, named Incitato, was reportedly brought to England by a Roman general named Claudius.
Another possible descendant of Incitatus was a horse named Pertinax, who belonged to Emperor Septimius Severus. Like his purported ancestor, Pertinax was said to have been treated like a member of the imperial family and given luxurious accommodations.
While the existence of Incitatus and his supposed descendants is debated by historians, there is no doubt that they have captured the public’s imagination for centuries.
Overall, it seems that we cannot be sure about much when it comes to Incitatus and Caligula. What we can say for certain is that the horse was held in high esteem by Caligula and given many luxuries.
The historical accounts of Incitatus’s death are also varied, with some saying he was put down after Caligula’s death and others claiming he lived on. However, one thing is for sure – the legend of Incitatus lives on, almost 2,000 years after his purported death.