Roman Empire: Reign of Blood (2016) s03e04 Episode Script

Descent into Madness

[ominous music playing] [music intensifies] [grunting] [whimpers] What have you done? Did you really think I'd turn on my own brother? How could you? [Lepidus] What did she tell you? Did she tell you this was all her idea? - He's lying.
- It's true.
- She came to us - You shut your mouth! You know I'd never do anything to hurt you.
Don't listen to her! Take them away.
All of them.
No! No, no, please! Please! They're lying! They're lying to you! [Agrippina] They're lying! [theme music playing] [narrator] Just two years into his reign as emperor of Rome, Caligula has eliminated nearly all of his allies.
Now, he's suffered the worst betrayal of all, after learning of a plot to have him killed, led by his own sisters.
[Amanda] The Plot of the Three Daggers was one of the most dangerous and important points in Caligula's reign.
This is the first time, not that you have a conspiracy against Caligula, but that the conspiracy is led by his family, the people closest to him.
Tell me what I need to know and this will all be over.
- I already told you.
- You haven't told me anything.
Who else knew? - No one.
- Guards? Senators? I don't know! I don't want to have to hurt you.
I only knew of Lepidus and Livilla.
Once I heard what they were planning, I came straight to you.
I swear.
Who are you protecting? You.
It's always been about protecting you.
Are you going to kill me? I could never kill one of my own sisters.
What are you going to do to me? [intense music playing] What are you going to do to me?! [gate shuts, locks] [narrator] Caligula has Lepidus executed while his two sisters are sent into exile and shipped to a remote island in the Mediterranean.
[Adrian] This was a way of showing his sisters that he was the boss, he was the emperor, he could do anything he wanted.
This is exactly what had happened to his mother, and given that his mother had been killed when she was in exile, the presumption was that his sisters would know that this could, at any moment, happen to them and it was a way of torturing them.
[narrator] As Caligula becomes more dangerous and unpredictable, members of his own palace have no way to control him and live in fear of what he may do next.
Caligula was, in many ways, becoming Tiberius.
He found himself becoming now the monster he had feared throughout his childhood.
The man who had killed his family, who had executed them, because they dared to oppose him.
Caligula now found himself doing this on a daily basis in order to fill his coffers, in order to run the Roman state.
[narrator] As his madness increases, Caligula lives a lifestyle more lavish and debauched than ever before.
One can see that for a Roman emperor in a position of total power and authority it wasn't such a big step to do what you wanted to any pretty young thing that happened to come your way.
[narrator] To make his power known throughout Rome, Caligula's extravagance reaches an all-time high.
He expands his building projects no longer building for the people, but instead, creating monuments of himself.
[Adrian] Caligula needed to make sure that the people knew that he was all-powerful and can do anything.
So he built bridges, he built temples.
He was putting up statues to himself everywhere.
[Barry Strauss] With Caligula, you have a monument builder, again.
But he's building monuments to himself and to his own vanity.
Caligula tried to become a god, to be worshiped as a god while still living.
[narrator] But Caligula's excessive lifestyle doesn't come without a price.
[Claudius] Are you sure these figures are accurate? Unfortunately, yes.
There are no reserves? Nothing? The unforeseen expenditures, the amphitheaters, the games, the golden Why didn't you say something sooner? What would we have said? We're not in a position to question the emperor's judgment.
The emperor spends money as the emperor pleases.
It's always been that way.
Then what am I supposed to do? You're the closest to him.
Just rein him in.
Something has to be done.
[narrator] With Caligula hemorrhaging money, Claudius has one chance to get through to his nephew in order to save Rome from financial collapse.
[Aaron] All of this now puts Claudius in the awkward position of representing the Senate.
But now, also have to represent the whims of this insane person.
He's in this position where he can't go to Caligula, look at Caligula and say, "You're insane, you can't do this" because everybody who's told Caligula he can't do something ends up in a bad way.
[Claudius] I have just been in a meeting regarding the Empire's finances.
We need to find some way to bridge the gap.
What do you suggest? According to the treason laws, the property and fortune of anyone found guilty of treason is forfeited to the Empire.
The senators are some of the wealthiest citizens of Rome.
Perhaps there are some we still not trust.
Perhaps.
Done.
[Aaron Irvin] Early in his reign, Caligula had suspended the treason laws as a way of increasing his own popularity.
They hadn't been liked by the people, they hadn't been liked by the Senate.
However, Caligula had spent over three billion sesterces in a little over a year.
He needed to create income, and the fastest way to do that was to re-institute these treason laws.
[Caligula] I look at your faces and do you know what I see? I do not see a single face I trust.
And how could I? Knowing how you've turned on each other.
How you turned on my family.
These are Tiberius' records.
His actual records.
[senators murmuring] What I burned were copies.
[Adrian Murdoch] When he'd taken the throne, Caligula had made a very public ploy of burning all of the scrolls that were the basis for Tiberius' hated treason trials.
But, of course, Caligula was a smart man.
He only burnt them in public, he'd copied them privately, and now he knew what everybody had done, and what everybody was up to.
I am reinstating the treason trials.
Those of you who are innocent will have nothing to fear.
But those who are guilty Now is a time of reckoning.
[narrator] Ten years after losing his mother and brothers to Tiberius' treason trials, Caligula has reinstated the very laws that sent them to their death.
[Corey Brennan] One of the biggest U-turns in Caligula's reign is when he restored the treason laws of Tiberius.
And this led to a veritable reign of terror.
There is something brilliantly cynical about Caligula's policy.
He realized that he needed money.
So Caligula did the obvious thing.
He went after the richest senators, and he confiscated their money.
[Aaron] The treason laws were a way for Caligula to now strike back against an entrenched Senate that did not want to obey him.
[Aaron] These treason laws stated that it was illegal for anyone to bring about a state where the majesty of the Roman people was in any way diminished.
[Aaron Irvin] So not wearing your toga properly in public, driving around in an old chariot, not keeping up your estates All of these could be potential reasons why you might be charged with treason and killed.
[narrator] With the money he collects from the treason trials, Caligula is able to keep up his depraved lifestyle.
Please! But it's the beginning of one of the deadliest purges in Roman history.
Please! Please! It's very difficult to put a finger on precisely how many people would've been killed as a result of this reign of terror that came from these treason trials.
[Corey Brennan] There were only 600 members of the Roman Senate.
And they would've been the main target.
But in terms of numbers of actual individuals killed as a result of Caligula's policies, I would say it's in the tens of thousands.
[senator] I swear! [screams] [narrator] The treason trials leave many of Caligula's enemies dead, but they fail to pull Rome out of debt.
And now, the emperor needs a new way to make money.
Ultimately, the treason trials simply were not bringing him in enough funds.
And so he began, very slowly, to pass new taxes which began to make him unpopular among the people [crowd shouting] [Aaron Irvin] In part because there was no direct benefit for these taxes.
Caligula was broke.
He had spent everything that he had, and was trying to replenish the treasury so that he could simply run the Roman state.
Caligula had always been popular among the people and he had relied on this popularity to operate.
He had relied on this popularity to get away with everything that he had gotten away with.
[narrator] Two years after becoming the "Emperor of the People," the Roman citizens have turned on their leader.
[crowd clamoring] [Caligula] A city full of people who hate me.
Even Caesar wasn't loved by everyone.
But look at what he accomplished.
What have I accomplished? Nothing.
Nothing important.
You knew my father better than anyone.
What would he have done? He was always at war, your father.
I don't know what he would have done in a time of peace.
But I think he would have led by example.
Decisively.
Caligula, of course, was descended from a great Roman general, but he had no military victories, he had no campaigns of his own.
And so the pressure was certainly there for Caligula to prove himself a worthy son of Germanicus, and that he was worthy of the position he had been thrust into.
[narrator] To gain back the respect of the people, Caligula sets out to do something no Roman leader has ever done before.
In 41 A.
D.
, Caligula plans an invasion of Britain, hoping to prove himself as a great military commander.
Caligula decided to invade Britain primarily because Caesar hadn't been able to.
It was one of the few areas that were accessible to the Romans, where the Romans might meet with some military success.
[Amanda] It would've been a huge win in terms of his popularity back in Rome to be able to do something not even the great Caesar could do.
And it would also help with the morale of the military.
And this would've just been sort of the cherry on top in terms of how he could lead them to greatness.
[Caligula] Caesar himself once crossed the English Channel, and we will be picking up where he left off.
We will conquer Britain.
Caligula was the descendant of great military leaders, including his father, Germanicus, and his grandfather, Drusus.
An invasion of Britain seemed almost like a birthright, and it seemed like the next and final frontier for the expansion of the Empire.
[narrator] If the invasion is a success, Rome will have conquered new ground and Caligula will once again be a hero to the people.
[thunder rumbling] [centurion 1] I'd say a week, if we keep a strict pace.
From there we'll march north.
Will we set up camp? No, I want to keep moving.
[centurion 2] Will we not wait for the rest of the legions? Our ships can only take a quarter of the men.
We'll have to make multiple trips.
We'll press forward.
[Aaron Irvin] Caligula's preparations for the invasion of Britain are oftentimes presented as the result of Caligula's insanity.
This was a real campaign that was intended to happen.
But the generals, the officers, the soldiers themselves did not trust his judgment, they did not trust his plan.
[narrator] To get to Britain, Caligula and his men have to travel over a thousand miles across Europe, then over the rough waters of the English Channel.
The invasion is planned for the early winter, a time of year when crossing the Channel is extremely dangerous.
Even if they survive the journey, they'll be met by a ten-mile stretch of cliffs along the coast that stand over 300 feet tall.
[Adrian Murdoch] Roman ships were not seafaring vessels.
They were coastal.
They were river.
They weren't going to go into the open water.
And the idea of going across the Channel scared the hell out of the Roman soldiers.
Why are the men sitting around? This is the wrong time of year to attempt a crossing.
The men know it.
If I tell them to swim to Britain, that is what they will do! The men are hungry, they're tired.
[Caligula] What would you have me do? Go home? Return to Rome empty-handed? With nothing? Gather the men of the First and the Twentieth Legions.
[Caligula] I want you to decimate them.
Once we've thinned the ranks, the rest will fall in line.
Leave us.
I did not make you consul to turn on me.
No, you made me consul because you trust me.
These men will not butcher each other.
If you issue an order like that, we will have an open revolt on our hands.
They will kill you.
They will kill us all.
If your father were here, he would tell you the same.
Continue this and you lose your army.
[Adrian Murdoch] Caligula was facing a mutiny.
The soldiers refused point-blank to get on ships and go across to Britain.
It's very difficult to understand how strange Britain seemed to the average Roman soldier.
There were stories of dangerous people, and all of these things happening on these curious islands beyond the edge of the world.
Roman soldiers didn't want to have anything to do with it.
[thunderclap] Him.
[narrator] Caligula's invasion is over before it even begins.
But he's desperate to return to Rome as a hero.
No.
[Caligula] Yes.
Yes.
[Aaron Irvin] Caligula would have been humiliated had he returned after all of this preparation, after marching his army all of this distance, if he simply returned without any campaign.
Him.
[Caligula] No.
[Aaron] Caligula goes through his own army and he picks out soldiers that look suitably British, puts them in a state where they look bedraggled and they look like they might be suitably barbarian enough to pass as prisoners and then parades them back in the city of Rome.
[crowd clamoring] [crowd cheering] [narrator] Caligula's ploy is convincing to some, but not everyone is fooled.
And the Senate decides they've had enough of the emperor's erratic behavior.
Caligula has become the quintessential insane ruler, the insane emperor who is absolutely unfit for power, who is paranoid, who executes friends and enemies alike, who is completely unpredictable and unhinged.
[bell tolling] This Imperial system is flawed.
Well, every system of government has its flaws.
He's paraded his own troops through the streets, dressed up as prisoners of war.
The emperor must be convinced to step down and hand power over to the Senate.
I know him.
He will not be persuaded.
Then he must be relieved of his duty.
We've suffered enough of these emperors.
No more.
You get the emperor alone.
We'll take care of the rest.
[sighs] [Anthony Everitt] These were wealthy, well-known men who were having a bad time with these treason trials.
They were also scared for their lives, and they joined conspiracies because they couldn't think of any way of handling the emperor.
To get rid of him permanently was the only way in which they could see a future for themselves, because he was a young man, and he could've been emperor for half a century.
[narrator] Claudius knows that Caligula is losing control.
Now he has to make a decision.
Side with the Senate, or turn on his own family.
To plot his next move, Claudius meets in secret with the one man in charge of protecting Caligula.
Cassius.
The Senate wishes to return Rome to a republic.
How? How do you think? They told you this? The implication was clear.
They wanted me to approach you.
They know they cannot get to Caligula without the help of his personal guard.
[narrator] On January 24th, 41 A.
D.
, Caligula is scheduled to attend Roman games with thousands of his own citizens.
And for the Senate, it's the perfect opportunity to finally remove him from power.
The Senate realized they needed time to do it when Caligula was completely on his own and not expecting it.
Caligula was known throughout his life to be a fan of the games.
But there were various underground passages found between the circuses and the Imperial palaces.
I think that the notion was to kill Caligula in a place where an escape could actually be made.
[Corey Brennan] When he was exiting, after day six of these games.
[crowd cheering] [crowd shouting] Cassius! [Caligula groans, coughs] I swear my allegiance before the gods that I will protect and defend my emperor against all enemies.
[Cassius] If I should fail to honor my oath, I welcome the destruction of my body and soul.
I pledge to be loyal to my emperor all through my life, both in word and deed, from this day until my last.
May your reign be long.
[Aaron Irvin] The Senate underestimates Claudius, and Claudius takes advantage of the situation, utilizes the guard to his interest and becomes the next emperor.
[Adrian] Reading between the lines, it's clear to see that the accession of Claudius is very well-planned.
This was the Praetorian Guard, wanting to do a shift of emperor in the same way that they had done with Tiberius.
I'm sure they would've thought, "He's simple, he will do exactly what we tell him to do.
" But it didn't work that way.
Claudius was a much cleverer and cannier political operative than anyone give him credit for.
[narrator] Claudius will be emperor for the next 13 years, making him one of the longest ruling leaders of the Roman Empire.
[Aaron Irvin] Claudius was far and away one of Rome's most effective emperors and did the most to ensure the continuation of the Roman state.
Claudius might not have ever really been popular or well-liked, but the one thing that cannot be said about Claudius was that he was ever incompetent.
[Amanda Ruggeri] We tend to remember Caligula today as this completely mad, insane, horrific tyrant.
I think there's a grain of truth in some of the rumors.
I also think once you contextualize the situation that he found himself in, a lot of those behaviors start to make a little bit more sense.
[Adrian Murdoch] The reputation that Caligula has has been fairly consistent throughout history.
He was the boogeyman of Roman emperors.
It's not been until 1970s, 1980s, that people started to look at Caligula in a slightly different light.
This was a young boy who'd had a horrendous family background.
[coughing, groaning] I think, over the years, as we understand more about Roman society, there is a degree to which Caligula becomes understandable.
Having lost his father, having lost his mother and brothers, having been held in protective custody, and then having been subjugated to the whims of the man who is responsible for all of the pain that he had gone through.
There's a degree to which we can begin to unravel, that there is perhaps a method behind the madness, that there is something that he was trying to accomplish.
I think you could certainly make the argument that Caligula is very much a tragic figure.
Leave! [Aaron Irvin] He was so crazy, he was so over the top.
And we see this model of Caligula.
Even later, monarchs are compared to him.
Not just in Roman history, but in world history.
[theme music playing]