Twenty Human Monsters - PDF book by Philip Beaufoy Barry

Twenty Human Monsters in Purple and in Rags
From Caligula To Landru

Twenty Human Monsters

The History of Serial Killers

Excerpt: 

With the passing of Augustus, the first symptom of the loss of freedom that followed the establishment of an imperial throne in Rome was the inevitable symptom of t3nranny. Augustus, it is true, reigned wisely and tolerantly, but he inaugurated an autocracy that speedily asserted itself for evil. 

The old Roman independence died: the Roman character weakened and vitiated many years previously by its association with the Greeks, was ready to yield to domination. Whilst many nominal symbols of freedom still survived, the Empire was ruled by one man. The origin of the word “ tyrant ” is illuminating. Derived from the Greek word “ turannos,” it originally signified merely an absolute ruler. Thus, a man possessed of all the virtues of a saint — the wisest, the most benignant person — would have been technically called a tyrant. 

But words, like men, have a tendency to degenerate. Rarely do words in their pilgrimage through the centuries assume virtues that they did not originally possess. The reverse is the rule. They begin well, like men, and, like men, they end badly. Because the possession of absolute power in the hands of frail humanity became a thing of evil, the word Tyrant has for many ages held one meaning, and that meaning an evil one.

 The first absolute rulers of a hitherto free Roman people were, with a few exceptions, men of appalling lives. Nero is perhaps the most spectacular of Imperial monsters for three reasons. He murdered his mother, he played the violin (or was said to have played it) whilst his city was in flames, and he was the first man actively to persecute the Christians. But Tiberius, Commodus, Caracalla and, above all, Caligula, were no better. 

One cannot measure wickedness with a yard measure, but it may be said without hesitation that when one comes to ponder the records of these people there is little to choose between them. Gains Cesar Caligula (the “ Caligula ” was a nickname, meaning a soldier’s boot) was born in a.d. 12. His father, Germanicus, an admirable soldier and a fine character throughout had been named by Emperor Tiberius as his successor. Agrippina, a daughter of Germanicus, became at a later time the mother of the notorious Nero. 

A fierce love of cruelty developed in Caligula when he was a boy. He enjoyed attending public executions. A scourging on the grand scale excited in him a glee that horrified even the hardened spectators. In his lighter moments, he made himself at home in houses of ill-fame, in low taverns. Germanicus died abroad, fighting one of Rome’s “little wars.” It is probable that Tiberius contrived his death or at least connived at the assassination. 

Tiberius, half-insane in his later years, was subject to sudden and inexplicable revulsions against men whom he had loved. In A.D 87 poetical justice was satisfied by the murder of Tiberius himself. 

In this murder, Caligula was said by some people to have been concerned. If this was indeed the fact, it did not weaken the eloquence of Caligula when he made the funeral oration upon the tomb of the Emperor. His rhetoric was admirable, and indeed throughout his life, he was a fine orator, prizing the arts of the speaker, the singer, and the dancer above the more solid and subtle arts of the poet and the philosopher. 

The first eight months of his reign were distinguished by many excellent acts. To celebrate his accession to the throne, Caligula pardoned and released a large number of political and civil offenders, bringing back from exile many who had been banished during the time of Tiberius. Posing quite honestly as a reformer and a guardian of public morals, he expelled from the city sorcerers, panders, courtezans, and the inventors of certain strange immoral practices. 

He endeavoured to sharpen the taste of his subjects for good literature. He extended the Courts of Justice, increased the number of judges, and upheld sane and beneficial administration. He renewed temples that were decaying — ^built new temples, and for the space of those eight months played the part of a perfect ruler. 

In precisely the same way Nero, many years afterwards, began his reign with every promise of a happy and just government. Then, suddenly, with apparently nothing to explain — nothing to justify the transfiguration, the change came. As Suetonius (that most picturesque, if not most reliable, of historians) has written: forth had Caligula fared as a prince — Now henceforward must we speak of a monster! ” 

the book details :
  • Author: Philip Beaufoy Barry
  • Publication date:1929

  • Download 20.6 MB

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