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Caligula (The Robe)

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Caligula (full name: Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) was an antagonist of the 1953 film The Robe and its 1954 sequel Demetrius and the Gladiators.

The Robe

By 33 AD he had become the regent of Emperor Tiberius. In that year he participated in a slave auction, attempting to purchase the defiant Greek slave Demetrius. He is outbid by Marcellus Gallio, a military tribune and rival for the affections of the Emperor's ward Diana. In retaliation he has Marcellus transferred to Judea.

After arriving in Judea with Demetrius Marcellus led the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus Christ. Having cast lots for his clothes Marcellus won the robe that Jesus had been wearing. Marcellus was soon overcome by guilt over his actions and went mad. Demetrius took the robe and ran off. Marcellus was given a commission by Tiberius to destroy the robe and gather the names of the Christians. Marcellus was allowed to marry Diana, much to the displeasure of Caligula. After learning more about the Christian beliefs and touching the robe Marcellus was cured and converted.

Meanwhile Tiberius had died. Being next in line for the throne Caligula ascended the throne. Learning that Marcellus was now a Christian Caligula branded him a traitor. Peter, Marcellus, and Demetrius had returned to Rome as missionaries. When Demetrius was captured by the Romans Caligula had him tortured. The Gallios and their Christian slave Marcipor rescue Demetrius. After Peter healed Demetrius the Roman physician who had been summoned to treat Demetrius reported Marcellus was a traitor. Marcellus was captured while attempting escape with Demetrius.

Caligula put Marcellus on trial, and forced Diana to sit next to Marcellus at the trial. Marcellus admitted he was a Christian but denied they were enemies of the state. Marcellus tried to get Caligula to accept Christ and touch the robe, however Caligula refused to do so as he considered the robe bewitched.

Caligula ordered Marcellus to be put to death. Diana also converts to Christianity and asks to join her husband in the Kingdom of the Lord. Caligula also orders her put to death. Before the pair leave they hand the robe to Marcipor, with Diana asking him to make sure it got to the "Big Fisherman," meaning Peter.

Demetrius and the Gladiators

After the deaths of Marcellus and Diana Gallio their former slave Marcipor gave the robe to Peter, who in turn gave it to Demetrius for safe keeping while he headed out on a journey to the north.

Caligula soon began to have second thoughts about the robe. Believing it to have had magical powers that will give him the eternal life Jesus spoke of and would turn him into a god he decided he wanted the robe now. He accosted his uncle Claudius to find out what he knows about the whereabouts of the robe.

Meanwhile Demetrius had been arrested for assaulting a Roman soldier and is sentenced to the arena. Demetrius initially refuses to give up the location of the robe. When his love interest Lucia is apparently killed by other gladiators Demetrius loses faith in Christ and proceeded to kill the gladiators. In response Caligula freed the young man and inducted him into the praetorian guard. For several months Demetrius works with the praetorian guard. When he found out about an affair between Demetrius and Claudius' wife Messalina Caligula sent Demetrius to retrieve the robe from the Christians.

Finding the Christians Demetrius learns that Lucia was not dead, but in a coma. Regaining his faith in Christ Demtrius prayed, and Lucia woke up. Given the robe he took it back to the Emperor.

Caligula promptly took the robe down to the dungeon. Locating a handy prisoner, he had the man killed so that he could try to resurrect the man, which failed. Furious over the failure, Caligula accuses Demetrius of having brought him a fake and that both robe and Christ were frauds. When he revealed to Demetrius that he killed a prisoner in an attempt to raise him back up Demetrius is horrified, and attempts to attack Caligula, which is stopped by the guards.

Demetrius is sent back to the arena to be killed. However by now the praetorian guard is seriously ticked off over their pay and working conditions. Turning against Caligula they first kill the praetorian prefect Macro followed by Caligula himself.

Claudius is named Emperor. Speaking to Demetrius Claudius told him that he had to play the idiot to stay safe while Caligula was in power, and that unlike Caligula he did not see himself either as a god or likely to become one anytime soon.

Trivia

  • This version of Caligula was played by the American actor Jay Robinson in both films.
  • The two films omit key events and individuals in the life of Caligula such as his appointment of a horse to the position of senator, the murder of Tiberius, his declaration of war on the sea, his incestuous relationship with his sister, his architectural constructions, his love for partying, his order to kill a row of spectators due to boredom, his insatiable appetite for sex, among many others. The circumstances of his death are also changed. Rather than being stabbed to death in a palace hall, he is killed quickly by a thrown spear in the Colosseum, anachronistically (the Colosseum didn't begin construction until decades later). His last words are "No, no, NO!" as opposed to his actual last words, "I live!"
  • This portrayal of Caligula incorporates elements of Nero. For instance, despite believing himself to be the one true God, Caligula did not engage in persecution of the Christians or the Jews although he did install a golden statue of himself in the Judeo-Christian Temple, causing controversy.

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