There will now follow my suggestion as to the origins of the story where Caligula was meant to have had his troops collect lots of shells. Some historians reckon he was nuts at that stage and did it so he could claim victory over Neptune, the ocean and Great Britain; others suggest he was pissed off with the soldiers and did it to humilate or punish them; and still others reckon it very probably didn’t happen at all. I’m with the latter group, I think, but in the context of the blog decided to relate it to Caligula’s meeting with exiled Catuvellauni prince, Adminius.
In the previous entry Caligula is wondering the best way to greet the prince, who has promised to swear allegiance to Rome if Caligula in turn supports his efforts to become king of Britain. Or the bits of Britain his tribe runs, anyway. This would pave the way for invasion quite nicely, and Caligula was looking for ways to prove himself militarily.
Vercingetorix_BC42, you are a genius! Thanks for the comment you left about greeting Adminius!
As per your suggestion, I got the troops to collect piles of seashells to decorate the beach with. Work with what you have, right? It made the place look tres dramatic – loads of shells shining in the sun, a fearsome army at my back clad in red and gold… Adiminius seemed impressed with the picture anyway! Not quite as good as our marble columns and jeweled finery back home, perhaps, but military men have different aesthetic values.
Someone said it looked a bit like the end of a battle, all that detritus lying in piles everywhere. Maybe that’s what I’ll tell the senate – “I fought Neptune and won! Here’s the evidence! In your face, crusty old guys…” Yeah, I’m totally doing that. All the shells can come back to Rome with us as the ‘spoils of war’. The looks on their faces will be priceless.
Some of the men felt a bit silly collecting up lots of seashells like a bunch of little girls, but I reckon by the end most of them agreed with me that it was totally worth it. And they can’t really complain, they got some pretty decent donatives for their trouble. A third of their annual wages, in most cases.
In other news, whilst we were waiting for Adminius to turn up I explored a bit, and I was wondering – why they haven’t had a lighthouse built at Itium? Anyone know? It’s a pretty dodgy area, all jaggy rocks and rough waters and potential for horrible death by drowning. A lighthouse would be useful, and building it would give people something to do other than hanging around on the beach looking for pretty shells all day… (JK – how self referential am I?! LOL.)
Some of the sources – mainly original, hostile ones like Suetonius – say Caligula built a lighthouse at Itium at around the same point as the shell debacle, but there doesn’t seem to be much compelling evidence that this was actually the case. Thought I should mention it anyway, for those people who know their Ancient Roman source material!