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The Caligula

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It’s easy to lose your head in the emperor's presence when he has already lost his own.
"Madness reigns
In the hall of the Mountain King."
Savatage, "Hall of the Mountain King"

In a hereditary monarchy, every so often the throne is inherited by someone completely out of their gourd. Maybe it's the fault of that lead-lined plumbing, or those mercury-laced medicinal elixirs, or maybe it's genetic (in which case you're in some deep trouble). Whatever the cause, the sovereign is still given the full power and support of the state despite their obvious insanity, with inevitably disastrous consequences.

The Caligula will be wildly irrational, violently moody, extremely debauched, will never tolerate being told anything they don’t want to hear, and are probably afflicted with a god complex. In short, they will be a Psychopathic Manchild with the power of life or death over everyone whom they can reach. They may be a sexual deviant, or they might take pleasure in the pain and suffering they cause. They may indulge in renaming cities or even the entire country after themself or throwing out increasingly ridiculous decrees with brutal punishments in store for anyone who breaks them. Whatever form the madness takes, one thing is certain: to do anything the Caligula finds displeasing is to inevitably be dragged off to a grisly death or worse. Of course, any number of things might trigger their rage, and they might even decide on a whim to punish those who have not done anything at all. And while all of this is going on, the land over which the Caligula rules is rapidly going down the drain due to their neglect. Here, in particular, they have a decided advantage over most other crackpots when it comes to messing things up: they can start wars. Be it for the perceived personal glory or their obsession with perceived enemies, the Caligula's country will probably be in a constant state of war.

Never ever ever try With Due Respect on a Caligula — many of them do not take criticism well, if at all.

Due to their continuing close proximity to the Caligula, members of the court (decadent or otherwise) will be the primary targets of their fits of rage. Nobody within reach is safe from them, whether they be nobles, servants, bureaucrats, foreign ambassadors, or even members of their own family. The Caligula is very definitely a Bad Boss. With any luck, thanks to The Starscream and/or La Résistance, a conspiracy will eventually develop to remove the crazy sovereign from his post... permanently.

This is not limited to sovereign heads of state. The Caligula can be anyone wielding great power within an organization while being completely nuts.

Named for what is probably history's best-known whack-job, Roman emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as Caligula (Little Boots, his childhood nickname, because he was the army's mascot and wore tiny version of a legionnaire's boots; it was probably adorable); remembered for talking to statues, locking granaries, declaring war on the god Neptune (and "winning", then commanding his soldiers to collect seashells as war-prizes), making his horse a consul (admittedly, this one may have simply been a gesture of spite towards the senate), and boning his sisters. (Though the veracity of some of these claims is in question, the reputation persists. See here for all the details.)

In terms of the ranks of Authority Tropes, the tropes that are equal are The Good Chancellor, Evil Chancellor, Standard Royal Court, and Decadent Court. The next step down is The Brigadier. The next steps up are The Evil Prince, Prince Charming, Prince Charmless, Sheltered Aristocrat, Warrior Prince, The Wise Prince, and all Princess Tropes.



  • The Wonka, another type of mad authority figure whose madness makes him more competent as opposed to more destructive.
  • Psycho Supporter, who has the same personality traits but is usually on the opposite end of the authority hierarchy.

Example subpages:

Other examples

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    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert: Dogbert, who is usually The Barnum, gets like this whenever he gains any sort of personal power, making decisions purely For the Evulz. For example, his most lasting contribution from his several turns as CEO of Dilbert's company was hiring Catbert: Evil Director of Human Resources, who was retained simply because his Faux Affably Evil attitude toward employees amused Dogbert.
  • Guard Duck from Pearls Before Swine. During his brief reign as Mayor, he used the city's funds to get revenge on his "enemies list", built a giant statue of himself, and saw All the President's Men as an instruction book on how to run the city.

  • In The Hidden Almanac, a recurring character in the historical segments is the Librarian Prince, who infamously issued a series of decrees banning, on pain of death, such things as wearing the color orange, gathering in groups of two or more people, claiming that goats are real, or having any association with snow.
  • In Relative Disasters, the Jiajing emperor who was ruling China during the 1556 earthquake, is described as being one of these.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Vince McMahon has been portrayed as the ultimate Caligula in Professional Wrestling. Like the phrase "Don't Cross The Boss". If you do, you might be forced into a handicap match with the Wrestling Monster and or Power Stable of the week, have to join Vince McMahon's 'Kiss My Ass' club or simply be told that "You're fired!!!!"
  • Eric Bischoff was WCW's Caligula, was WWE's Caligula when McMahon chose to step out of the spotlight, and then TNA's Caligula during the Immortal angle.
  • Triple H during the McMahon-Helmsley era, later during the Evolution era, and yet again with The Authority.
  • Cross Vickie Guerrero and you can kiss both your dignity and your balls goodbye.
    Excuse me!!!
  • There is a new Caligula in town; his name is John Laurinaitis.note 
  • A.J. Lee had been thoroughly driven out of her mind by Daniel Bryan, so Vince McMahon decided to give her a stint as Raw's general manager, likely because he thought it would be funny or something. But TV Tropes wants you to know it never called her crazy because it would rather not wrestle Kane. AJ might not belong here because, whatever else you could say about her — that she's rude, annoying, manipulative, and not mentally fit to run a hot dog stand — it's a stretch to call her "evil". She's still clearly the face in all her altercations with heel characters, if not with fellow face characters, and is more a Psychopathic Womanchild than anything else. Instead, the Caligula figure here is once again Vince McMahon, who willingly put this will-o'-the-wisp in charge just to boost Monday Night Raw ratings.

  • The Kansas Collection: Oz's king Scarecrow wants to unite Oz, but he's considered an unsuitable king who's undergone Sanity Slippage. In his paranoia, he even tried to keep Dorothy in Oz by locking her in a tower. The plot revolves around a resistance against Scarecrow.
  • In Macbeth, Malcolm describes himself as this to Macduff. Specifically, he claims that his appetites for wealth and women are insatiable, and he would dedicate all the blood and treasure of Scotland to satisfying his carnal, venal, and pointless urges. This is all a ruse; he is making these claims because he suspects Macduff is an agent of Macbeth, in which case Macduff would continue in his stated goal of bringing Malcolm back to Scotland to take the throne. As Macduff is a true loyal Scot, he is instead demoralized by Malcolm's revelations, at which point Malcolm reveals the truth and they form an alliance. Macbeth himself, on the other hand, plays this much more straight. Visions, paranoia, and murder are all par for the course for him.
  • Richard III. Starts out as a gleeful villain and ends completely insane.


Video Example(s):


Duke Oslo El Gustav

Oslo was made a Duke out of his combat powers. However he is undoubtedly batshit insane with his demands: preventing all forms of farming and agriculture causing the citizens of his realm to resort to Cannibalism in order to survive; and him claiming that through death the Peasantry can hope to honor their Emperor.

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