Caligula

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Caligula
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Bust of Caligula
Reign 16 March, AD 37 –
24 January, AD 41
Predecessor Tiberius
Successor Claudius
Spouse 1) Junia Claudilla, 33–34
2) Livia Orestilla, 37 or 38
3) Lollia Paulina, 38
4) Milonia Caesonia, ?–41
Issue
Julia Drusilla
Tiberius Gemellus (adoptive)
Full name
Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus
(from birth to accession);
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (as emperor)
Father Germanicus
Mother Agrippina the Elder
Born 31 August 12
Antium, Roman Empire
Died 24 January 41(41-01-24) (aged 28)
Palatine, Rome, Roman Empire
Burial Rome, Italy

Caligula (Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, 31 August 12 – 24 January 41), was the third Roman Emperor. He reigned from AD 37. After less then four years, he was assassinated by members of his bodyguard and the Roman Senate. During his reign, many innocent people were killed without fair trials.[1] Even with all that, he was popular with the Roman public in his time.

Life[change | change source]

Caligula's father Germanicus was the nephew and adopted son of emperor Tiberius. He was a very successful general. He was one of Rome's most beloved public figures.

When Germanicus died at Antioch in 19 AD, his mother Agrippina the Elder returned to Rome with her six children. She had a bitter feud with Tiberius. That eventually led to the destruction of her family. Caligula was the only male survivor. In 31, he joined the emperor on the island of Capri. Tiberius had gone there five years earlier. When Tiberius died in 37, Caligula became emperor.

There are few surviving sources on Caligula's reign. He is described as a noble and moderate ruler during the first two years of his rule. After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, extravagance, and sexual perversity, presenting him as an insane tyrant.

Caligula worked to give more authority to the emperor. He put a lot of his effort into ambitious construction projects and luxurious dwellings for himself. He started the construction of two new aqueducts in Rome: the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus. During his reign, the empire took over the Kingdom of Mauretania and made it into a province.

In early 41, Caligula was assassinated. There was a conspiracy involving officers of the Praetorian Guard, members of the Roman Senate and members of the imperial court. After Caligula's death, the conspirators' tried to bring back the Roman Republic, but they were unsuccessful. The Praetorian Guard declared Caligula's uncle Claudius emperor in his place.

Insanity?[change | change source]

There are stories about Caligula that show cruelty and insanity. He was accused of killing just for amusement.[2] He was accused of committing incest with his sisters and prostituting them with other men.[3] He was accused of turning the palace into a brothel.[4]

Caligula appeared in public dressed as various gods. He demanded to be worshipped as a god.[5] He appointed a horse to the priesthood.[6]

It is difficult to know anything for certain about Caligula. Only two sources from his time still exist. Those are the works of Philo and Seneca. They give mostly anecdotes. At one time, there were detailed histories on Caligula. Now they are lost. Caligula's sister, Agrippina the Younger, wrote an autobiography which certainly had a lot of information about Caligula's reign. It is also lost. No surviving source paints Caligula in a favorable light. It is not known whether Caligula was insane.

References[change | change source]

  1. Barrett, Anthony A. 1989. Caligula: the corruption of power. Batsford, London. ISBN 0-7134-5487-3
  2. Seneca the Younger, On Anger III.xviii.1.
  3. Cassius Dio, Roman History LIX.11, LIX.22; Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula 24.
  4. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula 41.
  5. Cassius Dio, Roman History LIX.26-28.
  6. Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula 55; Cassius Dio, Roman History LIX.14, LIX.28.