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Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (31 August 12 – 24 January 41), better known by his nickname Caligula (), was the third Roman emperor, ruling from 37 until his assassination in 41. He was the son of the popular Roman general
Germanicus Germanicus Julius Caesar (24 May 15 BC – 10 October AD 19) was an ancient Roman general, known for his campaigns in Germania. The son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia the Younger, Germanicus was born into an influential branch of the Patric ...
and
Augustus Caesar Augustus (born Gaius Octavius; 23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14), also known as Octavian, was the first Roman emperor; he reigned from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. He is known for being the founder of the Roman Pri ...
' granddaughter
Agrippina the Elder Agrippina "the Elder" (also, in Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as L ...
. Caligula was born into the first ruling family of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity, it included large territorial holdings aro ...
, conventionally known as the
Julio-Claudian dynasty , native_name_lang=Latin, coat of arms=Great_Cameo_of_France-removebg.png, image_size=260px, caption=Great Cameo of France, The Great Cameo of France depicting emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius and Nero, type=Ancient Rome, Ancient Roman dynasty ...
. Although Gaius was named after
Gaius Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; ; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the peopl ...
, he acquired the nickname "Caligula" ("little '' caliga''," a type of military boot) from his father's soldiers during their campaign in
Germania Germania ( ; ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania''), or Germanic Barbaricum to distinguish it from the Roman province of the same name, was a large historical region in nort ...
. When Germanicus died at
Antioch Antioch on the Orontes (; grc-gre, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου, ''Antiókheia hē epì Oróntou'', Koine Greek phonology#Learned pronunciation, 4th century BC until early Roman period, Learned ; also Syrian Antioch) grc-koi ...
in 19, Agrippina returned with her six children to Rome, where she became entangled in a bitter feud with Tiberius. The conflict eventually led to the destruction of her family, with Caligula as the sole male survivor. In 26, Tiberius withdrew from public life to the island of
Capri Capri ( , ; ; ) is an island located in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrento Peninsula, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. The main town of Capri (town), Capri that is located on the island shares the name ...
, and in 31, Caligula joined him there. Following the death of Tiberius in 37, Caligula succeeded him as emperor. There are few surviving sources about the reign of Caligula, though he is described as a noble and moderate emperor during the first six months of his rule. After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversion, presenting him as an insane
tyrant A tyrant (), in the modern English language, English usage of the word, is an autocracy, absolute ruler who is unrestrained by law, or one who has usurper, usurped a legitimate ruler's sovereignty. Often portrayed as cruel, tyrants may defen ...
. While the reliability of these sources is questionable, it is known that during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor, as opposed to countervailing powers within the
principate The Principate is the name sometimes given to the first period of the Roman Empire from the beginning of the reign of Augustus in 27 BC to the end of the Crisis of the Third Century in AD 284, after which it evolved into the so-called Dominate. ...
. He directed much of his attention to ambitious construction projects and luxurious dwellings for himself, and he initiated the construction of two aqueducts in Rome: the
Aqua Claudia Aqua Claudia ("the Claudius, Claudian water") was an ancient Roman aqueduct that, like the Aqua Anio Novus, was begun by Emperor Caligula (37–41 AD) in 38 AD and finished by Emperor Claudius (41–54 AD) in 52 AD. Together with Aqua Anio Novus ...
and the
Anio Novus Aqua Anio Novus (Latin for "New Anio aqueduct") was an ancient Roman aqueduct. Like the Aqua Claudia, it was begun by emperor Caligula in 38 AD and completed in 52 AD by Claudius, who dedicated them both on August 1. Together with the Aqua Anio ...
. During his reign, the empire annexed the
client kingdom A client state, in international relations International relations (IR), sometimes referred to as international studies and international affairs, is the Scientific method, scientific study of interactions between sovereign states. In a b ...
of
Mauretania Mauretania (; ) is the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) ar ...
as a
province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or sovereign state, state. The term derives from the ancient Roman ''Roman province, provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire ...
. In early 41, Caligula was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy by officers of the
Praetorian Guard The Praetorian Guard (Latin language, Latin: ''cohortēs praetōriae'') was a unit of the Imperial Roman army that served as personal Bodyguard, bodyguards and military intelligence, intelligence agents for the Roman emperors. During the Roman R ...
, senators, and courtiers. However, the conspirators' attempt to use the opportunity to restore the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Res publica Romana ) was a form of government of Rome and the era of the ancient Rome, classical Roman civilization when it was run through res publica, public Representation (politics), representation of the Roman peo ...
was thwarted. On the day of the assassination of Caligula, the Praetorians declared Caligula's uncle,
Claudius Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor, ruling from AD 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Claudius was born to Nero Claudius Drusus, Drusu ...
, as the next Roman emperor. Caligula's death marked the official end of the Julii Caesares in the male line, though the Julio-Claudian dynasty continued to rule until the fall of his nephew,
Nero Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus ( ; born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68), was the fifth Roman emperor and final emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, reigning from AD 54 unti ...
.


Early life

Gaius Julius Caesar was born in
Antium Antium was an Ancient history, ancient coastal town in Latium, south of Rome. An oppidum was founded by people of Latial culture (11th century BC or the beginning of the 1st millennium BC), then it was the main stronghold of the Volsci people unti ...
on 31 August 12 AD, the third of six surviving children born to
Germanicus Germanicus Julius Caesar (24 May 15 BC – 10 October AD 19) was an ancient Roman general, known for his campaigns in Germania. The son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia the Younger, Germanicus was born into an influential branch of the Patric ...
, a grandson of
Mark Antony Marcus Antonius (14 January 1 August 30 BC), commonly known in English as Mark Antony, was a Ancient Rome, Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the Crisis of the Roman Republic, transformation of the Roman Republic f ...
, and his second cousin
Agrippina the Elder Agrippina "the Elder" (also, in Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as L ...
, who was the daughter of
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (; BC – 12 BC) was a Roman general, statesman, and architect who was a close friend, son-in-law, and lieutenant to the Roman emperor Augustus. He was responsible for the construction of some of the most notable buildi ...
and
Julia the Elder Julia the Elder (30 October 39 BC – AD 14), known to her contemporaries as Julia Caesaris filia or Julia Augusti filia (Classical Latin: IVLIA•CAESARIS•FILIA or IVLIA•AVGVSTI•FILIA), was the daughter and only biological child of August ...
, making her the granddaughter of
Augustus Caesar Augustus (born Gaius Octavius; 23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14), also known as Octavian, was the first Roman emperor; he reigned from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. He is known for being the founder of the Roman Pri ...
. He was also a nephew of
Claudius Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor, ruling from AD 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Claudius was born to Nero Claudius Drusus, Drusu ...
, Germanicus' younger brother and the future emperor.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'
LIX.6
Gaius had two older brothers,
Nero Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus ( ; born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68), was the fifth Roman emperor and final emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, reigning from AD 54 unti ...
and
Drusus Drusus may refer to: * Claudius Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor, ruling from AD 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Claudius was b ...
, and three younger sisters,
Agrippina the Younger Julia Agrippina (6 November AD 15 – 23 March AD 59), also referred to as Agrippina the Younger, was Roman empress from 49 to 54 AD, the fourth wife and niece of Emperor Claudius. Agrippina was one of the most prominent women in the Julio-Claud ...
,
Julia Drusilla Julia Drusilla (16 September AD 16 – 10 June AD 38) was a member of the Roman imperial family, the second daughter and fifth child of Germanicus Germanicus Julius Caesar (24 May 15 BC – 10 October AD 19) was an ancient Roman general, ...
and
Julia Livilla Julia Livilla ( – ) was the youngest child of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder and the youngest sister of the Emperor Caligula. Life Julia Livilla was the youngest great-granddaughter of Emperor Augustus, great-niece and adoptive grandda ...
. At the age of two or three, Gaius accompanied his father, Germanicus, on campaigns in the north of
Germania Germania ( ; ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania''), or Germanic Barbaricum to distinguish it from the Roman province of the same name, was a large historical region in nort ...
.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', ''Life of Caligula'
9
He wore a miniature soldier's outfit, including army boots (''
caligae Caligae (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present ...
'') and armour. The soldiers nicknamed him ''Caligula'' ("little oldier'sboot")."Caligula" is formed from the Latin word ''caliga'', meaning soldier's boot, and the
diminutive A diminutive is a root word that has been modified to convey a slighter degree of its root meaning, either to convey the smallness of the object or quality named, or to convey a sense of Intimate relationship, intimacy or Term of endearment, endea ...
infix An infix is an affix inserted inside a word stem (an existing word or the core of a family of words). It contrasts with ''adfix,'' a rare term for an affix attached to the outside of a stem, such as a prefix or suffix. When marking text for int ...
''-ul''.
Gaius reportedly grew to dislike the nickname.Seneca the Younger, ''On the Firmness of a Wise Person'' XVIII 2–5. See Malloch, 'Gaius and the nobiles', Athenaeum (2009). Germanicus died at
Antioch Antioch on the Orontes (; grc-gre, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου, ''Antiókheia hē epì Oróntou'', Koine Greek phonology#Learned pronunciation, 4th century BC until early Roman period, Learned ; also Syrian Antioch) grc-koi ...
, Syria province, in AD 19, aged only 33.
Suetonius Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (), commonly referred to as Suetonius ( ; c. AD 69 – after AD 122), was a Roman historian who wrote during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre ...
claims that Germanicus was poisoned by an agent of
Tiberius Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus (; 16 November 42 BC – 16 March AD 37) was the second Roman emperor. He reigned from AD 14 until 37, succeeding his stepfather, the first Roman emperor Augustus. Tiberius was born in Rome in 42 BC. His father ...
, who viewed Germanicus as a political rival.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul
2
After the death of his father, Caligula lived with his mother, Agripinna the Elder, until her relations with Tiberius deteriorated.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul

Tiberius would not allow Agrippina to remarry for fear her husband would be a rival.Tacitus, ''Annals'' IV.52. Agrippina and Caligula's brother, Nero, were banished in 29 on charges of treason.Tacitus, ''Annals'' V.3.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Tiberiu
54
The adolescent Caligula was sent to live with his great-grandmother (Tiberius' mother),
Livia Livia Drusilla (30 January 59 BC – 28 September AD 29) was a Roman empress from 27 BC to AD 14 as the wife of Roman emperor, Emperor Augustus Caesar. She was known as Julia Augusta after her formal Adoption in ancient Rome, adoption into the J ...
; After her death, he was sent to live with his grandmother
Antonia Minor Antonia Minor (31 January 36 BC - 1 May 37 AD) was the younger of two surviving daughters of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. She was a niece of the Roman emperor, Emperor Augustus, sister-in-law of the Emperor Tiberius, paternal grandmother of the ...
. In 30, his brother Drusus was imprisoned on charges of treason, and his brother Nero died in exile from either starvation or suicide.Tacitus, ''Annals'' V.10. Suetonius writes that after the banishment of his mother and brothers, Caligula and his sisters were nothing more than prisoners of Tiberius under the close watch of soldiers.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Tiberiu
64
In 31, Caligula was remanded to the personal care of Tiberius on
Capri Capri ( , ; ; ) is an island located in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrento Peninsula, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. The main town of Capri (town), Capri that is located on the island shares the name ...
, where he lived for six years. To the surprise of many, Caligula was spared by Tiberius.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Tiberiu
62
Roman historians describe Caligula as an excellent natural actor who recognised the danger he was in, and hid his resentment towards Tiberius.Tacitus, ''Annals'' VI.20. An observer said of Caligula, "Never was there a better servant or a worse master!" Caligula claimed to have planned to kill Tiberius with a dagger to avenge his mother and brother: however, having brought the weapon into Tiberius' bedroom he did not kill the Emperor but instead threw the dagger down on the floor. Supposedly Tiberius knew of this but never dared to do anything about it. Suetonius claims that Caligula was already cruel and vicious: he writes that when Tiberius brought Caligula to Capri, his purpose was to allow Caligula to live in order that he "prove the ruin of himself and of all men, and that he was rearing a viper for the Roman people and a
Phaethon Phaethon (; grc, Φαέθων, Phaéthōn, ), also spelled Phaëthon, was the son of the Oceanid Clymene (mother of Phaethon), Clymene and the solar deity, sun-god Helios in Greek mythology. According to most authors, Phaethon is the son of He ...
for the world." In 33, Tiberius gave Caligula an honorary
quaestor A ( , , ; "investigator") was a public official in Ancient Rome. There were various types of quaestors, with the title used to describe greatly different offices at different times. In the Roman Republic, quaestors were elected officials who ...
ship, a position he held until his rise to emperor.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'
LVII.23
Meanwhile, both Caligula's mother and his brother Drusus died in prison.Tacitus, ''Annals'' VI.25.Tacitus, ''Annals'' VI.23. Caligula was briefly married to
Junia Claudilla Junia Claudilla (d. AD 34, 36 or 37),#refBarrett, Barrett (1989), p. 32 also known as Junia Claudia, was the first wife of the Roman Emperor Caligula before he came to power. Biography Early life Her father was a distinguished Roman Senate, senat ...
in 33, though she died in childbirth the following year.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul
12
Caligula spent time befriending the
Praetorian prefect The praetorian prefect ( la, praefectus praetorio, el, ) was a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders be ...
,
Naevius Sutorius Macro Quintus Naevius Cordus Sutorius Macro (21 BC – AD 38) was a Praetorian prefect, prefect of the Praetorian Guard, from 31 until 38, serving under the Roman Emperors Tiberius and Caligula. Upon falling out of favour, he killed himself. Biography ...
, an important ally. Macro spoke well of Caligula to Tiberius, attempting to quell any ill will or suspicion the Emperor felt towards Caligula.Philo of Alexandria, ''On the Embassy to Gaius'' VI.35. In 35, Caligula was named joint heir to Tiberius' estate along with Tiberius Gemellus.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Tiberiu
76


Emperor


Early reign

When Tiberius died on 16 March AD 37, his estate and the titles of the
principate The Principate is the name sometimes given to the first period of the Roman Empire from the beginning of the reign of Augustus in 27 BC to the end of the Crisis of the Third Century in AD 284, after which it evolved into the so-called Dominate. ...
were left to Caligula and Tiberius' own grandson, Gemellus, who were to serve as joint heirs. Although Tiberius was 77 and on his deathbed, some ancient historians still conjecture that he was murdered.Tacitus, ''Annals'' XII.53.
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus, known simply as Tacitus ( , ; – ), was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historiography, Roman historians by modern scholars. The surviving portions of his t ...
writes that Macro smothered Tiberius with a pillow to hasten Caligula's accession, much to the joy of the Roman people, while Suetonius writes that Caligula may have carried out the killing, though this is not recorded by any other ancient historian.
Seneca the Elder Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Elder (; c. 54 BC – c. 39 AD), also known as Seneca the Rhetorician, was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th cen ...
and
Philo Philo of Alexandria (; grc, Φίλων, Phílōn; he, יְדִידְיָה, Yəḏīḏyāh (Jedediah); ), also called Philo Judaeus, was a Hellenistic Judaism, Hellenistic Jewish Jewish philosophy, philosopher who lived in Alexandria, in the ...
, who both wrote during Tiberius' reign, as well as
Josephus Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος, ; 37 – 100) was a first-century Roman Jews, Romano-Jewish historian and military leader, best known for ''The Jewish War'', who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Judea (Roman province), Roman ...
, record Tiberius as dying a natural death. Backed by Macro, Caligula had Tiberius' will nullified with regard to Gemellus on grounds of insanity, but he otherwise carried out Tiberius' wishes.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'
LIX.1
Caligula was proclaimed emperor by the
Senate A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house An upper house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house.''Bicameralism'' (1997) by George Tseb ...
on 18 March. He accepted the powers of the principate and entered Rome on 28 March amid a crowd that hailed him as "our baby" and "our star", among other nicknames.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul
13
Caligula is described as the first emperor who was admired by everyone in "all the world, from the rising to the setting sun."Philo of Alexandria, ''On the Embassy to Gaius'' II.10. Caligula was loved by many for being the beloved son of the popular Germanicus and because he was not Tiberius. Suetonius said that over 160,000 animals were sacrificed during three months of public rejoicing to usher in the new reign.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul
14
Philo mentions widespread sacrifice, but no estimation on the degree, Philo of Alexandria, ''On the Embassy to Gaius'' II.12. Philo describes the first seven months of Caligula's reign as completely blissful.Philo of Alexandria, ''On the Embassy to Gaius'' II.13. Caligula's first acts were said to be generous in spirit, though many were political in nature. To gain support, he granted bonuses to the military, including the
Praetorian Guard The Praetorian Guard (Latin language, Latin: ''cohortēs praetōriae'') was a unit of the Imperial Roman army that served as personal Bodyguard, bodyguards and military intelligence, intelligence agents for the Roman emperors. During the Roman R ...
, city troops and the army outside Italy. He destroyed Tiberius' treason papers, declared that
treason Treason is the crime of attacking a state authority to which one owes allegiance. This typically includes acts such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplo ...
trials were a thing of the past, and recalled those who had been sent into exile.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul
15
He helped those who had been harmed by the imperial tax system, banished certain sexual deviants, and put on lavish spectacles for the public, including gladiatorial games.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul

Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul

Caligula collected and brought back the bones of his mother and of his brothers and deposited their remains in the tomb of Augustus. In October 37, Caligula fell seriously ill or perhaps was poisoned. He soon recovered from his illness, but many believed that the illness turned the young emperor toward the diabolical: he started to kill off or exile those who were close to him or whom he saw as a serious threat. Perhaps his illness reminded him of his mortality and of the desire of others to advance into his place. He had his cousin and adopted son Tiberius Gemellus executed – an act that outraged Caligula's and Gemellus' mutual grandmother
Antonia Minor Antonia Minor (31 January 36 BC - 1 May 37 AD) was the younger of two surviving daughters of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. She was a niece of the Roman emperor, Emperor Augustus, sister-in-law of the Emperor Tiberius, paternal grandmother of the ...
. She is said to have committed suicide, although Suetonius hints that Caligula poisoned her. He had his father-in-law Marcus Junius Silanus and his brother-in-law Marcus Lepidus executed as well. His uncle
Claudius Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor, ruling from AD 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Claudius was born to Nero Claudius Drusus, Drusu ...
was spared only because Caligula preferred to keep him as a laughing stock. His favourite sister, Julia Drusilla, died in 38 of a fever: his other two sisters, Livilla and Agrippina the Younger, were exiled. He hated being the grandson of Agrippa and slandered
Augustus Caesar Augustus (born Gaius Octavius; 23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14), also known as Octavian, was the first Roman emperor; he reigned from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. He is known for being the founder of the Roman Pri ...
by repeating a falsehood that his mother was conceived as the result of an incestuous relationship between Augustus and his daughter Julia the Elder.


Public reform and financial crisis

In 38, Caligula focused his attention on political and public reform. He published the accounts of public funds, which had not been made public during the reign of Tiberius. He aided those who lost property in fires, abolished certain taxes, and gave out prizes to the public at gymnastic events. He allowed new members into the equestrian and senatorial orders.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'
LIX.9–10
Perhaps most significantly, he restored the practice of elections.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul

Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (), also known as Dio Cassius ( ), was a Roman historian and senator of maternal Greek origin. He published 80 volumes of the History of ancient Rome, history on ancient Rome, beginning with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy. The ...
said that this act "though delighting the rabble, grieved the sensible, who stopped to reflect, that if the offices should fall once more into the hands of the many ... many disasters would result".Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'
LIX.9.7
During the same year, though, Caligula was criticized for executing people without full trials and for forcing the Praetorian prefect, Macro, to commit suicide. Macro had fallen out of favor with the emperor, probably due to an attempt to ally himself with Gemellus when it appeared that Caligula might die of fever.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'
LIX.10
According to Cassius Dio, a financial crisis emerged in 39. Suetonius places the beginning of this crisis in 38.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul

Caligula's political payments for support, generosity and extravagance had exhausted the state's treasury. Ancient historians state that Caligula began falsely accusing, fining and even killing individuals for the purpose of seizing their estates.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul

Historians describe a number of Caligula's other desperate measures. To gain funds, Caligula asked the public to lend the state money.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul

He levied taxes on lawsuits, weddings and prostitution.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul

Caligula began auctioning the lives of the gladiators at shows. Wills that left items to Tiberius were reinterpreted to leave the items instead to Caligula.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'

Centurions who had acquired property by plunder were forced to turn over spoils to the state. The current and past highway commissioners were accused of incompetence and embezzlement and forced to repay money. According to Suetonius, in the first year of Caligula's reign he squandered 2.7 billion
sesterces The ''sestertius'' (plural ''sestertii''), or sesterce (plural sesterces), was an Ancient Rome, ancient Roman Roman currency, coin. During the Roman Republic it was a small, silver coin issued only on rare occasions. During the Roman Empire it w ...
that Tiberius had amassed. His nephew
Nero Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus ( ; born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68), was the fifth Roman emperor and final emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, reigning from AD 54 unti ...
both envied and admired the fact that Gaius had run through the vast wealth Tiberius had left him in so short a time. However, some historians have shown scepticism towards the large number of sesterces quoted by Suetonius and Dio. According to Wilkinson, Caligula's use of precious metals to mint coins throughout his principate indicates that the treasury most likely never fell into bankruptcy. He does point out, however, that it is difficult to ascertain whether the purported 'squandered wealth' was from the treasury alone due to the blurring of "the division between the private wealth of the emperor and his income as head of state." Furthermore, Alston points out that Caligula's successor,
Claudius Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor, ruling from AD 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Claudius was born to Nero Claudius Drusus, Drusu ...
, was able to donate 15,000 sesterces to each member of the
Praetorian Guard The Praetorian Guard (Latin language, Latin: ''cohortēs praetōriae'') was a unit of the Imperial Roman army that served as personal Bodyguard, bodyguards and military intelligence, intelligence agents for the Roman emperors. During the Roman R ...
in 41, suggesting the Roman treasury was solvent. A brief famine of unknown extent occurred, perhaps caused by this financial crisis, but Suetonius claims it resulted from Caligula's seizure of public carriages; according to Seneca, grain imports were disrupted because Caligula re-purposed grain boats for a
pontoon bridge A pontoon bridge (or ponton bridge), also known as a floating bridge, uses floats or shallow- draft boats to support a continuous deck for pedestrian and vehicle travel. The buoyancy Buoyancy (), or upthrust, is an upward force exerted b ...
.Seneca the Younger, ''On the Shortness of Life'' XVIII.5.


Construction and senatorial feud

Despite financial difficulties, Caligula embarked on a number of construction projects during his reign. Some were for the public good, though others were for himself.
Josephus Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος, ; 37 – 100) was a first-century Roman Jews, Romano-Jewish historian and military leader, best known for ''The Jewish War'', who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Judea (Roman province), Roman ...
describes Caligula's improvements to the harbours at Rhegium and
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...
, allowing increased grain imports from Egypt, as his greatest contributions. These improvements may have been in response to the famine. Caligula completed the temple of Augustus and the
theatre of Pompey The Theatre of Pompey ( la, Theatrum Pompeii, it, Teatro di Pompeo) was a structure in Ancient Rome built during the latter part of the Roman Republican era by Pompey the Great (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus). Completed in 55BC, it was the first perma ...
and began an
amphitheatre An amphitheatre (British English) or amphitheater (American English; both ) is an open-air venue used for entertainment, performances, and sports. The term derives from the ancient Greek ('), from ('), meaning "on both sides" or "around" and ...
beside the Saepta.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul
21
He also expanded the imperial palace.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul

Later, he began the construction of aqueducts
Aqua Claudia Aqua Claudia ("the Claudius, Claudian water") was an ancient Roman aqueduct that, like the Aqua Anio Novus, was begun by Emperor Caligula (37–41 AD) in 38 AD and finished by Emperor Claudius (41–54 AD) in 52 AD. Together with Aqua Anio Novus ...
and
Anio Novus Aqua Anio Novus (Latin for "New Anio aqueduct") was an ancient Roman aqueduct. Like the Aqua Claudia, it was begun by emperor Caligula in 38 AD and completed in 52 AD by Claudius, who dedicated them both on August 1. Together with the Aqua Anio ...
, which
Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman Empire, Roman author, Natural history, naturalist and Natural philosophy, natural philosopher, and naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of t ...
considered to be engineering marvels. Caligula then built a large racetrack known as the ''circus of Gaius and Nero'' and had an Egyptian obelisk (now known as the " Vatican Obelisk") that was transported by sea and erected in the middle of Rome. At
Syracuse Syracuse may refer to: Places Italy *Syracuse, Sicily Syracuse ( ; it, Siracusa ; scn, Sarausa ), ; grc-att, wikt:Συράκουσαι, Συράκουσαι, Syrákousai, ; grc-dor, wikt:Συράκοσαι, Συράκοσαι, Syrā́ ...
, he repaired the city walls and the temples of the gods. He had new roads built and pushed to keep roads in good condition. Caligula had planned to rebuild the palace of
Polycrates Polycrates (; grc-gre, Πολυκράτης), son of Aeaces (father of Polycrates), Aeaces, was the tyrant of Samos from the 540s BC to 522 BC. He had a reputation as both a fierce warrior and an enlightened tyrant. Sources The main source fo ...
at Samos, to finish the temple of Didymaean Apollo at
Ephesus Ephesus (; grc-gre, Ἔφεσος, Éphesos; tr, Efes; may ultimately derive from hit, 𒀀𒉺𒊭, Apaša) was a city in ancient Greece on the coast of Ionia, southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. It was built in t ...
and to found a city high up in the
Alps The Alps () ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps ; sl, Alpe . are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, stretching approximately across seven Alpine countries (from west to east): France, Swi ...
. He also intended to dig a canal through the
Isthmus of Corinth The Isthmus of Corinth (Greek language, Greek: Ισθμός της Κορίνθου) is the narrow land bridge which connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the rest of the mainland of Greece, near the city of Corinth. The word "isthmus" comes ...
in Greece and sent a chief centurion to survey the work. In 39, Caligula performed a spectacular stunt by ordering a temporary floating bridge to be built using ships as pontoons, stretching for over two miles from the resort of
Baiae Baiae ( it, Baia; nap, Baia) was an ancient Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epi ...
to the neighbouring port of
Puteoli Pozzuoli (; ; ) is a city and ''comune'' of the Metropolitan City of Naples, in the Italy, Italian region of Campania. It is the main city of the Campi Flegrei, Phlegrean Peninsula. History Pozzuoli began as the Greek colony of ''Dicaearc ...
.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul
19
It was said that the bridge was to rival the Persian king Xerxes' pontoon bridge crossing of the Hellespont. Caligula, who could not swim, then proceeded to ride his favourite horse Incitatus across, wearing the breastplate of
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc, wikt:Ἀλέξανδρος, Ἀλέξανδρος, Alexandros; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the Ancient Greece, ancient Greek kingdom of Maced ...
. This act was in defiance of a prediction by Tiberius' soothsayer Thrasyllus of Mendes that Caligula had "no more chance of becoming emperor than of riding a horse across the Bay of Baiae". Caligula had two large ships constructed for himself (which were recovered from the bottom of Lake Nemi around 1930). The ships were among the largest vessels in the ancient world. The smaller ship was designed as a temple dedicated to Diana. The larger ship was essentially an elaborate floating palace with marble floors and plumbing. The ships burned in 1944 after an attack in the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
; almost nothing remains of their hulls, though many archaeological treasures remain intact in the museum at Lake Nemi and in the
Museo Nazionale Romano The National Roman Museum (Italian: ''Museo Nazionale Romano'') is a museum, with several branches in separate buildings throughout the city of Rome, Italy. It shows exhibits from the pre- and early history of Rome, with a focus on archaeological ...
(Palazzo Massimo) at Rome. In 39, relations between Caligula and the Roman Senate deteriorated.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'' LIX.16; Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul
30
The subject of their disagreement is unknown. A number of factors, though, aggravated this feud. The Senate had become accustomed to ruling without an emperor between the departure of Tiberius for Capri in 26 and Caligula's accession.Tacitus, ''Annals'' IV.41. Additionally, Tiberius' treason trials had eliminated a number of pro-Julian senators such as Asinius Gallus. Caligula reviewed Tiberius' records of treason trials and decided, based on their actions during these trials, that numerous senators were not trustworthy. He ordered a new set of investigations and trials. He replaced the consul and had several senators put to death.Suetonius, ''The Lives of Twelve Caesars'', Life of Caligul
26
Suetonius reports that other senators were degraded by being forced to wait on him and run beside his chariot. Soon after his break with the Senate, Caligula faced a number of additional conspiracies against him.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'' LIX.22. A conspiracy involving his brother-in-law was foiled in late 39. Soon afterwards, the Governor of Germany, Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Gaetulicus, was executed for connections to a conspiracy.


Western expansion

In 40, Caligula expanded the Roman Empire into
Mauretania Mauretania (; ) is the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) ar ...
, a
client kingdom A client state, in international relations International relations (IR), sometimes referred to as international studies and international affairs, is the Scientific method, scientific study of interactions between sovereign states. In a b ...
of Rome ruled by
Ptolemy of Mauretania Ptolemy of Mauretania ( grc-gre, Πτολεμαῖος, ''Ptolemaîos''; la, Gaius Iulius Ptolemaeus; 13 9BC–AD40) was the last Roman client king and ruler of Mauretania for Rome. He was the son of Juba II, the king of Numidia and a member o ...
. Caligula invited Ptolemy to Rome and then suddenly had him executed. Mauretania was annexed by Caligula and subsequently divided into two provinces,
Mauretania Tingitana Mauretania Tingitana (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) arou ...
and
Mauretania Caesariensis Mauretania Caesariensis (Latin for "Caesarea, Numidia, Caesarean Mauretania") was a Roman province located in what is now Algeria in the Maghreb. The full name refers to its capital Caesarea, Numidia, Caesarea Mauretaniae (modern Cherchell). Th ...
, separated by the river Malua. Pliny claims that division was the work of Caligula, but Dio states that in 42 an uprising took place, which was subdued by
Gaius Suetonius Paulinus Gaius Suetonius Paulinus (fl. AD 41–69) was a Roman people, Roman general best known as the commander who defeated the rebellion of Boudica. Early life Little is known of Suetonius' family, but it likely came from Pisaurum (modern Pesaro), a to ...
and Gnaeus Hosidius Geta, and the division only took place after this. This confusion might mean that Caligula decided to divide the province, but the division was postponed because of the rebellion.Barrett 2002, p. 118 The first known equestrian governor of the two provinces was Marcus Fadius Celer Flavianus, in office in 44. Details on the Mauretanian events of 39–44 are unclear. Cassius Dio wrote an entire chapter on the annexation of Mauretania by Caligula, but it is now lost.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'
LIX.25
Caligula's move seemingly had a strictly personal political motive – fear and jealousy of his cousin Ptolemy – and thus the expansion may not have been prompted by pressing military or economic needs. However, the rebellion of
Tacfarinas Tacfarinas (List of Latinised names, Latinised form of Berber language, Berber Tikfarin or Takfarin; died AD 24) was a Numidian Berbers, Berber from Thagaste, located in the province of Proconsular Africa (now Souk Ahras, in Algeria), who was a d ...
had shown how exposed Africa Proconsularis was to its west and how the Mauretanian client kings were unable to provide protection to the province, and it is thus possible that Caligula's expansion was a prudent response to potential future threats. Caligula also made a significant attempt at expanding into
Britannia Britannia () is the national personification of United Kingdom, Britain as a helmeted female warrior holding a trident and shield. An image first used in classical antiquity, the Latin ''Britannia'' was the name variously applied to the Britis ...
. There seems to have been a northern campaign to Britannia that was aborted. This campaign is derided by ancient historians with accounts of
Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe first described by the Romans. It was inhabited by Celts, Celtic and Aquitani tribes, encompassing present-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, most of Switzerland, parts of Northern Italy (only dur ...
s dressed up as Germanic tribesmen at his triumph and Roman troops ordered to collect seashells as "spoils of the sea". The few primary sources disagree on what precisely occurred. Modern historians have put forward numerous theories in an attempt to explain these actions. This trip to the
English Channel The English Channel, "The Sleeve"; nrf, la Maunche, "The Sleeve" ( Cotentinais) or ( Jèrriais), ( Guernésiais), "The Channel"; br, Mor Breizh, "Sea of Brittany"; cy, Môr Udd, "Lord's Sea"; kw, Mor Bretannek, "British Sea"; nl, Het Ka ...
could have merely been a training and scouting mission. The mission may have been to accept the surrender of the British chieftain Adminius. "Seashells", or ''conchae'' in Latin, may be a metaphor for something else such as
female genitalia A sex organ (or reproductive organ) is any part of an animal or plant that is involved in sexual reproduction. The reproductive organs together constitute the reproductive system. In animals, the testis in the male, and the ovary in the female, a ...
(perhaps the troops visited brothels) or boats (perhaps they captured several small British boats). The conquest of Britannia was later achieved during the reign of his successor,
Claudius Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor, ruling from AD 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Claudius was born to Nero Claudius Drusus, Drusu ...
.


Claims of divinity

When several client kings came to Rome to pay their respects to him and argued about their nobility of descent, he allegedly cried out the Homeric line: "Let there be one lord, one king." In 40, Caligula began implementing very controversial policies that introduced religion into his political role. Caligula began appearing in public dressed as various gods and demigods such as
Hercules Hercules (, ) is the Roman equivalent of the Greek divine hero Heracles Heracles ( ; grc-gre, Ἡρακλῆς, , glory/fame of Hera), born Alcaeus (, ''Alkaios'') or Alcides (, ''Alkeidēs''), was a divine hero in Greek mythology ...
, Mercury,
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is sometimes called Earth's "sister" or "twin" planet as it is almost as large and has a similar composition. As an Inferior and superior planets, interior planet to Earth, Venus (like Mercury (pl ...
and
Apollo Apollo, grc, Ἀπόλλωνος, Apóllōnos, label=genitive , ; , grc-dor, Ἀπέλλων, Apéllōn, ; grc, Ἀπείλων, Apeílōn, label=Arcadocypriot Greek Arcadocypriot, or southern Achaeans (tribe), Achaean, was an ancient ...
. Reportedly, he began referring to himself as a god when meeting with politicians and he was referred to as "Jupiter" on occasion in public documents.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'
LIX.28
A sacred precinct was set apart for his worship at
Miletus Miletus (; gr, Μῑ́λητος, Mī́lētos; Hittite language, Hittite transcription ''Millawanda'' or ''Milawata'' (Exonym and endonym, exonyms); la, Mīlētus; tr, Milet) was an Ancient Greece, ancient Greek city on the western coast of ...
in the province of Asia and two temples were erected for worship of him in Rome. The
Temple of Castor and Pollux The Temple of Castor and Pollux ( it, Tempio dei Dioscuri) is an ancient Roman temple, temple in the Roman Forum, Rome, central Italy. It was originally built in gratitude for victory at the Battle of Lake Regillus (495 BC). Castor and Pollux (Gr ...
on the forum was linked directly to the imperial residence on the Palatine and dedicated to Caligula. He would appear there on occasion and present himself as a god to the public. Caligula had the heads removed from various statues of gods located across Rome and replaced them with his own. It is said that he wished to be worshipped as ''Neos Helios'', the "New Sun". Indeed, he was represented as a sun god on Egyptian coins. Caligula's religious policy was a departure from that of his predecessors. According to Cassius Dio, living emperors could be worshipped as divine in the east and dead emperors could be worshipped as divine in Rome.Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'' LI.20. Augustus had the public worship his spirit on occasion, but Dio describes this as an extreme act that emperors generally shied away from. Caligula took things a step further and had those in Rome, including senators, worship him as a tangible, living god.


Eastern policy

Caligula needed to quell several riots and conspiracies in the eastern territories during his reign. Aiding him in his actions was his good friend,
Herod Agrippa Herod Agrippa (Roman name Marcus Julius Agrippa; born around 11–10 BC – in Caesarea Caesarea () ( he, קֵיסָרְיָה, ), ''Keysariya'' or ''Qesarya'', often simplified to Keisarya, and Qaysaria, is an affluent town in north-centra ...
, who became governor of the territories of Batanaea and Trachonitis after Caligula became emperor in 37. The cause of tensions in the east was complicated, involving the spread of Greek culture,
Roman law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor J ...
and the rights of Jews in the empire. Caligula did not trust the prefect of Egypt, Aulus Avilius Flaccus. Flaccus had been loyal to Tiberius, had conspired against Caligula's mother and had connections with Egyptian separatists. In 38, Caligula sent Agrippa to Alexandria unannounced to check on Flaccus. According to Philo, the visit was met with jeers from the Greek population who saw Agrippa as the king of the Jews. As a result, riots broke out in the city. Caligula responded by removing Flaccus from his position and executing him. In 39, Agrippa accused his uncle
Herod Antipas Herod Antipas ( el, Ἡρῴδης Ἀντίπας, ''Hērǭdēs Antipas''; born before 20 BC – died after 39 AD), was a 1st-century ruler of Galilee and Perea (region) , Perea, who bore the title of Herodian Tetrarchy, tetrarch ("ruler of a qu ...
, the tetrarch of
Galilee Galilee (; he, הַגָּלִיל, hagGālīl; ar, الجليل, al-jalīl) is a region located in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. Galilee traditionally refers to the mountainous part, divided into Upper Galilee (, ; , ) and Lower Galile ...
and
Perea Perea or Peraea (Greek language, Greek: Περαία, "peraia, the country beyond") was the portion of the kingdom of Herod the Great occupying the eastern side of the Jordan Rift Valley, Jordan River valley, from about one third the way down t ...
, of planning a rebellion against Roman rule with the help of
Parthia Parthia ( peo, 𐎱𐎼𐎰𐎺 ''Parθava''; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭕𐭅 ''Parθaw''; pal, 𐭯𐭫𐭮𐭥𐭡𐭥 ''Pahlaw'') is a historical region located in northeastern Greater Iran. It was conquered and subjugated by the empire of the Medes ...
. Herod Antipas confessed and Caligula exiled him. Agrippa was rewarded with his territories.Josephus, ''Antiquities of the Jews'' XVIII.7.2. Riots again erupted in Alexandria in 40 between Jews and Greeks.Josephus, ''Antiquities of the Jews'' XVIII.8.1. Jews were accused of not honouring the emperor. Disputes occurred in the city of Jamnia.Philo of Alexandria, ''On the Embassy to Gaius'' XXX.201. Jews were angered by the erection of a clay altar and destroyed it. In response, Caligula ordered the erection of a statue of himself in the Jewish
Temple of Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem, or alternatively the Holy Temple (; , ), refers to the two now-destroyed religious structures that served as the central places of worship for Israelites and Jews on the modern-day Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusa ...
,Philo of Alexandria, ''On the Embassy to Gaius'' XXX.203. a demand in conflict with Jewish monotheism.Philo of Alexandria, ''On the Embassy to Gaius'' XVI.115. In this context, Philo wrote that Caligula "regarded the Jews with most especial suspicion, as if they were the only persons who cherished wishes opposed to his". The
Governor A governor is an administrative leader and head of a polity A polity is an identifiable Politics, political entity – a group of people with a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized s ...
of Syria, Publius Petronius, fearing civil war if the order were carried out, delayed implementing it for nearly a year. Agrippa finally convinced Caligula to reverse the order. However, Caligula issued a second order to have his statue erected in the Temple of Jerusalem. In Rome, another statue of himself, of colossal size, was made of gilt brass for the purpose. However, according to Josephus, when the ship carrying the statue was still underway, news of Caligula's death reached Petronius. Thus, the statue was never installed.Josephus, ''Antiquities of the Jews'' XVIII.8.


Scandals

Philo of Alexandria and
Seneca the Younger Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger (; 65 AD), usually known mononymously as Seneca, was a Stoicism, Stoic philosopher of Ancient Rome, a statesman, dramatist, and, in one work, satirist, from the post-Augustan age of Latin literature. Seneca was ...
, contemporaries of Caligula, describe him as an insane emperor who was self-absorbed and short-tempered, killed on a whim, and indulged in too much spending and sex. He is accused of sleeping with other men's wives and bragging about it, killing for mere amusement, deliberately wasting money on his bridge, causing starvation, and wanting a statue of himself in the
Temple of Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem, or alternatively the Holy Temple (; , ), refers to the two now-destroyed religious structures that served as the central places of worship for Israelites and Jews on the modern-day Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusa ...
for his worship. Once, at some games at which he was presiding, he was said to have ordered his guards to throw an entire section of the audience into the arena during the intermission to be eaten by the wild beasts because there were no prisoners to be used and he was bored. While repeating the earlier stories, the later sources of Suetonius and Cassius Dio provide additional tales of insanity. They accuse Caligula of
incest Incest ( ) is human sexual activity between family members or close kinship, relatives. This typically includes sexual activity between people in consanguinity (blood relations), and sometimes those related by Affinity (law), affinity (marriage ...
with his sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla, and Livilla, and say he prostituted them to other men. Additionally, they mention affairs with various men including his brother-in-law Marcus Lepidus. They state he sent troops on illogical military exercises, turned the palace into a brothel, and, most famously, planned or promised to make his horse, Incitatus, a consul, and appointed a priest to serve him. The validity of these accounts is debatable. In Roman political culture, insanity and sexual perversity were often presented hand-in-hand with poor government.


Assassination and aftermath

Caligula's actions as emperor were described as being especially harsh to the Senate, to the nobility and to the equestrian order. According to
Josephus Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος, ; 37 – 100) was a first-century Roman Jews, Romano-Jewish historian and military leader, best known for ''The Jewish War'', who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Judea (Roman province), Roman ...
, these actions led to several failed conspiracies against Caligula. Eventually, officers within the
Praetorian Guard The Praetorian Guard (Latin language, Latin: ''cohortēs praetōriae'') was a unit of the Imperial Roman army that served as personal Bodyguard, bodyguards and military intelligence, intelligence agents for the Roman emperors. During the Roman R ...
led by Cassius Chaerea succeeded in murdering the emperor. The plot is described as having been planned by three men, but many in the Senate, army and equestrian order were said to have been informed of it and involved in it. The situation had escalated when, in 40, Caligula announced to the Senate that he planned to leave Rome permanently and to move to Alexandria in Egypt, where he hoped to be worshipped as a living god. The prospect of Rome losing its emperor and thus its political power was the final straw for many. Such a move would have left both the Senate and the Praetorian Guard powerless to stop Caligula's repression and debauchery. With this in mind Chaerea persuaded his fellow conspirators, who included Marcus Vinicius and Lucius Annius Vinicianus, to put their plot into action quickly. According to Josephus, Chaerea had political motivations for the assassination. Suetonius sees the motive in Caligula calling Chaerea derogatory names. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and for not being firm with tax collection. Caligula would mock Chaerea with names like "
Priapus In Greek mythology, Priapus (; grc, Πρίαπος, ) is a minor rustic fertility god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia. Priapus is marked by his oversized, permanent erection, which gave rise to the medical term ...
" and "
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is sometimes called Earth's "sister" or "twin" planet as it is almost as large and has a similar composition. As an Inferior and superior planets, interior planet to Earth, Venus (like Mercury (pl ...
". On 24 January 41, Cassius Chaerea and other guardsmen accosted Caligula as he addressed an acting troupe of young men beneath the palace, during a series of games and dramatics being held for the Divine Augustus. Details recorded on the events vary somewhat from source to source, but they agree that Chaerea stabbed Caligula first, followed by a number of conspirators. Suetonius records that Caligula's death resembled that of
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; ; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey in Caes ...
. He states that both the elder Gaius Julius Caesar (Julius Caesar) and the younger Gaius Julius Caesar (Caligula) were stabbed 30 times by conspirators led by a man named Cassius ( Cassius Longinus and Cassius Chaerea respectively). By the time Caligula's loyal Germanic guard responded, the Emperor was already dead. The Germanic guard killed several assassins and conspirators, along with some innocent senators and bystanders. These wounded conspirators were treated by the physician Arcyon. The ''
cryptoporticus In Ancient Roman architecture a cryptoporticus (from atin''crypta'' and ''portico, porticus'') is a covered corridor or passageway. The usual English is "cryptoportico". The cryptoportico is a semi-subterranean gallery whose vault (architectur ...
'' (underground corridor) beneath the imperial palaces on the
Palatine Hill The Palatine Hill (; la, Collis Palatium or Mons Palatinus; it, Palatino ), which relative to the seven hills of Rome is the centremost, is one of the most ancient parts of the city and has been called "the first nucleus of the Roman Empire." ...
where this event took place was discovered by archaeologists in 2008. The Senate attempted to use Caligula's death as an opportunity to restore the
Republic A republic () is a "sovereign state, state in which Power (social and political), power rests with the people or their Representative democracy, representatives; specifically a state without a monarchy" and also a "government, or system of gov ...
. Chaerea tried to persuade the military to support the Senate.Josephus, ''Antiquities of the Jews'' XIX.4.4. The military, though, remained loyal to the idea of imperial monarchy. Uncomfortable with lingering imperial support, the assassins sought out and killed Caligula's wife, Caesonia, and killed their young daughter,
Julia Drusilla Julia Drusilla (16 September AD 16 – 10 June AD 38) was a member of the Roman imperial family, the second daughter and fifth child of Germanicus Germanicus Julius Caesar (24 May 15 BC – 10 October AD 19) was an ancient Roman general, ...
, by smashing her head against a wall. They were unable to reach Caligula's uncle,
Claudius Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor, ruling from AD 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Claudius was born to Nero Claudius Drusus, Drusu ...
. After a soldier,
Gratus Gratus was a Roman soldier and member of the Praetorian Guard, who played a part in the accession of Claudius to the imperial throne. In the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Caligula in AD 41, Claudius fled and hid himself in the pala ...
, found Claudius hiding behind a palace curtain, he was spirited out of the city by a sympathetic faction of the Praetorian Guard to their nearby camp. Claudius became emperor after procuring the support of the Praetorian Guard. Claudius granted a general amnesty, although he executed a few junior officers involved in the conspiracy, including Chaerea. According to Suetonius, Caligula's body was placed under turf until it was burned and entombed by his sisters. He was buried within the
Mausoleum of Augustus The Mausoleum of Augustus ( it, Mausoleo di Augusto, italic=no) is a large tomb built by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 28 BC on the Campus Martius in Rome, Italy. The mausoleum is located on the Piazza Augusto Imperatore, near the corner with Via ...
; in 410, during the Sack of Rome, the ashes in the tomb were scattered.


Legacy


Historiography

The facts and circumstances of Caligula's reign are mostly lost to history. Only two sources contemporary with Caligula have survived – the works of Philo and Seneca. Philo's works, ''On the Embassy to Gaius'' and ''Flaccus'', give some details on Caligula's early reign, but mostly focus on events surrounding the Jewish population in Judea and Egypt with whom he sympathizes. Seneca's various works give mostly scattered anecdotes on Caligula's personality. Seneca was almost put to death by Caligula in AD 39 likely due to his associations with conspirators. At one time, there were detailed contemporaneous histories on Caligula, but they are now lost. Additionally, the historians who wrote them are described as biased, either overly critical or praising of Caligula. Nonetheless, these lost primary sources, along with the works of Seneca and Philo, were the basis of surviving secondary and tertiary histories on Caligula written by the next generations of historians. A few of the contemporaneous historians are known by name. Fabius Rusticus and Cluvius Rufus both wrote condemning histories on Caligula that are now lost. Fabius Rusticus was a friend of Seneca who was known for historical embellishment and misrepresentation. Cluvius Rufus was a senator involved in the assassination of Caligula. Caligula's sister, Agrippina the Younger, wrote an autobiography that certainly included a detailed explanation of Caligula's reign, but it too is lost. Agrippina was banished by Caligula for her connection to Marcus Lepidus, who conspired against him. The inheritance of Nero, Agrippina's son and the future emperor, was seized by Caligula. Gaetulicus, a poet, produced a number of flattering writings about Caligula, but they are lost. The bulk of what is known of Caligula comes from Suetonius and Cassius Dio. Suetonius wrote his history on Caligula 80 years after his death, while Cassius Dio wrote his history over 180 years after Caligula's death. Cassius Dio's work is invaluable because it alone gives a loose chronology of Caligula's reign. A handful of other sources add a limited perspective on Caligula. Josephus gives a detailed description of Caligula's assassination. Tacitus provides some information on Caligula's life under Tiberius. In a now lost portion of his ''Annals'', Tacitus gave a detailed history of Caligula. Pliny the Elder's ''Natural History'' has a few brief references to Caligula. There are few surviving sources on Caligula and none of them paints Caligula in a favourable light. The paucity of sources has resulted in significant gaps in modern knowledge of the reign of Caligula. Little is written on the first two years of Caligula's reign. Additionally, there are only limited details on later significant events, such as the annexation of
Mauretania Mauretania (; ) is the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) ar ...
, Caligula's military actions in
Britannia Britannia () is the national personification of United Kingdom, Britain as a helmeted female warrior holding a trident and shield. An image first used in classical antiquity, the Latin ''Britannia'' was the name variously applied to the Britis ...
, and his feud with the
Roman Senate The Roman Senate ( la, Senātus Rōmānus) was a governing and advisory assembly in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the Rome, city of Rome (traditionally found ...
. According to legend, during his military actions in Britannia Caligula grew addicted to a steady diet of European sea eels, which led to their Latin name being ''Coluber caligulensis''.


Health

All surviving sources, except Pliny the Elder, characterize Caligula as insane. However, it is not known whether they are speaking figuratively or literally. Additionally, given Caligula's unpopularity among the surviving sources, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Recent sources are divided in attempting to ascribe a medical reason for his behavior, citing as possibilities
encephalitis Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. The severity can be variable with symptoms including reduction or alteration in consciousness, headache, fever, confusion, a stiff neck, and vomiting. Complications may include seizures, halluci ...
,
epilepsy Epilepsy is a group of non-communicable neurological disorders characterized by recurrent Seizure, epileptic seizures. Epileptic seizures can vary from brief and nearly undetectable periods to long periods of vigorous shaking due to abnormal el ...
or
meningitis Meningitis is Acute (medical), acute or Chronic (medical), chronic inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, collectively called the meninges. The most common symptoms are fever, headache, and neck stiffness. Ot ...
. The question of whether Caligula was insane (especially after his illness early in his reign) remains unanswered. Philo of Alexandria, Josephus and Seneca state that Caligula was insane, but describe this madness as a personality trait that came through experience. Seneca states that Caligula became arrogant, angry and insulting once he became emperor and uses his personality flaws as examples his readers can learn from. According to Josephus, power made Caligula incredibly conceited and led him to think he was a god. Philo of Alexandria reports that Caligula became ruthless after nearly dying of an illness in the eighth month of his reign in 37.
Juvenal Decimus Junius Juvenalis (), known in English as Juvenal ( ), was a Roman Empire, Roman poet active in the late first and early second century Common Era, CE. He is the author of the collection of satirical poems known as the ''Satires (Juvenal ...
reports he was given a magic potion that drove him insane. Suetonius said that Caligula had "falling sickness", or
epilepsy Epilepsy is a group of non-communicable neurological disorders characterized by recurrent Seizure, epileptic seizures. Epileptic seizures can vary from brief and nearly undetectable periods to long periods of vigorous shaking due to abnormal el ...
, when he was young. Modern historians have theorized that Caligula lived with a daily fear of seizures. Despite swimming being a part of imperial education, Caligula could not swim. Epileptics are discouraged from swimming in open waters because unexpected fits can lead to death if timely rescue is difficult. Caligula reportedly talked to the full moon: Epilepsy was long associated with the moon. Suetonius described Caligula as sickly-looking, skinny and pale: "he was tall, very pale, ill-shaped, his neck and legs very slender, his eyes and temples hollow, his brows broad and knit, his hair thin, and the crown of the head bald. The other parts of his body were much covered with hair ... He was crazy both in body and mind, being subject, when a boy, to the falling sickness. When he arrived at the age of manhood he endured fatigue tolerably well. Occasionally he was liable to faintness, during which he remained incapable of any effort". Based on scientific reconstructions of his official painted busts, Caligula had brown hair, brown eyes, and fair skin. Some modern historians think that Caligula had
hyperthyroidism Hyperthyroidism is the condition that occurs due to excessive production of thyroid hormone File:Thyroid_system.svg, upright=1.5, The thyroid system of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine, T3 and T4 rect 376 268 820 433 Thyroid-stimulati ...
. This diagnosis is mainly attributed to Caligula's irritability and his "stare" as described by Pliny the Elder.


Burial site

On 17 January 2011, police in
Nemi Nemi is a town and ''comune'' in the Metropolitan City of Rome (central Italy), in the Alban Hills overlooking Lake Nemi, a volcanic crater lake. It is northwest of Velletri and about Ordinal directions, southeast of Rome. The town's name de ...
, Italy, announced that they believed they had discovered the site of Caligula's burial, after arresting a thief caught smuggling a statue which they believed to be of the emperor. The claim has been met with scepticism by
Cambridge Cambridge ( ) is a College town, university city and the county town in Cambridgeshire, England. It is located on the River Cam approximately north of London. As of the 2021 United Kingdom census, the population of Cambridge was 145,700. Cam ...
historian Mary Beard.


Cultural depictions


In film and series

* Welsh actor
Emlyn Williams George Emlyn Williams, Order of the British Empire, CBE (26 November 1905 – 25 September 1987) was a Wales, Welsh writer, dramatist and actor. Early life Williams was born into a Welsh language, Welsh-speaking, working class family at ...
was cast as Caligula in the never-completed 1937 film ''
I, Claudius ''I, Claudius'' is a historical novel by English writer Robert Graves, published in 1934. Written in the form of an autobiography of the Roman Emperor Claudius, it tells the history of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the early years of the Roma ...
''. * He was played by Ralph Bates in the 1968 ITV historical drama series, '' The Caesars''. * American actor Jay Robinson famously portrayed a sinister and scene-stealing Caligula in two epic films of the 1950s, '' The Robe'' (1953) and its sequel '' Demetrius and the Gladiators'' (1954).Robinson, Jay. ''The Comeback''. Word Books, 1979. * He was played by John Hurt in the 1976 BBC mini-series ''
I, Claudius ''I, Claudius'' is a historical novel by English writer Robert Graves, published in 1934. Written in the form of an autobiography of the Roman Emperor Claudius, it tells the history of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the early years of the Roma ...
''. * A feature-length historical film ''
Caligula Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (31 August 12 – 24 January 41), better known by his nickname Caligula (), was the third Roman emperor, ruling from 37 until his assassination in 41. He was the son of the popular Roman general Germanicu ...
'' was completed in 1979 with Malcolm McDowell in the lead role. The film contains explicit sex and violence. * He was portrayed by David Brandon in the 1982 historical exploitation film '' Caligula... The Untold Story''. * Caligula is a character in the 2015 NBC series '' A.D. The Bible Continues'' and is played by British actor Andrew Gower. His portrayal emphasises Caligula's "dabauched and dangerous" persona as well as his sexual appetite, quick temper, and violent nature. * The third season of the ''
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity, it included large territorial holdings aro ...
'' series (released on
Netflix Netflix, Inc. is an American video on demand#Subscription models, subscription video on-demand Over-the-top media service, over-the-top Streaming media, streaming service and production company based in Los Gatos, California. Founded in 1997 b ...
in 2019) is named ''Caligula: The Mad Emperor'' with
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the Southern Africa, southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by of coastline that stretch along the Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the ...
n actor Ido Drent in the leading role. * In the award winning BBC show
Horrible Histories ''Horrible Histories'' is an educational entertainment franchise encompassing many media including books, magazines, audio books, stage shows, TV shows, and more. In 2013, Lisa Edwards, UK publishing and commercial director of Scholastic Corpora ...
he is portrayed by Simon Farnaby.


In literature and theatre

* ''
Caligula Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (31 August 12 – 24 January 41), better known by his nickname Caligula (), was the third Roman emperor, ruling from 37 until his assassination in 41. He was the son of the popular Roman general Germanicu ...
'', by French author
Albert Camus Albert Camus ( , ; ; 7 November 1913 – 4 January 1960) was a French philosopher, author, dramatist, and journalist. He was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44, the second-youngest recipient in history. His works ...
, is a play in which Caligula returns after deserting the palace for three days and three nights following the death of his beloved sister, Drusilla. The young emperor then uses his unfettered power to "bring the impossible into the realm of the likely". * In the novel ''
I, Claudius ''I, Claudius'' is a historical novel by English writer Robert Graves, published in 1934. Written in the form of an autobiography of the Roman Emperor Claudius, it tells the history of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the early years of the Roma ...
'' by English writer
Robert Graves Captain Robert von Ranke Graves (24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985) was a British poet, historical novels, historical novelist and critic. His father was Alfred Perceval Graves, a celebrated Irish poet and figure in the Gaelic revival; they ...
, Caligula is presented as a murderous sociopath from his childhood who became clinically insane early in his reign. In the novel, at the age of only ten, Caligula drove his father
Germanicus Germanicus Julius Caesar (24 May 15 BC – 10 October AD 19) was an ancient Roman general, known for his campaigns in Germania. The son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia the Younger, Germanicus was born into an influential branch of the Patric ...
to a state of despair and eventually death by secretly terrorizing him. Graves' Caligula commits incest with all three of his sisters and is implied to have murdered Drusilla.Graves, Robert ''I, Claudius'' (1934) The novel was adapted for television in the 1976 BBC mini-series of the same name.


In opera

*A young Caligula appears as one of the characters in
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (baptism, bapt. 12 August 1644, Stráž pod Ralskem – 3 May 1704, Salzburg) was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and violinist. Biber worked in Graz and Kroměříž before he illegally left his employer, Prince-Bishop ...
's opera '' Arminio''. *Caligula is the main character in Detlev Glanert's opera ''
Caligula Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (31 August 12 – 24 January 41), better known by his nickname Caligula (), was the third Roman emperor, ruling from 37 until his assassination in 41. He was the son of the popular Roman general Germanicu ...
'', based on the Albert Camus play. *Different composers from the
Baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a Style (visual arts), style of Baroque architecture, architecture, Baroque music, music, Baroque dance, dance, Baroque painting, painting, Baroque sculpture, sculpture, poetry, and other arts that flourished in Europe from ...
era appear to have composed operatic works about Caligula, but most of these have been lost.


See also

*
List of Roman emperors The Roman emperors were the rulers of the Roman Empire from the granting of the name and title ''Augustus (title), Augustus'' to Augustus, Octavian by the Roman Senate in 27 BC onward. Augustus maintained a facade of Republican rule, rejecting mo ...


References


Bibliography


Primary sources

*
Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (), also known as Dio Cassius ( ), was a Roman historian and senator of maternal Greek origin. He published 80 volumes of the History of ancient Rome, history on ancient Rome, beginning with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy. The ...
,
Roman History
', Book 59 *
Josephus Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος, ; 37 – 100) was a first-century Roman Jews, Romano-Jewish historian and military leader, best known for ''The Jewish War'', who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Judea (Roman province), Roman ...
,
Antiquities of the Jews
', (trans. W.Whiston), Books XVIII–XIX *
Philo of Alexandria Philo of Alexandria (; grc, Φίλων, Phílōn; he, יְדִידְיָה, Yəḏīḏyāh (Jedediah); ), also called Philo Judaeus, was a Hellenistic Judaism, Hellenistic Jewish Jewish philosophy, philosopher who lived in Alexandria, in the ...
, (trans. C.D.Yonge, London, H. G. Bohn, 1854–1890): **
On the Embassy to Gaius
' **

' *
Seneca the Younger Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger (; 65 AD), usually known mononymously as Seneca, was a Stoicism, Stoic philosopher of Ancient Rome, a statesman, dramatist, and, in one work, satirist, from the post-Augustan age of Latin literature. Seneca was ...
**
On Firmness
' **

' **

' **

' **

' **

' **

' **

' **

' (Epistle IV) **

' (Epistle LXXVII) **

' (Epistle XCIV) *
Suetonius Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (), commonly referred to as Suetonius ( ; c. AD 69 – after AD 122), was a Roman historian who wrote during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre ...
,
The Lives of Twelve Caesars
', Life of Caligula *
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus, known simply as Tacitus ( , ; – ), was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historiography, Roman historians by modern scholars. The surviving portions of his t ...
,
Annals
', Book 6


Secondary material

* * * * * *


External links


Caligula Attempts to Conquer Britain in AD 40
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