Caligula (Gaius Julius Augustus Germanicus) was Roman emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. He was the son of Roman general Germanicus and Augustus‘ granddaughter Agrippina the Elder. Caligula was the representative of the first ruling family of ancient Roman Empire, known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Despite the fact that he was born Gaius Caesar, after Julius Caesar, he got the nickname “Caligula”, which means “little soldier’s boot” from his father’s soldiers during their campaign in Germania. His father died in 19 AD and his mother returned to Rome with six children. Agrippina was in a conflict with Tiberius which led to the destruction of her family, where only Caligula survived among all her children. Caligula moved to Tiberius to the Capri island, where following the death of emperor, Caligula succeeded his adoptive grandfather and started his reign in 37 AD.
Caligula was famous for his cruelty, extravagance, sadism, and sexual perversion
His first six months of reign were auspicious for citizens, but then he became an insane tyrant. He was working on construction projects of two aqueducts in Rome: the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus. Moreover, he commissioned construction of several luxurious dwellings for himself. In 41 AD, Caligula was assassinated because of a conspiracy by officers of the Praetorian Guard and courtiers. At the same day of his death, Caligula’s uncle, Claudius, was proclaimed the next Roman emperor. However, despite the fact that Julio-Claudian dynasty continued to reign over the empire until the fall of his nephew Nero in 68 AD, Caligula’s death considered the official end of the Julii Caesares among male representatives.
Gaius Julius Caesar was born in modern territory of Anzio and Nettuno in 12 AD. He was the third of six surviving children born to Germanicus. Being a boy of two-three years old, he accompained his father on campaigns in the north of Germania and received his nickname “Caligula” by other soldiers, who were amazed that Gaius was dressed in a small soldier’s outfit, including a weapon and boots. However, the future emperor did not really like his nickname.
After the death of Germanicus, Caligula lived with Agrippina until she became an enemy of Tiberius. The emperor did not allow her to remarry being feared that her husband can become his rival. Consequently, in 29 AD, Caligula’s mother and brother Nero were banished. Caligula moved to Capri island to live with his great-grandmother and mother of Tiberius, Livia. Later, after her death, he moved to his grandmother Antonia Minor.
In 33 AD, Caligula held an honorary quaestorship from Caligula before becoming an emperor
Tiberius died in 37 AD and all his estate and titles were transferred to Caligula. During the beginning of his reign over 160.000 animals were sacrificed during first three months to celebrate the coming of new blissful emperor. People loved him because he granted bonuses to the military, including the Praetorian Guard, city troops and the army out of Italy. Before, Tiberius created treason trials that were cancelled by Caligula. Moreover, he maintained those who had been hurt by the imperial system and ejected sexual deviants.
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However, after six months of power, everything changed. Historians assume a possible breakdown or epilepsy of Caligula, but as a result, he became a different person. If at the beginning of his reign the taxes were reduced, after six months he raised them to pay for his excesses. He became more paranoid and instituted purges against his enemies, including his first wife. Moreover, treason trials of Tiberius were returned. Caligula also condemned people to confiscate their property. His life became insane. Caligula’s response on his acts was: “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.” His way of reign was also crazy in the way that he spent taxes on weddings, prostitution, lawsuits and started to sell the lives of the gladiators at shows.
Caligula worked on many construction projects during his four years of reign. He improved the temple of Augustus and the theatre of Pompey. In addition, the emperor began an amphitheatre beside the Saepta and made the imperial palace bigger. Importantly, a large racetrack known as the “Circus of Gaius and Nero” was built by him. An Egyptian obelisk which stands nowadays in Saint Peter’s Square was transported under his commission in 37 AD. At Syracuse, Caligula repaired the city walls and many temples dedicated to various gods. Also, many new roads were construced and maintained in good condition.
Caligula had two largge ships built for himself that were recovered from the bottom of Lake Nemi at the beginning of 20th century
These ships were among biggest constructions of this kind in the ancient world. Among them, the smaller ship was designed as a temple dedicated to goddess Diana, while the larger one was a floating palace with beautiful interior and marble floors. In 1944, during an attack in the Second World War, ships were burned, but many ancient treasures are in the museum at Lake Nemi and in the Museo Nazionale Romano in Rome.
Enmity with The Senate
Caligula and the Senate had difficult relationships. Especially, in 39 AD, the situation became worse than ever for an unknown reason. Undoubtedly, one of the causes was that the Senate became accustomed to rule without an emperor since Tiberius spent many years on Capri island. Caligula replaced the consul and had several senators put to death. It happened when the emperor reviewed Tiberius’s papers of treason trials and decided that many representatives of the senate were not trustworthy.
In 40 AD, Caligula expanded the Empire into Mauretania, ruled by Ptolemy of Mauretania. He invited Ptolemy to Rome and suddenly had him murdered. Consequently, Caligula divided Mauretania into two provinces: Mauretania Tingitana and Mauretania Caesariensis that were separated by the river Malua. The emperor even led meaningless campaigns in Germany in order to earn some sense of military glory. During one of these campaigns, Caligula ordered his soldiers to collect sea shells. He brought them back in Rome and exhibited. Modern historians assume that the mission may have been to accept the surrender of the British chieftain Adminius. Moreover, sea shells in Latin translate as “conchae” and it could be a metaphor for something else as female genitalia (for instance, the troops visited brothels) or they could capture several small British boats.
Caligula was emperor during four years and in 41 AD, he was assassinated by members of the Praetorian Guard. Moreover, his wife, Caesonia, and daughter were murdered, so his successor became Claudius, whom he ridiculed for many years.
Caligula (Caligola) is a 1979 Italian-American erotic historical drama movie about the life of emperor Caligula. Watch this amazing film with Malcolm McDowell, Teresa Ann Savoy, Helen Mirren, Peter O’Toole, John Steiner, and John Gielgud. Producer of the film is Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine.
- Nickname Caligula goes from the word “caliga”, which means the little soldier’s boot
- Caligula was considered as noble man and good leader during his first six months of reign
- Later, during his reign he became proclaimed an insane tyrant
- He was deeply interested in cruelty, sexual perversity, and sadism
- There were two important aqueducts constructed during his reign
- Caligula’s first wife died during the childbirth
- Caligula wanted to be worshiped as “Neos Helios”. Coins were minted in Egypt depicting him as the Sun God
- Caligula lavished money on weddings, prostitution and lawsuits and it led to financial crisis of Rome
- He was the first Roman Emperor to be assassinated
- His reign continued for four years, but he is considered as one of the most cruel emperors in Roman history