Upon the death of Tiberius in 37 C.E., the new Roman Emperor became Caligula. He reigned from 37 C.E. until his death in 41 C.E. Caligula was the third Roman Emperor and the third emperor from the Julio-Claudian Dynasty.
At first, Caligula was seen as a good emperor. But after a short stint, he changed his attitude toward the people of Rome. He looted the Roman Empire for his own pleasures and is seen today as a cruel despot. He was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard and Roman Senators after four years of ruling the Roman Empire.
Caligula was born Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus in 12 C.E. He was the child of Germanicus, well known Roman general under Augustus. His mother, Agrippina the Elder, was the granddaughter of Augustus. He was one of seven children.
Caligula received his nickname as a young child while accompanying his father on a military campaign against Germania. While on a campaign he was dressed in a miniature soldier’s uniform complete with boots and armor. His nickname translates from Latin to Little Boots.
After the suspicious death of his father, Germanicus, he lived with his mother. Unfortunately, his mother, Agrippina, had terrible relations with Tiberius, the current Roman Emperor. When he was a teenager, the family was sent into exile by Tiberius.
During his adolescent years, Caligula was raised with his three sisters by his great-grandmother Livia, the widow of Augustus. When Livia died in 27 C.E., he was then raised by his grandmother Antonia Minor.
Time on Capri
Even though Tiberius was the Roman Emperor, he did not spend much time in the city of Rome. Tiberius had left those duties to Sejanus, who started to purge enemies within the city and the Roman Senate.
Caligula was careful, though. He realized the danger of Sejanus and the treason trials. His mother, Agrippina, was once again exiled by Tiberius.
She would die of hunger while in jail. Sejanus then went after Caligula’s brothers and killed them. Before Sejanus could kill Caligula, Tiberius returned to the city of Rome and executed Sejanus.
After disposing of Sejanus, Tiberius decided to raise Caligula on the island of Capri. While on the island of Capri, Caligula was influenced by Tiberius. Caligula knew how to keep Tiberius happy and soon showed good administrational skills.
These skills helped him win over Tiberius. On Capri, Caligula liked to indulge in several weird things like torturing slaves, and he liked to watch gladiatorial games that were a blood bath. In 33 C.E., Caligula was granted the post of quaestor from Tiberius.
When Tiberius died in 37 C.E., there were two heirs to the throne, Tiberius’ grandson named Tiberius Gemellus and Caligula. Gemellus was younger and inexperienced. Caligula found killing Gemellus was quite easy, and Caligula was anointed the new Roman Emperor.
At first, Caligula was an honorable emperor. He cut taxes for the poor, allowed exiled people and families back to Rome, stopped all treason trials started by Tiberius, and he gave the Praetorian Guards a cash bonus.
The Roman people liked the first few months of Caligula’s rule. The Roman people liked that he was the son of Germanicus, a descendant of Augustus and Julius Caesar. He was also the great-grandson of Marc Antony. The Romans truly liked Caligula’s programs and heritage.
Unfortunately, Caligula suffered an illness too in 37 C.E. He suffered from Brain Fever or epilepsy. Some believe he suffered a nervous breakdown because of the constant need to be in the public eye. Historians do not know whether Caligula became insane or not at this time.
But there are numerous accounts of Caligula being crazy. For instance, he loved his horse named Incitatus. Caligula actually wanted to make his horse a consul. Caligula was also promiscuous.
He made a brothel in the palace that featured the wives of prominent Roman Senators. In another unusual action, while on campaign to conquer Britain, he had his soldiers gather seashells as booty to take back to Rome.
After his illness, Caligula became more convinced that he was a living deity. He removed the heads off of statues and replaced them with a bust of himself. He also feuded with Jerusalem.
The last three years of his reign were difficult. Although he started many construction projects, he was not kind to the people. He started raising taxes again and spending money on his personal life. He threw bloody gladiatorial games for the people, but Caligula also started treason trials once again.
In 41 C.E., the Praetorian Guard had had enough. A colonel in the Praetorian Guard named Cassius Chaerea assassinated Caligula. Caligula died at the young age of 28 years old. His uncle Claudius was anointed the new Roman Emperor by the Praetorian Guard.
Important facts about Caligula
- Caligula was born Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus in 12 C.E. He was the son of the famous Roman general Germanicus. His mother, Agrippina the Elder, was the granddaughter of Augustus.
- He received the nickname of Caligula as a child while on a military campaign with his father, Germanicus. During the military campaign, Caligula would dress in a miniature Roman uniform that was complete with boots and armor. The Latin word Caligula translates to Little Boots.
- After Tiberius’ death in 37 C.E., Caligula became the third Roman Emperor of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty.
- The first few months of Caligula’s reign were good for Rome. He cut taxes for the poor, started construction projects, allowed the return of exiled people and families to Rome, and he stopped all treason trials that had begun under Tiberius.
- He suffered an illness in his first year as Roman Emperor. Historians do not know if the illness was a nervous breakdown, Brain Fever, or epilepsy.
- The last three years of his reign were not good for the Roman people. He spent money lavishly on himself and parties. Caligula seemed crazy when he wanted to make his beloved horse named Incitatus a consul.
- He was assassinated by his own Praetorian Guards in 41 C.E.
What family dynasty of Rome was Caligula from?
Who was his mother’s grandfather?
What was the first official Roman office that Caligula held?
What does Caligula mean in Latin?
What Roman office did Caligula want to give to his horse named Incitatus?