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Roman Emperor - Caligula

Updated on September 11, 2015

12 AD – 41 AD

Born Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, at Antium (now Anzio, Italy) on 31 August 12 AD.

Caligula was the great-nephew of the emperor Tiberius and the son of Agrippina (the elder) and the Roman general Germanicus. Caligula was also related to Augustus on his mothers side, and Mark Antony on his fathers side.

As a child he spent much time among the legions on the Rhine with his father, wearing a diminutive pair of soldiers' boots (caligae), and was therefore nicknamed Caligula by the troops.

By 37 AD he had won the favor of both Tiberius and the senate. On the death of Tiberius in March of that year, Caligula was made emperor.

Thanks to his liberality and the illustrious reputation of his father, was at first immensely popular governed wisely, modifying some of the worst tyrannies of Tiberius.

Eight months after his accession, however, he was stricken with an illness that undoubtedly affected his mind; for thereafter he behaved as a sanguinary and licentious madman. He outdid his predecessors in savagery and vice, and in the degree of idolatry he demanded for himself.

In the last three years of his reign, Caligula became reckless and cruel. He squandered great sums of money on spectacular building projects, tortured his political enemies, and surrounded himself with the trappings of an Oriental monarch.

His extravagance exhausted Rome, and indeed the whole of Italy; he built a temple to himself as Jupiter Latiaris, and even threatened to erect his own statue in the Holy of Holies at Jerusalem. He is also remembered for giving a consulship to his horse Incitatus.

In AD 39 he led what was no better than a plundering expedition into Gaul; but four months after his return he was assassinated, together with his wife and daughter by a tribune of his own Praetorian Guard in Rome on 24 January, 41 AD. On that same day the Praetorian Guard declared Claudius (Caligula's uncle) emperor in his place.


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