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The Rise and Fall of Caligula


Caligula was the 3rd Emperor to rule the Roman Empire after it became a monarchy. His birth name was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. He sat on the throne a mere 4 years - from 37 to 41 AD. He was born in Antium, Italy.

His great-great-grandfather was Gaius Octavius. Caligula was thought to be insane for the eccentric actions and decisions he made during his brief rule. Roman historians described his reign as shortsighted and subject to extreme despotism.

Caligula's parents were very famous. His father, Germanicus, was the most revered general in all of Rome at the time. His mother was Agrippina the Elder. Little Gaius became a talisman to the legionnaires in his father's army. The soldiers' mood would lighten up whenever Agrippina would dress Gaius in a miniature soldier's uniform and soon they began calling him "Caligula", meaning "little boots" in Latin. He earned the nickname specifically because of the small boots that were part of his uniform.

His life took a different turn when the old Emperor Gaius Octavius died. It was Emperor Tiberius who ended up on the throne. Caligula's father led an unsuccessful revolt. After it, Caligula's entire family was murdered through Tiberius's clever scheming within the palace. The future emperor himself was adopted by the very murderer of his parents.

After Tiberius's death, it was finally Caligula who took the throne. The 1st few months of his rule were very successful. He came to power amidst general happiness and approval. Caligula was loved and praised by many. The new Emperor gave extensive donations to the Praetorians and the poorest of Roman citizens.


But soon Caligula fell ill, the circumstances unclear. The ancient authors Cassius Dio and Suetonius said that he had a brain fever, while others said he was poisoned or that he suffered from epilepsy or some other brain disease. He would experience frequent bouts of insomnia and nervosa. Eventually he got better physically but not mentally. He began acting inadequately, with hostility and paranoia.

Caligula got into conflicts with the Senate on numerous issues. His madness caused him to kill most of the Senators opposing him. His constant murdering, whims, eccentric ways of having fun and way of life sowed fear and hatred. He acted provocatively toward the peasants as well.

This became the reason for him to quickly lose his support in Rome. The legends go that he wanted to appoint his favorite horse as a Senator. Caligula frequently held orgies in the palace itself. Other scandalous stories included his interbreeding with his sisters.

The insane Emperor wished to be exalted as a god and ordered the peasants to bow before him as such. Due to all of the festivities in the palace, the Emperor quickly bankrupted the national treasury, causing a tax hike. He ordered a tax on prostitution and even opened a whorehouse in the palace itself. He passed a law forcing citizens to give donations in honor of the birth of his 1st daughter.

Hated by all, he was assassinated on January 24, 41 by Cassius Chaerea - a man that once served in his father's army. With the resulting chaos after his murder, to avoid any disputes over the throne, Caligula's daughter and sisters also found their deaths.

Little boots the insane Emperor died at just 28 years of age.