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Sunday, 3 November 2013


Caligula was born in Antium (modern day Anzio) on August 31, 12AD. His father, Germanicus Caesar (15BC-19AD), was the stepson and great nephew of Tiberius a Roman general. His mother, Agrippina was a granddaughter of Caesar Augustus and Scribonia. She was considered a model of the perfect Roman woman.

His real name was Gaius Caesar. As a baby, Gaius travelled with his parents among the legions of Rome and when he was two or three years of age,  he became the mascot of his father's army in Germany. The soldiers were amused whenever Agrippina would put a miniature soldier costume on young Gaius, and he was soon given his nickname "Caligula" (or Caligulae), meaning "Little Soldier('s boots)" in Latin, after the small boots he wore as part of his costume.

He hated being called Caligua,, but he also hated the name "Gaius". ("Caligula" is formed from the Latin word "caliga", meaning soldier's boot, and the suffix "ula" indicating inferiority.)

In AD 14, when news of Augustus' death made its way across the Empire, the soldiers of Germanicus's camp almost started a mutiny against Tiberius because they wanted Germanicus as Emperor. Germanicus sent Agrippina and Caligula away from the mess that was soon to brew and tried to calm his men down. The superstitious men became horrified at the prospect of losing their favorite mascot. They promised to amend their ways and so Caligula was returned

In 33AD his mother Agrippina who had been banished to island of Pandatena by Emperor Tiberius committed suicide by starving herself after the loss of two sons.

Caligua was tall with a massive, hairy body, bald head, thin legs and neck.

Emperor Caligula, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. By Louis le Grand - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, $3

Caligua traveled with his wife and parents among the legions of Rome and was widely popular. On March 18, 37AD the senate disinherited his cousin Gernellus and appointed Caligua as emperor.

On becoming Emperor, Caligula performed a spectacular stunt. He ordered a temporary floating bridge to be built using ships as pontoons, stretching for over two miles from the resort of Baiae to the neighbouring port of Puteoli. He then proceeded to ride his horse across, wearing the breastplate of Alexander the Great. This act was in defiance of an astrologer's prediction that he had "no more chance of becoming Emperor than of riding a horse across the Gulf of Baiae".

Caligua went prematurely bald and was so sensitive about his lack of hair that he made it a capital crime for anyone to look down from a high place as he passed by.

Caligua had his mind weakened by a serious illness, allegedly caused by his depraved lifestyle. The illness was possibly encephalitis combined with the toxic effect of lead poisoning on his nervous system.

He decided that he was the reincarnation of Jupiter, so Caligua grew a long tangled beard like the King of the Gods.

Because he thought he was the reincarnation of Jupiter Caligua threw jagged pieces of iron at unfortunate passers by. (He was unable to hurl thunderbolts like his predecessor.)

In his first year as emperor, Caligua either banished or murdered most of his rivals. After that had rivals sawn in half, fed criminals to cattle and murdered people for trivial reasons.

A marble bust of Caligula restored to its original colours

Caligua's favorite horse, Incitatus, was housed in a marble stall and had a gold drinking goblet, furniture and slaves. Caligua even threw parties at which Incitatus was host.  Later on he appointed his horse as a Roman consul.

He loved gladiatorial games. Caligua once entered the arena as a gladiator and whilst his opponents had wooden swords, he had a real one. He also staged a large scale battle pitting 400 bears against large dogs and gladiators and liked to watch fights between cripples or dwarfs.

Caligua never learnt to swim.

An early alchemist, Caligua instituted experiments for producing gold from orpiment (a sullfide of arsenic.)

When he heard of the imageless worship of the Temple of Jerusalem, Caligua decided to set up his own life sized statue in the Holy Place. His advisors besought him not to so fearing a bloody civil war but Caligua would not budge. Fortunately he died before he could carry out his plan of desecration.

On one occasion, Caligua ordered one of his troops of highly trained Roman soldiers to collect shells on a beach.

Caligua was so upset by death of his sister Drusila that he imposed a year of mourning. During this time everyone in the empire was forbidden to dine with his family laugh, or take a bath. The penalty for transgression was death.

He had a boat on Lake Nemi, which he used for every sensual pleasure. Inside were baths, dining rooms, vines and fruit bearing trees.

Caligua was assassinated on January 24, 41AD when one of his guards ran a sword through his midriff while another murdered his wife and dashed out the brains of his baby daughter against a wall.

As Caligua was being transported to his burial ground in his hearse he was succeeded by his Uncle Claudius.

Source  Book of Lists

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