Caligula: Biography, Facts & Achievements

Caligula

Caligula – Rome’s 3rd Emperor

Caligula was a tyrannical ruler who happened to be the 3rd Emperor of the Roman Kingdom. His full name is; Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus. Caligula’s life and tenure on the throne ended abruptly when he was assassinated in 41 AD.

Brief History

Caligula was born in 12 AD, in Italy, to a hero father, Germanicus. Caligula’s mum was Agrippina the Elder (Vipsinia).  But that does not complete the history of his great family Iine. He also had the honor of being Emperor Augustus‘ grandson through his adoptive father Emperor Tiberius.

Augustus was the legal inheritor to the powerful Julius Caesar. Acting together, Caligula’s royal family line helped to push him to the limelight. At 2-4 years-old, Caligula and some of his dad’s soldiers resided at the Rhine.

It was the soldiers who nicknamed him “Caligula”, meaning “little boot”. His other nickname was Bootikins. In 33 AD, Caligula’s brother passed away and he stayed at Caprae with Tiberius’s grandson (Gemellus). When Tiberius kicked the bucket during 37 AD, Caligula engineered a chance and became an emperor. His accession was partly masterminded by a Praetorian (an imperial bodyguard) named Sutorius Macro. They sidelined Gemellus with the imperial position.

There have been controversial accounts regarding Tiberius’s death. A theory suggested that Macro and Caligula were closely linked with the death of Tiberius. They were rumored to have sped up his death by using a pillow to suffocate Tiberius. In Caligula’s tenure, Macro and Gemellus vanished eternally from existence. At that time, Caligula was about 24-years-old. His fame was already inherent in his Augustus and Germanicus’ blood. He was seen as a wise leader of high imperial promise.

Notable Achievements of Caligula

Caligula’s reign was short-lived, but he accomplished a lot, both positively and negatively. In order to be fair to Caligula’s departed soul, we shall try to limit the scope of his achievements to the positive ones. At the same, we won’t leave any details of his wicked acts. The facts section of this page has enough room to handle his negative aspects.

Abolished Some Taxes

When he ascended the throne, Caligula instituted a lot of reforms. Notable among his changes was the eradication of certain taxes. He loved to spend money, but surprisingly, he was able to abolish some unfair taxes implemented by his predecessors. To many Romans, the tax abolishment was good news.

Construction Projects

Caligula took credit for developing Roman infrastructure. In his reign, he supervised many construction projects. He built temples, racetracks, theatres and a lot more. The transportation sector benefited a lot from Caligula’s tenure, as he constructed roads and channels that still beat the imagination of today’s engineers. Caligula also did repair works on walls in the cities.

Expanded the Palace

Caligula loved to live a life of luxury. To serve his personal advantage, he enlarged the royal residence. He built a floating bridge to connect a resort in Baiae to Puteoli port; it was a temporary structure though. Caligula requested and had 2 big ships built for him. At that time, his ships made the list of largest vessels of the time. The interesting part of his self-centered life is the fact that one of the ships was actually a floating palace in disguise.

Arrested Sejanus

Caligula was a master planner whose efforts helped Tiberius to arrest Sejanus (a guard commander). At a point in time during his reign, Tiberius developed a strong dislike for Sejanus and sought to depose him. Caligula stepped in to offer his help, even though he was lower in rank to Sejanus. Caligula enlisted the help of the second commander of the guard (Sutorius Macro). The two influenced Tiberius to write a letter and authorize the removal of Sejanus from office. The letter also issued an arrest warrant on Sejanus. When the arrest was successful, Caligula won the admiration of Tiberius and the Roman people.

Facts about Caligula

Caligula started his reign on a good note, but he ended very badly. The following are some interesting facts about him.

He spent extravagantly

Caligula made a bad name for himself with his lavish spending character. After rising to power, it didn’t take long for him to squander the resources of the empire and plunged Rome into a devastating famine. After emptying the coffers left behind by his predecessor (Tiberius), he started extorting from rich Roman citizens by confiscating their properties. Anyway, he did try to counter the famine by importing Egyptian grain.

He killed a lot of people close to him

After rising to power with support from his close companion (Macro), Caligula betrayed his friend Macro by killing him. As if that wasn’t enough, he also killed his predecessor’s grandson (Tiberius Gemellus). His cruelty all started when he was brought down in 37 AD by an illness. Caligula totally changed his character from a caring leader to a brutal dictator. Contrary to his earlier disapproval of exile, he started to banish people. He basically murdered all close relatives who were threats to his throne.

He committed incest

It may shock you, but yes, Caligula allegedly had an incestuous relationship with his sister. He also committed some adulterous acts with people’s wives. His sexual desires landed him in prostitution acts.

He portrayed himself as a god

Caligula was consumed by pride and animosity. At a point in time, he carried himself as God. He even dressed to appear as such. His religious dogma became more hilarious when he asked for a statue of himself to be built in a Jerusalem temple.

He was murdered in cold blood

Caligula wasn’t a cold-blooded animal, but he was murdered in cold blood. Many of his critics endorsed his murder by saying that Caligula had a cold-blooded character, so his murderer served him right. In January of 41 AD, Caligula was stabbed multiple times while addressing people at a games event. Cassius Chaerea was the killer who stabbed him 30 times. At 29 years of age, Caligula’s tyrannical life and rule were over. Even though he left behind his wife and daughter, they were also killed.

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