Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was born August 31, 12 AD in Antium, Rome.
His father was Germanicus, a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and a prominent general of the Roman Army.
His mother was Vipsania Agrippina or most commonly known as Agrippina the Elder, a distinguished and prominent relative to the first Roman Emperors.
Gaius was the third son with his older brothers named Nero and Drusus.
The young Gaius earned the nickname Caligula (meaning “little soldier’s boot”, the diminutive form of caliga, hob-nailed military boot) from his father’s soldiers while accompanying him during his campaigns in Germania.
When his father died at Antioch in 19 AD, his mother returned to Rome with her three sons and three daughters where she became entangled in an increasingly bitter feud with Tiberius.
This conflict eventually led to the destruction of her family, with Caligula as the sole male survivor.
Unscathed by the deadly intrigues, Caligula accepted the invitation to join the emperor on the island of Capri in 31 AD, where Tiberius himself had withdrawn five years earlier.
With the death of Tiberius in 37 AD, Caligula succeeded his great uncle and adoptive grandfather.
There are few surviving sources on Caligula’s reign, although he is described as a noble and moderate ruler during the first six months of his rule.
After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and intense sexual perversity, presenting him as an insane tyrant.
While the reliability of these sources has increasingly been called into question, it is known that during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor (as opposed to countervailing powers within the principate).
He directed much of his attention to ambitious construction projects and notoriously luxurious dwellings for himself.
However, he also initiated the construction of two new aqueducts in Rome: the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus.
During his reign, the Empire annexed the Kingdom of Mauretania and made it into a province.
Caligula’s actions as Roman Emperor were described as being especially harsh to the Senate, the nobility and the equestrian order.
According to Josephus, these actions led to several failed conspiracies against Caligula.
The situation escalated when in 40 AD Caligula announced to the Senate that he would be leaving Rome permanently and moving to Alexandria in Egypt, where he hoped to be worshiped as a living god.
The prospect of Rome losing its emperor and thus its political power was the final straw for many.
Such a move would have left both the Senate and the Praetorian Guard powerless to stop Caligula’s repression and debauchery.
Eventually, a murder plot was planned by officers within his own Praetorian Guard led by Cassius Chaerea.
With this in mind Chaerea convinced his fellow conspirators to quickly put their plot into action.
The assassination plot is described as having been planned by three men, but many in the Senate, army and equestrian order were said to have been informed of it and involved in it.
Again, according to Josephus, Chaerea had his own political motivations for an assassination.
Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and for not being firm with tax collection.
Caligula would mock Chaerea with names like “Priapus” and “Venus”.
On January 24, 41 AD, Chaerea and other guardsmen accosted Caligula while he was addressing an acting troupe of young men during a series of games and dramatics held for the Divine Augustus.
Details on the events vary somewhat from source to source, but they agree that Chaerea was the first to stab Caligula, followed by a number of other conspirators.
Suetonius recorded that Caligula’s death was similar to that of Julius Caesar.
He stated that both the elder Gaius Julius Caesar (Julius Caesar) and the younger Gaius Julius Caesar (Caligula) were stabbed 30 times by conspirators led by a man named Cassius (Cassius Longinus and Cassius Chaerea).
The cryptoporticus (underground corridor) where this event would have taken place have been discovered beneath the imperial palaces on the Palatine Hill.
By the time Caligula’s loyal Germanic guard responded, the emperor was already dead.
The Germanic guard, stricken with grief and rage, responded with a rampaging attack on the assassins, conspirators, innocent senators and bystanders alike.
The Senate then attempted to use Caligula’s death as an opportunity to restore the Republic.
Chaerea attempted to convince the military to support the Senate.
The military, though, remained loyal to the office of the emperor.
The grieving Roman people assembled and demanded that Caligula’s murderers be brought to justice.
Uncomfortable with lingering imperial support, the assassins sought out and stabbed Caligula’s wife, Caesonia, and killed their young daughter, Julia Drusilla, by smashing her head against a wall.
They were unable to reach Caligula’s uncle, Claudius, who was spirited out of the city, after being found by a soldier, to the nearby Praetorian camp.
The conspirators’ attempt to use the opportunity to restore the Roman Republic had failed.
Latter that same day, the Praetorian Guard declared Caligula’s uncle Claudius emperor after ordering the execution of Chaerea and any other known conspirators involved in the death of Caligula.
According to Suetonius, Caligula’s body was placed under turf until it was burned and entombed by his sisters.
He was buried within the Mausoleum of Augustus; then in 410 AD during the Sack of Rome the tomb’s ashes were scattered.
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