Gaius Iulius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also known by his agnomen (August 31, 12, Antioch – January 24, 41, Rome) – the Roman emperor (also – Grand Pontifex Maximus (Lat. Pontifex Maximus), tribune (lat. Tribuniciae potestatis), Father of the Fatherland (lat. Pater patriae) (from 38), four times consul (37, 39-41).

Caligula was the third son of the early dead Germanicus, a famous general and potential heir to Tiberius. Caligula”s older brothers fell victim to intrigues at the imperial court, which he survived because of his youth and the protection of influential relatives. After Tiberius”s death he became emperor with the support of the praetorian prefect Macron and began his reign by reversing the repressive and unpopular measures of his predecessor. His subsequent policies were characterized by increasing self-rule and confrontation with the senate, which turned a large part of the Roman nobility against him. He substantially increased expenses of state and imperial treasury by organizing large-scale construction and rich performances, thus acquiring a reputation of a profligate. In less than four years of his reign, Caligula annexed Muretania, personally conducted maneuvers in Germany, and planned an invasion of Britain. He was assassinated by his closest associates in a palace coup. By his rule Caligula was remembered by contemporaries and descendants as a cruel and voluptuous tyrant madman, although modern historiography attempts to move away from biased assessments of antique authors.

Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus was born on August 31, 12 to Germanicus, grandson of the first emperor Octavian Augustus, and Agrippina the Elder, Octavian”s own granddaughter. Germanicus” father Drususus the Elder was Octavian”s adopted son; Germanicus was a nephew to the future Emperor Tiberius, but at Octavian”s insistence Tiberius adopted him. Gaius was the sixth son in the family, and after him Agrippina gave birth to three more daughters. Three of his brothers died in infancy, one of whom was also named Gaius. The place of his birth was probably the spa town of Ancius, although the emperor”s contemporaries sometimes spoke of his birth in Tibur and in Germany (in the vicinity of modern Coblenz).

The birth of the future emperor occurred during his father”s consulship, when he returned to the capital from the German army for a year. He spent the first two years of his life in or near Rome, and on May 18, 14, he was sent north to his father – as contemporary Caligula biographer Anthony Barrett suggests, to the military camp Oppidum Ubiorum (modern Cologne). Here Gaius often dressed up in the clothes of a legionary (probably on his mother”s initiative), because of which the soldiers coined the nickname “Caligula” (lat. Caligula, diminutive of caliga, “soldier”s boot”) for him. Despite the popularity of the nickname, the emperor himself disliked it very much. Suetonius, Caligula”s antique biographer and the most important source of information about him, asserts that the boy”s imitation of soldiers” clothing made him popular with the rank and file of legionnaires.

After Octavian”s death (August 19, 14) a rebellion broke out in the legions on the Rhine, during which, according to various versions, Agrippina and her child were taken hostage or forced to flee the camp. After the suppression of the rebellion, Germanicus launched an attack on the right bank of the Rhine, which was quite successful, despite occasional setbacks. However, he did not have time to develop his success, because in 17 the commander returned to Rome with his family at the insistence of Tiberius to celebrate the triumph, which took place on May 26.

Soon after his return, Tiberius sent Germanicus to the East on an important diplomatic mission. Germanicus took Agrippina and Caligula with him on a journey that lasted about two years. The little Caligula is known to make a public appearance at Assos in Asia. On October 10, 19, Germanicus fell unexpectedly ill and died in Syria, with the insistence in his final hours that he had been poisoned by the governor of Syria, Gnaeus Calpurnius Pison, and his wife Munazia Plancina. Pison may have acted on Tiberius” orders, though there is no evidence of this. The good memory of Germanicus among the people of the Roman Empire did a great service to Caligula in his ascendancy and in the early years of his reign.

Germanicus was cremated in Antioch, and the following year Agrippina brought his ashes to Rome accompanied by his children. As the widow of a popular general, she was universally sympathetic, which may have displeased Tiberius. At his initiative, Germanicus”s death became the subject of a trial, but the trial was not completed because of Pison”s suicide.

In the early Roman Empire there were no strict rules of succession to power, but it was thought that the heirs of the aged Tiberius would be his son Drusus the Younger, Agrippina”s eldest son Nero Germanicus, or the middle son Drus Germanicus. Germanicus” younger brother Claudius was not considered, but solely because of his reputation for feeble-mindedness. In 23, the prefect of the Praetorian Guard, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, who had designs on power, incited Drususus the Younger”s wife, Livilla, to poison her husband, and he died in September. Using Agrippina”s hatred of Tiberius (she blamed him for her husband”s death), Sejanus tried to turn the emperor against Hermannicus” older children, but did not succeed until 29, when Agrippina and Nero Hermannicus were exiled to the Ponzian Islands by order of the emperor. Soon Sejanus obtained the imprisonment under the Palatine Palace and Drususus Germanicus, whom he had earlier used in the struggle against his elder brother and mother. By his actions, Sejanus indirectly contributed to Caligula”s ascendancy, although there is speculation that the minion Tiberius intended to eventually massacre him as well. Caligula was spared from Sejanus” persecution because of his age and also because in the height of Agrippina”s and Sejanus” struggle his great-grandmother Livia, widow of Octavian and mother of Tiberius, undertook to protect him. The future emperor spent several years in her house and probably became attached to her, although Suetonius mentions an outburst against her background. After Livia”s death in 29, Caligula gave a speech at her funeral. He soon moved into the house of his grandmother Antonia the Younger, daughter of Mark Antony. Apparently, in her house, Caligula met several of his peers from the Eastern ruling dynasties and Decimus Valerius Asiaticus. Along with Caligula, Antonia sheltered at least one of Caligula”s sisters, Drusilla.

Antonia, through confidants, informed Tiberius, who had settled on the island of Capri, that Sejanus was planning to eliminate the emperor himself, which might have contributed to the fall of the prefect. In 31, Tiberius summoned Caligula to Capri – perhaps wishing to secure a potential successor and intending to supervise his upbringing. On the island, Caligula underwent an initiation ceremony and donned an adult toga – it is assumed that the delay in officially entering adulthood was the emperor”s initiative. Tiberius soon disbanded Sejanus, and the new prefect of the Praetorian Guard was Macron, who was also eager for power. Despite Tiberius” reluctance to return Caligula”s mother and older sisters from exile, the emperor had no negative feelings toward him himself; on the contrary, he supported him in every way possible. Realizing that the emperor saw Caligula as a likely successor, Macron sought his favor. Macron chose his wife, Ennia, as an instrument of influence over Caligula. The execution of Sejanus allowed many of Germanicus” friends and supporters who later supported Caligula to return to politics.

In Capri, Caligula continued the education begun by his highly educated father and continued in Rome. Tiberius greatly valued a good education, and Caligula studied hard to please his grandfather. The author of an apologetic biography of Caligula, Hugo Wilrich, suggested that Tiberius planned to raise Caligula as a constitutional monarch, but his efforts may have been thwarted by Julius (Herod) Agrippa, who befriended the future emperor during this period. The future emperor, however, had a desire for knowledge as well as cruelty and voluptuousness in Tiberius himself.

Because of his disposition toward Caligula, Tiberius promoted his political career by making him quaestor in 33 and promising to nominate him to other offices five years earlier than the laws required. Some honors were accorded him in the provinces – Tarraconian Spain, Africa, and Narbonic Gaul. In parallel with these honors to Caligula, Tiberius ordered Drusus Germanicus to be starved to death, and soon Agrippina committed suicide (in the latter case the guilt of Tiberius was already doubted by ancient authors). As a result of a series of deaths orchestrated by Sejanus and Tiberius, Caligula and the minor Tiberius Gemellus, son of Drusus the Younger, became the main candidates to succeed Tiberius; Claudius was still not considered seriously.

The emperor hesitated for a long time to choose a successor. Antique authors claim that Tiberius discerned Caligula”s vices, incompatible with absolute power, which influenced his indecision in choosing an heir. Philo of Alexandria gives a version as if Tiberius was preparing to kill Caligula, but was dissuaded by Macron. As a result, in the year 35, the emperor made a will in which he designated Caligula and Gemellus as heirs in equal shares, which effectively meant a desire to divide power equally between them. Since it is unclear whether his cronies knew the contents of Tiberius” will, it is assumed that it was not reliably known before his death. Tiberius” decision is considered unusual, but it has been assumed that the emperor deliberately created the crisis. In particular, it has been suggested that by his unusual decision Tiberius wished to absolve himself of responsibility for choosing the next ruler, because he was confident that Caligula would take power after his death anyway. The mention of Gemellus may also have been due to the emperor”s desire to protect him from his cousin. The opposite is also possible: as if Tiberius, who had become superstitious towards the end of his life, ceased to fear Caligula because of the advice of the court astrologer. Despite the appointment of successors, the emperor did not nominate them to high positions – apparently, fearing their elevation while he was still alive. Fear of the heirs was also due to their stay in Capri, although Caligula probably visited Rome from time to time.

Coming to Power

In March 37, the 77-year-old Tiberius fell ill. When his physician Charicles informed Macron of the ruler”s imminent death, the prefect immediately dispatched his men to all the legion commanders and provincial governors in the empire so that upon receiving the news of the ruler”s death they would immediately swear an oath to Caligula. Macron himself enlisted the support of the most influential Romans for Caligula. Suetonius, Dio Cassius, and Tacitus accuse Caligula and Macron of murdering the seriously ill Tiberius. However, the versions they report are very divergent (poisoning, strangulation, and starving to death are mentioned as methods of murder), and Seneca and Philo speak of the natural death of the ruler, causing Anthony Barrett to doubt the fact of the murder. There is speculation that on March 17 Tiberius planned to perform an initiation rite for Gemellus and present him as heir; the very fortunate death of Tiberius the day before for Caligula may have fueled rumors that Caligula and Macron were involved.

Already on the day of Tiberius” death the navy and land forces in the harbor of Mizen swore an oath to the new ruler. On March 18, the senators assembled for an emergency meeting and also swore an oath to him. As news of the ruler”s death was received and Macron”s letters sent in advance, Caligula was sworn in by the viceroys and commanders of the troops on the frontiers of the empire. The proclamation of Caligula as emperor in the decree of the Senate did not yet give him any special powers: in the republican era this title denoted a victorious commander, but already in the reign of Tiberius the term “emperor” began to turn into a monarchical title. Without waiting for Caligula”s arrival in the capital, the Senate, at Macron”s initiative, declared Tiberius” will invalid and gave Caligula the entire inheritance of the dead ruler. The vote went smoothly thanks to Macron”s preparations. At the same time, Caligula promised to distribute money to the Romans and soldiers under the annulled will. The legal aspects of the transfer of the inheritance to Caligula are not clear from the sources. The lack of a will usually led to the division of the inheritance among all the children of the deceased, but the Senate was probably guided by other considerations, transferring all Tiberius” property to one heir, the new emperor.

Caligula did not rush to Rome, but probably followed a prearranged scenario – for almost two weeks he drove Tiberius” body to the capital along the Appian Way, in which a similarity to the procession that brought Octavian Augustus” body to Rome is found. On March 28, he arrived in Rome and met with the Senate, which formally conferred key titles and powers on the new ruler – Augustus, the power of tribune (tribunicia potestas), the extended proconsular power (imperium), and others. The title of great pontiff (Pontifex Maximus) was probably not immediately adopted by Caligula, nor was the title of “father of the fatherland” (pater patriae). Contrary to custom, non-senators were also present, so that the emperor received power with the formal approval of the “three estates” (senators, horsemen and people). Caligula behaved very politely and delicately, trying to show his deference to the senate and senators, so that he was able to win their trust. Capital plebs, inhabitants of Italy and provinces expressed their loyalty to the new emperor. A slight difference was observed only in the reasons for the hope of a successful reign of the new emperor: the inhabitants of Rome did not like Tiberius for his cruelty and stinginess in entertainment, and in the provinces hoped that under his successor the prosperity of the empire would continue.

At the beginning of his reign Gaius acted as a pious and moderate ruler. Unexpectedly for the public, he sailed in bad weather to the Ponzian islands, to the places of exile of his mother Agrippina and Nero”s brother Germanicus. He transported their ashes to Rome and buried them with all honors in the mausoleum of Augustus. The remains of Drusus Germanicus could not be found, and Caligula erected a cenotaph. To coincide with the burial of the relatives, a coin was issued with images of both brothers. In a peaceful way, Caligula took control of Gemelles” claim to power: the emperor adopted him, gave him the loud but meaningless title of “princeps iuventutis” (princeps of youth) and included him into the priestly college of the Arval brothers. In this step one sees not only the desire to appease Gemelles” supporters, but at the same time to discredit his pretensions by emphasizing his youth, and to subordinate the parental authority, which was very strict in Rome. In addition, Caligula expected to rule for a long time and therefore could have seen this adoption as a tactical move. The emperor even asked the senate to deify Tiberius, as Octavian Augustus had previously been recognized as a god, but he accepted the senators” refusal. On April 3 he gave a funeral speech at Tiberius” funeral, in which he paid more attention to Augustus and Germanicus than to the deceased.

Domestic policy at the beginning of the reign of

At the beginning of his reign the new emperor treated the senate very moderately, emphasizing in every possible way his respect for the senators and his desire to cooperate with them. The new emperor”s lack of authority affected the softness of the beginning of his reign: as a newcomer to state life, he had to pursue a liberal policy aimed at gaining popularity with the senate and the people.

Unlike his predecessors, Caligula was consul almost every year – in years 37, 39, 40 and 41. Although this was a departure from the unwritten tradition of bipartisanship (the coexistence and co-ruling of the emperor and the senate) established by Octavian Augustus, Caligula had reasons for doing so. Before taking the imperial throne he was a private man and held only minor public offices, so his authority (lat. auctoritas) in politics was negligible. The regular exercise of the office of consul may have helped him to increase his authority and made the senate forget his youth and inexperience.

At the beginning of his reign, Caligula repealed Octavian Augustus” law of insult to majesty (lex maiestatis), which Tiberius used to fight real and imaginary opponents. The new emperor had personal reasons for repealing this highly unpopular law, since its selective application by Tiberius led to the exile and, subsequently, the death of Caligula”s mother and brothers. A full amnesty and rehabilitation of all offenses against greatness was granted, and all who had been convicted and exiled from Rome were allowed to return to the capital. Caligula did not prosecute the informers and prosecution witnesses in these cases, for which he publicly burned in the Forum all the documents relating to these trials (which were kept by Tiberius) and also swore that he had not read them. However, Dion Cassius wrote that Caligula kept the originals and burned the copies, and modern scholars share the ancient historian”s skepticism.

Caligula made several orders concerning the Senate. The emperor enshrined the traditional order of statements when voting in the senate, which had been changed by Tiberius. The reasons for this reform are unclear. The point of view of Dion Cassius, who believed that Caligula wanted to take away the right of the first vote from his father-in-law Marcus Junius Silanus, is not supported. After this reform, Caligula himself began to speak last in the debates, and the senators could no longer be accommodating, limiting themselves to simply supporting the emperor”s opinion. Claudius was among the last to speak, and Suetonius saw this position as a consequence of the emperor”s personal dislike. Caligula also made the senators swear an annual oath. The purpose of this measure is unclear, and it is supposed that Caligula thus reminded the senators of his supremacy. A private measure designed to show everyone the new emperor”s concern for the senators was to allow them to take pads with them to circus spectacles so that they would not sit on bare benches.

The liberalization of domestic politics at the beginning of Caligula”s reign also affected other areas of public life – he generally reversed the repressive measures taken by Tiberius. The writings of Titus Labienus, Cremucius Cordus and Cassius Severus, which had been banned by Tiberius, were not only permitted, but were also supported by the emperor in copying and distributing the few surviving copies. Caligula permitted the activities of the guilds (non-political associations of Roman citizens), which had been forbidden by his predecessor. The guilds were subsequently closed again by Claudius. Finally, the new emperor brought back another detail of public life that had been abolished by Tiberius, once again beginning to publish reports on the state of the empire and the progress of public affairs. In this case, too, Claudius returned to the practice adopted under Tiberius.

Early in his reign, Caligula renamed the month of September of the Julian calendar “Germanicus” in honor of his father. Because of the lack of evidence for the renaming of the month, it is assumed that it was an unrealized proposal, which Suetonius considered fait accompli. In addition, in the Egyptian calendar, the month faofi (roughly equivalent to October) was renamed soter (Greek σωτήρ – savior, protector) in honor of Caligula. The two innovations did not take hold.

The Crisis of ”37 and Subsequent Domestic Politics

At the end of September – October 37, Caligula suddenly fell ill, but sources do not report anything about the nature of his acute illness. People in Rome and the provinces hoped for the emperor”s speedy recovery and made sacrifices for his health. Suetonius mentions that many people vowed to give their lives or fight in the arena for his recovery. These vows reveal parallels with similar statements made by Romans during the reign of Octavian Augustus, whose frequent ailments (Augustus himself is assumed to have spread rumors of illness) provoked an emotional response from the empire”s inhabitants. Caligula soon recovered, but, unlike Octavian, he insisted that vows be taken for at least some of those who had sworn.

Antique authors unanimously attribute the illness to a change in Caligula”s behavior and, consequently, in his politics after 37; this view is shared by some modern scholars as well. Shortly after his recovery, Caligula accused Gemellus of using an antidote – allegedly fearing that Caligula would poison him. He was accused of praying for the speedy death of the ruler during Caligula”s illness and was forced to stab himself. Suetonius notes, however, that Gemellus was troubled by a violent cough (he may have been suffering from tuberculosis. John Bolsdon admits that Gemell, as the first successor, may indeed have been involved in some conspiracy against the emperor, Anthony Barrett does not exclude such a possibility, but Arter Ferrill emphasizes that there is no evidence of the reality of the plot in the sources. Soon Silan was forced to commit suicide for unclear reasons (he slit his throat with a razor). The basis for the accusation could be Silanus” unwillingness to accompany the emperor on the voyage to the Ponzian islands in stormy weather (Suetonius explains it by his severe sea sickness) – supposedly he hoped to become emperor in case Caligula died in the troubled sea.

On June 10, 38, Drusilla, Caligula”s beloved sister, died. The emperor was disturbed by her death and established state mourning. The Senate established posthumous honors for her, much like those received by Livia, the wife of Octavian Augustus. The main difference was her official deification (September 23 of that year), and she became the first woman to be counted among the gods of the Roman pantheon. Drusilla was not dedicated a temple of her own, but this was only because she was venerated as part of the cult of Venus, the patron goddess of the Julii family. In the temple of Venus a statue similar in size to the image of the goddess herself was erected to her.

In 38 Caligula returned to the people the right to elect some magistrates, which Tiberius transferred to the Senate (the people”s assembly retained the purely ceremonial function of formally approving appointments made). It is supposed that the competition between the candidates for high positions may have been conceived by the emperor as an incentive for the candidates to hold various spectacular events. The competition between them could shift part of the cost of organizing games and performances from the treasury to private individuals. However, the practical value of this measure was not great, since the emperor retained the right to nominate candidates and vouch for the candidates for positions. As a result, the practice of distributing seats, in which all candidates for magistrates in the necessary number were approved in advance, continued to operate. The return to the traditional order of elections did not enjoy the support of the senators, who were used to managing the approval of magistrates and therefore sabotaged the reform. The popular vote did not take root under the new conditions, and already in 40 Caligula returned to the system of approving magistrates in the Senate. In addition to the lack of real competition, Dio Cassius saw the reason for the failure of this reform as the changed psychology of the Romans, who were unused to real elections or had never participated in them, and therefore did not take them seriously:

The final abolition of the election of magistrates is seen as the political flexibility of the emperor, who was not afraid to undo his failed reform.

The unpredictable actions of the emperor and the fear of his cronies to anger him led to a constitutional crisis: for 12 days the senate was completely paralyzed. In the autumn of ”39, the emperor, whose appointment as consul for the following year had already been agreed upon, left for Germany (see “Journey to Gaul and Germany (39-40)”). On December 31, however, his colleague on the consulship died unexpectedly, and there was no bearer of supreme magisterial power in Rome in the new year, since Caligula was wintering at Lugdunum (modern Lyon). As a result, on January 1, the spontaneously assembled senators swore allegiance to the empty throne, and the following days prayed for the health of the emperor, since traditionally the consul convened the sessions of the Senate. The praetors could have taken over for the absent consul, but they were unwilling to take the initiative. Daniel Noni describes the situation as a “paralysis of state institutions”. It was not until January 12 that the official news arrived in Rome that the emperor had resigned his consulship, and the consuls-supremacists took up their posts. Although already in antiquity there was an opinion that the consulship without a colleague was set up by Caligula himself, Suetonius and Dio Cassius, who had no sympathy for him, agree that this crisis arose accidentally because of the unexpected death of the second consul.

One of the most famous stories related to Caligula”s activities are those of Suetonius and Dion Cassius about Caligula”s desire to make consul of his favorite horse, Incitatus, which are usually taken literally. In 1934, John Bolsdon questioned the veracity of the whole story. In 1989, Anthony Barrett suggested that the Incitatus stories popular in Rome originated from the many witticisms of Caligula himself, but he did not develop this idea. This view is shared, for example, by Alois Winterling, who believes that Incitatus” emphatically luxurious lifestyle and desire to make him consul were intended to mock the avarice of senators; in addition, Caligula demonstrated by his words that anyone could be made consul. In 2014, David Woods analyzed this story in a special article and concluded that it was taken out of context and came from an imperial joke based on a typical Roman wordplay. The joke could refer to two people because of the association of the word combination “equus Incitatus” (equus Incitatus, literally “fast horse”) with their names. The recipient of the quip could have been the future emperor Claudius, whose name is derived from the adjective claudus (lame, crippled), or the consul-supreme of 38, Asinius Celer, whose name comes from asinus (donkey) and together with the cognomen Celer (quick) is consonant with the phrase “quick donkey”.

Supposedly in the year 39 Caligula ordered to build a floating bridge across the Bay of Naples and rode over it in a chariot, dressed in the breastplate of Alexander the Great and a purple cloak, comparing himself with Xerxes and Darius III. The purpose of building the bridge could have been both to impress and intimidate the representatives of Parthia and Germanic tribes and an attempt to disprove the words of Tiberius” personal astrologer who said that “Gaius would sooner ride his horses through the Bay of Bai than be an emperor”.

Journey to Gaul and Germany (39-40)

In the first days of September 39, Caligula suddenly replaced the consuls and marched to the Rhine. Suetonius described the Germanic campaign as the result of a spontaneous impulse. John Bolsdon suggested that Caligula had long made plans for the final conquest of Germany and the invasion of Britain, and linked the sudden departure with reports of a plot on the Rhine border, one of whose leaders was the popular military commander of the Upper German military district, Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Getulicus. Wanting to take the conspirators by surprise, Caligula headed north unexpectedly and, having covered nearly a thousand Roman miles (nearly 1,500 km) in about 40 days, immediately upon arrival massacred Getulicus, Lepidus and his sisters. Wanting to conceal the preparations, Caligula pretended to be dissatisfied with the modest celebration of his birthday and the excessive pomp of the anniversary of the Actium, and therefore deposed two consuls, appointing loyal supporters in their place. Knowing of the sisters” participation in the conspiracy, he ordered them to go with him. News of the conspiracy also explains the emperor”s journey accompanied by the Praetorian Guard.

Having appointed loyal men to command troops in Upper and Lower Germany and strengthened discipline in an army that had not been involved in major wars for a long time (see “Germany”), Caligula went to Lugdunum (modern Lyon), the center of Lugdun Gaul and the most important city in Gaul, in late fall and early December of ”39. Here he spent several months, during which large-scale gladiatorial fights, animal travesties, chariot races and theatrical performances were staged in the city in the manner of the capital. Under the auspices of the emperor in the city were held competitions of rhetors. Their peculiarity consisted in the fact that the losers, according to Suetonius, “had to pay rewards to the winners and compose praises in their honor; and those who were least favored were commanded to wash their writings with sponge or tongue, unless they wanted to be flogged or redeemed in the nearest river. Mikhail Gasparov believes that the memory of these contests was still long preserved in Rome and may be found in Juvenal (“…and he turns pale, <…> as if he were forced to speak before the altar of the Lugudun”. The strange punishments for the defeated are sometimes interpreted not as another manifestation of the ruler”s madness, but as a native Gallic tradition. At Lugdunum the emperor organized large-scale auctions to sell the property of his conspiratorial sisters, raising enormous sums of money.

At Mogontiac (modern Mainz) and then at Lugdunum the emperor, surrounded by administrative staff and servants, received embassies and delegations from all over the Roman Empire, including two special embassies from the Senate that arrived after receiving news of the discovery of the plot. There was a lively correspondence between him and the institutions of the capital, and thereby Caligula continued to perform the duties of emperor. Daniel Noni suggests that it was at Lugdunum that the emperor”s wife Caesonia gave birth to Caligula”s only child, Julia Drusilla. Alois Winterling, however, believes that Caesonia remained in Rome as a confidant of the emperor.

The wintering at Lugdunum, despite some controversial actions of the emperor, is assessed positively. The emperor”s visit to Gaul, the holding of auctions, games and contests, and his support of the Gauls in their desire to enter the class of horsemen strengthened the loyalty of this recently rebellious province. It is also known that he promised the rights of Roman citizenship to the inhabitants of certain cities. The policy of patronage of the Gauls begun by Caligula was continued by Claudius.

After wintering at Lugdunum, the emperor went north to the Pas de Calais, where the Romans were preparing to land in Britain, but for unclear reasons abandoned it (see “Preparing the Invasion of Britain”). The emperor then returned to Rome. According to various versions, this happened in May. The slow return to Rome can be explained not only by the fear of conspiracies, but also by the desire to wait out the summer months: it was believed that the climate in Rome during these months was unhealthy.

Activities after his return from Gaul (40)

After the conspiracy of Lepidus and Getulicus was exposed, the emperor completed a change of entourage, in which no representative of the Roman nobility now remained. The main advisers of Caligula during this period were the Greek freedmen Callistus and Protogenes, the Egyptian slave Helicon, his fourth wife Caesonia, and two prefects of the praetorium (the name of one of them was Marcus Arrecinus Clementus, the name of the other is unknown. Callistus” rise was probably due to his assistance in uncovering Lepidus” plot. He used the influence he gained to make his friend Domitius Aphrus consul, and soon added wealth to his political influence. The circumstances of the elevation of Protogenes, to whom Dion Cassius gave this characteristic, “assistant to Gaius in all the darkest matters,” are unknown. He compiled two books for the emperor – The Sword and The Dagger. It is supposed that these books collected information about the conduct of all senators with recommended punishments for each. Helicon was the emperor”s personal servant. He accompanied the emperor everywhere and probably also served as a personal bodyguard. Using the emperor”s trust, he gave him advice, controlled the access of petitioners to him and used his position to take bribes. Caesonia was also very influential with the emperor.

In the fall of ”40 a new conspiracy led by four senators, Betilien Bassus, Sextus Papinius, and Anicius Cerialis, father and son, was uncovered. Dion Cassius and Seneca report the torture of the conspirators and their relatives and the executions that followed. According to Dio Cassius, Caligula forced Capiton, father of the conspirator Betilien Bassus, to watch his execution. When Capiton asked permission to close his eyes, the emperor ordered his execution as well. However, Capiton managed to stir up discord in Caligula”s entourage by naming among the conspirators not only the actual participants, but also Callistus, Caesonia, and two prefects of the praetorium before his execution. Under the influence of his words, according to Dion Cassius, Caligula did not trust prefects and Calliste any more, and this influenced the formation of a new conspiracy in the nearest circle of the emperor; only in the participation of Cesonia he did not believe. Antique authors tell us that Caligula invited them into an empty room and offered to kill himself while they were alone and he was unarmed; the reality of this episode is questioned.

Antique authors claimed that Caligula personally supervised torture, which was often carried out in his chambers during feasts. The torture was not always followed by execution: for example, when the actress Quintilius, known for her beauty, did not testify against her lover and patron (various authors call him Pompedius, Pomponius and Pompey), Caligula acquitted him and paid her a generous compensation.

This is also the time of the massacre of the senator Scribonius Proclus, whom Caligula wanted to execute unexpectedly and in public (probably because of his participation in a conspiracy). Dion Cassius tells us that Proctogenes, upon entering the Senate, reproached Scribonius for malice against the emperor, and the other senators torn him to pieces. Suetonius, on the other hand, claims that Scribonius must have been stabbed to death with slates by men bribed by the emperor at the entrance to the senate. According to Anthony Barrett, Protogenes” rebuke of Scribonius was a tentative signal for the planned massacre. Daniel Noni believes that in fact several senators abused the corpse of the already executed Scribonius, which the emperor had displayed. John Bolsdon does not see Caligula”s responsibility for this episode at all.

Soon the emperor declared his desire to re-establish relations with the senators, which the latter received with great enthusiasm: they instituted new celebrations in his honor, gave him a place in the Curia on a hill and allowed him to be guarded there by armed bodyguards. In addition to Caligula himself, his statues were also guarded. The idea of protecting the emperor in the Senate was not new: the precedent was set by Tiberius, and before that Octavian Augustus had appeared before the senators wearing a battle breastplate. Perhaps it was during this period that Caligula, concerned about conspiracies, increased the staff of the Praetorian Guard from 9 to 12 cohorts. In addition to the Praetorians, he was also guarded by a personal bodyguard detachment of Germanic guards.

Economic policy

With the light hand of antique authors an opinion was established about the extraordinary extravagance of Caligula, which allegedly led to a catastrophic deterioration of the financial situation of the empire. However, in the twentieth century, many researchers have revised this point of view. First of all, the sources do not write anything about the acute shortage of money at the beginning of the reign of the next emperor Claudius. Moreover, the latter arranged a very generous payments to praetorians, many times exceeding similar handouts Caligula. As early as January 41 coins of precious metals were being minted, which would have been impossible when the treasury was empty, as Suetonius claims. The scale of the distributions is also seriously exaggerated: among other emperors, Caligula did not stand out for his generosity to the capital”s inhabitants or to the troops. Finally, Caligula voluntarily resumed publishing reports on the state of the empire, by which contemporaries could clearly trace the deterioration of the empire”s financial situation, if this process had actually taken place.

At the same time, Caligula spent a lot. For example, much money was spent on active construction in Rome, Italy and the provinces (see “Construction”). Already in 37, the emperor spent 65 million sesterces on distributions to about 200 thousand inhabitants of the capital, who were already listed as recipients of free bread. Some of Caligula”s expenditures led to a revival of the economy. Large-scale construction work, for example, pumped money into the economy and created new jobs. Trimalchio, a character in Petronius” Satyricon, supposedly became rich during Caligula”s reign, when “wine was valued on a par with gold,” which seems to have a real prototype in the increased demand for luxury goods. Large-scale distributions of money at the beginning of the new emperor”s reign also contributed to the revival of the economy.

Some ambiguity accompanies Caligula”s introduction of the new taxes in 40, as it contradicts the slightly earlier abolition of the sales tax. This is how Suetonius describes their introduction:

The Romans were indignant at these innovations because full citizens paid few taxes. The emperor”s actions seem illogical, and they are explained in two ways – through the emperor”s belated awareness of his profligacy or by criticizing the sources: Suetonius is said to have seriously exaggerated the extent of the new taxes. Claudius” abolition of most of the new measures does not help to clarify the content and extent: he retained only the tax on prostitutes. Modern scholars note that the measures of taxation mentioned by Suetonius were new to Rome, but had long been established in Egypt.

Suetonius regards wills as an important source of additional income for Caligula. According to him, the emperor forced his subjects to bequeath at least some of their property to himself. If it turned out that someone did not include him among the recipients of property, Caligula hired people who declared in court that the deceased hoped to make the emperor a co-heir, and he himself presided over the meeting. Caligula ordered all wills of centurions (many of whom owned considerable looted sums) in which at least part of the inheritance was not transferred to Caligula or Tiberius to be declared invalid if the will had been made earlier. Admittedly, to replenish the treasury, Caligula executed Ptolemy, ruler of Muretania, which led to the incorporation of his puppet state into the Roman Empire. The auctions he arranged at Lugdunum (modern Lyon) for the sale of the property of his sisters, who had been found guilty of conspiracy, and then of the utensils taken from Rome from the palace rooms of Octavian and Tiberius, proved extremely profitable. Dion Cassius reports that the emperor personally commented on the provenance of many items; other ways in which Caligula was stuffed are also known. Suetonius accuses the emperor of requisitioning all pack animals, causing a shortage of bread in Rome and making it impossible for ordinary citizens to get to their errands in time, which is now considered an exaggeration. Despite the disapproval of the sales by antique authors, contemporary scholars emphasize that such auctions were not a rare occurrence and did not necessarily indicate the bankruptcy of the ruler. Moreover, a similar sale initiated by Marcus Aurelius, who needed to urgently form two new legions, on the contrary, is assessed positively.

Coinage under Caligula underwent several changes. It was probably on his initiative that the small mints in Spain were closed. The main mint was moved from Lugdunum (modern Lyon) to Rome, which increased the emperor”s influence on coinage. The value of this decision is evidenced by its preservation by his successors. Apparently coins were most actively minted at the beginning of Caligula”s reign to provide mass distributions. In addition, for some obscure reason, neither gold nor copper coins were minted in 38, and relatively few gold and silver coins were issued thereafter. On the whole, the emperor”s policy took into account the crisis of ”33, when Rome began to experience a shortage of cash, and the measures taken prevented a repetition of these events. Caligula attempted to adjust the complex multi-metal system of monetary units by weighting the dupondius (a 2 assa coin) to make it more different from the assa, but Claudius abandoned this experiment. Innovations were also marked by the appearance of Roman coins – in particular, for the first time was minted coin with a scene of the emperor”s address to the troops. The poet of the late first century Stacius once used the expression “about asse Gaiano” (plus minus asse Gaiano) to mean “very cheap”, “for a pittance”, but the connection of this phrase with Caligula”s coinage policy remains unclear.

After Caligula was assassinated, the new emperor Claudius ordered the bronze coins minted by his predecessor to be melted down. From Stacius” testimony, we can assume that at least part of Caligula”s coin production remained in circulation. Nevertheless, coins minted under Caligula are very rare in most surviving hoards. On small coins of Caligula, the initials of Claudius (TICA – Tiberius Claudius Augustus) were often stamped, on others the portrait of Claudius was stamped over the profile of Caligula, on others the initials of Caligula were knocked down, and on the fourth ones the portrait of this emperor was intentionally damaged.


Despite the brevity of his reign, Caligula was remembered by his contemporaries as an active builder, in stark contrast to Tiberius” passivity in this matter. Much more the building policy of the new emperor was similar to that of Octavian Augustus. The interest of Caligula was not limited to the construction of palaces, but also extended to practice-oriented constructions.

Caligula carried out the most extensive work in Rome. To improve the capital”s water supply in 38, the emperor began building the aqueducts Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus (they were opened in 52). Caligula tried to solve the problem of disruptions in Rome”s bread supply by expanding the harbor at Regia. During his reign the Mamertine Prison was reconstructed. The restoration of the theater of Pompey, which had been burned in a fire, continued. However, ancient historians attributed the reconstruction to different emperors – Tiberius (Tacitus adhered to this version), Caligula (Suetonius) and Claudius (Dio Cassius) inclined to believe that the restoration of the theater was largely completed under Tiberius, but the consecration of the building occurred under Caligula, and the new emperor did not mention his predecessor in his dedication inscription. On the contrary, Anthony Barrett believes that Caligula”s main merit in rebuilding the theater did not want to be mentioned by Claudius. Being a great lover of gladiatorial fights, animal-baiting, and chariot races, Caligula laid out a new amphitheater near the Pantheon and a new circus (hippodrome) on the Vatican field. The new amphitheater only had time to put up wooden bleachers, and Claudius cancelled construction. The circus on the Vatican field was probably originally used only for the emperor”s training, and only opened to the public under Claudius. Caligula took an obelisk from Egypt to decorate the new circus, and a special ship was built to carry it. In 1586 this obelisk was installed in the center of St. Peter”s Square in the Vatican.

Under Caligula the Temple of Augustus was completed and officially inaugurated, which was built very leisurely by Tiberius. Since the temple began to operate as early as 37, it is assumed that the amount of work required by the time of Tiberius” death remained minimal. It is assumed that it was Caligula who built the Temple of Isis on the Champ de Mars, which was already in operation by 65, but almost certainly was not built by Tiberius or Claudius.

Caligula enlarged the palace of Tiberius by constructing additions on the side of the Forum. He ordered the temple of Castor and Pollux to be divided into two parts, creating between them a kind of gateway to the palace. Suetonius and Dio Cassius mention that he often received visitors between the statues of the two gods. According to Dio Cassius, he called Castor and Pollux his gatekeepers (Greek: πυλωροί). The palace of Tiberius has not survived, so it is difficult to reconstruct the extent of Caligula”s expansion, but the palace certainly became very large.

Caligula saw to it that the transportation infrastructure, especially the roads, was kept in good condition. The emperor dismissed road supervisors if the sections entrusted to them were in poor condition. According to Dion Cassius, if caretakers embezzled money allocated by the state to repair roads or entered into contracts through fraudulent schemes, they were severely punished. Apparently Caligula”s severity in this matter was so unpopular that Claudius revoked his orders regarding road maintenance and even returned the fines awarded. Suetonius” words that “passages were cut in the flint cliffs, the valleys were embanked up to the mountains, and the mountains, dug over, were compared to the earth”, are connected with the building of new roads and the development of existing ones across the Alps in order to improve the land route between Italy on one side and Germany and Gaul on the other; however, Michael Gasparov regards this passage as rhetorical, designed to portray the senseless manifestations of omnipotence. The mile stones confirm the continued construction of roads in Gaul, Illyrica and Spain during his reign. Perhaps in preparation for the invasion of Britain, Caligula laid the stone lighthouse at Boulogne, which was intended as a worthy rival to the Faros Lighthouse at Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Although Caligula, according to Suetonius, claimed a peaceful purpose for the lighthouse, it is more likely that its construction began for military and strategic reasons – it was intended to provide a landing point for the Roman army in Britain. Suetonius also reports the emperor”s intention to dig a canal across the Isthmus of Corinth. Perhaps it was on Caligula”s initiative that the construction of the permanent bridge began.

In addition to developing transport infrastructure, outside Rome Caligula restored the temples at Syracuse and the walls of that city, the baths at Bologna, and conceived the restoration of the palace of Polycrates on Samos. The latter complex may have been conceived as a temporary residence for the emperor on his journeys to the eastern provinces.

Foreign and Provincial Policy

The evidence of sources on the activity of Caligula on the management of the provinces and dependent states is represented by the negative reviews of Josephus Flavius, Seneca and Philo about the bad condition of the provinces after the emperor”s death. At the same time the data of Seneca, John Bolsdon believes, are extremely biased because of the author”s desire to please the new emperor Claudius, and the information of Josephus Flavius and Philo refers only to Judea and part of Egypt – Alexandria. The critical attitude to the sources on this issue is not shared by all scholars. As a result, assessments of Caligula”s provincial policy range from negative, emphasizing the emperor”s inconsistencies and failures, to positive, recognizing his competence in governing the empire. A major difference between Caligula and his predecessors was the opening up of the rider class to provincials. Subsequently, the policy of involving provincial elites in Roman society continued.

In foreign policy, Caligula achieved a lasting peace with Parthia and strengthened the position in outlying regions by appointing loyal rulers. These actions gave the Roman Empire the opportunity to prepare for an offensive policy in the north. According to Sam Wilkinson, the rationality of Caligula”s foreign policy is confirmed by its continuation by subsequent emperors: the appointments of friendly rulers, the accession of Cilicia to Commagene and the possible reorganization of Muretania were not cancelled, and Claudius put into practice the invasion of Britain that Caligula had been preparing. However, for example, Arter Ferrill assesses Caligula”s overall influence on Roman foreign and provincial policy as disastrous and finds it impossible to speak of “policy” because of its extreme inconsistency.

In the Balkans and Asia Minor, Caligula bet on rulers dependent on Rome. At the beginning of the first century Octavian Augustus divided power in Thrace between the Sapean dynastes Cotis III and Rescuporides II (III), but after the latter attempted to seize sole power Tiberius dismissed him and divided power between the sons of the two rulers. After a while the sons of Cotys – Remetalkus, Polemon and Cotys – were sent to Rome, and in their place southern Thrace was ruled by Tiberius” protégé Titus Trebellinus Rufus. In the capital, Caligula befriended the children of Cotis III. When he became ruler, he gave Remetalkus Thrace, where Remetalkus II, son of Rescuporis, had recently died, to Polemonus Pontus and Bosporus, and Cotys received Little Armenia in 38. Commagene, which Tiberius had made a province, was given by Caligula to Antiochus IV along with part of Cilicia. The appointments were not accidental, for the new rulers were relatives of previous rulers. In addition to the rights to the throne themselves, the new rulers received generous financial support from Caligula – for example, Antiochus IV received 100 million sesterces – about a quarter of all state revenues for the year. This amount is probably exaggerated, but is most likely based on the actual fact that a large lump sum was paid to the new ruler. Caligula”s opponents subsequently accused his eastern friends of being responsible for the emperor”s despotic actions, but this view is not supported at present. Caligula”s appointments in part continued Augustus”s policy of using dependent rulers where their presence was justified. At the same time, they conflicted with the tendency to convert dependent territories into provinces (Commagene under Tiberius, Lycia and Rhodes under Claudius). It is assumed that Caligula”s appointments were due to distrust of the senators, from whom the viceroys in most provinces were descended. Caligula”s staff appointments in the East are recognized as both successful and inspired solely by personal affections and antipathies.

Caligula”s personal preferences were reflected in Eastern Mediterranean politics. Thus, in early 37, while Tiberius was still alive, the governor of Syria, Vitellius, went south to help the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, Herod Antipas, invade the Nabataean kingdom. In Jerusalem, Vitellius learned of Tiberius” death and stopped the advance southward, awaiting instructions from the new emperor. Caligula took the opposite position to the Nabataeans and supported their ruler Areta IV in every possible way. The reason for this warm attitude was probably the help Areta had given to Caligula”s father. The emperor”s dislike of Herod Antipas also played a role, because of his friendship with Herod Agrippa, who was claiming power in Judea.

In the year 38, there were bloody clashes between the Greeks and the Jews in Alexandria, one of the largest cities of the Roman Empire, and a year and a half later delegations from the opposing sides came to Rome to ask the emperor for a resolution of the conflict. The circumstances of the reception of the Jewish delegation are described in detail by Philo of Alexandria, who led it. Caligula treated them with ostentatious casualness as he went round his palace (the elderly Philo barely had time to catch up with the emperor), but his questioning and comments indicated that he was well aware of the situation in Alexandria. According to Daniel Noni, Caligula, like some of his predecessors, chose to wait it out.In parallel with his inaction on the pogrom in Alexandria, Caligula showed determination in Judea. Early in the year 40 the emperor learned that the Jews in Jamnia (modern-day Yavneh) had, for religious reasons, destroyed an altar built by non-Jews and dedicated to the emperor. An enraged Caligula ordered Publius Petronius, the governor of Syria, to produce a statue of the emperor in the image of Jupiter and install it in the holy of holies of the Jerusalem temple, using the army in case of need. Understanding the unreasonableness of such a step, Petronius delayed in every way possible to carry out the order, but in May 40 he advanced to Judea. On his way he met with a delegation who persuaded him to write a letter to Caligula, and ordered the sculptors at Sidon not to hurry with the completion of the statue. Caligula insisted, but Petronius still took his time. Only the intervention of Herod Agrippa, close to the emperor, who wrote a large letter to Caligula outlining and justifying his policy toward the Jews, forced him to cancel the order. However, Philo of Alexandria reports that shortly before his death, Caligula planned to re-install his statue in the Temple in Jerusalem. This time he wanted to produce the statue in Rome and then transport it secretly to Jerusalem and install it covertly in order to confront the Jews with the fact of its placement. Because of the different approaches to assessing Caligula”s activities, Howard Scullard sees the complications in Judea as a manifestation of the emperor”s recklessness, while Sam Wilkinson believes that against the background of the turbulent history of Judea in the first century BC, the reign of Herod Agrippa can be considered a relatively peaceful period.

Immediately after coming to power, Caligula revised relations with Parthia, the only influential neighbor of the Roman Empire and a rival in the struggle for influence in the Middle East. The Parthian king Artaban III was hostile to Tiberius and was preparing an invasion of the Roman province of Syria, but through the efforts of its governor Vitellius peace was achieved. According to Suetonius, Artabanus showed respect for Caligula when he “paid homage to Roman eagles, badges of legion, and images of Caesars.” He gave his son Darius VIII as a hostage to Rome. Perhaps as a result of negotiations between Rome and Parthia, Caligula withdrew from the policy pursued by Augustus and Tiberius and voluntarily weakened Roman influence in the disputed Armenia. To this end he recalled Mithridates, who had been appointed there by Tiberius, imprisoned him, and did not send him a replacement. However, the warming of Roman-Parthian relations was not in the least due to the internecine strife in Parthia.

Caligula expanded the Roman Empire”s holdings in North Africa. Around the year 40, Caligula executed Ptolemy, a guest ruler of Muretania, and annexed his possessions to the Roman Empire (according to another version, it was Claudius who finalized the annexation). The reasons for the execution of Ptolemy, who was a distant relative of Caligula, especially against the background of a warm reception of a friendly ruler. Dion Cassius cites the ruler”s wealth as the reason for his murder, but there is no other evidence of his wealth, and Caligula, on the contrary, preferred to give money to other dependent rulers rather than to take it away. Nevertheless, preference is usually given to this version. Another version is preserved by Suetonius: supposedly the emperor decided to execute Ptolemy because he appeared at the gladiatorial fights wearing a very beautiful purple cloak. In an attempt to find a rational grain in this report, John Bolsdon suggested that Caligula might have forbidden dependent rulers to wear purple clothing, which emphasized royal dignity, in the presence of the Roman emperor. If this was indeed the case, then Caligula abandoned Tiberius” liberal attitude to the matter and reverted to the rigid line pursued by Octavian Augustus. A third version is also linked to the emperor”s “madness” and consists in Caligula”s desire to take the place of the high priest of the cult of Isis, which belonged to Ptolemy as a scion of the Egyptian royal dynasty. Finally, Caligula may have feared his distant relative Ptolemy as a potentially dangerous rival in the struggle for power. In support of this theory is the connection of one of the leaders of the conspiracy against the emperor, Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Getulicus, with the Moorish ruler – his father was proconsul of Africa and made friends with King Juba II, father of Ptolemy there.

The reasons for the accession of Mauretania, unlike the execution of Ptolemy, are extremely rational. First of all, it is the need to defend Roman Africa from the west, which Ptolemy had failed to do. In the Roman era there was much fertile land in Africa, and it was an important supplier of grain to Rome. In addition, Octavian Augustus founded 12 Roman colonies on the western Mediterranean coast of Africa, which were not formally part of Mauretania, but were not organized into a separate province and ruled from Spain (Beticia). Thus, the annexation of Mauritania is characterized as a quite sensible move. Soon, however, an anti-Roman rebellion began in Muretania, led by Edemon. Sam Wilkinson emphasizes that the reasons for the revolt are not well known, and therefore it may be mistaken to connect it with the execution of Ptolemy, who was unpopular in some parts of his state. It is assumed that it was Caligula who had the idea of dividing Muretania into two provinces, Muretania Caesarea and Muretania Tingitana, although Dion Cassius attributes the initiative to Claudius. The difficulties in organizing the provinces during the revolt make historians support the testimony of Dio Cassius.

In the province of Africa Proconsular, neighboring Mauritania, one legion was cantoned at the beginning of Caligula”s reign, ruled by a proconsul. The new emperor transferred command to his legate, thereby depriving the senate of control over the last remaining legion. During Caligula”s reign, the first African descendants appeared in the Roman horsemen”s class. It was largely due to Caligula”s actions that the prerequisites for the heyday that came in the second century were laid in Roman Africa. At the same time, most researchers agree in admitting miscalculations in relations with Muretania, which led to the revolt.

Caligula”s trip to the north in September 39 and the events which followed it (see the section “Journey to Gaul and Germany (39-40 years)”) are covered very one-sidedly in the sources. Extant accounts of the campaign often lack logical presentation and disclosure of the reasons for Caligula”s actions. An additional difficulty in the objective reconstruction of the events of the 39-40 years is caused by big gaps in the extant manuscripts of Tacitus and Dio Cassius (the account of the latter is only available in the medieval retelling of Xiphilinus). The informative value of Tacitus may have been particularly great. In the other surviving books of this Roman author, there are three mentions of the Germanic campaign, and each time he emphasizes the failure of the ruler. Nor has the multi-volume work Germanic Wars by Pliny the Elder, who served on the Rhine during the reigns of Claudius and Nero, survived. The main sources of information on the campaign by ancient authors, the memoirs of Agrippina and the testimony of Seneca, a friend of Julius and Lucilius, are particularly biased because of the personal predilections of the authors. In addition, Claudius, who eventually conquered Britain, was interested in downplaying the merits of Caligula. As a result, all ancient authors are unanimous in their assessment of the Germanic campaign as a failure. The most neutral characterization, according to John Bolsdon, was left by Eutropius: “He undertook a war against the Germans and, having invaded Svevia, accomplished nothing remarkable.”

The most radical attempt to rationalize Caligula”s actions was made by John Bolsdon. In his view, Caligula early in his reign began to actively plan the conquest of Germany and Britain, partly to cope with a gradually deteriorating situation, and partly to prove himself a worthy successor to the conquering military leaders Gaius Julius Caesar and Germanicus. To organize the invasion, the emperor began to move legions to the Rhine (probably from Egypt and Spain) and may have created two new legions specifically for the new war. Some contemporary authors, following Suetonius, link the construction of the bridge at Bayes with the preparations for the northern campaign – allegedly Caligula hoped to intimidate the barbarians, who relied on the wide water barriers. The unexpected forcing of military plans, in the opinion of the British author, was connected with messages about ripening conspiracy.

All in all, Caligula assembled between 200,000 and 250,000 soldiers for the march north. Such a scale of preparations could be evidence of grandiose expansionist plans – for example, the conquest of all Germany up to the Elbe, as his father had planned. The reasons for preparing for war against the Germanic tribes are said to be the emperor”s desire for military glory in order to equal his father, a glorified military leader. Caligula had rational reasons for seeking recognition as a commander – he was the first emperor who did not serve in the army even in sinecure positions, which in Roman society was considered abnormal and may have affected his perception by the political elite in the capital. As a result, Caligula”s stay in Germany was one of the rare instances in which an emperor of the Julius-Claudian dynasty visited an active army on a tense frontier. Caligula may have disapproved of the non-aggressive foreign policy pursued by the Roman Empire after the defeat of Varus. Thus, instead of military action, Tiberius preferred a cheaper way to keep the Germans on the right bank of the Rhine – to pit tribal leaders against each other.

Shortly after arriving in Mogontiac (modern Mainz), Caligula accused Getulicus of participating in a conspiracy and had him executed. Suetonius” words that Caligula began his stay in the camp of the assembled army by disciplining him, and Tacitus” vague reference to Getulicus” “excessive mildness and moderate severity,” John Bolsdon understands as evidence of his insufficient ability to maintain discipline at a key and frequently violated section of the Roman frontier. The purge of centurions and senior officers was probably due to both incompetence and the disloyalty of some of them. Many modern scholars, following Ludwig Quidde, share the idea that Caligula”s seemingly chaotic actions were primarily academic in nature. During these maneuvers, Caligula introduced a new type of military decoration for soldiers who distinguished themselves in reconnaissance – the coronae exploratoriae. The emperor solved political problems in parallel with military ones – for example, Igor Knyazky assesses the distribution of money to legionaries as a successful move to prevent discontent with the change of the popular commander.

Servius Sulpicius Galba, the future emperor, was appointed the new commander of the troops in Upper Germany. A similar post in Lower Germany was probably held by Publius Gabinius Secundus. He succeeded Lucius Apronius, who suffered several defeats from the Frisians. Even during the reign of Caligula Galba undertook several expeditions to the right bank of the Rhine, which were successful, though of a local nature. Perhaps it was in 39-40 that the Romans could establish forts at Wiesbaden and Gros Gerau. The nature of Caligula”s own participation in hostilities against the Germans is unclear. Suetonius and Dio Cassius do not deny the emperor”s crossing of the Rhine, but agree that he did not stay there long. According to Dion Cassius, “he did no harm to any of his enemies,” and Suetonius speaks of a panic attack among the troops on the march in the narrow gorge and of a hasty return to the left bank. At the same time, in the biography of Galba, Suetonius, describing the events during the reign of Caligula, mentions that the new commander repulsed an attack by Germans crossing the Rhine.

The lack of encounters may not have been due to Caligula”s cowardice or complete lack of military talent. However, since there was probably conflicting information from the Rhine, rumors of maneuvers turned into rumors of victory over the Germans, and Praetor Titus Flavius Vespasian (the future emperor) suggested celebrating them with special games. It is not clear whether this “victory” was celebrated throughout the empire, or whether Vespasian”s initiative did not spread beyond the capital. There is only one known bas-relief from this period, with a small inscription at Lydia, showing a Roman horseman with a spear bent over Germany with his hands tied, but its connection to the celebrations of the Germanic campaign is debatable. According to Dion Cassius, the troops proclaimed Caligula emperor seven times (in the Roman army it was an honorary title of a victorious commander). However, there is no epigraphic or numismatic evidence of this title, although recognition as emperor was usually always noted on coins and in official inscriptions. Probably, an important reason why Caligula received this rank from soldiers was their joy at the very rare appearance of the Roman emperor in the frontier army.

The results of the emperor”s turbulent activity on the Rhine frontier are assessed in different ways. It is assumed that Roman prestige was restored in the eyes of the Germans. At the same time there is no reason to see in Caligula”s transition to other occupations evidence of a refusal to attack in Germany, because the attack could have been postponed until a convenient moment – for example, until Galba developed successes in Upper Germany in order to secure the flanks when the main forces attacked in the north.

In the spring or summer of ”40, Roman troops approached the Pas de Calais strait in the vicinity of present-day Boulogne, where ships were flocking and where a lighthouse and port were being built. At the last moment, however, the emperor declined to land. According to Suetonius, the emperor “ordered everyone to collect the shells in their helmets and the folds of their clothes – these, he said, were the spoils of the Ocean, which he sends to the Capitol and the Palatine. <…> To the warriors he promised a hundred denarii each as a gift, and, as if this were boundless generosity, he exclaimed: “Go now, happy ones, go now, rich ones!”

The reasons for Caligula”s refusal to invade Britain are quite unclear and give rise to many versions among historians. John Bolsdon finds unconvincing the basic assumptions of early twentieth-century scholars about the emperor”s fear of distancing himself from an unreliable senate (Hugo Wilrich), a sudden change in the strategic situation (Matthias Gelzer), the realization of the need for more ships (Hermann Dessau). Drawing parallels with the difficulties faced by Claudius three years later, he concludes that the Roman soldiers were not ready to disembark – perhaps refusing to board the ships. With this explanation he relates the intention to decimate the troops and a possible error in Suetonius” text: that Caligula allegedly ordered the collection of special bomb shelters (both denoted by the word musculus) rather than shells. Daniel Noni develops the idea that the expedition was organizationally and materially unprepared, due to which Caligula decided to postpone the invasion until 42. Arter Ferrill attributes this episode to the influence of the Getulic and Lepidus conspiracy, the fear of Senate insubordination, the failures in Germany, but in part to Caligula”s insanity. He denies the advisability of a total revision of the evidence of the sources, in connection with which Bolsdon”s reconstruction seems to him very shaky. Thomas Wiedemann considers the main reasons for the abandonment of the landing party to be the beginning of mutiny in the troops and the concessions of the Brittish chieftains. He regards the gathering of shells as a perfectly rational symbol of victory over the ocean and doubts that siege machines were meant by musculus. In 1966 Roy Davies suggested that Caligula was not planning to invade Britain at all, and that the campaign to the Pas de Calais was part of the training maneuvers of a Roman army that had not had full combat practice for two decades, and a continuation of the same maneuvers on the banks of the Rhine last year, which sources accidentally or deliberately presented as a failed military campaign. Another, equally important goal of Caligula may have been to intimidate the Briton rulers. Two years later, Peter Bicknell found Davis” hypothesis unconvincing and offered a new explanation for the story. In his version, the incident took place to the north, at the mouth of the Rhine, and was punishment for the legions who had been guilty. In 2000, David Woods suggested that Caligula may have metaphorically referred to the shells as ships that needed to be ferried overland to Rome. There is also speculation that Caligula hoped to find many pearls in the shells, for which he was partial.

The Last Conspiracy and Death

In late 40 and early 41 years, a new conspiracy formed in Caligula”s inner circle, caused in part by the emperor”s distrust of his associates. It is assumed that the new conspiracy was a continuation of an earlier attempt to depose Caligula (see “Activities after his return from Gaul (40)”). The protagonist of the conspiracy was the Praetorian tribune Cassius Heraea, although it is assumed that influential senators (in particular, Annius Vinicius) were behind it. Antique authors report the emperor”s constant mockery of Jerea (Seneca specifies that Caligula was amused by his feminine voice contrasting with the tribune”s stern appearance), but Josephus Flavius also portrays Jerea as a staunch republican. Among the key conspirators was Cornelius Sabinus. Many senators joined them, and the password of the conspirators was the word “Libertas” (libertas).

The date of the assassination was set for the Palatine Games on January 24, 41. The conspirators knew of the emperor”s habit of leaving the theater at noon for a bath and an afternoon breakfast and decided to attack him on his way to the palace. On January 24, Caligula lingered in the theater, but then still headed for the exit through an underground gallery, with most of his retinue going the other way. When he stopped to talk to the actors, the conspirators pounced on him. Antique authors described in detail the circumstances and details of the murder, right down to Caligula”s dying words “I am still alive,” and Suetonius already knew two versions. In all, he was stabbed about thirty times with swords. Soon the centurion (another version, tribune) Julius Lupus stabbed Caesonia with his sword, and his only eleven-month-old daughter Julius Drusilla was killed by hitting her against a wall.

Herod Agrippa took Gaius” body to the Lamia Gardens, an imperial property on the Esquiline outside Rome, where the corpse was partially cremated and the ashes were placed in a temporary grave. Subsequently, Caligula”s sisters completed the cremation ceremony and buried the ashes (either in Augustus” mausoleum or somewhere else). In Rome, it was said that ghosts (lat. umbris) roamed the Lamia Gardens until the emperor”s body was properly buried, and nightmares plagued the inhabitants in the house where he was killed. Caligula was the first Roman emperor not to be given a state funeral. In 2011, Italian police claimed that illegal archaeologists discovered and looted a possible tomb of Caligula near Lake Nemi.

The common people of Rome seem to have been less than enthusiastic about the assassination. John Bolsdon believes that in other circumstances, the conspirators would have been afraid to kill the emperor very popular among the people, but in early January 41, the urban plebs had already shown discontent with the new taxes, which added to the confidence of Jereus and his companions. Immediately after the assassination of Caligula in Rome, senators called for the restoration of the republic, but the Praetorians found Claudius (according to Suetonius, he was hiding behind a curtain while waiting to die) in the Palatine Palace, who was proclaimed the new emperor.


Suetonius left the following description of Caligula”s appearance:

Closer to it is a more subjective description by Seneca, a contemporary of the emperor:

Both verbal portraits paint an outwardly repulsive man. The more neutral portraits of the emperor on large coins are characterized by a high forehead, an irregularly shaped nose, a sharp chin, and a slightly protruding lower lip. John Bolsdon admits that Caligula”s appearance may have been disfigured by illness.

Character, habits, hobbies

Modern historians acknowledge Caligula”s good intellectual abilities, but emphasize his cunning, guile, cruelty, megalomania, recklessness, greed, impudence, arrogance, and in some cases, infantilism. According to Suetonius, Caligula expressed the best trait of his character in the Greek term for equanimity or shamelessness. The emperor”s posthumous critic Seneca states that Caligula was very fond of insulting other people.

Josephus Flavius points out that Caligula studied diligently, wishing to please Tiberius, who valued good education. As a result, he learned well not only the intricacies of his native Latin, but also Ancient Greek, which was compulsory in Roman education. Even Caligula”s critics did not deny his high oratorical skills (in the ancient era rhetoric was considered one of the seven most important sciences). The emperor paid much attention to oratorical practice and theory, and was even considered the author of a rhetorical work. The emperor honed his skills by composing court speeches – sometimes both accusatory and defensive for a single trial. A small excerpt of one of his senate speeches, quoted by Dion Cassius, leaves, according to Anthony Barrett, a good impression. Josephus Flavius states that Caligula was distinguished not only by his good preparation, but also by his ability to navigate quickly for an answer.

The emperor”s attitude to other sciences is unclear. Suetonius suggests that Caligula was alien to them, but the evidence of Josephus Flavius suggests otherwise. Suetonius reports that Caligula wished to ban the works of Homer and remove the works of Virgil and Titus Livius from his libraries. As a result, Alexander Nemirovsky attributes the poor preservation of Livy”s works precisely to the actions of Caligula. Modern scholars, however, more often admit that such statements by the emperor were not the utterances of an uncultured man and an enemy of literature. Anthony Barrett, for example, sees these reports as the result of a rather deep knowledge of literature, since in the ancient era Virgil was accused of plagiarism and Livy was criticized for verbal redundancy and lack of historical talent. John Bolsdon suggests that Caligula shared and developed a rejection of Homer by Plato because of his lack of reverence for the gods. Igor Knyazky believes that Caligula”s dissatisfaction with Homer could be based not only on Plato, but also on the poet”s aversion to the Achaeans who fought the Trojans, the mythological progenitors of the Romans; he describes the emperor”s judgments of Livy and Virgil as original to the point of being epathetic, but indicative of an undeniable mastery of the subject. Daniel Noni suggests that Suetonius” reports were the result of misinterpretation of the emperor”s jokes and careless remarks; Barrett admits this only for his desire to destroy Homer”s Iliad and Odyssey. Sam Wilkinson denies the veracity of Suetonius” testimony on the basis of the return to the public of the works of three authors banned under Tiberius. However, it is stressed that Caligula quoted Homer very often. The emperor did not neglect modern literature either; it is known that he criticized the works of Seneca the Younger for their style flaws. This criticism may have influenced Seneca”s hatred of Caligula.

Caligula”s daily behavior was not always that of a noble Roman. For example, he had an extravagant way of dressing, using exotic outfits, jewelry, and shoes. He actively used wigs for reincarnations; often he disguised himself in women”s clothes. Often the emperor dressed up as gods (from Neptune to Venus), wearing clothes that corresponded to their images and selecting recognizable attributes. It is assumed that his penchant for cross-dressing arose in his early childhood, when he dressed up in the clothes of a legionary for the amusement of soldiers. As a young man he put on wigs and commoners” cloaks to visit taverns and brothels. In doing so, he probably did not realize that his behavior was perceived by those around him in a way different from what he had intended.

The emperor, wishing to diversify his life, constantly invented new ways of pastime – baths with aromatic oils, picnics on the branches of a huge plane tree; Caligula is associated with the construction of huge and luxurious ships of Lake Nemi, although occasionally their construction is attributed to other emperors. Being a great gourmand, he valued culinary inventions, and often ordered meals served on gold leaf. There is no indication that he abused alcohol, although in the early 20th century T. Jerome suggested that many of his extravagant actions were caused by the emperor”s drunkenness.

The emperor loved all kinds of entertainment. He loved to play dice, watch gladiatorial fights and animal travesties. When once five gladiators killed five surrendered colleagues with particular cruelty, the emperor expressed displeasure with both their action and the violent reaction of the crowd who enjoyed the blood; this is seen as proof of the emperor”s lack of a particular penchant for cruelty compared to his contemporaries. Caligula, however, was most passionate about chariot racing. At chariot races he supported one of the four teams (“parties”) – the “green” (prasinae), and most passionately cheered against the “blue” chariots. The emperor laid out a new personal circus in Rome for the races (see “Construction”), spent huge sums on buying and keeping horses (including the Incitatus), and was close to the charioteers of the Greens, sometimes having lunch in their stables. Caligula increased the number of races, and sometimes they lasted all day, with breaks for other spectacles.

Caligula was also no stranger to the high arts. He loved theatrical performances, spent a lot of time with famous actors and strictly enforced order in the theater: he did not encourage the audience to leave before the end of the performance, and he ordered to whip noisy spectators. Sometimes the emperor also gave performances at night, illuminating the whole city, and for the sake of better attendance during the daytime he postponed court hearings and reduced the mass mourning. Caligula experienced very vividly what was happening on the stage, singing and dancing according to what was happening on the stage. He was fond of dancing outside the theater as well: Suetonius tells us that one night he summoned three senators to the palace and instead of the expected charges and executions he danced in women”s clothing in front of them. On the day of his death he was, according to the same author, preparing to take part for the first time in a performance as an actor.


Following the ancient authors, many modern researchers acknowledge Caligula”s insanity in various forms. The study of this issue by a number of doctors and historians in the XX-XXI centuries allowed us to specify possible diseases and disorders of the emperor which could have influenced his behavior – alcoholism, hyperthyroidism, psychopathy, schizophrenia, epilepsy or deficit of parental attention due to long weaning from parents in infancy. Antique authors blame the emperor”s acute illness in the fall of ”37 on his mental disorder. In modern historiography this connection is both questioned.

The most popular explanation for the cause of Caligula”s disorder is epilepsy. In addition to Suetonius” account of childhood seizures (morbus vexatus, literally “tossing-shaking disease”), historians have found other indirect indications of epilepsy. For example, Thomas Benedickson suggests that it was because of this disease that Caligula could not swim, although teaching the children of Roman nobility to swim was almost universally practiced. He also observes that Suetonius” vague reference to calling the moon to his bed (“…calling her relentlessly to his arms and to his bed…”) can be explained by the belief that the moon was associated with this disease. He considers the extremely cruel (up to the death penalty) punishment for comparing him with a goat as additional evidence of the existence of a link with epilepsy, since in the ancient era there was a notion that goats could spread epilepsy. According to Benedickson, Caligula was trying to prove to those around him that he had completely defeated the disease or managed to control it.

However, there are also opponents of epilepsy as a diagnosis of Caligula. British physician and paleopathologist Andrew Sandison found more signs of acute encephalitis than epilepsy. In his version, Caligula”s symptoms fit more closely to complications from a rare lethargic (epidemic) encephalitis, first described only in the 20th century. Sandison also rejected a number of other diseases that fit some of the symptoms – sequelae of bacterial meningitis, cerebral neoplasia, some kind of cerebrovascular disease, paralysis and schizophrenia. A Czech neurologist, Ivan Lesny, came to a similar conclusion, considering complications from any encephalitis, including epidemic encephalitis, a possible cause of mental disorders. The American rheumatologist Robert Katz found it undesirable to link any reference to seizures with epilepsy, recalling the existence of other causes of seizures. After analyzing the emperor”s extant symptoms in written sources, he found considerably more evidence for the diagnosis of a thyroid disorder – most likely hyperthyroidism. According to him, it would not be a psychiatrist but an endocrinologist or therapist who would be treating Caligula at this time. In support of hyperthyroidism, Robert Katz highlighted the following indications from ancient authors – thinness despite normal or even increased appetite, restlessness, low need for sleep, changes in behavior. He considered the emperor”s sunken eyes and his high sexual activity to be the weak points of his hypothesis. The fact is that Suetonius wrote about Caligula”s sunken eyes, while, on the contrary, hyperthyroidism usually develops their convexity. Another symptom of the disease is decreased potency, but Suetonius testifies to the contrary (see Personal Life section). The first contradiction that emerged was resolved by the modern author”s suggestion that the bulging of the eyes in this disease occurs in slightly more than half the cases, and the assumption that Suetonius may not have meant the eyes themselves, but only the sunken circles under the eyes because of the emaciation that occurs with this disease. Robert Katz denies the second contradiction because of the ancient biographer”s desire to smear the emperor.

Personal Life

Caligula was married four times. His first wife was Junia Claudilla, daughter of Tiberius” friend Marcus Junius Silanus. It is assumed that she was a distant relative of Caligula because of a possible connection with the Claudian family on the line of her grandmother (her father”s mother). The political nature of the marriage, which took place at the initiative of Tiberius, is considered unquestionable, and it is emphasized that the marriage was a confirmation of the emperor”s favor, because at that time Silanus was one of the most influential senators. The wedding probably took place in 33 in Antioch. A few years later Junia, according to Suetonius, died in childbirth. Dion Cassius claims that Caligula divorced her, but his report is not accepted: according to David Wardle, Suetonius would not have missed an opportunity to criticize Caligula for divorcing his first wife. The date of Junia”s death is unclear: Suetonius and Tacitus avoid specifying the time of death, but both authors place it before the death of Tiberius, and Dion Cassius places the time of the divorce in the reign of Caligula. The year 36 appears most frequently in historiography.

Early in his reign, Caligula took Livia Orestilla, the bride of Gaius Calpurnius Pison, as his wife (Anthony Barrett and David Wardle date the wedding to late 37, Daniel Noni to winter-spring 38, Igor Knyazky to spring 38). Suetonius knows two versions of the circumstances of their marriage, which are united by Caligula”s decision immediately before or immediately after Livia”s marriage to Pison. It is assumed that this was their first meeting. John Bolsdon has suggested that the engagement to Pison was terminated by Livia Orestilla herself, and the various romanticized versions were designed to conceal this fact. In justifying his behavior, Caligula stated that he had married like Romulus, who had organized the kidnapping of the Sabine women and taken Herselius as his wife, and Augustus, who had divorced the pregnant Livia from her husband. After a few days, Caligula divorced her, which was not uncommon in the first century.

In the fall (probably September-October) of ”38, Caligula married Lollia Paulina, who was married to Publius Mememius Regulus. Apparently Caligula negotiated with Memmius and compensated for the dissolution of the marriage by including him in the honorary college of the Arvalian brethren. At the engagement dinner, Pliny the Elder was present, who cited the jewelry worn by Lollia (the pearls and emeralds in her jewelry were estimated at 40 million sesterces) as an example of outstanding wastefulness in the Natural History. The emperor divorced Lollia as early as the spring or early summer of ”39; David Wardle leans toward a divorce in the fall of ”39. The reason for the divorce was probably her infertility. In addition, the emperor forbade her to have intercourse with anyone else. This was probably due to the couple”s lack of children and, as a consequence, the emperor”s unwillingness to question her fertility. However, there may be other explanations for the ban: a desire to protect himself from potential opponents who might have risen by marrying the ex-empress, a way to prevent Lollia”s fortune from falling into the wrong hands, or the ban was the result of rumors spread by the emperor”s enemies, caused by the fact that Lollia had not remarried. It is possible that the emperor feared the birth of a child with questionable paternity (such as Caesarion) who might have destabilized his own dynastic plans. A similar prohibition applied to the emperor”s previous wife Livia Orestilla.

In 39, shortly after his divorce from Lollia, Caligula married for the fourth time. His new wife was the married Milonia Cesonia, mother of three children, who was seven years older than the emperor. The reason for the frequent change of wives was probably the desire to have children born in a legitimate marriage for a stable transfer of power. Nevertheless, Caligula had very strong feelings for Caesonia, although he married her only when she was about eight months pregnant with him. A month later a daughter, Julia Drusilla, was born. The time of the wedding is unknown – it could have been either the summer or the fall or winter of ”39 (in the latter case, the wedding may have taken place at Lugdunum). It is possible that Cesoniah gave birth to her daughter in Lugdunum. The emperor”s entourage did not share the ruler”s passion for Caesonia and spread rumors that she had bewitched him with a certain potion. Anthony Barrett believes that Caesonia gave Caligula not a “love potion” but an aphrodisiac. Suetonius” report that Caligula repeatedly showed naked Caesonia to his friends is seen as a deliberate repetition of the experience of the Lydian king Candaules; Daniel Noni sees this report as another rumor.

The emperor did not hide his mistresses, which are reported by ancient authors. The first mistress attested in the sources was Ennia – their liaison was arranged by Macron, Ennia”s husband, soon after Junia Claudilla”s death in order to be able to influence Caligula. The emperor”s other known mistress by name was Pirallida, whom Suetonius calls a prostitute. In addition, during Nero”s reign it was claimed in Rome that the prefect of the praetorium, Gaius Nymphidius Sabinus, might have been Caligula”s illegitimate son because of his extreme external resemblance and also because his mother Nymphidius was the daughter of one of the emperor”s freedmen. Finally, Caligula openly practiced sex with married Roman noblewomen, and adultery was not concealed:

Seneca the Younger writes of a similar case: during a crowded feast, Caligula told his friend Decimus Valerius Asiaticus that his wife Lollia Saturnina (the sister of the emperor”s third wife Lollia Paulina) was “not good in bed. The purpose of such behavior may have been not only sexual gratification, but also a desire to humiliate the Roman nobility by a demonstration of absolute power. However, Suetonius, citing Mark Antony, mentions that Octavian Augustus once took the wife of a former consul “to his bedroom after dinner and then brought her back, disheveled and red up to her ears. It is possible that Caligula”s actions echoed this very experience of his deified predecessor.

Antique authors claim that Caligula was also involved in incest with three sisters, and the late antique historian Eutropius states that one of them bore him a child. That said, Caligula was most attached to Drusilla: Suetonius asserts that he took her virginity, and his grandmother Antonia once caught them as teenagers in bed. This could have happened within three years, when Caligula was 17-20 years old and Drusilla was 14-17. Without drawing unequivocal conclusions about the authenticity of this report, Daniel Noni sees it as a manifestation of teenage sexual curiosity, influenced by a difficult family situation. According to Suetonius, “the other sisters he loved not so passionately and revered not so much: more than once he even gave them up for the amusement of his favorites.” Caligula”s accusations of incest are now both denied. At the same time, it emphasizes the prevalence of rumors of incest to discredit political opponents, and Anthony Barrett believes that their source may have been the emperor”s own ambiguous witticisms. In contrast, Igor Knyazky notes that incest shocked the Romans, but it was perfectly tolerated in Egypt and, to a lesser extent, in other former Hellenistic states.

Suetonius also reports on the emperor”s homosexual partners. He names the emperor”s son-in-law Marcus Lepidus, the noble youth Valerius Catullus, the pantomime Mester and adds to them the hostages who were in Rome (sons of rulers of neighboring states and tribes). Modern scholars either accept these reports or urge great caution. Although Caligula expelled from Rome the “sfintrii” who actively participated in Tiberius” orgies, it is assumed that this was done for fear of their spreading tales of the emperor”s private life which might damage his reputation as a man.

In historiography, the extreme manifestations of Caligula”s sexual promiscuity are often not commented on, rejected or downplayed, which Arter Ferrill attributes to the mores that reigned in society in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th. Thomas Wiedemann sees reports of incest and homosexuality by ancient authors of Caligula as evidence of the emperor”s tight control over his entourage. Igor Knyazky believes that the main difference between Caligula”s private life and that of Julius Caesar, Octavian Augustus and Tiberius was not a particular promiscuity, but only a refusal to hide it.

The main historical sources on Caligula”s reign are the writings of Lucius Annaeus Seneca (who probably knew the emperor personally), Philo of Alexandria (he met him while leading a delegation of Alexandrian Jews), Josephus Flavius, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus and Dio Cassius, but they are all very negative about the emperor. Seneca, who often referred to examples from his contemporary era, treated Caligula with undisguised hostility. The personality of the emperor causes antipathy and Philo. Josephus Flavius” description of the reign of Caligula is characterized by moralizing to the detriment of accuracy and consistency of the reported information. Suetonius, who built his biography of Caligula on a juxtaposition of a few positive acts and an extensive list of atrocities, often retold rumors about the emperor, although he had official documents at his disposal. He devoted twice as much space to describing Caligula the monster as he did to listing the emperor”s merits. The only author who left a chronologically coherent account of events during Caligula”s reign with some digressions was Dion Cassius, whose 59th book, however, has survived with considerable lacunae. He had a sharply negative view of Caligula, condemning even those measures which Suetonius considered reasonable.

Throughout modern and contemporary times, comparisons with famous characters from ancient Roman history have usually been of a negative nature. For example, the humanist Marc Antoine Murray, urging his lectures to look for parallels with modernity not in the republican but in the imperial era, reminded them that even under Tiberius, Caligula and Nero, there lived good and prudent men. Nor did he find any ruler in modern Europe who could compare with these three “bad” emperors. Jean de La Fontaine compared the Lion, the protagonist of the fable “The Court of the Lion. Drawing on the example of Lucian, François Fénelon wrote the Dialogues of the Dead, in which famous historical figures discuss various issues. In Dialogues 49, Caligula and Nero compare their reigns, which ended unexpectedly and disastrously for them. In 1672 Caligula first became the protagonist of Giovanni Maria Pagliardi”s opera Caligula delirante, which depicted the ruler”s madness. The problem of the negative consequences of unlimited power was tried to reveal in 1698 in the tragedy Caligula by playwright John Crown. In 1704 a libretto by Domenico Ghisberti formed the basis for Georg Philipp Telemann”s opera Guy Caligula with stories drawn from ancient sources about madness, imitation of Jupiter, love of the moon and the use of an aphrodisiac.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Caligula”s reign repeatedly became a source of inspiration in French drama: plays based on his life were written by Nicolas Brazier, Theophile Marion Dumersant, Charles d”Utrepont and Alexandre Dumas the father. In 1822, the British Whig deputy Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquis of Lansdowne criticized what he saw as high taxes in Britain, drawing parallels with Caligula”s desire to bathe in gold. Alexander Pushkin compared Paul I to Caligula in his ode “Liberty. In an 1894 pamphlet, “Caligula. An Inquiry into the Madness of the Roman Emperor,” Ludwig Quidde attempted to connect subjugation of the population and the self-aggrandizement of the ruler, but the work was perceived as a satire on the rule of Kaiser Wilhelm II and on the mores that prevailed in Germany today for the author. The murder of Caligula was retold by August Strindberg in his historical miniature The Bloodthirsty Beast (1905). In 1917 the Polish playwright Karol Hubert Rostrowski wrote a psychological drama, Gaius Caesar Caligula. In Rostrowski, Caligula appears for the first time not as a madman, but only as a deeply flawed man.

In 1938, Albert Camus began to write the play Caligula (completed in 1944), which depicts the emperor as striving for complete emancipation but coming to “complete nihilism and inner collapse. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the spread of the aggressively anti-communist McCarthyist movement was repeatedly compared to Roman history in American journalism. Disgraced screenwriter Albert Maltz carried this comparison into the plot of the 1953 feature film The Shroud. Caligula, in his interpretation, acts in the spirit of McCarthyism, and the persecuted are Christians. Both The Shroud and Robert Graves” novel I, Claudius (a 1976 TV adaptation) and Tinto Brass” film Caligula (1979) present Caligula as a mad ruler, although all the academic biographies released during this period were more or less apologetic. The Irish historian David Woods suggests that the literary plot of the “appointment” of the horse Incitatus as consul is reflected in the Judge Dredd comics, where Chief Justice Cal made an aquarium fish his deputy.


  1. Калигула
  2. Caligula