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Emperor Caligula The Cruel Roman Ruler: A legacy Turned Into a Show of Power


Emperor Caligula The Cruel Roman Ruler: A legacy Turned Into a Show of Power

“I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night. Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula, I am all men as I am no man, and therefore I am a god. I don't care if they respect me so long as they fear me.” The deranged ruler of Rome known as Caligula is counted as one of the cruelest rulers.

From the above quotes, the semblance of his cruelty is very apparent, as he exclaims that he is a god and he wants his subjects to be terrified of him. The short-lived but grim ruler will always be remembered as a ruler capable of gruesome acts.


Who was Caligula?

Caligula was the emperor of Rome who was born on August 31, 12 CE to father and ruler Germanicus and mother Agrippina in Antium Latium, Italy. Caligula’s original name was known to be Gaius Caesar Germanicus and he managed to rule for a total of only four years. He ruled from 37 to 41 CE, inheriting the kingship of emperor Tiberius.

Caligula was not his birth name, it was rather Gaius Caesar Germanicus, the name Caligula was provided to him by his father’s soldiers when he was at the age of three. At age three, Caligula accompanied his father on many escapades with a tiny soldier costume of his own, including “little boots” (Caligula). Thus the soldiers started to endearingly or mawkishly call him by the name of Caligula.

The death of his father Germanicus, his mother Agrippina, and his other siblings apart from Caligula and his three sisters paved his way to the throne. After he acceded to the Roman throne, Caligula in the beginning ruled extremely well and performed according to the hopes and wishes of the Roman people. But after a few months, he suffered from ill health and struggled to regain his strength. That was the start of his reign of terror.


The reign of Terror

Caligula after recovering from his mysterious illness that some historians claim was “epilepsy”, which would explain his drastic change in behavior and altered tendencies. Caligula soon started the treason trials and executed Naevius Sutorius Macro, “prefect of the Praetorian Guard”(post) and the grandson of Tiberius, called Tiberius Gemellus. Even though Naevius was the one who aided in his accession. Caligula had Gemellus executed because he was the one from whom Caligula had obtained the throne.

Caligula claimed he was a divine ruler, showed immense affection to his remaining sisters, and put on the facade of a God. However, Caligula’s reign of terror continued, and he thwarted a revolt against him in the Upper Rhine on October 39 CE. After the death of his sister Diva Drusilla, he honored her by declaring her divine. But in the revolt of Upper Rhine executed her widower M. Aemilius Lepidus and the leader of the revolt called Gnaeus Lentulus Gaetulicus. Thus the cruelty and mistreatment of the people of Rome began for four years.


Cruel Ruler Caligula

Caligula declared himself an immortal god and started to plunder the royal treasury that Tiberius had accumulated in his time. To support his extravagant activities he resolved to torture his Roman citizens and obtained exorbitant revenues from his Citizens and even took over their estates as well. Caligula also during the early 40 CE with his army conquered the region of Gaul and looted and plundered the area of all its riches. The cruel ruler Caligula continued his gruesome acts of murder, adultery, and even reckless spending at the cost of his subjects.

Reminding the people that he was now an immortal god, he conquered various nearby territories, butchered the people there, and acquired their wealth and estates. His reign lasted from 37 CE to 41 CE and included various harsh escapades like the one in Gaul in an attempt to obtain more power and riches.



The reason for his Tyrant attitudes

Caligula’s father Germanicus was said to be the adopted son of emperor Tiberius. After the death of Germanicus, Caligula’s mother believed that it was Tiberius who had ordered his secret execution. Agrippina soon charged her children for public revenge. But before the revenge could be carried out Tiberius got all of Caligula’s siblings and his mother imprisoned. Both of Caligula’s brothers and his mother died in captivity. But because of Caligula’s young age, he was adopted by Tiberius and sent to live with his mother Livia Drusilla.

Caligula in his teenage years was invited to Capri to live along with Tiberius who was said to have loathed him. However, Tiberius declared Caligula to be the next apparent heir to his throne, exposing him to the messy politics of acquiring power and the brutality that is found right beside that. Tiberius claimed he was raising a “Viper in Rome’s Bosom”. Thus the tyrant-like attitude of Caligula could be attributed to his messy upbringing by Tiberius himself.


The projects of great Vanity

Caligula accumulated immense wealth and estates by plundering a lot of territories. After acquiring such wealth, the extent of Caligula’s power was almost unstoppable. Caligula indulged himself in various vanity projects and began spending recklessly for his lavish lifestyle at the expense of his citizens.

Caligula ordered the formation of a three-mile-long bridge across the “Bay of Baiae” by the merchants. Then Caligula rode on his favorite horse Incitatus for two days straight donning a long golden cape.


Erected Temples by Caligula

To solidify his strength and reign of terror, Caligula ordered the erection of temples in his name. Even though his architectural fanaticism led Rome to its economic downfall, Caligula managed to oversee the building of various picturesque temples and architectural masterpieces like the “The Temple of Augustus”, “Pompeii’s Theatre”, and the “Roman city” of the Alps.


Military Campaign was turned into a joke

During the 39 to 40 CE, Caligula tried to extend his reign of terror across the English Channel and the Rhine, to acquire even more power and wealth. But such immense success was beyond the capacity of Caligula, so he had to face various defeats in the pursuit of power and territory.

Further driven to the brink of madness and exhausted by his defeats he declared war against the mythological god of the sea, Neptune. He ordered his royal military force to whip at the waves and procure the sea shells as the victory bounty. Caligula successfully turned the military into a laughing stock.


Caligula terrorized the people of Rome

Caligula frequently exclaimed, “Remember I have the right to do anything to anybody”. Alluding to the factor that Caligula believed himself to be an immortal god. Using remarks like these he struck terror into the hearts of the Roman citizens. His terrible and cruel acts included adultery with the wives of his supporters and ordering the execution of the senators, soldiers, and royal officers who dared disagree with him.

Under his patronage murder was turned into a fancy sport, where Caligula attacked people at random and terrorized the people of Rome. Scholars also believe that he beheaded the various statues that had been erected and replaced their heads with his own.


A legacy was turned into a show of power

Caligula ordered the Gladiator games to be turned into a show of power and his extent of cruelty. The criminals, Slaves, and the other lowly servants were usually executed in front of live guests to showcase his power. After the criminal population was almost depleted he also ordered a section of the people to be sacrificed by being fed to the animals he called beasts.


Ending Note

The Roman population had grown extremely weary of his tyrant ways and his incessant exploitations that left them poverty-stricken and terrified for their lives.

In January of 41 CE, months after Caligula’s return from Gaul, he was executed by Cassius Chaerea, “tribune of the Praetorian guard”( a position) at the “Palatine Games”. Caligula’s wife and daughter were also executed for good measure. Thus bringing to an end a reign of terror that lasted short but greatly damaged the citizens of Rome.


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