Germanicus Æ As.
Obverse: GERMANICVS CAESAR TI AVG F DIVI AVG N, bare
Reverse: C CAESAR DIVI AVG PRON AVG P M TR P IIII
P P around large SC
BMC. 74 Cohen 4
Struck under Caligula, 39-40 AD.
Agrippa, Æ As. Agrippa. Struck under Caligula,
Obverse: M AGRIPPA L F COS III, head left wearing
Reverse: S-C, Neptune standing facing, head left,
naked except for cloak draped
behind him & over both arms, holding small dolphin
in right hand & vertical trident in left
RIC 58 [Caligula], Cohen 3, BMC 161 [Tiberius]
Caligula, properly Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (31 August AD
12 – 24 January AD 41) was Roman emperor from AD 37–41. Born Gaius
Julius Caesar Germanicus (not to be confused with Julius Caesar), Caligula
was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian
dynasty. Caligula's biological father was Germanicus, and he was
the great-nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius. The young Gaius
earned the nickname "Caligula" (meaning "little soldier's boot", the diminutive
form of caliga, hob-nailed military boot) from his father's soldiers while
accompanying him during his campaigns in Germania.
When Germanicus died at Antioch in AD 19, his wife Agrippina the Elder
returned with her six children to Rome, where she became entangled in a
bitter feud with Tiberius. The conflict eventually led to the destruction
of her family, with Caligula as the sole male survivor. Untouched
by the deadly intrigues, Caligula accepted the invitation to join the Emperor
in AD 31 on the island of Capri, where Tiberius had withdrawn five years
earlier. With the death of Tiberius in AD 37, Caligula succeeded
his grand uncle and adoptive grandfather as emperor.
There are few surviving sources about the reign of Emperor Caligula, although
he is described as a noble and moderate ruler during the first six months
of his reign. After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, sadism,
extravagance, and sexual perversity, presenting him as an insane tyrant.
While the reliability of these sources is questionable, it is known that
during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the unconstrained personal
power of the emperor, as opposed to countervailing powers within the principate.
He directed much of his attention to ambitious construction projects and
luxurious dwellings for himself, and initiated the construction of two
aqueducts in Rome: the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus. During his
reign, the empire annexed the Kingdom of Mauretania as a province.
In early AD 41, Caligula was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy by
officers of the Praetorian Guard, senators, and courtiers. The conspirators'
attempt to use the opportunity to restore the Roman Republic was thwarted:
on the day of the assassination of Caligula, the Praetorian Guard declared
Caligula's uncle, Claudius, the next Roman emperor.
Gaius Julius Caesar (named in honor of his famous relative) was born in
Antium (modern Anzio and Nettuno) on 31 August 12 AD, the third of six
surviving children born to Germanicus and his second cousin Agrippina the
Elder. Gaius had two older brothers, Nero and Drusus, as well as
three younger sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Julia Drusilla and Julia
Livilla. He was also a nephew of Claudius, Germanicus' younger brother
and the future emperor.
Agrippina the Elder was the daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia
the Elder. She was a granddaughter of Augustus and Scribonia on her
mother's side. Through Agrippina, Augustus was the maternal great-grandfather
Youth and early career:
As a boy of just two or three, Gaius accompanied his father, Germanicus,
on campaigns in the north of Germania. The soldiers were amused that
Gaius was dressed in a miniature soldier's outfit, including boots and
armour. He was soon given his nickname Caligula, meaning "little
(soldier's) boot" in Latin, after the small boots he wore. Gaius,
though, reportedly grew to dislike this nickname.
Suetonius claims that Germanicus was poisoned in Syria by an agent of Tiberius,
who viewed Germanicus as a political rival.
After the death of his father, Caligula lived with his mother until her
relations with Tiberius deteriorated. Tiberius would not allow Agrippina
to remarry for fear her husband would be a rival. Agrippina and Caligula's
brother, Nero, were banished in 29 AD on charges of treason.
The adolescent Caligula was then sent to live with his great-grandmother
(and Tiberius's mother) Livia. After her death, he was sent to live
with his grandmother Antonia. In 30 AD, his brother, Drusus Caesar,
was imprisoned on charges of treason and his brother Nero died in exile
from either starvation or suicide. Suetonius writes that after the
banishment of his mother and brothers, Caligula and his sisters were nothing
more than prisoners of Tiberius under the close watch of soldiers.
In 31 AD, Caligula was remanded to the personal care of Tiberius on Capri,
where he lived for six years. To the surprise of many, Caligula was
spared by Tiberius. According to historians, Caligula was an excellent
natural actor and, recognizing danger, hid all his resentment towards Tiberius.
An observer said of Caligula, "Never was there a better servant or a worse
Caligula claimed to have planned to kill Tiberius with a dagger in order
to avenge his mother and brother: however, having brought the weapon into
Tiberius's bedroom he did not kill the Emperor but instead threw the dagger
down on the floor. Supposedly Tiberius knew of this but never dared
to do anything about it. Suetonius claims that Caligula was already
cruel and vicious: he writes that, when Tiberius brought Caligula to Capri,
his purpose was to allow Caligula to live in order that he "... prove the
ruin of himself and of all men, and that he was rearing a viper for the
Roman people and a Phaethon for the world."
In 33 AD, Tiberius gave Caligula an honorary quaestorship, a position he
held until his rise to emperor. Meanwhile, both Caligula's mother
and his brother Drusus died in prison. Caligula was briefly married
to Junia Claudilla, in 33, though she died in childbirth the following
year. Caligula spent time befriending the Praetorian prefect, Naevius
Sutorius Macro, an important ally. Macro spoke well of Caligula to
Tiberius, attempting to quell any ill will or suspicion the Emperor felt
In 35 AD, Caligula was named joint heir to Tiberius's estate along with
When Tiberius died on 16 March 37 AD, his estate and the titles of the
principate were left to Caligula and Tiberius's own grandson, Gemellus,
who were to serve as joint heirs. Although Tiberius was 78 and on
his death bed, some ancient historians still conjecture that he was murdered.
Tacitus writes that the Praetorian Prefect, Macro, smothered Tiberius with
a pillow to hasten Caligula's accession, much to the joy of the Roman people,
while Suetonius writes that Caligula may have carried out the killing,
though this is not recorded by any other ancient historian.[ Seneca
the Elder and Philo, who both wrote during Tiberius's reign, as well as
Josephus record Tiberius as dying a natural death. Backed by Macro,
Caligula had Tiberius's will nullified with regard to Gemellus on grounds
of insanity, but otherwise carried out Tiberius's wishes.
Caligula accepted the powers of the principate as conferred by the senate
and entered Rome on 28 March amid a crowd that hailed him as "our baby"
and "our star", among other nicknames. Caligula is described as the
first emperor who was admired by everyone in "all the world, from the rising
to the setting sun." Caligula was loved by many for being the beloved
son of the popular Germanicus, and because he was not Tiberius. Suetonius
said that over 160,000 animals were sacrificed during three months of public
rejoicing to usher in the new reign. Philo describes the first seven
months of Caligula's reign as completely blissful.
Caligula's first acts were said to be generous in spirit, though many were
political in nature. To gain support, he granted bonuses to the military,
including the Praetorian Guard, city troops and the army outside Italy.
He destroyed Tiberius's treason papers, declared that treason trials were
a thing of the past, and recalled those who had been sent into exile.
He helped those who had been harmed by the imperial tax system, banished
certain sexual deviants, and put on lavish spectacles for the public, including
gladiatorial games. Caligula collected and brought back the bones
of his mother and of his brothers and deposited their remains in the tomb
In October 37 AD, Caligula fell seriously ill, or perhaps was poisoned.
He soon recovered from his illness, but many believed that the illness
turned the young emperor toward the diabolical: he started to kill off
or exile those who were close to him or whom he saw as a serious threat.
Perhaps his illness reminded him of his mortality and of the desire of
others to advance into his place. He had his cousin and adopted son
Tiberius Gemellus executed – an act that outraged Caligula's and Gemellus's
mutual grandmother Antonia Minor. She is said to have committed suicide,
although Suetonius hints that Caligula actually poisoned her. He
had his father-in-law Marcus Junius Silanus and his brother-in-law Marcus
Lepidus executed as well. His uncle Claudius was spared only because
Caligula preferred to keep him as a laughing stock. His favorite
sister Julia Drusilla died in 38 AD of a fever: his other two sisters,
Livilla and Agrippina the Younger, were exiled. He hated being the
grandson of Agrippa and slandered Augustus by repeating a falsehood that
his mother was actually conceived as the result of an incestuous relationship
between Augustus and his daughter Julia the Elder.
In AD 38, Caligula focused his attention on political and public reform.
He published the accounts of public funds, which had not been made public
during the reign of Tiberius. He aided those who lost property in fires,
abolished certain taxes, and gave out prizes to the public at gymnastic
events. He allowed new members into the equestrian and senatorial
Perhaps most significantly, he restored the practice of democratic elections.
Cassius Dio said that this act "though delighting the rabble, grieved the
sensible, who stopped to reflect, that if the offices should fall once
more into the hands of the many ... many disasters would result".
During the same year, though, Caligula was criticized for executing people
without full trials and for forcing his supporter Macro to commit suicide.
Financial crisis and famine:
According to Cassius Dio, a financial crisis emerged in AD 39. Suetonius
places the beginning of this crisis in 38. Caligula's political payments
for support, generosity and extravagance had exhausted the state's treasury.
Ancient historians state that Caligula began falsely accusing, fining and
even killing individuals for the purpose of seizing their estates.
Historians describe a number of Caligula's other desperate measures.
In order to gain funds, Caligula asked the public to lend the state money.
He levied taxes on lawsuits, weddings and prostitution. Caligula
began auctioning the lives of the gladiators at shows. Wills that
left items to Tiberius were reinterpreted to leave the items instead to
Caligula. Centurions who had acquired property by plunder were forced
to turn over spoils to the state.
The current and past highway commissioners were accused of incompetence
and embezzlement and forced to repay money. According to Suetonius,
in the first year of Caligula's reign he squandered 2.7 billion sesterces
that Tiberius had amassed. His nephew Nero Caesar both envied and
admired the fact that Gaius had run through the vast wealth Tiberius had
left him in so short a time.
A brief famine of unknown extent occurred, perhaps caused by this financial
crisis, but Suetonius claims it resulted from Caligula's seizure of public
carriages; according to Seneca, grain imports were disturbed because Caligula
repurposed grain boats for a pontoon bridge.
Despite financial difficulties, Caligula embarked on a number of construction
projects during his reign. Some were for the public good, though others
were for himself.
Josephus describes Caligula's improvements to the harbours at Rhegium and
Sicily, allowing increased grain imports from Egypt, as his greatest contributions.
These improvements may have been in response to the famine.
Caligula completed the temple of Augustus and the theatre of Pompey and
began an amphitheatre beside the Saepta. He expanded the imperial
palace. He began the aqueducts Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus, which
Pliny the Elder considered engineering marvels. He built a large
racetrack known as the circus of Gaius and Nero and had an Egyptian obelisk
(now known as the "Vatican Obelisk") transported by sea and erected in
the middle of Rome.
At Syracuse, he repaired the city walls and the temples of the gods.
He had new roads built and pushed to keep roads in good condition.
He had planned to rebuild the palace of Polycrates at Samos, to finish
the temple of Didymaean Apollo at Ephesus and to found a city high up in
the Alps. He planned to dig a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth
in Greece and sent a chief centurion to survey the work.
In 39, Caligula performed a spectacular stunt by ordering a temporary floating
bridge to be built using ships as pontoons, stretching for over two miles
from the resort of Baiae to the neighboring port of Puteoli. It was
said that the bridge was to rival that of the Persian king, Xerxes, crossing
of the Hellespont. Caligula, who could not swim, then proceeded to
ride his favorite horse, Incitatus, across, wearing the breastplate of
Alexander the Great. This act was in defiance of a prediction by
Tiberius's soothsayer Thrasyllus of Mendes that Caligula had "no more chance
of becoming emperor than of riding a horse across the Bay of Baiae".
Caligula had two large ships constructed for himself (which were later
recovered from the bottom of Lake Nemi during the dictatorship of Benito
Mussolini). The ships were among the largest vessels in the ancient
world. The smaller ship was designed as a temple dedicated to Diana.
The larger ship was essentially an elaborate floating palace with marble
floors and plumbing. Thirteen years after being raised, the ships
were burned during an attack in the Second World War, and almost nothing
remains of their hulls, though many archeological treasures remain intact
in the museum at Lake Nemi and in the Museo Nazionale Romano (Palazzo Massimo)
Feud with the senate:
In AD 39, relations between Caligula and the Roman Senate deteriorated.
The subject of their disagreement is unknown. A number of factors,
though, aggravated this feud. The Senate had become accustomed to
ruling without an emperor between the departure of Tiberius for Capri in
AD 26 and Caligula's accession. Additionally, Tiberius's treason
trials had eliminated a number of pro-Julian senators such as Asinius Gallus.
Caligula reviewed Tiberius's records of treason trials and decided, based
on their actions during these trials, that numerous senators were not trustworthy.
He ordered a new set of investigations and trials. He replaced the
consul and had several senators put to death. Suetonius reports that
other senators were degraded by being forced to wait on him and run beside
Soon after his break with the Senate, Caligula faced a number of additional
conspiracies against him. A conspiracy involving his brother-in-law
was foiled in late 39. Soon afterwards, the Governor of Germany,
Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Gaetulicus, was executed for connections to a
In AD 40, Caligula expanded the Roman Empire into Mauretania and made a
significant attempt at expanding into Britannia – even challenging Neptune
in his campaign. The conquest of Britannia was fully realized by
Mauretania was a client kingdom of Rome ruled by Ptolemy of Mauretania.
Caligula invited Ptolemy to Rome and then suddenly had him executed.
Mauretania was annexed by Caligula and subsequently divided into two provinces,
Mauretania Tingitana and Mauretania Caesariensis, separated by the river
Malua. Pliny claims that division was the work of Caligula, but Dio
states that in 42 AD an uprising took place, which was subdued by Gaius
Suetonius Paulinus and Gnaeus Hosidius Geta, and the division only took
place after this. This confusion might mean that Caligula decided
to divide the province, but the division was postponed because of the rebellion.
The first known equestrian governor of the two provinces was Marcus Fadius
Celer Flavianus, in office in 44 AD.
Details on the Mauretanian events of 39–44 are unclear. Cassius Dio
wrote an entire chapter on the annexation of Mauretania by Caligula, but
it is now lost. Caligula's move seemingly had a strictly personal
political motive – fear and jealousy of his cousin Ptolemy – and thus the
expansion may not have been prompted by pressing military or economic needs.
However, the rebellion of Tacfarinas had shown how exposed Africa Proconsularis
was to its west and how the Mauretanian client kings were unable to provide
protection to the province, and it is thus possible that Caligula's expansion
was a prudent response to potential future threats.
There seems to have been a northern campaign to Britannia that was aborted.
This campaign is derided by ancient historians with accounts of Gauls dressed
up as Germanic tribesmen at his triumph and Roman troops ordered to collect
seashells as "spoils of the sea". The few primary sources disagree
on what precisely occurred. Modern historians have put forward numerous
theories in an attempt to explain these actions. This trip to the
English Channel could have merely been a training and scouting mission.
The mission may have been to accept the surrender of the British chieftain
Adminius. "Seashells", or conchae in Latin, may be a metaphor for
something else such as female genitalia (perhaps the troops visited brothels)
or boats (perhaps they captured several small British boats).
Claims of divinity:
Ruins of the temple of Castor and Pollux in the Forum Romanum. Ancient
resources as well as recent archaeological evidence suggest that, at one
point, Caligula had the palace extended to annex this structure.
When several client kings came to Rome to pay their respects to him and
argued about their nobility of descent, he allegedly cried out the Homeric
line: "Let there be one lord, one king." In AD 40, Caligula
began implementing very controversial policies that introduced religion
into his political role. Caligula began appearing in public dressed
as various gods and demigods such as Hercules, Mercury, Venus and Apollo.
Reportedly, he began referring to himself as a god when meeting with politicians
and he was referred to as "Jupiter" on occasion in public documents.
A sacred precinct was set apart for his worship at Miletus in the province
of Asia and two temples were erected for worship of him in Rome.
The Temple of Castor and Pollux on the forum was linked directly to the
imperial residence on the Palatine and dedicated to Caligula. He
would appear here on occasion and present himself as a god to the public.
Caligula had the heads removed from various statues of gods and replaced
with his own in some temples. It is said that he wished to be worshipped
as "Neos Helios," the "New Sun." Indeed, he was represented as a
sun god on Egyptian coins.
Caligula's religious policy was a departure from that of his predecessors.
According to Cassius Dio, living emperors could be worshipped as divine
in the east and dead emperors could be worshipped as divine in Rome.
Augustus had the public worship his spirit on occasion, but Dio describes
this as an extreme act that emperors generally shied away from. Caligula
took things a step further and had those in Rome, including senators, worship
him as a tangible, living god.
Caligula needed to quell several riots and conspiracies in the eastern
territories during his reign. Aiding him in his actions was his good
friend, Herod Agrippa, who became governor of the territories of Batanaea
and Trachonitis after Caligula became emperor in AD 37.
The cause of tensions in the east was complicated, involving the spread
of Greek culture, Roman Law and the rights of Jews in the empire.
Caligula did not trust the prefect of Egypt, Aulus Avilius Flaccus.
Flaccus had been loyal to Tiberius, had conspired against Caligula's mother
and had connections with Egyptian separatists. In AD 38, Caligula
sent Agrippa to Alexandria unannounced to check on Flaccus. According
to Philo, the visit was met with jeers from the Greek population who saw
Agrippa as the king of the Jews. Flaccus tried to placate both the
Greek population and Caligula by having statues of the emperor placed in
Jewish synagogues. As a result, riots broke out in the city.
Caligula responded by removing Flaccus from his position and executing
In AD 39, Agrippa accused Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea,
of planning a rebellion against Roman rule with the help of Parthia.
Herod Antipas confessed and Caligula exiled him. Agrippa was rewarded
with his territories.
Riots again erupted in Alexandria in AD 40 between Jews and Greeks.
Jews were accused of not honoring the emperor. Disputes occurred
in the city of Jamnia. Jews were angered by the erection of a clay
altar and destroyed it. In response, Caligula ordered the erection
of a statue of himself in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem, a demand in conflict
with Jewish monotheism. In this context, Philo wrote that Caligula
"regarded the Jews with most especial suspicion, as if they were the only
persons who cherished wishes opposed to his".
The Governor of Syria, Publius Petronius, fearing civil war if the order
were carried out, delayed implementing it for nearly a year. Agrippa
finally convinced Caligula to reverse the order.
Philo of Alexandria and Seneca the Younger describe Caligula as an insane
emperor who was self-absorbed, angry, killed on a whim, and indulged in
too much spending and sex. He is accused of sleeping with other men's
wives and bragging about it, killing for mere amusement, deliberately wasting
money on his bridge, causing starvation, and wanting a statue of himself
erected in the Temple of Jerusalem for his worship. Once, at some
games at which he was presiding, he ordered his guards to throw an entire
section of the audience into the arena during the intermission to be eaten
by the wild beasts because there were no prisoners to be used and he was
While repeating the earlier stories, the later sources of Suetonius and
Cassius Dio provide additional tales of insanity. They accuse Caligula
of incest with his sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla, and Livilla,
and say he prostituted them to other men. They state he sent troops
on illogical military exercises, turned the palace into a brothel, and,
most famously, planned or promised to make his horse, Incitatus, a consul,
and actually appointed him a priest.
The validity of these accounts is debatable. In Roman political culture,
insanity and sexual perversity were often presented hand-in-hand with poor
Assassination and aftermath:
Caligula's actions as emperor were described as being especially harsh
to the senate, to the nobility and to the equestrian order. According
to Josephus, these actions led to several failed conspiracies against Caligula.
Eventually, officers within the Praetorian Guard led by Cassius Chaerea
succeeded in murdering the emperor. The plot is described as having
been planned by three men, but many in the senate, army and equestrian
order were said to have been informed of it and involved in it.
The situation had escalated when, in 40 AD, Caligula announced to the senate
that he planned to leave Rome permanently and to move to Alexandria in
Egypt, where he hoped to be worshiped as a living god. The prospect
of Rome losing its emperor and thus its political power was the final straw
for many. Such a move would have left both the senate and the Praetorian
Guard powerless to stop Caligula's repression and debauchery. With
this in mind Chaerea convinced his fellow conspirators to put their plot
into action quickly.
According to Josephus, Chaerea had political motivations for the assassination.
Suetonius sees the motive in Caligula calling Chaerea derogatory names.
Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and for
not being firm with tax collection. Caligula would mock Chaerea with
names like "Priapus" and "Venus".
On 22 January 41 (Suetonius gives the date as 24 January), Cassius Chaerea
and other guardsmen accosted Caligula as he addressed an acting troupe
of young men during a series of games and dramatics held for the Divine
Augustus. Details recorded on the events vary somewhat from source
to source, but they agree that Chaerea stabbed Caligula first, followed
by a number of conspirators. Suetonius records that Caligula's death
resembled that of Julius Caesar. He states that both the elder Gaius
Julius Caesar (Julius Caesar) and the younger Gaius Julius Caesar (Caligula)
were stabbed 30 times by conspirators led by a man named Cassius (Cassius
Longinus and Cassius Chaerea). By the time Caligula's loyal Germanic
guard responded, the Emperor was already dead. The Germanic guard,
stricken with grief and rage, responded with a rampaging attack on the
assassins, conspirators, innocent senators and bystanders alike.
The cryptoporticus (underground corridor) beneath the imperial palaces
on the Palatine Hill where this event took place was discovered by archaeologists
The senate attempted to use Caligula's death as an opportunity to restore
the republic. Chaerea tried to persuade the military to support the
senate. The military, though, remained loyal to the idea of imperial
monarchy. The grieving Roman people assembled and demanded that Caligula's
murderers be brought to justice. Uncomfortable with lingering imperial
support, the assassins sought out and stabbed Caligula's wife, Caesonia,
and killed their young daughter, Julia Drusilla, by smashing her head against
a wall. They were unable to reach Caligula's uncle, Claudius; after
a soldier, Gratus, found Claudius hiding behind a palace curtain he was
spirited out of the city by a sympathetic faction of the Praetorian Guard
to the nearby Praetorian camp.
Claudius became emperor after procuring the support of the Praetorian Guard.
He ordered the execution of Chaerea and of any other known conspirators
involved in the death of Caligula. According to Suetonius, Caligula's
body was placed under turf until it was burned and entombed by his sisters.
He was buried within the Mausoleum of Augustus; in 410, during the Sack
of Rome ashes in the tomb were scattered.
The history of Caligula's reign is extremely problematic as only two sources
contemporary with Caligula have survived — the works of Philo and Seneca.
Philo's works, On the Embassy to Gaius and Flaccus, give some details
on Caligula's early reign, but mostly focus on events surrounding the Jewish
population in Judea and Egypt with whom he sympathizes. Seneca's
various works give mostly scattered anecdotes on Caligula's personality.
Seneca was almost put to death by Caligula in AD 39 likely due to his associations
At one time, there were detailed contemporaneous histories on Caligula,
but they are now lost. Additionally, the historians who wrote them
are described as biased, either overly critical or praising of Caligula.
Nonetheless, these lost primary sources, along with the works of Seneca
and Philo, were the basis of surviving secondary and tertiary histories
on Caligula written by the next generations of historians. A few
of the contemporaneous historians are known by name. Fabius Rusticus
and Cluvius Rufus both wrote condemning histories on Caligula that are
now lost. Fabius Rusticus was a friend of Seneca who was known for
historical embellishment and misrepresentation. Cluvius Rufus was
a senator involved in the assassination of Caligula.
Caligula's sister, Agrippina the Younger, wrote an autobiography that certainly
included a detailed explanation of Caligula's reign, but it too is lost.
Agrippina was banished by Caligula for her connection to Marcus Lepidus,
who conspired against him. The inheritance of Nero, Agrippina's son
and the future emperor, was seized by Caligula. Gaetulicus, a poet,
produced a number of flattering writings about Caligula, but they too are
The bulk of what is known of Caligula comes from Suetonius and Cassius
Dio. Suetonius wrote his history on Caligula 80 years after his death,
while Cassius Dio wrote his history over 180 years after Caligula's death.
Cassius Dio's work is invaluable because it alone gives a loose chronology
of Caligula's reign.
A handful of other sources add a limited perspective on Caligula.
Josephus gives a detailed description of Caligula's assassination.
Tacitus provides some information on Caligula's life under Tiberius.
In a now lost portion of his Annals, Tacitus gave a detailed history of
Caligula. Pliny the Elder's Natural History has a few brief references
There are few surviving sources on Caligula and no surviving source paints
Caligula in a favorable light. The paucity of sources has resulted
in significant gaps in modern knowledge of the reign of Caligula.
Little is written on the first two years of Caligula's reign. Additionally,
there are only limited details on later significant events, such as the
annexation of Mauretania, Caligula's military actions in Britannia, and
his feud with the Roman Senate.
All surviving sources, except Pliny the Elder, characterize Caligula as
insane. However, it is not known whether they are speaking figuratively
or literally. Additionally, given Caligula's unpopularity among the
surviving sources, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.
Recent sources are divided in attempting to ascribe a medical reason for
his behavior, citing as possibilities encephalitis, epilepsy or meningitis.
The question of whether or not Caligula was insane (especially after his
illness early in his reign) remains unanswered.
Philo of Alexandria, Josephus and Seneca state that Caligula was insane,
but describe this madness as a personality trait that came through experience.
Seneca states that Caligula became arrogant, angry and insulting once becoming
emperor and uses his personality flaws as examples his readers can learn
from. According to Josephus, power made Caligula incredibly conceited
and led him to think he was a god. Philo of Alexandria reports that
Caligula became ruthless after nearly dying of an illness in the eighth
month of his reign in AD 37. Juvenal reports he was given a magic
potion that drove him insane.
Suetonius said that Caligula suffered from "falling sickness", or epilepsy,
when he was young. Modern historians have theorized that Caligula
lived with a daily fear of seizures. Despite swimming being a part
of imperial education, Caligula could not swim. Epileptics are discouraged
from swimming in open waters because unexpected fits in such difficult
rescue circumstances can be fatal. Additionally, Caligula reportedly
talked to the full moon. Epilepsy was long associated with the moon.
Some modern historians think that Caligula suffered from hyperthyroidism.
This diagnosis is mainly attributed to Caligula's irritability and his
"stare" as described by Pliny the Elder.
Possible rediscovery of burial site:
On 17 January 2011, police in Nemi, Italy, announced that they believed
they had discovered the site of Caligula's burial, after arresting a thief
caught smuggling a statue which they believed to be of the emperor.
The claim has been met with scepticism by Cambridge historian Mary Beard.
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