Third Roman emperor. Gaius Caesar Germanicus is better
known to history as Caligula ["Little Boots'], a nickname that
his father's soldiers had pinned on him as a child. He was both
great-grandson of Augustus
& grandson of Marcus
Agrippa. His father, Germanicus
Caesar [son of Augustus'
was an able soldier who had been designated Tiberius'
adopted son & heir in Augustus' will (14
CE). Under Tiberius,
Germanicus successfully pacified the eastern provinces. But his
popularity & independence led to a feud with the governor of
Syria [Piso], whose wife was blamed for poisoning him (19 CE).
Although Tiberius was himself popularly blamed for the later deaths
of Germanicus' older sons, he eventually chose Caligula as his
successor (37 CE).
Though initially popular with Romans
for ending Tiberius' reign of terror, less than a year after his
succession Caligula proved himself more despotic than his
predecessor. He restored treason trials, mocked the Senate, flaunted
his incestuous relations with his sisters & demanded to be
worshipped as Jove, the supreme god of the ancient Roman pantheon.
He surrounded himself with flatterers, including Herod's
I, whom he made king of half
his grandfather's realm. Protests arising from the complicity of the
Roman governor of Egypt in the persecution of Alexandrian Jews (38 CE), however, made Caligula aware that Jews refused to revere his
image. So, disturbances in Judea the following year prompted him to
order the erection of a statue of himself in the temple of Jerusalem.
Though he refused to heed warnings from Jewish officials & his
own legate that this would only provoke civil war, the order was
never carried out, due to news that the 29 year old emperor &
would-be god had been slain by his own Praetorian guard.
Modern historians blame Caligula's
irrational megalomania on his near fatal sickness soon after
becoming emperor. But it is questionable whether that brush with
mortality is sufficient to account for even a fraction of the social
perversion---not all of which can be dismissed as
exaggeration---that the imperial biographers ascribe to him. Gaius,
after all, was the first Roman emperor who had no reminiscence of
the pre-Augustan era. He was raised in an autocratic world that
venerated his great-grandfather [Augustus] as a god. His grandmother
[Julia] was notorious for defying Roman standards of marital
fidelity. It was widely rumored that the murder of his father
[Germanicus] & older brothers had been ordered by his
great-uncle [Tiberius], whose debauchery & brutality he
witnessed first-hand. Thus, it is likely that upbringing &
experience were as much or more to blame for his anti-social reign
as any mental illness.
124, 166-168, 187-188, 223-224, 234-308;
19.1, 10-161, 201-221.
_____, War 2.178-184,
Cassius Dio, Roman
Other resources on line: