Gaius [Caligula [12 - 41 CE; assassinated]

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' daughter Julia], 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 grandson, Agrippa 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.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 18.105, 124, 166-168, 187-188, 223-224, 234-308;
                                                        19.1, 10-161, 201-221.
                   _____, War 2.178-184, 199-208.
                   Philo, Embassy to Gaius.
                   _____, Flaccus 8-35, 180-191.
                   Suetonius, Caligula.
                   Cassius Dio, Roman History 59.

Other resources on line:

Roman silver denarius struck with Caligula's image in 37 CE. The Latin inscription reads (counter-clockwise from under his chin): G. Caesar Aug. Germ., P. M. Tr. Pot. ["Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Pontifex Maximus, with power of Tribune"].  The title "Supreme Pontiff" shows Caligula mimicked Augustus in claiming the highest office in Roman civil religion. The other side of this coin bears the image of the emperor's mother, Agrippina, granddaughter of the deified Augustus. For a catalog of Caligula's coins see:

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