Caligula Essay, Research Paper
As most of the emperors of ancient Rome were given different names then the names they had at birth Caligula was no different. Caligula’s real name was Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus and he was born at Antium, 25 miles from Rome, in 12 AD Gaius was a turning point in the history of the Principate, but he also was the one emperor from the Julio-Claudian dynasty who was very poorly documented. (Bibliography # 2).
Gaius was born on August 31, 12 AD to Germanicus; Augustus’ adopted grandson, and Agrippina Senior, Augustus’ granddaughter. Gaius was the third of six children, the youngest son, and accompanied his parents on many military campaigns. As a baby his parents would dress him up in a miniature soldier costume and show him to the armies on their campaigns. Gaius received his nickname Caligula from the half boots or sandals that went with the costume called caligilas. The armies affectionately called him “little boots” or Caligula. (Bibliography # 1,6).
When Gaius as youth he developed an unhealthy relationship with his sisters Agrippina Jr, Drusilla and Julia Livilla. Gaius’s two brothers and his mother were killed after they were accused of plotting against Tiberius. Gaius’s father, Germanicus, died under what is recorded as “suspicious circumstances” on October 10, 19 AD After which, while Tiberius reigned, he was sent to live first with his great grandmother, Livia and then, when Livia died, with his grandmother, Antonia. (Bibliography # 2,4-6).
In 31 AD Gaius was summoned to join Tiberius at his villa on Capri. Gaius stayed there with Tiberius until he became emperor, in 37 AD, after Tiberius’ death. (Bibliography # 2,5).
Before Gaius became emperor the only political related job Gaius held was an honorary quaestorship in 33 AD. After Tiberius’ death on March 6, 37 AD Gaius was in the perfect position to assume the emperor’s throne, despite Tiberius’ will that named his Gaius and his cousin Tiberius Gemellus joint heirs. Because of this slight obstacle in his way he had Gemellus killed within a matter of months. After the death of Gemellus, Gaius had Tiberius’s will declared null and void. Gaius said that the will was void because of insanity. (Bibliography # 2,4).
Although Gaius started his “political career” on the right track he went down, and down fast. Within four years the very guards that were assigned to protect him murdered him. Ancient sources agree that insanity was the cause of Gaius’ downfall. The best reason that researches came up with for Gaius’ madness was that he, being a young man, was thrown into the job and he saw through the disguise that Augustus had set up and acted accordingly. Because of this, and his troubled upbringing, and the complete lack of tact led to his wild behavior that his contemporaries as way too extreme and even insane. (Bibliography # 1-3).
During Gaius’ reign he had Mauretania annexed and reorganized into two provinces, Herod Agrippa appointed to a kingdom in Palestine and many severe riots between Jews and Greeks took place. He Gauls dress up as Germans at his triumph and had his Roman troops collect seashells as “spoils for the sea”. (Bibliography # 2).
After uncovering a nascent conspiracy under Cn. Lentulus Gaetulicus, Gaius had his brother-in-law M. Aemilius Lepodus and Cn. Lentulus executed and his two surviving sisters, who were a part of the conspiracy exiled. Gaius had great enthusiasm for divine honors for himself and his favorite sister, Drusilla. After her sudden death in 38 AD he had her deified. He even tried to have a statue of himself erected in the Temple at Jerusalem, But through delaying techniques of P. Petronius and the intervention of Herod Agrippa prevented riots and uprisings in Palestine. (Bibliography # 1-3).
The conspiracy that ended Gaius’s life was hatched between the officers of the Praetorian Guard, apparently for personal reasons. Even though the guards thought it up it appeared to have the support of some senators and an imperial freedman. (Bibliography # 2).
Just as other conspiracies there were suspicions that the plot was broader than sources had said in the beginning. The conspiracy might have even had the support of the next emperor Claudius, but there isn’t evidence that proves these theories. (Bibliography # 2).
On January 24, 41 AD Cassius Chaerea, of the praetorian tribune and other guardsmen got Gaius alone in a corridor of the palace and murdered him by stabbing to death?and then some. Gaius died at the age of 28 and had only ruled for three years and ten months. (Bibliography # 2,4).
Gaius multiplied one houndred-fold whatever damage Tiberius’s later years did to the carefully crafted political structure created by Augustus. By the time that Gaius came to power in 37 AD he had no administrative experience besides his honorary quaestorship. He also spent his very unhappy childhood out of the public eye. Once he came to power he appeared to have realized the endless bounds of his authority and acted correspondingly. For his elite “companions” his situation proved unendurable and ensured the blackening of Caligula’s name in the historical records that they would formulate. (Bibliography # 2).
Even though Caligula was recorded as insane he was very important. Caligula’s reign highlighted the inherent weakness in the Augustan Principate. It was now, because of Caligula, openly revealed for was it was, a crude monarchy in which only the self-discipline of the official acted as a restraint on their behavior. And that the only way of retiring the unruly princeps was murder marked yet another important revelation: “Roman emperors could not relinquish their powers without relinquishing their lives”-Balsdon. (Bibliography # 2).
Through this report I learned more than just an emperor and his alleged insanity, I learned about the lifestyles of people back then. The thoughts, behaviors, and acts of people back then were supposedly more in the public’s eye. But in reality, the “truth” that the common peoples thought they knew was actually anything but. The senate and their efforts to keep emperors from becoming the “sole” ruler really wasn’t what it seemed either, and like I said the only thing holding the emperors back were their self-discipline.
After learning about the wondrous Caligula and life back in Rome I know that, in politics anyway, ancient Rome and the U.S today are different. Back then guys could be crazy with little to no political experience and still make it into the emperor’s chair but in the U.S today if a guy is crazy, or has never held a political office they wouldn’t even make the cut to be a parties representative.
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? (2) Fagan, Garrett G. http://www.salve.edu/~romanemp/indexxx.htm, 2October1997
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? (4) Balsdon, J.P.V.D. The Emperor Gaius. Oxford, 1934
? (5) Barrett, A.A. Caligula: The Corruption of power. New Haven,1989
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? (7) Wood, S. “Diva Drusilla Panthea and the sisters of Caligula.” AJA 99(1995): 457-82