A lot has been said about Caligula, and it is quite hard to separate facts and myths. Most of the information fed to the public by most historians have faced criticism due to lack of enough evidence. As such, we have picked some of the most interesting facts about the infamous Roman emperor.
Crazy facts about Caligula
1. His father’s troops gave him his nickname
Caligula’s real name was Gaius Julius Caesar. However, this name was overshadowed by his nickname, which was adopted during his infancy. It is reported that his father took him to a gathering dressed up in a military uniform and a Tyke’s Caligae. It is at this point that the soldiers nicknamed him Caligula, which means “small boot,” an interesting fact about Caligula. Although it became famous even as he grew in his political career, Gaius did not like being called by his nickname.
2. Tiberius killed Caligula’s family
Caligula’s father – a famous commander at the time – and his uncle, Tiberius, were both from the lineage of Julio Claudian family. This was the first ruling family, and that meant Caligula’s father was somewhat a political rival to Tiberius. As such, it is reported that the Roman emperor conspired to kill him while in Syria.
Caligula’s mother came back to the empire with her six children seeking bloody revenge. Tiberius, on the other hand, was not reluctant to eradicate them, but he spared Caligula – who later agreed to work with him.
3. Caligula’s first few months in the office went to plan
Caligula rose to the throne aged at most 25 years old. Therefore, he was quite inexperienced but still had a remarkable plan to win the trust of his people. Tiberius’s reign had lowered the bar, and the Romans were more concerned with getting a new leader than his qualities.
Caligula’s first few months after taking charge brought joy to the faces of his people. Some of the most remarkable things he did during this time was giving freedom to the unjustly prisoned people, elimination of the unpopular tasks, and giving bonuses to the soldiers, an interesting fact about Caligula.
4. Caligula forced the people to worship him
We have read and heard of many dictators in the ancient world. Caligula is undoubtedly one of the most famous Roman names in that regard. Whenever he felt his people weren’t worshipping him enough, they would pay the price.
The emperor had his temples where his statues had been built in gold, and the worshippers would kneel before them. At some point, he attempted to replace the head of the statue of Zeus with his own.
5. He invited his horse to dine with him
How often do you see a horse taking wine? Well, Caligula’s favorite animal was not new to dining at the table of the Roman emperor. Caligula would go as far as sending his soldiers out of the room to ensure the horse had some peace.
As a matter of fact, he once ordered the soldiers to control the crowd’s noise because his horse looked disturbed. Anyone who went against the emperor’s wishes risked losing their life.
6. He exiled and murdered members of his family
Sometime during his tenure, Caligula fell seriously ill that he almost died. Because of his position and relationship with close relatives, he suspected a political plan to murder through food poisoning. As such, he started dealing with top suspects like Gamelius, Tiberius’s adopted son.
Many other relatives and close friends fell victim to these political assassinations driven by vengeance, an unfortunate fact about Caligula. His three sisters were no exception as they were exiled for the better part of their lives. Besides, he executed his fourth sister, Lepidus.
7. Caligula was known for his cruel behavior
To him, killing his prisoners was not enough. He wanted them to suffer enough for their “mistakes” before dying. As such, he gave orders to his soldiers to inflict pain and let them die slowly. He was always present during such executions to ensure that his orders were followed to the latter.
These actions were just part of a wide range of his sadistic habits. One famous example is when he paraded his wife, Caesonia, naked in front of a group of his friends. Caligula also committed incest with his sister, Julia Drusilla.
8. Caligula’s extravagance was part of his failure as a leader
His lifestyle overshadowed most of Caligula’s developments in ports and other facilities. He lavished money and was obsessed with making himself a luxurious leader. First, as a way of ensuring that his people worshipped him, he built costly temples.
Caligula also hosted extravagant cultural and sporting events to pull the crowd towards his side. Since he was against most prophecies, he built a floating bridge to defy one of them. Such irresponsible behavior burdened the state’s economy, and it forced the government to seek financial help from the public.
9. Some of his misdeeds may have been exaggerated
Most history books paint Caligula as a vicious, vengeful, and extravagant Roman emperor. However, a few historians believe that some of the records may have been exaggerated, an interesting fact about Caligula. For instance, the building of a floating bridge and his abusive behavior have been challenged by most critics. The truth will never be known since these history books are the only source of Caligula’s information.
10. Caligula was the first assassinated Roman emperor
Finally, and perhaps one of the most unpopular facts, is that the Romans killed Caligula. After a series of unpredictable and naive actions, the people felt that they had had enough of such leadership. At the age of 29 years, he was stabbed more than 30 times by the Praetorian guards who had been waiting for his return from Gaul.
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