Caligula was the third emperor of the Roman Empire. He became Rome’s ruler at a very young age, and is known for his sadistic and cruel behavior. Even though his reign was very short, only four years, the young Gaius Giulius Caesar Germanicus had in impact on Rome’s history and development. Get a better understanding of Caligula’s life, his mind, and his erratic behavior through these 5 most interesting facts!
1. GAIUS GIULIUS CAESAR GERMANICUS ALSO KNOWN AS CALIGULA.
When Caligula was a child, he was often taken to the battlefield by his father, Germanicus. Since a toddler he would dress in miniature armour, amusing the fellow soldiers who would ironically call him “caligula”,meaning “little soldier boot”.
Germanicus junior never appreciated the other soldiers making fun of him, nevertheless the nickname stuck and, with time, it became so popular that it finally eclipsed his real name.
2. CALIGOLA LOVED GETTING THE CROWD “INVOLVED”
It’s said that whenever Caligola would get bored at the gladiatorial games, he would order his soldiers to throw in the arena a dozen of people from the crowd. In this way, Caligola would involve the crown in totum, allowing them to truly participate in the games held in the Colosseum.
3. EMPEROR AND GOD OF ALL
Caligula was many things: a ruler, an orphan, a sadist, but also a megalomaniac. One of Caligula’s desires was to be worshipped as the “Neos Helios”, the New Sun. In fact Egyptians would depict him on coins as the God of Sun.
It wasn’t unusual for this emperor to dress up like gods and goddesses, as well as having temples built in his honor. At a certain point Caligula intended to built a statue of him as a God and place it in Jerusalem’s temple but eventually was stopped by the Senate in order to not cause any violent riots.
4. INCITATUS, THE BEST OF FRIENDS
We’re used to think that dogs are man’s best friend. For Caligola it was a bit different. In fact the young emperor had a special bond with his horse, Incitatus. According to many historians and writers of the time, Incitatus lived in a marble stable, with an ivory manger from which he would eat barley sprinkled with gold.
Suetonius writes that Caligola loved his horse so much that he proclaimed it a consul - a very powerful position- just to mock the Senate. Unfortunately for the emperor, he didn’t live to see his friend enjo the title.
5. THE GREAT BATTLE AGAINST THE SEA
The validity of the following story is still quite dubious. However, after reading a bit about Caligula, very little could come off as a surprise, thus can be considered probable.
Before dying, Caligola led an ill-conceived battle in Britain, reaching as the farthest he could, which was Gaul. Once at destination, the battle was aborted and returning to Rome with no victory was not going to happen, not under Caligula’s nose. So the emperor declared war on Neptune, the God of water and all oceans. Caligula had his men whip the waves of the Mediterranean sea and collect seashells as war prizes.
So these are the facts I believe are most interesting about the character that Caligula was. Let me know if you discover any others while in Rome!
Written by Nadya Borzak