The New International Encyclopædia/Caligula, Gaius Cæsar Augustus Germanicus

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CALIGULA, Gaius Cæsar Augustus Germanicus (12-41). Emperor of Rome from A.D. 37 to 41. He was the youngest son of Germanicus (nephew of Tiberius) by Agrippina, and was born August 31, A.D. 12, at Antium, and was educated in the camp, where the soldiers gave him the nickname Caligula, from the military boots (caligæ) which he wore. On the death of his brother Drusus, he was made augur in his stead; and on the death of Tiberius (A.D. 37), who, it was suspected, had received foul play at his hands, it was found that he had been appointed co-heir along with the grandson of Tiberius, but the Senate and the people allowed Caligula supreme and sole authority. In the beginning of his reign he appeared hardly likely to fulfill the threat of Tiberius, who had talked of educating Caligula “for the destruction of the Roman people.” He was, to appearance, lavishly generous and merciful, pardoning even those who had been the instruments of cruelty against his own family. But this ostentatious magnanimity was itself a disease, an unwholesome affectation, founded on no principle, or even humanity of heart, and co-existed with the most savage voluptuousness and lust. Consequently, when illness, the result of his vicious life, had weakened his faculties, the lower qualities of his nature obtained the complete mastery. In addition to the senseless prodigality with which he commenced his career—expending in one year the enormous wealth left by Tiberius, 720,000,000 sesterces—he began to manifest the most barbarous propensities. He banished or murdered his relatives, excepting his uncle Claudius and sister Drusilla (with whom he carried on incestuous intercourse); filled Rome with executions, confiscating the estates of his victims; amused himself, while dining, by having victims tortured and slain in his presence; and uttered the wish “that all the Roman people had but one neck, so that he might decapitate Rome at a blow!” To vie with Xerxes, he made a bridge of ships over the bay between Baiæ and Puteoli (a distance of three Roman miles and 600 paces), and celebrated the exploit by a costly banquet on the middle of the bridge, and by collecting on it great numbers of people, and causing them to be drowned. His favorite horse was stabled in a palace, fed at a marble manger with gilded oats, was made a member of the college of priests, and afterwards raised to the consulship. As a climax to all his absurdities, he declared himself a god, and had temples erected, and sacrifices offered to himself. At length a conspiracy was formed by the officers of his guards, and he was assassinated A.D. 41. His life is told by Suetonius. See also Baring-Gould, The Tragedy of the Cæsars (London, 1892).