Gaius Caligula Æ As. Struck 37-8 AD. Vesta seated left,holding patera and sceptre.

Ancient Coins - Gaius Caligula Æ As. Struck 37-8 AD. Vesta seated left,holding patera and sceptre.
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Gaius Caligula � As. Struck 37-8 AD. C CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS PON M TRPOT, bare head left / VESTA above, S C across field, Vesta seated left,holding patera and sceptre. Cohen 27. RIC 0038. No.2662.GVF. 10.3g.
A simply splendid example.
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
(August 31, 12January 24, 41 AD), most commonly known as Caligula, was the third Roman Emperor and a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, ruling from AD 37 to AD 41. Known for his extreme extravagance, eccentricity, depravity and cruelty, he is remembered as a despot. He was assassinated in 41 AD by several of his own guards.

The Roman historian Suetoniusreferred to Caligula as a "monster", and the surviving sources areuniversal in their condemnation. One popular tale, often cited as anexample of his insanity and tyranny, is that Caligula appointed hisfavorite horse, Incitatus, to a seat on the Senate and attempted to appoint it to the position of consul.The story, however, owes its unrelenting currency to its charm: it isbased on a single misunderstood near-contemporary reference, in whichSuetonius merely repeats an unattributed rumour that Caligula wasthinking about doing it. Caligula is often alleged to have had incestuous relationships with his sisters, most notably his younger sister Drusilla,but there is no credible evidence to support such claims either. Inshort, the surviving sources are filled with anecdotes of Caligula'scruelty and insanity rather than an actual account of his reign, makingany reconstruction of his time as Princepsnearly impossible. What does survive is the picture of a depraved,hedonistic ruler, an image that has made Caligula one of the mostwidely recognizable, if poorly documented, of all the Roman Emperors;the name "Caligula" itself has become synonymous with wanton hedonism,cruelty, tyranny, and insanity.


Early life

See Julio-Claudian Family Tree.

Caligula was born as Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus on August 31, 12, at the resort of Antium, the third of six surviving children born to Augustus's adopted grandson, Germanicus, and Augustus' granddaughter, Agrippina the Elder. Germanicus was son to Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia Minor. Agrippina was daughter to Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder. They had four other sons: (Tiberius and Gaius Julius, who died young; Nero; Drusus); and three daughters: (Julia Livilla; Drusilla; and Agrippina the Younger). Caligula was nephew to Claudius (the future Emperor).

Gaius' life started out promisingly, as he was the son of extremely famous parents. Germanicus was a grandson to Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia,Augustus's third wife, as well as an adoptive grandson of Augustushimself. He was thus a prominent member of the Julio-Claudian dynastyand was revered as son of the most beloved general of the Roman Empire. Agrippina was herself a granddaughter of Augustus and Scribonia. She was considered a model of the perfect Roman woman.

A caliga.
A caliga.

As a boy of just two or three, he accompanied his parents on military campaigns in the north of Germaniaand became the mascot of his father's army. The soldiers were amusedwhenever Agrippina would put young Gaius in a miniature soldier'suniform, including boots and armor; and he was soon given his nickname Caligula, meaning "Little (Soldier's) boot" in Latin, after the small boots he wore as part of his uniform.[1]

The question of succession had arisen several times during the life of Augustus, leading to accusations of intrigue within the family. Caligula's father, Germanicus,was believed by many to have been Augustus' preferred successor, thoughat the time of Augustus' death he was too young to assume the office ofPrinceps. As a result, Augustus had promoted Tiberius, with the caveat that Tiberius in turn adopt Germanicus. After a successful campaign in Germany and a Triumph in Rome, Germanicus was sent east to distance him from Roman politics; and he died on October 10, 19, claiming to have been poisoned by agents of Tiberius. Relations between his mother and Tiberius deteriorated rapidly amid accusations of murder and conspiracy.

The adolescent Caligula was sent to live first with his great-grandmother, and Tiberius' mother, Livia, in 27,possibly as a hostage. Following Livia's falling-out with Tiberius andher death two years later, he was returned to his Julian relatives andremanded to his grandmother Antonia. During this period Caligula hadlittle outside contact; his sole companions were his three sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla, and Julia Livilla.Later, Caligula's accusers would focus on this close relationship,accusing the Emperor of having engaged in incest with all three, butespecially Drusilla. Suetonius in particular writes a great deal about these supposed acts.

In 31, Caligula was remanded to the personal care of Tiberius on Capriuntil the death of Tiberius and the ascension of Caligula in 37. Bythis time, Caligula was already in favor with Tiberius. Suetoniuswrites of extreme perversions happening on Capri, as Tiberius waswithout the people who had managed, in Rome, to keep him in line(Augustus, Livia, his brother Drusus, and his best friend Nerva), so hefelt free to indulge in any perversion he desired. Whether this is trueor not is hard to say. Unpopular Emperors, such as Tiberius andCaligula, may not have had the whole truth written about them, andgossip is common throughout ancient texts.

At this time, Tiberius' Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus,was extremely powerful in Rome and began forming his own alliancesagainst the Emperor's rule and his possible successors, attempting tocourt the supporters of the Julian line. Treason trials were frequentevents, as Tiberius in his old age was growing increasingly paranoidand began to rely increasingly upon his friend Sejanus, who had oncesaved his life. These trials were the main lever Sejanus used tostrengthen his position and dispose of any opposition.

From a very early age Caligula learned to tread very carefully. According to both Tacitusand Suetonius, he surpassed his brothers in intelligence, and was anexcellent natural actor, realizing the danger when other members of hisfamily could not. Caligula survived when most of the other potentialcandidates to the throne were destroyed. His mother Agrippina wasbanished to the tiny island of Pandataria, where she starved herself to death. His two oldest brothers, Nero and Drusus, also died. Nero was banished to the island of Ponza,while Drusus' body was found locked in a dungeon with stuffing from hismattress in his mouth, apparently eaten to keep off the hunger pangs.

Suetonius writes of Caligula's servile nature towards Tiberius andhis indifferent nature towards his dead mother and brothers. By his ownaccount, Caligula mentioned years later that this servility was a shamin order to stay alive, and on more than one occasion he very nearlykilled Tiberius when his anger overwhelmed him. An observer said ofCaligula: "Never was there a better servant or a worse master!"Caligula proved to have a flair for administration and won furtherfavor with the ailing Tiberius by carrying out many of his duties forhim. At night, Caligula would inflict torture on slaves and watchbloody gladiatorial games with glee. In 33, Tiberius gave Caligula theposition of honorary quaestorship, the only form of public service Caligula would hold until his reign. 

Vesta was the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family in Roman mythology. Although she is often mistaken as analogous to Hestia in Greek mythology,she had a large, albeit mysterious, role in Roman religion long beforeshe appeared in Greece. Little is known about the goddess, since,unlike other Roman deities, she went without mention in myths. Vesta's presence was symbolized by the sacred fire that burned at her hearth and temples.



Vesta's (in some versions she is called Vestia) fire was guarded at her Temples by her priestesses, the Vestales. Every March 1 the fire was renewed. It burned until 391, when the Emperor Theodosius I forbade public pagan worship. One of the Vestales mentioned in mythology was Rhea Silvia, who with the God Mars conceived Romulus and Remus (see founding of Rome).

The Vestales were one of the few full-time clergy positions in Roman religion. They were drawn from the patrician class and had to observe absolute chastityfor 30 years. It was from this that the Vestales were named the Vestalvirgins. They could not show excessive care of their person, and theywere not allowed to let the fire go out. The Vestal Virgins livedtogether in a house near the Forum (Atrium Vestae), supervised by the Pontifex Maximus.On becoming a priestess, a Vestal Virgin was legally emancipated fromher father's authority and swore a vow of chastity for 30 years. Thisvow was so sacred that if it were broken, the Vestal was buried alivein the Campus Sceleris ('Field of Wickedness'). It is likely that this is what happened to Rhea Silvia.They were also very independent and had many privileges that normalwomen did not have. They could move around the city but had to be in acarriage.


Vesta was celebrated at the Vestalia which took place from June 7 to June 15. On the first day of the festivities the penus Vestae (the curtained sanctum sanctorum of her temple)was opened, for the only time during the year, for women to offersacrifices in. Such sacrifices included the removal of an unborn calffrom a pregnant cow.

 Household worship

Vesta was the goddess of the hearth at the centre of atriumand home. It was in the house and home that Vesta was most importantbecause she was the goddess of the hearth and of fire. Vesta wasparticularly important to women of the household as the hearth was theplace where food was prepared and next to it the meal was eaten withofferings being thrown into the fire to seek omens (the future) fromthe way it burned. Her weakness was that she couldn't fall in love.
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