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 TR POT, bare head left / VESTA above, S C across field, Vesta seated left, holding patera and sceptre. Cohen 27. g VF 

A simply splendid example.

Caligula
Reign 3741
(Consul from 39)
Full name Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
Born August 31, 12
Died January 24, 41
Predecessor Tiberius
Successor Claudius
Wife/wives 1) Junia Claudilla
2) Livia Orestilla
3) Lollia Paulina
4) Caesonia
Issue Julia Drusilla
Dynasty Julio-Claudian
Father Germanicus
Mother Agrippina the Elder

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 Suetonius referred to Caligula as a "monster", and the surviving sources are universal in their condemnation. One popular tale, often cited as an example of his insanity and tyranny, is that Caligula appointed his favorite 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 is based on a single misunderstood near-contemporary reference, in which Suetonius merely repeats an unattributed rumour that Caligula was thinking 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. In short, the surviving sources are filled with anecdotes of Caligula's cruelty and insanity rather than an actual account of his reign, making any reconstruction of his time as Princeps nearly impossible. What does survive is the picture of a depraved, hedonistic ruler, an image that has made Caligula one of the most widely 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 Augustus himself. He was thus a prominent member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and 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 Germania and became the mascot of his father's army. The soldiers were amused whenever Agrippina would put young Gaius in a miniature soldier's uniform, 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, though at the time of Augustus' death he was too young to assume the office of Princeps. 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 and her death two years later, he was returned to his Julian relatives and remanded to his grandmother Antonia. During this period Caligula had little 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, but especially Drusilla. Suetonius in particular writes a great deal about these supposed acts.

In 31, Caligula was remanded to the personal care of Tiberius on Capri until the death of Tiberius and the ascension of Caligula in 37. By this time, Caligula was already in favor with Tiberius. Suetonius writes of extreme perversions happening on Capri, as Tiberius was without the people who had managed, in Rome, to keep him in line (Augustus, Livia, his brother Drusus, and his best friend Nerva), so he felt free to indulge in any perversion he desired. Whether this is true or not is hard to say. Unpopular Emperors, such as Tiberius and Caligula, may not have had the whole truth written about them, and gossip is common throughout ancient texts.

At this time, Tiberius' Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus, was extremely powerful in Rome and began forming his own alliances against the Emperor's rule and his possible successors, attempting to court the supporters of the Julian line. Treason trials were frequent events, as Tiberius in his old age was growing increasingly paranoid and began to rely increasingly upon his friend Sejanus, who had once saved his life. These trials were the main lever Sejanus used to strengthen his position and dispose of any opposition.

From a very early age Caligula learned to tread very carefully. According to both Tacitus and Suetonius, he surpassed his brothers in intelligence, and was an excellent natural actor, realizing the danger when other members of his family could not. Caligula survived when most of the other potential candidates to the throne were destroyed. His mother Agrippina was banished 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 his mattress in his mouth, apparently eaten to keep off the hunger pangs.

Suetonius writes of Caligula's servile nature towards Tiberius and his indifferent nature towards his dead mother and brothers. By his own account, Caligula mentioned years later that this servility was a sham in order to stay alive, and on more than one occasion he very nearly killed Tiberius when his anger overwhelmed him. An observer said of Caligula: "Never was there a better servant or a worse master!" Caligula proved to have a flair for administration and won further favor with the ailing Tiberius by carrying out many of his duties for him. At night, Caligula would inflict torture on slaves and watch bloody gladiatorial games with glee. In 33, Tiberius gave Caligula the position of honorary quaestorship, the only form of public service Caligula would hold until his reign. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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