Monday, February 16, 2009

Caligula - Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (August 31, 12 – January 24, 41), more commonly known by his nickname Caligula (pronounced /kəˈlɪgjʊlə/), was the third Roman Emperor, reigning from 16 March 37 until his assassination on 24 January 41. Caligula was the third emperor of the Roman Empire, and a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty which descended from Augustus.

Caligula's father, Germanicus, was the adopted son of emperor Tiberius and one of Rome's most beloved generals. The young Gaius earned his nickname, meaning "little [soldier's] boots", while travelling with his father on military campaigns in Germania. When Germanicus died in Antioch in 19, his mother Agrippina the Elder returned to Rome with her six children, where she became entangled in an increasingly bitter feud with Tiberius. During the course of the 20s and 30s, many of Caligula's relatives, including Agrippina and two elder brothers, died in mysterious circumstances. Caligula withdrew to the island of Capri in 31, where Tiberius himself had retired since 26, and eventually succeeded his adoptive uncle upon his death on 16 March 37.

There are few surviving sources on Caligula's reign, and although he is described as a noble and moderate ruler during the first two years of his rule, after this the sources focus upon his cruelty, extravagance, and sexual perversity, presenting him as an insane tyrant. While the reliability of these sources has been difficult to assess, what is known is that during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the authority of the Principate, but struggled to maintain his position in the face of several conspiracies to overthrow him. He focused much of his attention on ambitious construction projects, annexed Mauretania, and campaigned against Britain, but was unable to conquer it.

On 24 January 41, Caligula was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy involving members of his own bodyguard and the Roman Senate. The conspirators' attempt to use the opportunity to restore the Roman Republic was thwarted, as the same day the Praetorian Guard declared Caligula's uncle Claudius emperor in his place.

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