Gaius Caesar was the third emperor of the Roman Empire. He was born in 12 AD to Germanicus, the military general and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius.

However, Germanicus did not become emperor because he died before Tiberius.

Some historians think that Tiberius poisoned Germanicus because they were political rivals.

Gaius Caesar was nicknamed Caligula. This nickname came from the soldiers in his father’s army.

He would follow his father through the army camps in Germania and the soldiers called him Caligula, meaning ‘little soldier’s boots’ in Latin.

Caligula’s mother was Agrippina. She had a feud with Tiberius after Germanicus’s death and was banished, along with his siblings.

Caligula was sent to live with Tiberius, as Tiberius hoped this would prove how dangerous the family was.

However, Caligula proved himself to be a good politician and Tiberius named him as his heir.

When Tiberius died in 37 AD, Caligula was named Emperor. At first, he was loved by everyone from all classes of society.

They nicknamed him ‘our baby’ and ‘our star’ because he was the son of the popular Germanicus.

People Loved Caligula

The people loved Caligula. He gave soldiers and guards more money. He recalled people who were exiled by Tiberius unjustly and banished people who repeatedly broke the law.

He also put on extravagant games and helped the poor who were struggling with money by reforming the tax system.

Six months into his rule, Caligula became seriously ill. Some thought that this illness caused a dramatic personality change.

He wandered the palace at night, wore silk gowns instead of togas which showed his rank and complained of constant headaches.

Caligula also began to think that he was a god, making people in Rome worship him.

He built a bridge between the palace and the Temple of Jupiter so he could easily talk to the other gods. He also appointed a horse as a priest!

Killed People

Caligula became tyrannical. He started to kill people who he thought threatened his rule – he killed them on the streets or using poison.

He exiled those who he thought might be useful later on but were dangerous now.

He also ordered many investigations into senators to check if they were trustworthy and loyal, putting them on trial for potential treason.

By this point, the Romans hated him. There were lots of plots to assassinate him, involving soldiers, senators and family.

In 41 AD, Caligula was killed by his guards after going to watch sports. He was stabbed 30 times and his wife and daughter also killed.

Straight away, the senate destroyed as many of his statues as possible to try to forget his rule of Rome.

Facts about Caligula

  • Caligula got his nickname from the soldiers in his father’s army, who called him ‘little soldier’s boots’.
  • Caligula was the only one of his family not to be killed or exiled by Emperor Tiberius.
  • Caligula became emperor in 37 AD and was the third man to hold this position.
  • The people liked Caligula because he reduced tax and put on games.
  • After a serious illness, Caligula went mad.
  • Caligula made the Romans worship him as a god and he appointed a horse as his priest.
  • Many of Caligula’s rivals were killed, exiled or tried for treason.
  • In 41 AD, Caligula was assassinated.

Questions :

  • Why did Caligula remain in Rome without his family
    Tiberius banished his mother and siblings for plotting against him. He kept Caligula to make an example of him.
  • Why did Romans initially like Caligula?
    He reduced taxes, gave soldiers more money and exiled law-breakers.
  • Why did Caligula become a tyrant?
    He became seriously ill and his personality had changed once he had recovered.
  • What mad things did Caligula do?
    He walked around in silk gowns, investigated all the senators for treason and named himself a god.