He was the son of the popular general Germanicus (nephew of Tiberius and older brother of Claudius) and Agrippina the Elder, granddaughter of Augustus. As a boy, he accompanied his parents on military expeditions and would wear soldier's boots around the camp, hence the nickname Caligula (Latin: "little boots" or "bootsie"). Through his mother he was the great-grandson of the emperor Augustus, through his father the great-grandson of Augustus's wife Livia. See the Julio-Claudian Family Tree. Robert Graves's contention in I, Claudius that the seven year old Caligula was responsible for the murder of his father in Syria is unsupported by the historical record.
Most of the information about Caligula comes from sources biased against him, mainly from the historian Suetonius.
After the death of Tiberius the Roman Senate annulled his will and proclaimed Caligula imperator on March 18, 37. He probably had an incestuous sexual relationship with his sister Drusilla. In 38, he had his former supporter and powerful head of the guard Naevius Sutorius Macro executed; he had also Tiberius's grandson, Tiberius Gemellus, killed.
At the height of his reign, Caligula claimed to be a god. After having squandered the state's finances on generous rewards for the military and pompous games, he extorted money from the Roman aristocracy and established a state brothel. He was also said to have an extraordinary fondness for his horse Incitatus. One particularly well-known anecdote holds that Caligula eventually appointed Incitatus as a Senator and intended to have him made Consul.
In 39, Caligula suppressed a revolt among his troops on the Upper Rhine and marched on to the northern coast of Gaul, apparently in order to invade Britain. Instead, he ordered his troops to shoot into the waters and collect seashells.
A famous motto of his was oderint dum metuant ("Let them hate so long as they fear", a saying attributed to Lucius Accius).
Caligula was assasinated on January 24, 41 AD by Cassius Chaerea and other guards as he made his way through a secluded palace corridor after some games. His wife, Caesonia, and their infant daughter, Julia Drusilla, were killed soon afterwards. He was succeeded by his uncle, Claudius. He ruled for only three years and ten months.
Tiberius (14 - 37)
Claudius (41 - 54)
Caligula is the title of a play by Albert Camus, which was the basis for a 1996 Hungarian movie and the 2001 made for TV version.
Caligula is also a controversial 1979 movie.
See Caligula (film)