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 Gaius “Caligula” Germanicus

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Gaius “Caligula” Germanicus

Roman Emperor. Gaius was born in A.D. 12, in Antium (Modern-day Anzio), the third of six children. His childhood was not a happy one, spent amid an atmosphere of paranoia, suspicion, and murder. Instability within the Julio-Claudian house, generated by uncertainty over the succession, led to a series of personal tragedies. His father died mysteriously in 19 AD, and relations between his mother and his grand-uncle, Emperor Tiberius, detiriorated, and the adolescent Gaius was sent to live with his great-grandmother Livia in A.D. 27. Upon her death two years later, he went to live with his grandmother Antonia. In A.D. 31 he was summoned to join Tiberius at his villa on Capri, where he remained until his accession in A.D. 37. In the interim, his two brothers and his mother all suffered violent deaths. Throughout these years, the only position of administrative responsibility Caligula held was an honorary quaestorship in A.D. 33. When Tiberius died in March 37, Gaius was in perfect position to assume power, despite Tiberius' will, which stated that he and his cousin Tiberius Gemellus were to rule together. Gemellus was murdered by Caligula's agents in a matter of months. He had his uncle's will declared null on grounds of insanity, and accepted the powers of the Principate as conferred by the Senate. He entered Rome on March 28th amid scenes of wild rejoicing. Among his first acts were to honor his father and other family, and to publicly destroy Tiberius' personal records. His popularity was immense among the people, yet he was dead in only four years. Most ancient historians all agree that after his good start, Gaius began to behave in an openly autocratic manner, even a crazed one. Outlandish stories cluster among the emperor, talking of his cruelty, immoral sexual escapades, and disrespect toward tradition and the Senate. The sources describe his incestuous relations with his sisters, laughable military campaigns in the north, one in which he told soldiers to gather seashells as "spoils of the Sea", the building of a pontoon bridge across the Bay at Baiae, and the plan to make his horse, Incitatus, a consul. Modern scholars have offered a variety of theories: Gaius suffered from an illness; he was misunderstood; he was corrupted by power; or, accepting the ancient evidence, they conclude that he was mad. The conspiracy that ended Gaius' life was hatched among officers of the Praetorian Guard, mostly for personal reasons. On January 24th, 41 A.D. the Praetorian tribune Cassius Chaerea and other guardsmen caught Gaius alone in a secluded palace corridor and cut him down. He was 28 years old and had ruled three years and ten months. With him died his wife Caesonia, stabbed to death by a centurion, and his daughter, killed when her head was thrown against the wall. However, Caligula's reign highlights the inherent weakness in the Augustan Principate, and revealed it for what it was - a raw monarchy in which only the self-discipline of the incumbent acted as a restraint on his behavior. His body was laid to rest in the Lamian Gardens, where it was partly consumed on a quickly erected pyre and buried beneath a light covering of turf. Later, his sisters, returning from their exile, dug his corpse up, and cremated it fully. Before this was done, it was known that the caretakers of the gardens were disturbed by ghosts, and that in the house where he was slain not a night passed without some fearsome apparition, until at last the house itself was destroyed by fire.

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Mongoose
  • Added: 22 Dec 2003
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8200608
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Gaius “Caligula” Germanicus (31 Aug–24 Jan), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8200608, citing Mausoleum of Augustus, Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated.