Caligula in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

CaligÅ­la, Gaius Caesar Augustus GermanÄ­cus , son of Germanicus and Agrippina, was born A.D. 12, in the camp, probably in Germany, and was brought up among the legions (Calig. 8). Here he received from the soldiers the surname of Caligula, from his being arrayed, when quite young, like a common soldier, and wearing a pair of caligae, a kind of shoe or covering for the feet used chiefly by the common soldiers. This was done in order to secure towards him the goodwill of the troops. Caligula himself, however, disliked the appellation in after- days, and preferred that of Gaius Caesar, which is also his historical name. Upon his father's death he returned from Syria, and lived with his mother till her exile, when he removed to the residence of Livia Augusta, his great-grandmother, whose funeral oration he delivered in public, while he still wore the praetexta. He afterwards remained in the family of his grandmother, Antonia, until his twentieth year, when, being invited to Capreae by the emperor, he assumed the dress proper to manhood, but without the customary ceremonies. In the court of his grandfather, his naturally mean and vicious temper appeared in a servile compliance with the caprices of those in power, in a wanton love of cruelty towards the unfortunate, and in the most abandoned and unprincipled debauchery; so that Tiberius observed that he was Caligula. (Bronze bust in Paris.) breeding a second Phaethon for the destruction of the world. Tiberius had, by his testament, appointed his two grandsons, Gaius Caesar and Tiberius Gemellus, the latter the son of Drusus, joint heirs of the Empire. The first act of Caligula, however, was to assemble the Senate for the purpose of declaring the invalidity of the will; and this being readily effected, and Tiberius Gemellus being declared too young to rule, Gaius Caesar Caligula was immediately proclaimed emperor. This appointment was received with the most unbounded joy both at Rome and in the provinces, and the conduct of the new prince seemed at first to promise one of the most auspicious of reigns. But this was all dissimulation on his part-a dissimulation which he had learned under his wily predecessor-for Caligula esteemed it prudent to assume the appearance of moderation, liberality, and justice, till he should be firmly seated on the throne, and freed from all apprehension lest the claims of the young Tiberius might be revived on any offence having been taken by the Senate. He interred, in the most honourable manner, the remains of his mother and of his brother Nero, set free all state prisoners, recalled the banished, and forbade all prosecutions for treason. He conferred on the magistrates free and independent power. Although the will of Tiberius had been declared, by the Senate, to be null and void, he fulfilled every article of it, with the exception only of that above mentioned. When he was chosen consul, he took his uncle Claudius as his colleague. Thus he distinguished the first eight months of his reign by many actions dictated perhaps by hypocrisy, but which appeared magnanimous and noble to the eyes of the world, when he fell, on a sudden, dangerously ill, in consequence, as has been imagined, of a love-potion given him by his mistress, Milonia Caesonia (whom he afterwards married), with a view to securing his inconstant affections. On recovering from this malady, whether weary by this time of the restraints of hypocrisy, or actually deranged in his intellect by the inflammatory effects of the potion which he had taken ( 614), the emperor threw off all appearance of virtue and moderation, as well as all prudential considerations, and acted on every occasion with the mischievous violence of unbridled passions and wanton power; so that the tyranny of Tiberius was forgotten in the enormities of Caligula. The most exquisite tortures served him for enjoyments. During his meals he caused criminals, and even innocent persons, to be stretched on the rack and beheaded; the most respectable citizens were daily executed. In the madness of his arrogance he even considered himself a god, and caused the honours to be paid to him which were paid to Apollo, to Mars, and even to Iupiter. He built a temple to his own divinity. At one time he wished that the whole Roman people had but one head, that he might be able to cut it off at a single blow. He frequently repeated the words of Attius, Oderint dum metuant. One of his greatest follies was the building of a bridge of vessels between Baiae and Puteoli, in imitation of that of Xerxes over the Hellespont. He himself consecrated this grand structure with great splendour; and, after he had passed the night following in a revel with his friends, in order to do something extraordinary before his departure he caused a crowd of persons, without distinction of age, rank, or character, to be seized and thrown into the sea. On his return he entered Rome in triumph, because, as he said, he had conquered nature herself. After this he made preparations for an expedition against the Germans; passed, with more than 200,000 men, over the Rhine; but returned after he had travelled a few miles, and that without having seen an enemy. Such was his terror that when he came to the river, and found the bridge obstructed by the crowd upon it, he caused himself to be passed over the heads of the soldiers. He then went to Gaul, which he plundered with unexampled rapacity. Not content with the considerable booty thus obtained, he sold all the property of his sisters Agrippina and Livilla, whom he banished. He also sold the furniture of the old court, the clothes of Augustus, Agrippina, etc. Before he left Gaul he declared his intention of going to Coin of Caligula, with his head and that of Augustus (the latter crowned). Britain. He collected his army on the coast, embarked in a magnificent galley, but returned when he had hardly left the land, drew up his forces, ordered the signal of battle to be sounded, and commanded the soldiers to fill their helmets with shells, while he cried out, "This booty, ravished from the sea, is fit for my palace and the Capitol." When he returned to Rome he was desirous of a triumph on account of his achievements, but contented himself with an ovation. Discontented with the Senate, he resolved to destroy the greater part of the members and the most distinguished men of Rome, as was proved by two books which were found after his death, wherein the names of the proscribed were noted down, and of which one was entitled Gladius (Sword), and the other Pugillus (Dagger). He became reconciled to the Senate, however, when he found it worthy of him. He supported public brothels and gaming-houses in the palace, and received himself the entrance-money of the visitors. His horse, named Incitatus, was his favourite. This horse he made one of his priests, and, by way of insult to the Republic, declared it also consul. It was kept in an ivory stable and fed from a golden manger, and when it was invited to feast at the emperor's table gilded oats were served up in a golden basin of exquisite workmanship. He had even the intention of destroying the poems of Homer, and was on the point of removing the works and images of Vergil and Livy from all libraries-those of the former because, as he said, he was destitute of genius and learning; those of the latter because he was not to be depended upon as an historian. Caligula's morals were, from his youth upward, abominably corrupt, but after he had married and repudiated several wives, Caesonia retained a permanent hold on his affections. His extravagance equalled his cruelty, for in a single year he squandered the entire savings of Tiberius, some $28,000,000, a favourite amusement of his being to stand on a balcony and shovel goldpieces into the street. At length, a number of conspirators, at the head of whom were Chaerea and Cornelius Sabinus, both tribunes of the praetorian cohorts, murdered him in the twenty-ninth year of his age, and the fourth of his reign, A.D. 41. His life was written by Suetonius. See Baring-Gould's Tragedy of the Caesars (London, 1893).

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