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Caligula. Why is Caligula remembered as a bad emperor?

All Roman emperors were distinguished in their way, but none could compare with Caligula. Caligula (37-41), whose real name was Caius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, was a notable figure in the history of the Roman Empire. He was one of the few rulers historians considered downright insane. Especially as many of his deeds have the gift of reinforcing this claim.

Caligula was a great ruler of the Roman Empire. He has been described as a noble and moderate ruler, but only for the first six months of his reign. At first, he reduced taxes, increased the Legionnaires’ salaries, and reinstated public games. And instituted the right to vote for all Romanian citizens.

The son of a much-loved and highly-regarded Roman general, Germanicus Claudianus, Caligula had been brought up far from the temptations of the Roman senatorial courts. Among his father’s legionaries.

Why is Caligula remembered as an evil emperor?

Caligula, known as Gaius, was the son of Germanicus, the adopted son of Tiberius. He was a Roman emperor between the years 37-41. Caligula’s father was a general, and at the same time, he was a very appreciated personality in Rome. While accompanying his father during his campaigns in Germany, Gaius received the nickname Caligula which meant “boot” (Caliga being the sandals worn by the Roman soldiers).

Several sources say that Caligula was a bad leader because he executed anyone who considered him a traitor and sexually abused many women, including his sisters. At the same time, he considered himself a God. Before becoming emperor of Rome, a famous astrologer told Caligula he would be emperor when he crossed the Bay of Baiae on horseback. After this, he built a bridge over the bay despite the astrologer. and 

After Germanicus’ death, his wife and the six children returned to Rome, but they had a lot of trouble there. They began a dangerous conflict with Tiberius. We can find in some sources that this behavior may be due to the abuse he received as a child from his adoptive grandfather, Tiberius.

Biography of Caligula

Full name:Gaius Caesar Germanicus (Caligula)
Date of birth:31 August, 0012BC
Death day:0041 AD
The thread of life:72 years old
Place of birth:Rome, Italy
Father's name:Germanicus
Mother's name:Agrippina the Elder
Children:Tiberius Gemellus, Nymphidius Sabinus, Julia Drusilla
Physical appearance:small mouth, a young man with a high forehead
Summary of life:One of the most hated figures in ancient history was the Roman emperor Caligula. Even though he only ruled the Roman Empire for 4 years, he managed to remain etched in people's memories as an extremely cruel ruler.
Life lessons:Although Caligula was unable to get beyond the English Channel because he was assassinated shortly afterwards, his preparations for the invasion enabled Claudius to begin his successful conquest of Britain in 43 AD.
Facts: Caligula is a complex character that can be difficult to understand, especially as there is not much impartial evidence.
Death cause:stabbed to death.

What was Emperor Caligula known for?

Surprisingly, less than a year after taking the empire, Caligula suddenly fell ill with an unknown disease that radically changed his behavior. Caligula started to see every human beside him as a traitor. He exiles his sisters too.

According to sources, Caligula was known for incest and especially for selfishness, due to which the Roman Empire had fallen into disrepair. Caligula ordered the construction of some significant buildings, where he was calling senators’ wives and daughters to satisfy his carnal lusts.

At the same time, we can remember that his preparation for the next subsequent invasion helped Claudius, his successor, to conquer Britain. Caligula couldn’t pass the Straits of Dover, but Claudius used Caligula’s plan, and in the final, he succeeded.

What did Caligula do for the Roman Empire?

In addition to his wrong side, Caligula did some valuable things for the Roman Empire, such as annexing new provinces. And the creation of a well-defined plan for the conquest of Britain.

Caligula began the construction of two new aqueducts in Rome: Claudia Aqua and Anio Novus. And annexed the territory of Mauritania, which he later declared a province.

Well, we can see that in the selfishness and arrogance of Caligula, there are some good deeds done with or without his goodwill.

Key Verse related to Emperor Caligula 

„I have existed from the morning of the world and shall exist until the last star falls from the night. Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula, I am all men as I am no man, and therefore I am a God.”



What bad things did emperor Caligula do?

Although he was emperor for only four years (37-41), he managed to collapse the Roman Empire because he decided to increase his greatness.

Caligula’s first heinous act was to assassinate Tiberius out of a thirst for revenge, according to some sources. He continued to practice incest with his sisters Agrippina, Drusilla, and Livilla and sexually abused the senator’s wives and daughters. In the year 39, when the financial crisis began, he used his evil mind to kill wealthy personalities. To confiscate their property. Just because there were not any criminals for that.

So, he was only going to fulfill his sadistic pleasures, which were more or less regular. But then, he couldn’t defend himself when he became an adult. All these traumas had a terrible effect on him. The fact that he knew who murdered his parents or the fact that he wanted revenge for the abuses he endured. This led to the sadistic and ruthless behavior of Caligula toward the people around him.

Researchers attribute Caligula’s behavior to a disease such as meningitis or epilepsy. Whatever the reason for these outbursts, it is sure that he left his mark on the history of the Roman Empire as the most infamous ruler in the entire history of Rome. His assassination was clear evidence of the hatred. And disgust gathered during Caligula’s four years in power.

Primary Takeaways

  1. Caligula was a child who said he grew up in repeated sexual abuse by Tiberius.
  2. Caligula became an emperor after he killed Tiberius in a thirst for revenge, and he started to have a sadistic behavior after he fell ill with an unknown disease which caused him mental disorders that led to uncontrolled actions that caused the decline of the Empire.
  3. He considers himself the leader of all and often proclaims himself God.


Tired of the insane actions of emperor Caligula, on January 24, 0041, while he was talking about dramatic art, he is stabbed with a rain of daggers by the Praetorian Guard. In the end, Caligula received the label of the most infamous emperor of Rome. His successor was his uncle, Germanicus’younger brother, Claudius.


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  • Katz, R. S. (1972). The illness. The Classical World, 223-225.
  • Willrich, H. (1903). Caligula. Klio3(3), 397-470.
  • Wilkinson, S. (2004). Routledge.
  • Winterling, A. (2011). a biography. Univ of California Press.