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Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.
~ Caligula's constant answer to reports about his bad reputation

Gaius Julius Ceasar Augustus Germanicus, often refered to simply as Caligula (July 31, 12 AD – January 22, 41 AD), was one of Rome's most infamous tyrants and is widely believed to have been insane - historical records of his rule are scarce but those that survive hint at him having enjoyed a relatively prosperous reign for his first two years as Emperor but after this period the focus rapidly changed to his cruelty, sexual perversion and extravagance - although few (if any) of these claims can be stated as fact the name Caligula has become a symbol of decadence and madness in the public eye ever since. He is widely considered to have been a megalomaniac and malignant narcissist. who displayed all the signs and symptoms of someone suffering from both narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, with heavy histrionic, antisocial, and sadistic features. He also suffered from hyperthyroidism. He may also have suffered from paranoid schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Other health issues that Caligula may have had include meningitis, encephalitis, or epilepsy.

Among the least of Caligula's supposed crimes was increasingly draconian ruling style, the beheading of one of his nephew's to "cure" him of his cough and threatening to elect his favorite horse to the rank of consul (he never went through with this, and the circumstances regarding his decision are debatable; he may have done so to mock the Senate, he may have wanted the year to be named after his horse, as was the custom regarding the first consul of the year, or it may have simply been a rumor that started after his death). Caligula was also a controversial leader due to his supposed tendency to dress up as varied gods from the Greek pantheon and went as far as declaring himself an actual god - there were even accounts of Caligula forcing people to make temples by which to worship him: this was very abnormal behavior for Roman emperors, who in general shied away from being viewed as living gods (unlike the pharaohs of Egypt) - though previous Roman emperors had on occasion attempted similar acts, Caligula took the process to the extreme and wanted his people to worship him as a physical embodiment of divine power.

According to other sources Caligula would kill on a whim, slept with other men's wives and bragged about it frequently, purposely wasting money on trivial things and causing starvation among the masses - how much was truth and how much was slander is lost in antiquity but there was no question that Caligula was a ruler who sought absolute power.

In the end Caligula was assassinated by his own Senate, who had either had enough of his insane rule or (more likely) had some kind of political aim - regardless of the cause Caligula was murdered and replaced by Claudius, his paternal uncle.

Caligula was also insane enough to order the Roman army to go to war with Neptune, god of the sea: he believed the best way to achieve this was by having the Roman navy form a line across a stretch of ocean with their ships and have his soldiers hurl spears into the sea. Amazingly, the Roman army reportedly did just this, perhaps because defying a ruling emperor, even an insane one, was punishable by death.

Caligula also reportedly enjoyed dining while watching people being sawed. This brutal method of execution was quite rare in Ancient Rome but was said to be the favored method of execution by Caligula, who found the suffering of his victims to be appetizing.


One night, Caligula relayed a dream in which he saw himself standing before the throne of Jupiter. This planet was held in high esteem by the Romans in terms of religious value as Jupiter (or Jove) was seen as king of all the Gods, comparable to the earlier Ancient Greek deity, Zeus. In the dream Caligula observed himself being rejected by Jove via this god kicking him down to Earth. This was seen as a premonition of his death. Caligula ignored the dream and was indeed assassinated the next day by a group of conspirators including senators and members of the praetorian guard led by Cassius Chaerea who proceeded to murder Caligula's wife and child.

Popular culture

He appears as a character in Horrible Histories. In the series he is played by Simon Farnaby and alongside Elagabalus played by Matthew Baynton, Emperor Nero played by Jim Howick and Commodus played by Ben Willbond sings the "Evil Emperors Song"

Actor Malcolm McDowell starred as Caligula in the controversial 1979 film of the same name.