August 31st 12: Caligula born
On this day in 12 AD, the future Roman Emperor Caligula was born in Italy. Born Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, he is today known by his nickname Caligula (‘Little Boot’) which Roman soldiers on the German frontier called him when he was a young boy because of hisfootwear. As great-grandson of the first Emperor Augustus the young Caligula was born with imperial blood. After his parents were killed by imperial forces he was adopted by his great uncle Emperor Tiberius and eventually became the third emperor upon Tiberius’s death in 37 AD. With the support of the army he quickly moved to eradicate any challenges to his reign, having Tiberius’s grandson and rival heir executed. As emperor, Caligula lavished Rome with grand games and building projects but soon became despised for his increasing megalomania and apparent insanity that seems to have stemmed from an illness early in his reign. He supposedly tried to humiliate the Senate by making his favourite horse Incitatus a senator. Caligula also reversed previous imperial trend by actively encouraging worship of himself as a god. For example he frequently dressed up as the Roman gods at public games and decreed statues of him should be built in temples. His reign was also brutal in its vicious treason trials and frequent executions of dissenters; he even made it a capital offence to mention a goat in the presence of the very hairy Caligula. Emperor Caligula also had imperial aspirations, and undertook military campaigns in Germany and planned one to Britain. In 41 AD, after a four year reign, the increasingly unpopular Caligula was assassinated aged 29 by his own bodyguards. He was succeeded by his uncle Claudius, who proved a much more even tempered and moderate leader.
"I am nursing a viper for the Roman people"
- Emperor Tiberius