Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, known as Caligula, was born on the 31st of August, AD 12, in Antium (now Anzio), Italy.
He was one of six children of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder, with siblings named Nero, Drusus, Agrippina the Younger, Julia Drusilla, and Julia Livilla. His father, Germanicus, was the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, his great-great-grandfather was Julius Caesar and his great-grandfather was Augustus.
Caligula got his nickname when he was 3-years-old and traveled with his father, Germanicus, on his wars. He wore a tiny replica of a soldier’s outfit to the great amusement of the legions, and so the soldiers began calling him Caligula, which means “little soldier’s boot.”
When his father died in 17 AD, emperor Tiberius accused his mother and brothers of treason and all of them died in prison or exile. Caligula was spared because of his young age and forced to live with his great-grandmother, Livia.
Caligula was adopted by Tiberius and soon he and his cousin Gemellus were made equal heirs to the throne. When Tiberius died in 37 AD, the 24-year-old Caligula was named the sole emperor.
His succession was welcomed in Rome and he granted bonuses to those in the military, eliminated unfair taxes, and freed those who had been unjustly imprisoned.
After six months Caligula fell severely ill, and when he recovered he was never the same person again. After the illness, all sources attest to a change in Caligula’s behavior. It is said that at this point Caligula went mad.
He became extremely paranoid and he began killing those close to him or sending them to exile, and he also began to refer to himself as a god in meetings with senators and politicians. He even demanded that temples be erected in Rome in his honor and he told everyone to call him “Neos Helios“, or “New Sun”.
He began appearing in public dressed as various gods and demigods such as Hercules, Mercury, Venus and Apollo.
He ordered the construction of a bridge between his palace and the Temple of Jupiter so that he could meet with the deity.
He was sleeping with other men’s wives and bragged about it, and he even committed incest with his own three sisters. He eventually impregnated his favorite sister Drusilla. He even opened a brothel right inside the imperial palace.
Caligula had an insatiable appetite for torture and he would throw people into the arena to be killed by wild animals just because he was bored.
The strange and lewd behavior continued into a form of megalomania and he ordered statues of him to be erected all over the empire. A statue of gold was specifically commissioned to be erected in the Temple of Jerusalem.
Caligula declared his horse, Incitatus, a priest of his temple, made it a senator and had wanted it granted consulship.
Although he was welcomed in Rome in the beginning, Rome soon grew to hate its leader, and citizens began a secret plot to get rid of him. In late January of 41 A.D. Caligula was stabbed to death, along with his wife and daughter.