Caligula Katie Lawee

Journey to the Throne

Caligula was born in 12 AD to Germanicus, a successful and respected military leader, and Agrippina the Elder, granddaughter of Emperor Augustus. He spent his childhood on military campaigns with his family and became accustomed to immense violence. He initiated incestuous relationships with his sisters as a teenager, the start of a depraved sexual obsession that only strengthened as he gained power. Caligula was Tiberius’s house guest in Capri for 6 years, learning from him and adopting his violent leadership style. With the assistance of political allies formed in Capri, Caligula became emperor after Tiberius’s death in 37 AD. However, after less than a year in office, he suffered a mental and physical breakdown. When Caligula recovered, he became a cruel and deranged tyrant. He is believed to have suffered from schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

Although Caligula was popular at the beginning of his reign, he belongs in the Hall of Shame because he inflicted extreme violence, spent funds irresponsibly, and used immoral methods to acquire money.

Excessively Violent

Caligula was known to relish inflicting pain on others. He used his power to "terrorize, rape and murder with sadistic delight" (Twiss). All who opposed him were ordered to slit their own throats while their family watched. He enjoyed slow and painful executions as entertainment while he feasted. Lower ranking officials were flogged with chains for days on end for failing to meet Caligula's expectations, and were "only executed when [he] became offended by the smell of gangrene" (Twiss). Caligula showed no concern for human life. He prioritized demonstrating his power through unnecessary brutality over the wellbeing of his own people. It was his egotistical fixation that drove Caligula to tyranny. Consequently, Roman citizens became resentful of their ruler and the empire plummeted into a period of collective distress.

Reckless Spending

Caligula spent absurd amounts of money on unnecessary luxuries. He held days of lavish ceremonies in his own favor, and staged elaborate circuses featuring foreign beasts and ample prize money. Furthermore, Caligula built a bridge across the Bay of Naples solely to prove he could cross the five kilometers of water without getting wet. He used up the two and a half sesterces left by Tiberius in less than a year. Caligula indulged in all luxuries that would display his superiority. He diverted government funds to boost his ego rather than directing them towards worthy causes, such as improving infrastructure or aiding the large lower class. Caligula nearly bankrupted the Treasury with every irresponsible purchase, and quickly had to revert to corrupt money-making tactics to compensate for his greed.

Unethical Profit- Making Methods

Caligula financed his extravagant lifestyle through corruption and deceit. He demanded citizens revise their wills in his favor and then murdered them to collect their wealth. Civilians were rounded up at random and robbed of their money, and wealthy Romans were sued by the government with perjured evidence. Officials were required to attend parties at Caligula’s brothel and pay steep entrance fees. They were commanded to bring their wives and daughters to earn a profit for Caligula as prostitutes. Caligula used his power to steal from, lie to, and abuse his people in order to pay for his indulgent behavior. He promoted treachery and greed, while disregarding the law. Instead of legitimate money-making methods, Caligula deliberately resolved to profit from harming his own subjects.


Caligula is recognized as one of the most evil emperors in history for his excessive brutality, constant splurging, and corrupt profiteering. The emperor showed blatant disregard for both his subjects' wellbeing and his nation's financial state. Caligula took advantage of his infinitely powerful position for his own benefit, while doing nothing to better the lives of his people. He ruled through fear and extortion with the single goal to prove his dominance. Caligula’s sadistic and tyrannical tendencies generated suppressed outrage within the empire. The increasing unrest boiled over with Caligula's assassination only four years into his rule, bringing an end to his reign of terror.

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