On August 31st, 12 AD Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder gave birth to the third Roman emperor during the Julio-Claudian Dynasty. During the beginning of his reign, it seemed to be, as most would call it “a dream come true”. But after a few favorable accomplishments, Caligula became the deranged tyrant he is known for today.
Born Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, he acquired the name Caligula at the age of two. After being separated from his parents for eighteen months, Augustus prepared traveling arrangements that would re-unite him with his mother. His parents gave him an oversized soldier’s uniform with military boots and he became the mascot for the troops. Thus, he received the Latin nickname for “Little Boot”.
Three months after he acquired this nickname, Augustus died and the troops rebelled. For the sake of her family, Agrippina prepared to leave with her son. Quickly realizing how savage their behavior was, the troops stopped rebelling and begged Agrippina to stay. They said, “the mere sight of little Gaius unquestionably calmed them down.” Germanicus let Caligula stay, but made Agrippina leave because she was about to give birth.
After Germanicus (Caligula’s father) and the Roman army had defeated the Germans, a victory parade began in Rome. Caligula was placed in a chariot alongside his father as they rode throughout Rome. Not long after, Germanicus was sent to the Middle East with his family where he received new military duties. The five-year-old Caligula also accompanied him. Even though Germanicus had all authority in the East, Piso of Syria challenged him. After a long fought battle, Germanicus became ill and died. This event remained strong in Caligula’s memory and could have led to his lapse of sanity in his later years.
Emperor Tiberius, Caligula’s grandfather, died in 37 AD. Suetonius wrote, “Gaius’ accession seemed to the Roman people like a dream come true”, even though it was suspected that Caligula was an accomplice in Tiberius’ death. The senate officially handed on the powers of emperorship to Caligula at the age of 24.
During the beginning of his reign, Caligula traveled to the islands where his mother and brother had died. He returned with their ashes and provided them with a proper burial. He also decreed great honors for his sisters Drusilla, Julia, and Agrippina who were included in oaths and on coins. They personified security, peace and prosperity.
Caligula then made many other acts concerning the senate. Caligula released exiles, announced the end of the treason trials, and gave generous...