Caligula


“The rule of Caligula proved the disastrous capacity of an autocratic system of government.” Caligula’ contempt for the senate, his growing need for more power and his unstable methods of ruling made an autocratic system of government unworkable. By looking at his administrative techniques, financial control, frontier policies, personal leadership qualities and his life in general the above statement will be validated.


Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (Caligula) represents a turning point in the early history of the Principate. Gaius was born on 31 August, A.D. 12, the third of six children born to Augustus\' adopted grandson, Germanicus, and Augustus\' granddaughter, Agrippina. (Barrett, 1989, 16) As a baby he accompanied his parents on military campaigns in the north and was shown to the troops wearing a miniature soldier\'s outfit, including the hob-nailed sandal called caliga, (which roughly translates to ‘Little Boots’) it was a nickname that remained with him for the rest of his life. (Estensen, 1995, 125-127)


His childhood was not a happy one, spent amid an atmosphere of paranoia, suspicion, and murder. Instability within the Julio-Claudian house, generated by uncertainty over the succession, led to a series of personal tragedies. (Balsdon, 1999, 86) It was said that Caligula possessed elements of madness, cruelty, viciousness, extravagance and megalomania. He is described as a coarse and cruel despot with an extraordinary passion for sadism and a fierce energy. Caligula was tall, spindly, pale and prematurely bald. He was so sensitive about his lack of hair that it was a capital crime for anyone to look down from a high place as Caligula passed by. Sometimes he ordered those with a fine head of hair to be shaved. (Barrett, 1989, 17)


Caligula’ first acts as emperor were generous in spirit: he paid Tiberius\' bequests and gave a cash bonus to the Praetorian Guard. He honoured his father and other dead relatives and publicly destroyed Tiberius\' personal papers. Finally, he recalled exiles and reimbursed those wronged by the imperial tax system. (Oxford press, 1992) His popularity was immense, however, after his good start Caligula began to behave in an openly autocratic manner, even a crazed one. Outlandish stories cluster about the raving emperor, illustrating his… “Excessive cruelty, immoral sexual escapades, or disrespect toward tradition and the Senate.” (Suetonius) He insulted the senate, and made no effort to hide his contempt for them. He dispensed with its services generally as well as publicly humiliating individuals. (Estensen, 1995, 70)


When his respect for the senate faltered so did many of the laws and rights that he had brought back. Members of the senate were abused for having been friends with Sejanus, or as informers against his mother and brothers. (Jones, 1986) He renewed the laws of treason and encouraged informers so that he could use condemnations to confiscate the property of wealthy senators. He ended the senate’s right to mint coinage in Rome and handed back to the people the election of magistrates. (http://www.crystalinks.com/romemperors.html) He deposed two consuls who forgot to announce his birthday and he had a sick ex-praetor executed because he asked for and extension of sick leave. “…Whatever damage Tiberius\' later years had done to the carefully crafted political edifice created by Augustus, Gaius multiplied it a hundredfold…”(Dianne Hennessey)


Caligula’ reversed Augustus’ Policy. His military activities are portrayed as ludicrous, with Gauls dressed up as Germans at his triumph and Roman troops ordered to collect seashells as "spoils of the sea." (Oxford Press, 1992) To get a clear understanding of Caligula’ Frontier Policies it is crucial to look at numerous of his campaigns. Caligula went to the Rhine himself; he needed the support of his army. His apparent excuse was that he wished to strengthen the frontiers, but in fact he thought one of the Rhine commanders was conspiring with two of his sisters. When Caligula went to Britain his army refused to make the crossing and invade Britain, instead he just announced its annexation even though there was no mitigation. These accounts along with others show that Caligula was clearly becoming suspicious and also a madman. “…He is no more than a young autocrat tactlessly pushing the limits of the imperial cult, already established under Augustus…” (Suetonius)


His financial control was in fact non-existent; his excesses knew no bounds, and he introduced heavy taxation to help pay for his