Praetorian Guards Assassinate Emperor Caligula In Rome

Today on January 24, 41, the notoriously cruel Roman emperor, Caligula, was assassinated by his own Praetorian Guard.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, known simply as Caligula, was a great-great-grandson of Julius Caesar. As a member of the Claudio-Julian Dynasty, he had deep ties to powerful politicians and military commanders. Caligula was born to Germanicus, an accomplished and popular general, and Augustus’s granddaughter, Agrippina the Elder. While accompanying his father on campaign in Germania, he earned the nickname Caligula, meaning little-boot. The soldiers were amused by the young Gaius being dressed up in a miniature legionnaires' outfit. Ancient sources suggest Germanicus was poisoned and suddenly died while n Antioch. Following his death, Agrippina moved back to the capital with her six children. But she immediately began a bitter feud with Emperor Tiberius, leading to the eventual destruction of her family.

As the last surviving male, Caligula’s grandmother Antonia managed to shield him. He eventually moved in with the aging Tiberius who is said to have gleefully indulged his great-nephews worst habits. Tiberius famously said, “I’ve been nursing a viper in Rome’s bosom.” On March 16, 37, Caligula succeeded his great-uncle to become the third Emperor of Rome. The people initially celebrated and admired their new leader. While few sources of this period remain, some have described his first six months as “blissful”. However, Caligula’s mental condition quickly deteriorated and chaos erupted throughout the capital. His reign would only last a short three years. By 24, he was said to have suffered from constant headaches and would aimlessly wander the royal palace at night. Caligula frequently dressed as a woman and even went as far as to declare himself a living god.

Caligula ruthlessly eliminated his political enemies, often forcing parents to watch their sons being executed. Rumors also spread that the young emperor had incestual relationships with his three sisters. Caligula began threatening to permanently move away from Rome in favor of living in Alexandria. Losing their emperor would have thrown the empire into turmoil. As a result, several prominent senators conspired with the Praetorian Guard to murder their deranged dictator. While addressing a group of actors in the corridors beneath the royal palace, guards began repeatedly stabbing him. Caligula quickly died before his loyal Germanic guards could respond. The Senate made a failed attempt to use his death as an opportunity to restore the republic.

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