“Some even stuck the sword through his pubic parts”
After two years on the throne, the young emperor Caligula turned from a bearer of hope into a monster. He provoked the aristocracy with perversions and executions. Until he became a victim himself in January 41 AD.
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S.one last day, January 24, 41 AD, was spent in a pleasant manner by the Roman emperor Caligula. In the theater the (artificial) blood flowed in rivers. He had selected delicacies distributed to the audience. The consequences of the previous evening – hangover and bloating – finally drove him to the exit around one o’clock. The swords of his murderers felled him in a dark passage under the house.
Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, as Caligula was officially called, was the son of Germanicus and the elder Agrippina and a great-grandson of Augustus. He had forced his successor Tiberius to make Germanicus his heir. However, when he died prematurely and his son survived the intrigues at court, he became the third emperor of Rome in 37 at the age of 24.
Not only did his youth make him the counterpart of the misanthropist Tiberius, who in old age had punished his noble peers with contempt and high treason trials. He gave magnificent games, lowered taxes, and commissioned spectacular buildings. But after two years on the throne, he suddenly mutated from a bearer of hope to a monster, as his biographer Suetonius reports. Caligula gave the first example of Caesarean madness.
The list of his misdeeds and perversions is long and ranges from incest, rape, spontaneous murders and executions to bizarre projects such as building floating palaces. Above all, however, he humiliated the senators with ever new provocations, is said to have forced their wives into prostitution and showed what he thought of them in bloody excesses (which not least served to confiscate their wealth).
Modern historians consider many anecdotes to be exaggerated and a product of the propaganda with which his high-ranking opponents took revenge after his murder. That there must have been something to the reports of Caligula’s sadism and cruelty is shown by the fact that it was, of all things, several high-ranking officers of the Praetorian Guard who carried out the assassination attempt in cooperation with other conspirators.
The reason is said to have been Caligula’s intention to move his residence to Alexandria, which would have completely removed him from the aristocratic power games of Rome. When he visited the theater a few days before his planned departure, the conspirators saw their chance. When he left the house accompanied by some Praetorians, the imperial bodyguard, made up of Germanic tribes, stayed behind.
Suetonius offers two versions of the stop. After the first, the Tribune Chaerea is said to have given him a sword blow from behind. Then his colleague Cornelius Sabinus pierced the imperial chest. According to another report, Chaerea Caligula split her chin. Thereupon “he was finished off with thirty blows by the other conspirators … Some even stabbed his sword through the pubic parts.” While it was difficult to keep the Teutons from a bloodbath, the Praetorians proclaimed Caligula’s uncle Claudius as the new emperor.