On This Day in History: January 24
The death of Caligula
Film critic Roger Ebert called the 1979 film Caligula “sickening” and a “travesty.” Thing is, the actual reign of Roman Emperor Caligula was both those things and much worse. That’s why his own Praetorian Guards said, “Fuck this guy” and killed his ass less than four years after he took power.
--On This Day in History Shit Went Down: January 24, 41--
“Caligula” was a nickname. It references a diminutive soldier’s boot. He got the moniker because he accompanied his father on campaigns in Germania as a child and liked to dress in miniature versions of soldier’s attire. His real name was Gaius Julius Caesar, after a famous relative of his you may have heard of.
Being a Roman noble did not always come with a long life expectancy, because murderous political fuckery, and almost everyone in Caligula’s family got snuffed. But the lad ingratiated himself to his grandfather Tiberius, the Roman Emperor, and was spared. He didn’t return the favor, however. When Tiberius was 77, which was way fucking old for ancient times, Caligula got tired of waiting for grandpa to croak and got his friend Macro, head of the Praetorian Guard, to accelerate his departure into the next life. Probably.
Caligula took the throne in March of the year 37 at age 24 and wow was he ever a dick. Not at first though. People loved him, but the honeymoon was short-lived. Six months into his reign he fell ill, possibly due to poison, and emerged from his sickness a murderous motherfucker. Not literally though—his mom was dead. He definitely fucked some other moms though.
He executed a bunch of people without trial, including several senators, and even forced his old friend Macro to commit suicide when he imagined he might not be completely loyal. He killed for fun and spent money like a drunken sailor on shore leave, triggering both a financial crisis and a famine. He claimed to be a god and fucked other men’s wives then bragged about it.
Tired of his shit, on January 24, 41, a group of Praetorian guards, with the blessing of the senate, went repeatedly stabby on Caligula, bringing his short reign of terror to an end. They also killed his wife and one-year-old daughter. The senate then wanted to restore the Republic that Julius Caesar had ended, but the Praetorians were all haha nope and installed Caligula’s uncle Claudius as emperor the same day. Comparatively speaking, Claudius was a pretty good ruler.
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