Caligula Suetonius Author
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Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius (c. 69 - after 122 AD), was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order who wrote during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire. His most important surviving work is a set of biographies of twelve successive Roman rulers, from Julius Caesar to Domitian, entitled De Vita Caesarum. He recorded the earliest accounts of Julius Caesar's epileptic seizures. Other works by Suetonius concern the daily life of Rome, politics, oratory, and the lives of famous writers, including poets, historians, and grammarians. A few of these books have partially survived, but many have been lost. Most of what is known about the reign of Caligula comes from Suetonius. Other contemporary Roman works, such as those of Tacitus, contain little, if anything, about Caligula. Presumably most of what existed regarding his reign was lost long ago. Suetonius refers to Caligula as Gaius during most of the work, his true name, Caligula -'little boots' - being the name given to him by his father's soldiers, because as a boy he would often dress in miniature battle gear and 'drill' the troops (without knowing the commands, but the troops loved him all the same and pretended to understand him). Caligula's father, Germanicus, was loved throughout Rome as a brilliant military commander and example of Roman pietas. Tiberius had adopted Germanicus as his heir, with the hope that Germanicus would succeed him. Germanicus died before he could succeed Tiberius in 19 AD. Upon the death of Tiberius, Caligula became emperor. Initially the Romans loved Caligula due to their memory of his father. But most of what Suetonius says of Caligula is negative, and describes him as having an affliction that caused him to suddenly fall unconscious. Suetonius believed that Caligula knew that something was wrong with him. He reports that Caligula married his sister, threatened to make his horse consul, and that he sent an army to the northern coast of Gaul and as they prepared to invade Britain, one rumour had it that he had them pick sea shells on the shore (evidence shows that this could be a fabrication as the word for shell in Latin doubles as the word that the legionaries of the time used to call the 'huts' that the soldiers erected during the night while on campaign). He once built a walkway from his palace to a Temple, so that he could be closer to his brother, the Roman god Jupiter, as Caligula believed himself to be a living deity. He would also have busts of his head replace those on statues of different gods. He would call people to his palace in the middle of the night. When they arrived, he would hide and make strange noises. At other times, he would have people assassinated, and then call for them. When they did not show up, he would remark that they must have committed suicide. Suetonius describes several omens that predicted the assassination of Caligula. He mentions a bolt of lightning that struck Rome on the Ides of March, which was when Julius Caesar was assassinated. Lightning was an event of immense superstition in the ancient world. The day of the assassination, Caligula sacrificed a flamingo. During the sacrifice, blood splattered on his clothes. Suetonius also describes a comet that was seen shortly before the assassination. In the ancient world, comets were believed to foretell the death or assassination of important people. Suetonius even suggested that Caligula's name itself was a predictor of his assassination, noting that every Caesar named Gaius, such as the dictator Gaius Julius Caesar, had been assassinated (a statement which is not entirely accurate; Julius Caesar's father died from natural causes, as did Augustus). Caligula was an avid fan of Gladiatorial combats and he was assassinated shortly after leaving a show by a disgruntled Praetorian Guard captain, as well as several senators.


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