Although the ancient Romans are often remembered for their strong, competent leaders, the Roman emperor Caligula – commonly referred to as “Little Boots” – was described even by ancient writers as a ‘monster’ , and upon his death, he was so hated that the Senate destroyed all records of his rule!
Ancient sources detail the insanity of this emperor, which seemed to begin after a severe bout of illness several years into his reign. His depravities ranged from incest with three of his sisters – even going so far as to marry one of them – to multiple sexual relationships with men, as well as opening a brothel inside his own palace.
Caligula believed that he should be treated and like a god, and had a gold statue of himself set up inside a temple. This was dressed up each day in the same clothes that he would be wearing – which was typically royal purple, of course. This lust for power also caused him to elect his own horse to a position within the Senate!
Possibly one of the strangest things Caligula did during his reign was to attempt an ‘invasion of Britain’ – not an odd venture in itself, for Britain was a prized territory that not even the famous Julius Caesar had been able to conquer years before! So, Caligula gathered his army and set sail for the British shores… however, when they arrived there, Caligula had his soldiers disembark from the ships, and… ordered them to gather seashells. After a few hours, he told them to get back on the ships, and they returned to Rome, where Caligula presented the Senate with his prized ‘booty’ from conquering the British isles!
Caligula also had many, many people executed without reason during his reign, in many cases simply because he wanted to acquire their money and land. Not surprisingly, he was also extremely paranoid about potential conspiracies against him, and sometimes would hide when guests came to the palace and make strange noises, causing them to become flustered and leave. This paranoia did not save him, however, because after four years of his reign, he was assassinated outside of a theatre, along with his wife and baby daughter, whose head was smashed against a wall.
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Tomorrow: Learn about child sacrifice in Ancient Carthage.