38. Stephen, c. 34 A.D.
Bible study on Stephen
40. Gaius Ceaser “Caligula” 12 – 37 A.D.
Caligula the Snake
Douglas H. Brune
“I am nursing a viper for the Roman people,” –Tiberius Caesar
There is no denying that Caligula was a pervert. It is also quite likely that he was insane. It is said that he even appointed his horse as his assistant. He was cruel, disgusting, and spent an immoral amount of Rome’s money on his parties. It is now wonder that Tiberius Caesar claimed “I am nursing a viper for the Roman people.”
Caligula was born in 12 A.D. As a small boy he lived on a military base with his family. His father Germanicus, a great and honored general of the Roman legion, helped conquer a great deal of Germania. As a child Caligula marched around in a tiny soldier’s uniform his mother Agrippina the Elder had made him. Even at three years old Caligula used this uniform when accompanying his father on military campaigns to northern Germania. “…troops gave the future emperor his nickname “Caligula,” meaning “little boot,” in reference to the miniature uniform”-History.com He disliked the name however it stuck. Spoiled as a boy Caligula’s arrogance grew from childhood.
Caligula’s great uncle Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti fili Augustus drove young Caligula to insanity when Tiberius had his father murdered. Caligula’s father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome’s most beloved public figures. Germanicus was loyal to the Roman Empire and a brave general who fought many victorious battles. Germanicus’ popularity terrified the already paranoid Tiberius that he would lose his crown to his nephew/son. Tiberius ordered the great general killed. Caligula’s father’s death shocked Germanicus’ seven year-old boy. The people of Rome were almost as enraged and mournful as the Caligula himself. If left up to Roman citizens Germanicus would have been emperor, but even alive he would not have become the leader of Rome. Germanicus appreciated his amount of power and did not want the responsibility of emperor. Tiberius could not grasp this concept and believed that he was trying to win over to the people. Tiberius was hated by most of Rome and the death of his best general didn’t help his reputation. The people of Rome mourned for two whole months. “Agrippina the Elder fanned the flames. She publicly blamed Tiberius for her husband’s death and craved revenge. Tiberius struck back. He imprisoned Agrippina the Elder on a remote island, where she starved to death. The emperor then imprisoned her two older sons, one of whom killed himself; the other starved to death.”-History.com
Because of his young age, Caligula was spared and forced to live with his great-grandmother Livia, Augustus’s wife. It was during this time that Caligula, who was a teenager at the time, is believed to have committed incest with his sister, Drusilla.-Biography.com until he was called to the island of Capri, the same island where his mother and brothers were imprisoned, Caligula was horrified when he arrived at the Island where Tiberius would have people tortured for his own entertainment. When Caligula reached the top of the island where Tiberius’ torture palace laid, Caligula was treated to the pleasures and entertainment of violence and sexual abuse. He was taught about sex and encouraged to participate in disturbing events such as; skinny dipping with his uncle and other children, harassing naked women, and throwing people off of the cliffs that the palace was positioned on. Tiberius turned the 19 year old Caligula into a full blown pervert. Tiberius even claimed “I am nursing a viper for the Roman people,”
Tiberius adopted Caligula as his heir, not too long afterwards the new heir turned on the emperor and killed him. Twenty four year old Caligula was then the new Emperor of Rome and Lord of the known World. Sick of the horrid Tiberius, both the Senate and the people of Rome loved the son of Germanicus for replacing him. And for the first eight months Caligula lives up to their expectations. He cut taxes; he raised pay for soldiers, and publicly burned the documents that Tiberius held of many roman citizens and Senators. He would throw coins from his balcony into crowds of people, and made himself very publically accessible. “[Then] Caligula abruptly changes almost overnight the benevolent dictator becomes a raging monster, a Tiberius clone”-Ancient Innovators [youtube.com]. He begins to have quite lavish parties and for the dinner show condemned criminals are executed. And while the uncomfortable guests watch the beheadings Caligula sends for their wives and rapes them. When the killing is over He will go into depth about how each female performed. It is thought that his behavior was caused by an excessive amount of lead being consumed in Caligula’s wine. Lead was often put into a sweetener that was then mixed into the wine. Because of lead poisoning Caligula fell ill. At this time Caligula had not yet showed quite how insane he was to the mass majority of the romans, and many people cried out good wishes for the emperor. Women could be seen weeping in the streets, baby’s crying, and men praying to the gods for Caligula’s heath. One man even stated “If I could only exchange my life for the Emperor’s.” A few weeks later Caligula was miraculously saved and made a full recovery. Taking the man’s words to heart he dressed the poor man in sacrificial animal skins and tossed him off the city’s wall. Rome was now victim to Caligula, and the Emperor would not show any mercy.
Caligula begins to hold more and more lavish and expensive parties, an amount that impressed even the notorious Emperor Nero. As well as continuing to rape women on a daily basis Caligula took interest to the gladiatorial games. He paid for a ridiculous amount of fights in the Coliseum. This pleased the crowds once more. Then Caligula did something that shocked the roman people. Caligula stripped away a huge amount of the gladiatorial armor and changed the games to make the bloodier and last longer.
Much more than just fighting was going on in the packed Coliseum. Caligula may be emperor, but the Senate is still making suggestions on what to do with his power. Caligula hates the Senate and tries to humiliate them whenever possible. He removed the seats reserved for the Senate and forces them to sit with commoners and sometimes even with the slaves. Often he had them run alongside his chariot while briefing him on the empire’s affaires. At his banquets Caligula would rape their wives, and describe, in quite a great deal of depth, the women’s performance. It did not take the Senate long to realize that Caligula was just as bad, if not worse, than his predecessor.
The Senate and Caligula’s own body guard hatched a plan to eliminate the emperor. While coming home from one of the Coliseum’s games Caligula found that he was alone in a dark passage. It was there that two of his own Pretorian Guard stabbed him to death.
We must remember that we live in a world of beauty, prosperity, and mystery. But also remember that is not free from perverted monsters like Caligula the snake and that if we want to continue live in peace we must crush the deadly snakes beneath our little boots. We also must remember that dictators will appear first as benefactors.
“Never wound a snake; kill it” –Harriet Tubman
This is a youtube for MOMS ONLY it is violent, bloody and includes discussions of items you probably do not want to introduce right now. Having said that, it is a great resource for prompting discussion. For example, Caligula was treated as above the highest ranking military from his youth. His father was a great general who was murdered by Tiberius. Tiberius then took in young Caligua and introduced him to murder for sport.
See Card 14