Caligula (Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 31 August AD 12 – 24 January AD 41), also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 to 41. The young Gaius earned the nickname Caligula (meaning “little soldier’s boot”) from his father’s soldiers while accompanying him during his campaigns in Germania.
Surviving sources present a number of stories about Caligula that illustrate cruelty and insanity; self-absorbed, angry, killed on a whim, and who indulged in too much spending and sex. He is accused of sleeping with other men’s wives and bragging about it, killing for mere amusement, causing starvation, and wanting a statue of himself erected in the Temple of Jerusalem for his worship. Once at some games at which he was presiding, he ordered his guards to throw an entire section of the crowd into the arena during intermission to be eaten by animals because there were no criminals to be prosecuted and he was bored. Caligula has also been accused of incest with his sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla and Livilla, and prostituted them to other men. He sent troops on illogical military exercises, turned the palace into a brothel, and most famously, planned or promised to make his horse, Incitatus, a consul, and actually appointed him a priest.
Caligula has been played by Ralph Bates in the 1968 ITV television series ‘The Caesars; John Hurt in the 1976 BBC television series ‘I, Claudius’; John McEnery in the 1985 miniseries ‘A.D.’; Szabolcs Hajdu in the 1996 film ‘Caligula’; and John Simm in the 2004 miniseries ‘Imperium Nerone’. A feature-length historical film ‘Caligula’ was completed in 1979, in which Malcolm MacDowall played the lead role. The film alienated audiences with extremely explicit sex and violence and received extremely negative reviews.