Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus ( 31 August 12 – 24 January 41), more commonly known by his cognomen Caligula, was the third Roman Emperor, reigning from 16 March 37 until his assassination on 24 January 41. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
Caligula’s father, Germanicus, the adopted son of emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome’s most beloved public figures. The young Gaius earned his nickname Caligula (the diminutive form of caliga) meaning “little [soldier’s] boot”, while accompanying his father on military campaigns in Germania. When Germanicus died in Antioch in 19, his mother Agrippina the Elder returned to Rome with her six children, where she became entangled in an increasingly bitter feud with Tiberius. This conflict eventually led to the destruction of her family, with Caligula as the sole male survivor. Unscathed by the deadly intrigues, and seemingly unmoved by the fate of his closest relatives, Caligula accepted the invitation to accompany the emperor on the island of Capri in 31, where Tiberius himself had withdrawn in 26. At the death of Tiberius, on 16 March 37, Caligula succeeded his adoptive grandfather.
There are few surviving sources on Caligula’s reign, and although he is described as a noble and moderate ruler during the first two years of his rule, after this the sources focus upon his cruelty, extravagance, and sexual perversity, presenting him as an insane tyrant. While the reliability of these sources has been difficult to assess, what is known is that during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the authority of the princeps, possibly contemplating the introduction of an authoritarian system of an eastern type. He directed much of his attention to ambitious construction projects, notoriously luxurious dwellings for himself, but also two new aqueducts for the city of Rome (Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus). However, these are primarily associated with his successor Claudius, who brought these projects to completion. Caligula also annexed Mauretania.
On 24 January 41, Caligula was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy involving officers of the Praetorian Guard as well as members of the Roman Senate and of the imperial court. The conspirators’ attempt to use the opportunity to restore the Roman Republic was thwarted, as the same day the Praetorian Guard declared Caligula’s uncle Claudius emperor in his place.