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Caligula of Rome - Royal Adultery
2408    Dibyendu Banerjee    30/05/2020

Born as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Caligula the third of the Roman emperors, had an upbringing that condemned him to the cruelty and depravity. His nickname ‘Caligula’, meaning ‘little boots,’ was derived from the miniature uniform he wore as a child. At the age of eighteen, he was sent to live with his uncle Tiberius on Capri, silently observing his sexual perversions and was always under the threat of life.


He succeeded to the throne, reportedly after smothering a bedridden Tiberius to death with a pillow and plunged into such an orgy of extravagant spending and hedonistic living that was unmatched even by his infamous nephew Nero. He was not even 25 years old when he became the emperor in 37 AD and was hailed by everybody. His reign for the first seven months was described as completely blissful, when he announced political reforms and recalled all exiles.

Caligula of Rome

However, he fell seriously ill in October, possibly due to temporal lobe epilepsy, hyperthyroidism or Wilson’s disease, an inherited disorder that can cause mental instability. Nevertheless, when he recovered and got a fresh lease of life, he became a different man. It is not impossible that his illness unhinged Caligula, leading him to spend the remainder of his short reign exploring and enjoying the worst aspect of his nature. He became a short-tempered, self-absorbed insane emperor, killing his men whimsically for mere amusement, indulged in too much unnecessary spending and sex.


In his indiscriminate killing spree, he started to kill all, who were close to him or whom he saw as a serious threat. Apart from executing his cousin and adopted son Tiberius Gemellus, he also had his father-in-law and brother-in-law executed as well. However, his uncle was spared, as he enjoyed making him a laughing stock in public. He also insulted and humiliated the high-ranking senators and compelled them to run for miles in front of his chariot. He declared himself a god, beheaded the statues of various deities and replaced them with his own.

Caligula of Rome

However, above everything, Caligula was marked in history as a notorious pervert. He routinely used sex as a way of demonstrating his power. It is said that he habitually committed incest with all his sisters, Agrippina, Drusilla and Livilla and also enjoyed the sight of their sexual intercourses with other men. However, he was infatuated with Drusilla, one of the sisters, whom he deflowered in her childhood and afterwards, abducted her from her husband Cassius Longinus and publicly paraded her as his wife. He enthusiastically turned the imperial palace into a royal brothel, in which he compelled the wives of leading Roman senators and other high ranking dignitaries to serve as prostitutes.

Caligula of Rome
The royal brothel, a scene from ‘Caligula’ (1979)

After the death of his first wife, Caligula snatched a wedding girl from her would be husband to make the girl his second wife. His third wife was a married woman whose husband was forced to give her to the emperor. His fourth wife, Milonia Caesonia, was a promiscuous and vivacious woman. When Caligula married her, she was not very young and was already the mother of three daughters by another man. Caligula described her as a carefree and uninhibited woman, who at his insistence used to boldly parade naked in front of his friends. Caligula loved her passionately, although while kissing her neck, he occasionally threatened her jokingly that with one command, he could have it severed at his pleasure. Before their marriage, she was impregnated by Caligula and gave birth to his only child Drusilla, named after his beloved sister.


Caligula made it a point that his invited guests should attend to his banquets along their wives. During the dinner, he used to look at those aristocratic women shamelessly in the presence of their husbands, as if examining them like livestock, commenting on their physical attributes. After the dinner he would retire to his chamber, along with the woman whom he liked most. As if that is not enough, he used to evaluate the in-bed sexual performance of the flushed, embarrassed and disheveled lady to his guests, in the presence of the poor husband.

Caligula of Rome
Caligula with his youngest sister, Livila in Caligula (1979)

Apart from the patrician Valerius Catullus, who openly admitted that the emperor’s sexual demands exhausted him, Caligula also had a homosexual relationship with many, which included the pantomime actor Mnester, whom he once rushed to kiss during his performance.

As a result of a conspiracy by the courtiers, senators and the officers of the Praetorian Guards, serving as his personal bodyguards, Caligula was assassinated on 24 January 41 AD, when he was stabbed 30 times. His wife and daughter were also murdered and his body was dumped into a shallow grave.

Caligula of Rome
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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