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Caligula (kəlĭgˈyŏlə) [key], A.D. 12–A.D. 41, Roman emperor (A.D. 37–A.D. 41); son of Germanicus Caesar and Agrippina the Elder. His real name was Caius Caesar Germanicus. As a small child, he wore military boots, whence his nickname [ caligula = little boot]. On the death of Tiberius the army helped make Caligula emperor. Shortly afterward he became severely ill; his subsequent strange and cruel actions led to the wide belief that he was thereafter insane. A more recent, alternative hypothesis blames his behavior on a desire to humiliate and destroy Rome's aristocracy. In any case, Caligula earned a reputation for ruthless and cruel autocracy, and torture and execution became the order of the day. He was responsible for serious disturbances among the Jews, and he nearly caused a rebellion in Palestine by attempting to erect a statue of himself in their temple. He was assassinated by a tribune of the Praetorian Guard and succeeded by Claudius I.

See biographies by J. P. V. D. Balsdon (1934) and A. Winterling (2011); A. A. Barrett, Caligula: The Corruption of Power (1996).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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