Little Bits of History

Little Boot is Booted Out

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 24, 2014


January 24, 41 AD: Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus is assassinated. He was also known as Caligula and was famous for his eccentricities. He was Roman Emperor for about four years prior to his death. He was from the house of rulers known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. His father was the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius. The young boy traveled with his father, Germanicus, on many of his campaigns and was known as Caligula which meant “little soldier’s boot” since caliga was the name of the hob-nailed military boot worn at the time. Germanicus died at Antioch in 19 and his wife, Agrippina the Elder, returned to Rome with their six children.

Agrippina became involved in a bitter feud with Tiberius and after much mayhem, the only male survivor was Gaius. At the age of 18, Caligula was asked to come to the island of Capri where Tiberius had withdrawn five years earlier. In 37, Tiberius died at the age of 77. When the people of the Empire learned of his death they rejoiced only to fall silent when told he had recovered and then rejoiced again when they learned he was truly dead. They welcomed the new Emperors – Tiberius’ will left power jointly to Caligula and Tiberius Gemellus. The first act of Caligula as Princeps was to void the will and kill Gemellus, leaving himself in power.

There are few extant records of Caligula’s reign. It was said that his first six months of rule were a honeymoon phase with the new Emperor seen as a savior who was a wonderful ruler as well as a great human being. He was loved because he was the son of the hero-soldier Germanicus and because he was not Tiberius. The beginning was described as blissful. He was generous in spirit even though his generosity was politically based. In October he fell ill and when he finally recovered, he was seen as a changed man. Instead of the beloved ruler, he was now a diabolical despot as he killed or exiled his enemies who were once his friends. He even had his own adopted son and bloodline cousin executed. This act made their combined grandmother so sad she either killed herself or her grandson had her murdered.

In 39, a financial crises was no longer able to be hidden. All the monies Caligula had paid out either in bribes or extravagant living had exhausted the empire’s coffers. In order to bring in money, Caligula began taxing everything and even auctioned off the lives of gladiators. His other eccentricities included bizarre sexual practices as well as outright cruelty and sadism. His extravagant building projects were more often than not for his own glorification. On this day, fed up with the lunatic ruler in their midst, the Praetorian Guard (his personal bodyguards), as well as members of the Senate rose up against him and he was assassinated. Like the first Julius Caesar, Caligula was stabbed 30 times.

I scorn their hatred, if they do but fear me. – Caligula

I still live! – Caligula’s last words

Power has no limits. – Tiberius

It is the duty of a good shepherd to shear his sheep, not to skin them. – Tiberius

Also on this day: Badminton – In 1900, the Newcastle Badminton Club opened, the oldest such club in England.
Be Prepared – In 1907, the Boy Scouts were begun by Robert Baden-Powell.
“Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River” – In 1848, James W. Marshall spies gold in the American River, sparking the  California Gold Rush.
Never Surrender –  In 1972, Shōichi Yokoi was found.

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