Leaders throughout history always end up making the headlines. Whether we remember our great rulers for good or bad reasons, they nonetheless make a name for themselves, talked about in the ages following their reign. In the case of Caligula, the bad seems to outweigh the good. Once a ruler of ancient Rome, the former Emperor left a lot of controversy in his wake and even now, historians are trying to explain his bizarre behaviour. To get to the heart of the matter, we need to take a closer look, journeying back into the Roman Empire under Caligula’s reign.
From the off, Caligula was a man of strength and if he felt doubts towards any person in his life, he had no qualms about cutting them off. At the height of his reign, the Emperor passed a law that prevented anyone from mocking his appearance. Fueled by insecurity, Caligula began to feel that his family members were plotting against him, speaking about his looks in less that complimentary ways. In alliance with his feelings of paranoia, the Emperor turned on his family members, having many of them exiled or murdered after accusing them of treason.
There might have been just reason behind the Emperor’s extreme behaviour, however. After falling badly ill, the ruler began to act in increasingly erratic ways, accusing people left, right and center of treason. People at the time attributed his change in behaviour to his illness and even now, researchers believed that Caligula might in fact have been suffering from epilepsy and seizures.
Still, even his illness could not do away with some of the extreme acts he carried forward. Teamed with his mental instability and extreme paranoia, the Emperor developed a blood lust that spread far and wide. After only a few months of the job, the ruler began picking off anyone that he believed had crossed him, having them murdered without even a second thought. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Caligula seemed to get pleasure out of torturing people he had taken prisoner. Taking it to an extreme level, he made torture a public event, bringing his victims into public places so that all local inhabitants could see what was being done to them.
Despite Caligula’s obvious insecurity, he often presented himself as a god, ordering the Roman Empire he ruled to treat him as such. One of his most famous acts involved constructing a bridge between his palace and the Temple of Jupiter so he could easily access the deities worshipped by the local people. As well as this, he had faces removed from existing holy statues, replacing the likenesses with his own image.
Throughout his reign, Caligula was tied up in stories of murder, torture and paranoia that have rarely been matched in history. While some claimed he was possessed with a demon, others attributed his actions to madness. A few thousand years later and we might never know the truth of the actions, but Caligula will always be remembered for his most tyrannical reign.