third Roman emperor (AD 12-41) (r. AD 37-41)

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (31 August 1224 January 41), most commonly known as Caligula, was the third Roman Emperor and a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, ruling from 37 to 41. "Caligula" was actually a childhood nickname meaning "Little [Soldier's] boots" that he came to hate.

Would that the Roman people had but one neck!




  • Oderint, dum metuant.
    • Let them hate me, so that they will but fear me.
    • Quoted in The Tyrants : 2500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption (2006), p. 27 London: Quercus Publishing, ISBN 1905204965 , these derive from a statement by Suetonius, included below, in which he states these words were often used by Caligula, but imply that he was quoting the tragedian Accius.
    • Variant translation: Let them hate (me) so long as they fear (me).
  • There is no question as to who her father is then.
    • Upon hearing that his daughter, Julia Drusilla had clawed out another child's eyes
  • Vivo!
    • I live.
    • Allegedly his dying words. Vivo! (as reported by Roman historian Tacitus).
    • Translation: I live!

Quotes about Caligula

  • If Gods are made in the image of men, cosmogonies reflect the forms of terrestrial states. In an empire ruled absolutely by one man the notion of an universe under the control of a single God seemed obvious and reasonable.... The Christian God was a magnified and somewhat flattering portrait of Tiberius and Caligula.
    • Aldous Huxley, One and Many. Also quoted in Ram Swarup, On Hinduism: Reviews and Reflections (2000), Ch. 5
  • Virtually everything known about Caligula comes from hostile sources that portray him as a bloodthirsty maniac. Even allowing for exaggeration, there is no doubt that he never hesitated to torment or kill the common people, the ruling elite, or even his own family. His destructive reign was ended by assassination.
    • Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption, London: Quercus Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1905204965, p. 148
  • Caligula ascended the imperial throne as the young darling of the Romans — and ended his four-year reign with a reputation as an insanely cruel tyrant. Capricious, politically inept and militarily incompetent, sexually ambiguous and perversely incestuous, he went from beloved prince to butchered psychopath in a reign that quickly slid into humiliation, murder and madness.
  • The life of Caligula demonstrated how much the imperial system created by Augustus, whilst preserving the trappings of the Republic, had actually concentrated absolute power in the hands of one man. Caligula stripped away the veneer of constitutional restraint and flaunted his total authority over his subjects in the most capriciously horrific manner. Caligula personifies the immorality, bloodlust and insanity of absolute power.


Quotes from The Twelve Caesars: Gaius Caligula by Suetonius as translated by Alexander Thomson
  • Having punished one person for another, by mistaking his name, he said, "he deserved it quite as much." He had frequently in his mouth these words of the tragedian,
Oderint dum metuant.
I scorn their hatred, if they do but fear me.
  • This account can be taken to imply that Caligula quoted someone else in saying this, but the above and a slight variant "Let them hate me as long as they fear me" have often been quoted as a statement original to the Emperor.
  • He devised a novel and unheard of kind of pageant; for he bridged the gap between Baiae and the mole at Puteoli, a distance of about thirty-six hundred paces, by bringing together merchant ships from all sides and anchoring them in a double line, afterwards a mound of earth was heaped upon them and fashioned in the manner of the Appian Way. Over this bridge he rode back and forth for two successive days... know that many have supposed that Gaius devised this kind of bridge in rivalry of Xerxes, who excited no little admiration by bridging the much narrower Hellespont; others, that it was to inspire fear in Germany and Britain, on which he had gardens, by the fame of some stupendous work. But when I was a boy, I used to hear my grandfather say that the reason for the work, as revealed by the emperor's confidential courtiers, was that Thrasyllus the astrologer had declared to Tiberius, when he was worried about his successor and inclined towards his natural grandson, that Gaius had no more chance of becoming emperor than of riding about over the gulf of Baiae with horses.


Quotes from . Philo. On the Embassy to Gaius, translated by C. D. Yonge. Retrieved on 2007-09-23.
  • But in the eighth month a severe disease attacked Gaius who had changed the manner of his living which was a little while before, while Tiberius was alive, very simple and on that account more wholesome than one of great sumptuousness and luxury; for he began to indulge in abundance of strong wine and eating of rich dishes, and in the abundant license of insatiable desires and great insolence, and in the unseasonable use of hot baths, and emetics, and then again in winebibbing and drunkenness, and returning gluttony, and in lust after boys and women, and in everything else which tends to destroy both soul and body, and all the bonds which unite and strengthen the two; for the rewards of temperance are health and strength, and the wages of intemperance are weakness and disease which bring a man near to death.
    • II, sec. 14.
  • You [=Caligula], O most wretched of men! having filled every continent and every island with good laws, and principles of justice, and wealth, and comfort, and prosperity, and abundance of other blessings, you, wretched man, full of all cowardice and iniquity, who have emptied every city of all the things which can conduce to stability and prosperity, and have made them full of everything which leads to trouble and confusion, and the most utter misery and desolation.
    • XII, sec. 90.
  • But the madness and frenzy to which he gave way were so preposterous, and so utterly insane, that he went even beyond the demigods, and mounted up to and invaded the veneration and worship paid to those who are looked upon as greater than they, as the supreme deities of the world, Mercury, and Apollo, and Mars.
    • XIII, sec. 93.

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