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Gaius Caesar, nicknamed Caligula or "Little Boot," was born on August 31, in 12 A.D. He succeeded Tiberius as Roman emperor in 37 A.D., and adopted the name Gaius Caesar Germanicus. Records depict him as a cruel and unpredictable leader. He restored treason trials and put people to death. Cassius Chaerea murdered him in 41 A.D. at the Palatine Games.
"Let them hate me, so long as they fear me."
Roman leader Gaius Caesar Germanicus was born on August 31, in the year 12 in Antium (now Anzio), Italy. The third of six living children born to Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder, Gaius hailed from Rome's most distinguished family, the Julio Claudiens. His great-great-grandfather was Julius Caesar and his great-grandfather was Augustus, while his father, Germanicus, was a beloved leader in his own right. Later, Gaius's rule a Roman emperor would be shaped by lunacy and lust.
Gaius was close to his father and, at the age of 3, began frequently accompanying Germanicus on his military campaigns. In keeping with tradition, Gaius wore a uniform with a small pair of boots, earning him the nickname of "Caligula," the Latin word for "little boots." The name stuck with him for the rest of his life.
At the time of Gaius's birth, the rule of Augustus was coming to an end. Augustus's health was failing and, in need of naming a successor, he appointed his stepson Tiberius, a brooding, unpopular leader, to his former position. His choice, however, came with one caveat: Knowing that the public would not be pleased by his decision, he compelled Tiberius to adopt Germanicus as his son, and name him his heir.
On August 19, in the year 14 A.D., Augustus died. Tiberius quickly assumed power and, just as quickly, dispatched Germanicus to Rome's eastern provinces for a diplomatic mission. There, he fell ill and soon died, which invited theories to swell up that linked Tiberius to his political rival's death.
Agrippina the Elder fanned the flames. She publicly blamed Tiberius for her husband's death and craved revenge. Tiberius struck back. He imprisoned Agrippina the Elder on a remote island, where she starved to death. The emperor then imprisoned her two older sons, one of whom killed himself; the other starved to death.
Because of his young age, Caligula was spared and forced to live with his great-grandmother, Livia, Augustus's wife. It was during this time that Caligula, who was a teenager at the time, is believed to have committed incest with his sister, Drusilla.
In the year 31, Caligula was summoned by Tiberius to the island of Capri, where he was adopted by the man presumed to be his father's killer and treated like a pampered prisoner. Forced to suppress his anger and show Tiberius respect, despite his hatred for him, Caligula was likely mentally traumatized by the situation, according to many historians. Instead, Caligula took his emotions out on others. He delighted in watching torture and executions, and spent his nights in orgies of gluttony and passion. Even the unstable Tiberius could see that Caligula was unhinged.
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Ruthless, corrupt and crazy. Many of the world's dicators started out as charismatic young leaders, with a large measure of support from their countrymen—only to become bloated with power and abandon the principles they had pledged to uphold. These leaders held on to power by rigidly enforcing control, intimidating opposition and instilling fear among citizens. With access to unlimited power and riches, many developed secretive personal lives and bizarre habits. These dictators terrorized their people, and mesmerized the world, with their bizarre sayings, styles, and actions. Biography.com takes a look at some of the world's most erratic, and autocratic, leaders.
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