January 24th 41 AD: Caligula killed
On this day in 41 AD, the Roman Emperor Caligula was assassinated by his guard in Rome. Born in Italy in 12 AD as Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, he is today known by his nickname Caligula, or ‘Little Boot’. The name was given to him by Roman soldiers on the German frontier when he was a young boy, owing to his footwear. After his parents were killed by imperial forces, Caligula was adopted by his great uncle, Emperor Tiberius; he became the third Roman emperor upon Tiberius’s death in 37 AD. With the support of the army he quickly moved to eradicate any challenges to his reign, having Tiberius’s grandson and rival heir executed. As emperor, Caligula lavished Rome with grand games and building projects. However, he soon became despised for his increasing megalomania and apparent insanity, which stemmed from an illness early in his reign. He supposedly tried to humiliate the Senate by making his favourite horse, Incitatus, a senator. Caligula also reversed previous imperial trend by actively encouraging worship of himself as a god. His reign was also brutal in its vicious treason trials and frequent executions of dissenters; he even made it a capital offence to mention a goat in the presence of the very hairy Caligula. Caligula had imperial aspirations, and undertook military campaigns in Germany and planned one to Britain. In 41 AD, after a four year reign, the increasingly unpopular Caligula was assassinated aged 29 by his own bodyguards. He was succeeded by his uncle Claudius, who proved a much more even-tempered and moderate leader.