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ANCIENT COIN CLUB OF
LOS ANGELES

ACTA ACCLA

ACTA ACCLA, September 2007

GAIUS CAESAR - CALIGULA

Lived 12 - 41 CE
Emperor 37 - 41 CE

Text by Paul Ranc

Silver denarius of Caligula and Agrippina
Silver Denarius of Caligula. Minted in Lugdunum (Lyon) in 37 CE. His laureated head right, C CAESAR AVG GERM P M TR POT around / Draped bust of Agrippina right, AGRIPPINA MAT C CAES AVG GERM around. RIC 14; BMCRE 15; Sear RC 1825.

Related to everyone in the imperial family, thus destined to rule the Roman Empire. Perhaps that was the problem!

Few of Rome's emperors enjoy as foul a reputation as Gaius, who is generally known by the nickname Caligula, meaning "little boots", which he received from his father's soldiers while he was still an amiable child. He grew to despise the nickname almost as much as everyone grew to despise him.

British Museum bust of Caligula
Emperor Caligula
Photograph by Barry Rightman

There is little need to revisit the list of his debaucheries, and acts of depravity: the belief he was god; his incest with his sisters; the horse that became senator, etc., we need only note that his behavior was a special blend of intellect and insanity, and that he has few peers beyond Nero, Commodus and Elagabalus.

The Roman world sighed with welcome relief when this monster was killed in early 41. For a biased/amusing view of him, check out Robert Graves' "I Claudius" or the TV series.

His appeal as a literary subject need not surprise: tyrants, and crazy autocrats pushed to extremes fascinate throughout the ages. Thus the first emperor/monster legend was created. He is the classical example of "absolute power corrupts absolutely"

Fortunately his coins are very interesting: i.e. the first portrait sestertii, and his political quadrans. Also his family is honored on the coins, giving us the an intimate view of the Roman concept of pietas.

Silver denarius of Caligula and Germanicus
Silver Denarius of Caligula. Minted in Lugdunum (Lyon) in 37 CE. His laureated head right, C CAESAR AVG PON M TR POT III COS III around / Head of Germanicus right, GERMANICUS CAES P C CAES AVG GERM around. RIC 26; BMCRE 28; Sear RC 1816. Photograph by Kelly Ramage

A moral fable or an insane autocrat? The truth lies somewhere in between.

MORE INFORMATION ON CALIGULA AND HIS COINS IS AVAILABLE ON ACCLA'S TWELVE CAESARS PAGES.

SUGGESTED WEB RESOURCES ON CALIGULA

Caligula on Wikipedia
Gaius (Caligula) on De Imperitoribus Romanis
Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars - The Life of Caligula (English)
Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum - CALIGVLA (Latin)

 

ACTA ACCLA edited by Michael J. Connor.