Weird History
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The Wild Life And Times Of Caligula

Updated December 17, 2019 160.2k views11 items

In the entirety of the Roman Empire’s expansive history, there are more than enough tales of debauchery to fill several books. However, for all the depraved people who sat on the Roman throne, there’s one emperor whose lifestyle stands head and shoulders above the rest: Caligula.

The third emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Caligula marks the halfway point of the short-lived dynasty begun by Augustus. Formally known throughout his empire as Gaius (Caligula was a childhood nickname), Caligula might also be known as the Teflon Caesar thanks to his ability to squeak through political intrigues without a scratch - until he was slain by a crowd in the middle of a street.

In just four years as emperor, Caligula managed to carve a place in history as one of the most opulent, perverse, and flat-out nuts rulers in all of history. So here, for your consideration, are some of Caligula’s wildest stories and outbursts.

  • He Was Intimate With His Three Sisters

    Caligula’s father perished when he was a young kid, but the boy who would be king had one of history’s more scheming mothers, Agrippina the Elder. Unfortunately, she ran up against Tiberius (Caligula’s uncle... ish), emperor of Rome. When Tiberius got tired of Agrippina’s cunning, he had her executed and then systematically broke down her remaining family. 

    Caligula's oldest brother, Nero (not that Nero), was banished on charges of treason; the middle brother, Drusus Caesar, met his demise in exile. That left Caligula essentially the prisoner of Emperor Tiberius, living with his only remaining family, his three sisters. Maybe that’s why he took to sleeping with each of them in public.

    According to Suetonius: “At a large banquet he placed each of [his sisters] in turn below him, while his wife reclined above. Of these he is believed to have violated Drusilla when he was still a minor, and even to have been caught lying with her by his grandmother Antonia, at whose house they were brought up in company.”

  • Photo: Jan Arkesteijn / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    He Slept With Anyone And Everyone

    It seemed that the more power Caligula attained, the more anxious he was to sleep around. Several historians, including Suetonius, claim that Caligula “had not the slightest regard for chastity, either his own or others', and was accused of having homosexual relations, both active and passive, with Marcus Lepidus, also Mnester the comedian, and various foreign hostages; moreover, a young man of a consular family, Valerius Catullus, revealed publicly that he had buggered the Emperor, and quite worn himself out in the process.”

    The point is that Caligula was extremely open about the fact that he’d go after anyone who excited him, which was pretty much everyone. 

  • He Threw Lavish Adults-Only Parties

    When he wanted to throw a party, Caligula would turn one of his marble-floored villas into his own Roman version of Studio 54. He’d round up literally hundreds of strangers of all social classes and then ply them with food and wine.

    In the background, professional musicians would play music to get everyone in the mood, while male and female sex workers mingled among the guests.

  • He Disrobed And Described His Partners In Public

    Caligula would approach a young Roman noble couple whom he had invited to the party. He’d choose the member of the couple most appealing to him, either male or female, and then inspect them as though appraising a piece of livestock up for auction. He’d pull their clothes off to reveal them to the crowd and he’d comment loudly on their appearance.

    Then, Caligula would take the young noble person into his private quarters, defile them, and then return to the party to give his guests an informed blow-by-blow of his partner’s performance.