37 - 41 AD
It was later found out that Caligula had poisoned Tiberius himself and he had issued orders for the Imperial ring to be removed while Tiberius was still breathing. When he wouldn't let go, Caligula had him smothered with a pillow. Caligula's accession seemed to the Roman people--one might almost say, to the whole world--like a dream come true. On his arrival in the City, the Senate immediately and unanimously conferred absolute power upon him. They set aside Tiberius' will--which made his other grandson, then still a child, joint-heir with Caligula--so splendid were the celebrations that 160,000 victims were publicly sacrificed during the next three months, or perhaps even shorter. A few days later, Caligula visited the prison islands and became ill. Anxious crowds besieged the palace and some swore that they would fight like gladiators if the gods would allow him to recover; others even carried placards volunteering to die instead of him. Caligula strengthened his popularity by every possible means. He delivered a funeral speech in honor of Tiberius to a vast crowd and gave him a magnificent burial. A similar bid of popularity was to recall all exiles, and dismiss all criminal charges whatsoever that had been pending since the time of Tiberius. He drove the perverts from the City and could, with difficulty, be restrained from drowning the lot. Caligula revived Augustus' practice, discontinued by Tiberius, of publishing an Imperial budget. He invested the magistrates with full authority, not requiring them to apply for his confirmation of sentences. Caligula's creation of a fifth judicial division aided jurors in keeping abreast of their work. His revival of the electoral system was designed to restore popular control over the magistracy. He honored every one of the bequests in Tiberius' will though this had been set aside by the Senate. So much for Caligula the Emperor; the rest of his history ends with Caligula the Monster. He established a shrine to himself as "god", with priests, the costliest possible victims, and a life-sized golden image, which was dressed in every day clothes identical with those that Caligula happened to wear. It seems hardly worth while to record how Caligula treated his relatives and friends, nor was he anymore respectful or considerate in his dealings with the Senate. He behaved just as arrogantly and violently toward people of less exalted rank. Caligula could not control his natural brutality. Many men of decent families were branded at his command, and sent down the mines, or put to work on the roads, or thrown to the wild beasts. Others were confined in narrow cages, where they had to crouch on all fours like animals; or were sawn in half--and not necessarily for major offenses, but merely for criticizing his shows, failing to swear by his Genius, and so forth. Caligula's savage crimes were matched by his brutal language. Everything that Caligula said and did was marked with equal cruelty, even during his hours of rest, amusement and banquetry. He frequently had trials by torture held in his presence while he was eating or otherwise enjoying himself. In his insolent pride and destructiveness, he made malicious attacks on men of almost every epoch. On January 24, Caligula, persuaded by his friends, went along a covered walk. His two colonels then stabbed him numerous times. He died at the age of twenty-nine after ruling for three years, ten months, and eight days.