CALIGULA (ne Gaius Caesar Germanicus) Roman emperor, born (d: 41 C.E.); Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula’s father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome’s most beloved public figures.
The young Gaius earned the nickname “Caligula” (which translates as “little sandals”) from his father’s soldiers while accompanying him during his campaigns in Germania. When Germanicus died at Antioch in 19 AD, his wife Agrippina the Elder returned to Rome with her six children where she became entangled in an increasingly bitter feud with Tiberius. This conflict eventually led to the destruction of her family, with Caligula as the sole male survivor.
Unscathed by the deadly intrigues, Caligula accepted the invitation to join the emperor on the island of Capri in 31 AD, where Tiberius himself had withdrawn five years earlier. At the death of Tiberius in 37 AD, Caligula succeeded his great-uncle and adoptive grandfather
Back in the dim 1950s, the epidemic of biblical and classical extravaganzas from Hollywood reached a new height, or low, depending on one’s point of view. One learned all sorts of interesting things about the past from these flicks (to say nothing of how they shape the persistent modern American myth).
All women in classical Rome, for example, whether free born or slave, wore the same kiss-proof lipstick; many spoke with a hard-edged Bronx bray and were sentenced to death of their two-piece dancing togas were not sufficiently high to cover any hint of navel; were tortured if caught on the streets of Rome without sandals that were laced provocatively to the thigh.
During this epic period, actor Jay Robinson offered two scenery-chewing performances as the mad emperor Caligula in two 20th Century Fox epics, The Robe and its sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators. So effective was Robinson in his epicene camping, his evil vamping, his insane torture of innocent (??) Christian Hollywood extras, that by the time he threw his 85th Christian to a couple of toothless lions, one small child, biting his fingernails, leapt to his feet in a crowded theater and exclaimed “Boy, am I glad I’m Jewish!”
Actually Robinson’s behavior was not too different from the behavior of the real Caligula. Only Heliogabalus seems to have outdone him in licentiousness. If it moved, Caligula wanted it, male or female. His taste in women was certainly catholic, since it included his sisters.
His taste in men was equally far-ranging and included a priest whom he enjoyed screwing in public during religious ceremonies, an actor with whom he enjoyed smooching during meetings of state, a stud with whom he maintained a friendly contest as to who would outlast the other in a friendly orgy, and an officer in his guards whose buns he particularly admired. It was the latter, a guard named Chaerea, with whom he came a cropper.
Part of Caligula’s fun with Chaerea consisted of taunting him in front of his peers for having bottomed to his top. The lovely emperor would regularly force his guard to kiss his middle finger in public. To repay Caligula for his sensitive kindness, Chaerea hacked him to death with his sword and finished off what was left of him with his dagger. Caligula was 29.