Italy · Political

Caligula’s assassination

January 24, 41
Palatine Hill, Rome
Caligula is assassinated by guards who stab him 30 times, dump his body unceremoniously in a shallow grave, and murder his wife and 1-year-old daughter

Caligula was not held in high regard during his reign, despite being descended from beloved Roman nobility. Caligula was known for his sadism, cruelty, sexual perversion, and tyranny. He also had no knowledge of war, diplomacy, or government, levied high taxes, and spent huge amount of money on lavish events such as chariot races, preferring to keep himself and the upper class in luxury at he cost of his working class subjects. To restore the coffers and return to his extravagant lifestyle, he began falsely accusing citizens of crimes to have them fined or killed, then claimed their property.

The final straw came when Caligula announced his plan to move from Rome to Alexandria, Egypt to be worshipped as a living god. The senate had limited control over the mad emperor’s whims in Rome, but would be completely powerless should he leave to Alexandria. An assassination plot was already in the works, but the urgency of a shortened timeframe hastened the plan. Following a sporting event, his guard stabbed Caligula to death. The first strike was by a man named Chaerea, whom Caligula had mocked, calling him female names such as Venus, due to a soft voice and compassion with tax collection.

After the rest of the guard had their turn at stabbing Caligula, some of the senate who had been loyal to the imperial family demanded justice for the fallen emperor. Fearing this support, the assassins sought to kill the family of Caligula, stabbing his wife and killing their 1-year-old daughter by striking her head against a wall. Caligula’s uncle Claudius was able to be smuggled out of the city when he was discovered by sympathizers. Claudius later took Caligula’s place as emperor, resorting some of Rome’s former glory.

Caligula’s body and those of his wife and daughter were later buried in the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome. However, in 410 during the Sack of Rome, the Mausoleum was desecrated and the ashes within the tomb were scattered.

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