Caligula

Caligula Emperor. March 28, 37 AD.

When Tiberius died on 16 March 37 AD, his estate and the titles of the principate were left to Caligula and Tiberius’s own grandson, Gemellus, who were to serve as joint heirs. Although Tiberius was 77 and on his death bed, some ancient historians still conjecture that he was murdered. Tacitus writes that the Praetorian Prefect, Macro, smothered Tiberius with a pillow to hasten Caligula’s accession, much to the joy of the Roman people. Seneca the Elder and Philo, who both wrote during Tiberius’s reign, record Tiberius as dying a natural death. Backed by Macro, Caligula had Tiberius’s will nullified with regard to Gemellus on grounds of insanity, but otherwise carried out Tiberius’s wishes. Caligula accepted the powers of the principate as conferred by the sena...

Julia Drusilla – June 10, 38 AD

Julia Drusilla was one of the daughters of Germanicus and Agrippina Senior. She was also the sister of Nero Caesar, Drusus Caesar, Caligula, Agrippina Junior and Julia Livilla. Born in 16 AD, she was only three when Germanicus died in Antioch. Drusilla and her siblings were brought back to Rome by their mother, from where they all lived in Germany. The children were raised by Agrippina Senior, with the help of their paternal grandmother, Antonia Junior. During 26 AD, the Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus, essentially was running Rome and the administration of it, thanks to Tiberius delegating so much responsibility to him. Although Sejanus was not in line for succession to the throne, he used his power to eliminate possible challengers. Agrippina Senior, Nero Caesar and Drusus Caesar were all ar...

Ashes to Ashes – April 4, 37 AD

The Roman Emperor, Tiberius, was smothered to death by Marco (and possibly Caligula) on March 16, 37 AD. The Senate rejoiced and refused to vote to grant Tiberius with divine honors and mobs filled the streets with chants to throw his body in the Tiber. Instead, Tiberius was cremated and his ashes were interred at the Mausoleum of Augustus on April 4. The ancient Romans commonly cremated the royal family members upon their death. The building used for the funeral pyre was called an ustrinum. The ustrinum of the House of Augustus was located near the Mausoleum of Augustus. It was described by Strabo as “a travertine enclosure with a metal grating and black poplars planted inside it”. In 1777, while excavating at the corner of Corso and Via degli Otto Cantonia, a fine alabaster urn and six l...

Domitia Longina – February 11, 50-55 AD

Domitia Longina was born on February 11, but in which year is unclear – sources place it between 50-55 AD. Although not much is documented about her before her marriage to the Roman emperor, Domitian, in 71, her lineage is well connected. Domitia was the youngest daughter of Nero’s most renowned general, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo and his wife, Cassia Longina. She was also the direct descendant of Augustus through her mother’s side, as a great-great-great-great-granddaughter. As such, she was one of the last living members of the Julian line. Domitia’s father was not only an accomplished general, he was also a senator and consul under Caligula. During the reigns of Claudius and Nero, Corbulo conducted military campaigns in Parthia and Germania. However, black clouds formed over the fami...

Galba Born – December 24, 3 BC

Servius Sulpicius Galba was born on December 24, 3 BC in Terracina, Italy to C. Sulpicius Galba and Mummia Achaica. His family was well-connected – his paternal grandfather was Servius Sulpicius Galba, praetor in 54 BC and his maternal grandfather was politician Quintus Lutatius Catulus. Galba’s mother died shortly after his birth and his father remarried Livia Ocellina, a distant relative of the Roman empress Livia. Livia adopted Galba and he changed his name to Lucius Livius Ocella Sulpicius Galba. In his youth, Galba was remarked by both Augustus and Tiberius to have great abilities and destined to be important.  This  is a category of  silver denarius. Galba married Aemilia Lepida, who was connected through the marriages of some of her relatives to various members of the house of Julii...

Io Saturnalia – December 17-23

Although initially, the feast of Saturnalia began on December 17 in ancient Roman times, it was later expanded run to December 23. The Roman god, Saturn, presided over several aspects of life, including agriculture, wealth, liberation and time. As such, his festival period was a time to exchange gifts and engage in social activities otherwise not acceptable. Slaves were allowed to reverse roles with their masters during feasting and were allowed free speech. The traditional Roman toga was replaced with brightly-colored Greek synthesis, or cenatoria (dinner wear). Citizens and slaves alike were allowed to wear the pileus, as opposed to the bare-headed norm. During the festivities, gambling and playing dice was permitted by everyone. It was a time of over-eating and over-drinking. Horace wro...

The Second Emperor – November 16, 42 BC

The ascension to the throne, and the reign of Tiberius Claudius Nero, were both typical and predictably self-serving. He was born in Fondi, Italy, on November 16, 42 BC to Livia Drusilla and Tiberius Claudius Nero, head of the Claudii family. His father was a strong supporter of the old Roman Republic, and opposed the Triumvirate. At first, Tiberius sided with Marc Antony and went to join Antony’s brother in Perusia, taking Livia and the younger Tiberius with him. By the time they arrived, Octavian’s forces had already taken the city and they were forced to flee. In 40 BC, the elder Tiberius took up arms against the Triumvirate, having joined with Sextus Pompey, and lost a battle against Octavian, forcing him to flee to Achaea to join Marc Antony, until the following year. Tiberius and fam...

Claudius Poisioned – October 13, 54 AD

Upon the murder of Caligula by the praetorian guards on January 24, 41 AD, there were only three surviving males in the Julio-Claudian dynasty that had been ruling the Roman Empire – Claudius (50, son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia); Nero (4, son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina Junior); and Brittanicus (1, son of Claudius and Valeria Messalina). While Caligula was being relieved of his mortal coil, Claudius hid behind some curtains in the palace. The praetorians found him and led him to their camp. To his great surprise, he was there elevated to emperor for two likely reasons – the Senate was debating possibly turning from the Empire model and back to the old Republican one; and the praetorians likely expected they could easily control Claudius because of his impaired con...

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