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Caligula 37 AD

Caligula was a former Roman Emperor who ruled Rome from 37 to 41 A.D.  That is where he is listed on the Bible Timeline Chart. He was the third son of a General named Germanicus and a princess named Agrippina. When Caligula was a little boy he used to travel with General Germanicus and his mother to different battlefields. While he was stationed with the troops at the Roman camps he would dress up in a customized Roman uniform and little army boots. Ancient Roman boots were called “caliga” and in his case it meant “little boots”. This name would stick with him for the rest of his life. Sources say that he didn’t like this nickname even though it still remained a major part of his identity.

The Life of Caligula

Caligula was actually born Caesar Augustus Germanicus in 12 A.D. His father Germanicus was a leading Roman general who defeated many rebellious tribes in Germania and conquered Rome’s enemies in Asia. Caligula learned much about warfare and politics from his father and he grew to become a powerful Roman ruler in his own right.

Germanicus eventually died of poisoning and when he did Caligula and his family had to move with their uncle Tiberius who was also a general. Tiberius had adopted Germanicus as his nephew but since Germanicus was so successful on the battlefield he was seen as a threat. Some historians claim that Tiberius had Germanicus poisoned, but no one is certain. Agrippina lived with her uncle for as long as she could before their relationship had completely deteriorated. Eventually, Tiberius had banished Agrippina and his brother Nero from Rome. He claimed that they committed the crime of treason.

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Caligula ended up going to Tiberius’ mother’s home to live. She took the boy in since Agrippina could no longer care for him. Her name was Livia and she provided care for Caligula until she died. After her death, he lived with his other grandmother named Antonia. Caligula’s brothers Drusus and Nero had both died while in exile.

For the rest of Caligula’s youth, he lived as a well-kept prisoner of his uncle Tiberius. During his teenage years, Caligula had trained to become a good soldier and he was also educated at the finest Roman schools. His mother had eventually died in one of Tiberius’ prisons and though he wanted to avenge her death he was wise to keep his motives hidden from Tiberius. He was eventually appointed to a high financial office (quaestorship) by Tiberius. He eventually became a joint heir with Tiberius Gemellus (his cousin) to Emperor Tiberius’ estate.

Caligula the Emperor

Emperor Tiberius had died in 37 A.D. and it was at this time that Caligula became the next Roman Emperor. He then manipulated Tiberius’ will and forced Germellus out of his inheritance claiming that the former emperor was insane when he drew up the will. He had a powerful friend named Naevius Marco to validate his false claim about Tiberius’ insanity. He then marched into Rome where he was warmly received by the masses as the new emperor of Rome.

Caligula quickly realized that he had the backing of the Roman people behind him and he performed many public acts as soon as he started to rule. He gave bonus money to soldiers, undid many of Tiberius’ decrees and helped people who had been harmed by the imperial tax system. He put on public spectacles with the gladiator games and he banished well known sexual deviants and perverts from the empire.

When people hear about Caligula one of the things about his character that comes to light is the word insanity. After becoming emperor, he had ruled for six months before becoming gravely ill. This sickness which had affected him did not take his life but when the young emperor had recovered his personality changed. From that point onward, Caligula was seen as a lunatic and monster.

He suddenly started to kill off or exile his allies, family, and friends. When he supposedly had killed some of his closest family members, his grandmother Antonia had committed suicide because her heart was broken from this deed. If he didn’t kill a particular person it was only because he wanted to keep them around for the purpose of humiliating them. He exiled his sisters and slandered the rest of his family that managed to avoid his sword.

By 38 A.D., he had made some public reforms which seemed to go over well with the people. He helped citizens who lost their property to fires, he abolished certain taxes and he appointed new people to different public offices. Once again, he started to do things that the general public did not like such as executing people without giving them a trial. In 39 A.D., he exhausted Rome’s finances on his personal spending. He went up against the Senate and had many of them declared deranged and a few put to death.

The Last Days of Caligula

Emperor Caligula eventually referred to himself as a god. About 40 A.D. he started to pass policies which forced people to acknowledge him as a god. He would then enter into public life dressed as one of the Roman deities. Shortly after these decrees many leaders and high standing Roman public figures had enough of his antics. The Praetorian Guard led by Cassius Chaerea were assassins who were a part of a huge conspiracy to eliminate Caligula. They were finally able to carry out the assassination in 41 A.D.

Caligula’s reign had come to an end and with his demise his uncle Claudius became the next Roman Emperor. Caligula was popular when he became emperor but when he died the people wished he would have never ruled Rome. Claudius had avenged the death of his nephew by murdering or exiling his conspirators.

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Marcus Aurelius and the Marcommannic Wars

Around 180 A.D., Emperor Marcus Aurelius ruled Rome, which is where he appears in the Bible Timeline.  It was during this time that the empire was experiencing some of its greatest incursions from foreign invaders. Barbarian tribes from eastern and central Europe had always proved to be problematic for Rome. Even though Rome had managed to keep the Germanic tribes on the borderlands between ancient Germany and France in check, they could not wipe them out. After losing the battle of Teutoburg Forest around 9 A.D., the Romans never again tried to push into German territory. However, since that time the Germans were constantly pushing against the outer edges of the empire.

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Marcus Aurelius

Emperor Marcus Aurelius had ruled Rome for nearly 20 years and during his reign a group of Germanic barbarians known as the Marcomanni had posed a significant threat to Rome. The Marcomanni had first encountered the Romans almost a century earlier when Augustus was aggressively expanding Roman lands. To avoid Roman domination, the Marcommani had settled into Bohemia where they established a powerful kingdom. Emperor August viewed them as a threat and soundly defeated them later in battle. The defeated Marcomanni remained under Roman dominion for almost 200 years before they decided to revolt against their rulers.

Over the years, the Marcomanni had built up its number of warriors and the territory had aligned itself with three other groups known as the Quasi, Vandals, and the Samaritans to form a confederation. Then around 166 A.D. they began to hit the northern and western parts of the Roman Empire. Emperor Aurelius had battled against his old enemies, and he was able to halt their advances, but he did so by suffering great losses.

The Marcomannic War had come during a bad period within the Roman Empire. Many Roman provinces were being ravaged by the outbreak of disease, and this plague caused the deaths of millions of people. Rome now had a limited supply of fighting forces and had to deal with containing this plague while trying to keep back its enemies. The soldiers were able to hold back initial Germanic invasions, but they eventually lost a major battle at Aquileia. Marcus Aurelius had countered the Germanic tribes by defeating them in a series of battles that lasted from 171 A.D. to 174 A.D. These series of battles were also used to take back Aquileia from the barbarians.

Marcus Aurelius died in 180 A.D. and was succeeded by Emperor Commodus, who was no longer interested in continuing this war. He had fought alongside Aurelius as co-emperor of Rome. Ultimately, he signed a peace treaty with the Marcomanni and the Quadi and went back to Rome to live a life of luxury and ease. Commodus told the people that Rome was victorious when they returned.

Most Romans at the time were not fully aware of the implications of this battle, but some soldiers and statesmen probably recognized what they meant. Rome was struggling to contain its barbaric enemies, and it was also reaching its limits with expansion. Ultimately, the Marcomannic Wars were a precursor to the coming barbaric invasions that would one day destroy Rome.