Calilgula (1979)


Director:  Tinto Brass

Starring:  Malcolm McDowel (Caligula)l, Peter O'Toole, Teresa Ann Savoy, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud, Guido Mannari


Produced by Bog Guccione of Penthouse magazine fame, this is more of a sexual drama than an historical drama.  But it at least gets us talking about and knowing at least that Caligula was a Roman emperor, even if a bit kinky.

Historical Background:


-44 Caesar murdered by conspirators led by Brutus and Cassius Longinus

Second triumvirate: Mark Antony, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, & Gaius Octavius, now renamed Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Octavian)

-42 Brutus & Cassius defeated by the triumvirs at Philippi; commit suicide

-40 Herod, at Rome, appointed king of Judaea

-38 Mark Antony returns to Eypt

-34 Dalmatia a Roman province

-31 Battle of Actium; Mark Antony & Cleopatra defeated by Octavian, and commit suicide; Egypt becomes Roman province

-30 to +14 Octavian retitled Augustus & becomes virtual emperor

-9 Roman army under Drusus & Tiberius penetrates Germania as far as the Elbe

-6 Judaea annexed by Rome

-4 Herod dead; Judaea divided among his sons

5-40 A.D.  --  Cymbeline, king of the Catuvellauni, recognized by Rome as "Rex Brittonum"

09 --  Roman army under Varus destroyed by the Cherusci under Arminius in Teutoburg Forest

14 --  Augustus dead; succeeded as emperor by Tiberius (-37)

26  --  Tiberius retires to Capri, leaving Rome in charge of Sejanus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard

33  --  death by crucifixion of Christ

37  --  Tiberus dead; succeeded by Caligula (-42)


Roman emperor from 37 to 41, in succession to Tiberius, who transfers the last legion under a senatorial proconsul (in Africa) to an imperial legate, thus completing the emperor's monopoly of army command.

12 B.C.  --  born Gaius Caesar Germanicus, Antium, Latium; becomes known as Caligula (Little Boot), a childhood nickname bestowed on him by the soldiers of his father, Germanicus Caesar, nephew and adoptive son of Tiberius.

19 A.D.   -- his father dies.

23  --  elder brother, Drusus Caesar, dies.

31  --   elder brother, Drusus Caesar Nero, dies.

33  --  his moher, Agrippina the Elder, dies.  All these family deaths popularly ascribed to the machinations of Tiberius; Gaius and his three sisters survive.

37  --  becomes emperor. He is severely ill seven months after his accession (perhaps suffering from epilepsy).  When he recovers he restores treason trials, engages in great cruelty, and engages in wild despotic caprice.

Caligula quickly squanders the vast state treasury accumulated under Tiberius, so he has to resort to extorting from prominent Roman citizens and confiscating their estates.

38   --  executes Naevius Sutorius Macro, prefect of the Praetorian Guard, to whose support he owed his accession, and Tiberius Gemellus, grandson of Tiberius, whom he had supplanted in the succession.

He at times acts as if thinks he's a God.  And he becomes extravagantly affectionate for his sisters, especially for Drusilla.  Some scholars believe that he intended to establish a Hellenistic-type monarchy after the brother-sister marriages of the Ptolemies of Egypt. But Drusilla dies in 38.  

39  --  he capriciously bridges the Bay of Naples with boats from Baiae to Puteoli.

39, Oct.  --  Caligula appears unexpectedly on the Upper Rhine to suppress an incipient revolt, executing Drusilla's widower M. Aemilius Lepidus and Gnaeus Lentulus Gaetulicus, commander of the Upper Rhine armies.

40 --  Caligula marches with an army into Gaul, thoroughly plunderings its inhabitants. He marches to the northern shoreline of Gaul as a prelude to the invasion of Britain but then ordered them to collect seashells, "the spoils of the conquered ocean."

40 summer  --  Caligula orders his statue to be erected in the Temple at Jerusalem (but he rescinds the order under the advise of Herod Agrippa).  Several plots for his murder are hatched.

41, Jan. 24  --  four months after his return to Rome from Gaul, Caligula is murdered at the Palatine Games by Cassius Chaerea, tribune of the Praetorian guard, Cornelius Sabinus, and others. Caligula's wife Caesonia and his daughter also put to death. He is succeeded as emperor by his uncle Claudius.


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)