10 Weird Things You Didn’t Know Caligula Did

Updated on December 17, 2016

The Ancient Roman emperor Gaius, better known these days as Caligula, was famous for his cruel and extraordinary rule. There are the well-known stories about how he promised the senate he would make his horse a consul, or about how he made the soldiers collect seashells from the ocean. Although, aside from those strange tales about the emperor’s life, there are many other cases which show what an unusual and strange person Caligula was.

A golden coin depicting Caligula
A golden coin depicting Caligula | Source

1. He Bathed in Gold and Drank Pearls

Well, Caligula was not literally filling a bath with golden coins and swimming inside it. But, inspired with his well-known love of gold, he poured pieces of gold and other valuable golden artifacts over the ground to walk on them barefoot and wallowed in them with his whole body for hours. Aside from that, the emperor was very fond of jewels and golden decorations, putting them over his clothes and in the walls of his palace. Another wonderful habit Caligula used to enjoy was drinking natural pearls, dissolved in vinegar. He served loaves and meats of gold during his banquets, leaving the visitors amazed and stating that one should either be a frugal or an emperor.

Bust of Caligula
Bust of Caligula | Source

2. He Built a Temple for Himself

Even though in later times the cult of an emperor was a great thing and not uncommon, and during times of Gaius’s rule the temples dedicated to Emperor Augustus existed already, he went way too far in making people worship him. The temple was built for him while he was still alive, and among other rich things, it had a life-sized golden statue of the emperor himself. Every day the statue was dressed in the same clothes Caligula was wearing and the richest citizens of Rome wanted to become the priests, as it was a great honor to be one. The offerings to the living god were as fancy as flamingoes, peacocks, pheasants, and other exotic animals highly praised in Rome, and were made day by day.

Jupiter | Source

3. He Proclaimed Himself Jupiter

Gaius didn’t really enjoy the nickname, Caligula. In fact, he hated it, though his actual name wasn’t in his favor either. He more enjoyed to be called Jupiter, just like the Ancient Roman king of the gods. According to Roman historian Cassius Dio, he was referred to as Jupiter by senators, and even in documents. He also ordered to bring the Great Statue of Zeus at Olympia (which was the Greek equivalent of Jupiter) from Greece in order to replace its head with his own. Aside from those eccentric things, he enjoyed dressing himself as Jupiter, including the golden beard and a thunderbolt in his hand. There was a case when Gaius took a spot near Jupiter’s statue and asked the actor who was nearby about who in his mind is more mighty: the god or the emperor himself. When the man naturally hesitated to reply, Caligula ordered him to be whipped.

Caligula with the goddess Roma
Caligula with the goddess Roma | Source

4. He Talked to Gods

Aside from wanting to be called Jupiter, he also was known for having conversations with the gods. The rumors said that he was talking to the moon at night, inviting her to his bed and threatening Jupiter himself, or talking to him during the day. He also said that the goddess Victoria put a crown on him, and he was boasting about seducing the moon. He also mentioned the spirit of the ocean talking to him while he couldn’t sleep. Once Gaius asked one of his subjects if he can see the Moon Goddess standing around him, and, after the man answered that only the other gods—like Caligula—can see each other, he became a great favorite of the emperor.

18th century engraving of Gaius
18th century engraving of Gaius | Source

5. He Was Outstanding in His Clothes

Caligula liked to dress himself. He enjoyed the best clothes that the time and tailors could offer, including the silk ones and richly decorated ones, but, like it was usually with that emperor, he went too far with it. He was often dressing himself as different gods, parading around as Jupiter, Bacchus, Apollo, Neptune, or Hercules, of course with all those gods’ attributes and wigs to be recognized, as he tried to resemble them as much as possible. Like that he could be seen carrying around a trident, or wearing the lion’s skin and holding a club to look like Hercules. He wasn’t only impersonating the male gods, though, as he greatly enjoyed to dress as Venus, Diana, or Juno. Aside from portraying gods this emperor was fond of dressing himself in the clothes that a general would wear during a Triumph, even when there was no reason for it. He also was wearing the breastplate belonging to Alexander the Great, which he took from his grave. When he wasn’t wearing those extravagant clothes he preferred to wear silk, often appearing in expensive cloaks decorated with stones, and sometimes wearing female clothes. He naturally owned a huge amount of jewelry, bracelets and rings among them, and a great variety of shoes, including female ones.

One of the Nemi ships as they were found in 1930s
One of the Nemi ships as they were found in 1930s | Source

6. He Liked to Do Impossible Things

Caligula, among other things, is known for building his enormous pleasure boats, known as the Nemi ships these days. The two ships were, in fact, floating villas, which had baths, a heating system, temples, colonnades, banquet rooms, statues, and even beautiful mosaics on their floors. The Nemi ships were also decorated with marble, precious stones, and colored sails over them. The size of the first one found was 230 feet long and 66 feet wide, and the second Nemi ship was about the same size, but a little bigger. Unfortunately, both of them were destroyed during World War II, though the remains of the decorations can still be seen in the museums. Though the huge pleasure boats weren’t the only incredible things Gaius built. According to Suetonius, he enjoyed all the things impossible, and his projects usually went as far as building tunnels through the hardest mountains, building stone piers far into the deepest and stormy sea, turning high mountains into the plains, and plains into high mountains.

A roman mosaic depicting the winner of a chariot race
A roman mosaic depicting the winner of a chariot race | Source

7. He Really Loved His Horse

It is a very well-known story that Caligula wanted to make his horse a consul. And even though this never actually came to fruition, Incitatus (the name of the horse), enjoyed all the pleasures of being the emperor’s favorite animal. The horse had a stall of marble, a feeder made from ivory, a collar decorated with precious stones, blankets of the purple dyed fabric—which was considered the most expensive one in ancient Rome—his own house with furniture included, and a troop of slaves. The day before Incitatus would have to take part in races silence was ordered in the neighborhood, to prevent the horse from distraction. Aside from that, the emperor invited Incitatus to dinner, drank wine for his health from golden cups, and fed him golden oats. Gaius was a great admirer of horse races, so he tried to put Incitatus in the best conditions possible, giving him the most luxurious goods, which was very natural for his odd nature.

Ancient Roman theater
Ancient Roman theater | Source

8. He Liked to Perform Any Way Possible

Caligula was a huge fan of chariot racing, often sleeping in stables and taking part in them himself. Aside from that, he enjoyed any kinds of showing off greatly, performing as a gladiator, a singer, or a dancer on multiple occasions. Once in the middle of the night, he called the consulars, and when they arrived, frightened and nervous, they had to do nothing but watch the emperor dancing for them in a long tunic and a robe, before disappearing from their sight again. Once he was fighting a gladiator who used a wooden sword instead of an actual one, and when his opponent fell on purpose, Caligula stabbed him with an actual dagger, running around with a victorious palm branch afterward. He also enjoyed singing along with actors as they were on the stage.

The bust of Caligula in its original colors
The bust of Caligula in its original colors | Source

9. He Was Very Concerned With His Appearance

People considered Emperor Gaius not very handsome, and fearful in his looks, and aside from that he was having other problems with his appearance. His body was extremely hairy, and this was seen as unattractive in Rome. So a law was passed to not mention a goat at all in his presence. He also had problems with early hair loss, just like his ancestors, and that caused another law to be created. This one prohibited anyone to stand higher than him or look down upon the emperor as he passed by. To look more fearsome and frightening he regularly practiced expressions before a mirror.

16th century depiction of Caligula
16th century depiction of Caligula | Source

10. He Was Really Mean to People

Aside from his incredible cruelty and obsession with killing and torturing people he was doing other things that were strange and had a very weird sense of humor. Like he enjoyed hanging up new laws in places hard to reach, writing them in very little letters, just to punish people who didn’t know about them afterward. He enjoyed drawing back the awnings over the arena when the sun was hottest, forbidding anyone to leave and making the spectators suffer from the heat. During the time of his rule, he constantly prayed to gods, asking them to send a great catastrophe for Rome, and was very sad when nothing happened. He also had a great joy shutting up the granaries and condemning people to starve, and doing other things to just see how his citizens would get to suffer or be irritated. Though Caligula was more than unpredictable in his deeds, such as one time, as he was dressed as Jupiter, a Gaul who saw him started to laugh. When the emperor asked him what made him so amused, the man replied that he looked silly. Though, unexpectedly, no harm at all came to him because he was only a shoemaker.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      5 months ago

      Thanks helped me with a major project.

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      thanks for helping me ace this history project

    • profile image

      Geno Turrise 

      8 months ago

      This is writing? Awful. Reads like it was cobbled together from various websites about Roman emperors. Ugh.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      thanks it realy helped

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      Hey, could you post your links for your information? I would seriously appreciate it.

    • profile image


      20 months ago

      he is my emperor project person and this helps ty

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      like me

    • Giovanni Donegan profile image

      Giovanni Donegan 

      2 years ago from Tennessee

      Linnea is cute!!!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      This really helped me with my history homework. Thanks!!

    • Linnea Lewis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from USA

      Anne Harrison, I'm glad you liked it! Caligula was known for mostly partying instead of ruling, too, so I'm sure it must have been quite a mess.

      Chantelle, thank you for sharing! He was very twisted and I guess that's why people still remember him.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 

      4 years ago from Chicago

      Fascinating article. He was one twisted dude. Shared.

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 

      4 years ago from Australia

      An interesting hub - to try and keep Rome running under his rule must have been difficult indeed!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)