On this day January 24, 41

Roman Emperor Caligula was murdered by Cassius Chaerea and the disgruntled Praetorian Guards. Caligula’s uncle Claudius was proclaimed emperor in his place.

gaius_caligula_headOn 24 January 41, Chaerea and other guardsmen accosted Caligula while he was addressing an acting troupe of young men during a series of games and dramatics held for the Divine Augustus.

Details on the events vary somewhat from source to source, but they agree that Chaerea was first to stab Caligula followed by a number of conspirators. Suetonius records that Caligula’s death was similar to that of Julius Caesar.

He states that both the elder Gaius Julius Caesar (Julius Caesar) and the younger Gaius Julius Caesar (Caligula) were stabbed 30 times by conspirators led by a man named Cassius (Cassius Longinus and Cassius Chaerea).

By the time Caligula’s loyal Germanic guard responded, the emperor was already dead. The Germanic guard, stricken with grief and rage, responded with a rampaging attack on the assassins, conspirators, innocent senators and bystanders alike.

The Senate attempted to use Caligula’s death as an opportunity to restore the Republic. Chaerea attempted to convince the military to support the Senate. The military, though, remained loyal to the office of the emperor.

The grieving Roman people assembled and demanded that Caligula’s murderers be brought to justice. Uncomfortable with lingering imperial support, the assassins sought out and stabbed Caligula’s wife, Caesonia, and killed their infant daughter, Julia Drusilla, by smashing her head against a wall.

They were unable to reach Caligula’s uncle, Claudius, who was spirited out of the city to a nearby Praetorian camp. Claudius became emperor after procuring the support of the Praetorian guard and ordered the execution of Chaerea and any other known conspirators involved in the death of Caligula.

According to Suetonius, Caligula’s body was placed under turf until it was burned and entombed by his sisters. He was buried within the Mausoleum of Augustus; in 410 during the Sack of Rome the tomb’s ashes were scattered.

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