What was the leadership Style of Caligula?

Caligula adopted autocratic leadership style as an emperor. He made all the decisions and made it alone without taking into consideration opinion of his followers. Though this type of leadership style is appropriate in crisis situations, but under normal circumstances it can demoralize the followers.

Initially, Caligula was a good Emperor as he abolished unnecessary taxes, improved infrastructure & public transportation, and gave aid to many who had been wronged by previous emperor Tiberius.

Within six months after becoming emperor either he was poisoned or he became seriously ill. However, he soon recovered and started suspecting people who were close to him or whom he saw as a serious threat. No one was safe. Soon he adopted autocratic style of leadership and displaced following traits:-


After the death of previous emperor Tiberius, prefect of the Praetorian Guard Macro declared Caligula and Gemellus (Tiberius grandson) as co-ruler as per Tiberius wishes.

Once he felt secure as an Co-emperor, he became erratic and cruel. He first had Macro executed and then forced Gemellus to commit suicide.

His relationship with powerful senator also became unstable. He used to warn these senators by saying “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.”


One day Emperor Caligula was presiding games in arena. During intermission, he ordered prisoners to be thrown to wild animals. Soon, his guards ran out of prisoners and Caligula began to get bored.

To entertain himself, he ordered his guard to throw entire section of audience into arena to be eaten by wild animals.

Though he was harsh on people of Rome but lavished all his attention upon his horse Incitatus. He even built a marble stall for his horse in his Palace. Caligula also planned to appoint his horse to the high office of consul to humiliate senators of Rome but he was assassinated before he could do so.

He also humiliated high-ranking senators by forcing them to run in front of his chariot for many miles.


During his last days, Emperor Tiberius worried that instead of his grandson Gemellus, Caligula might become Emperor. To alleviate his anxiety, his astrologer predicted that Caligula has same chance of becoming emperor as an horseman riding over the gulf of Baiae on his horse (meaning it is impossible).

After becoming the emperor, he ordered his soldiers to bring together all the nearby merchant ships and tie them together to form a bridge over the gulf of Baiae. Soon his soldiers built a temporary road over these ships. For two days Caligula went up and down to prove the astrologer right (or wrong). So many grain ships were diverted to complete this exercise that it resulted in famine in Rome.

In 40 AD, Caligula marched his army to northern shoreline of Gaul for the expressed purpose of invading Britain. Once his army reached there he ordered them to collect seashell from the beaches. Soon, Caligula proclaimed that he has waged and won a war against the ocean and these seashells are spoils of war.

Self indulgent

Emperor Tiberius had accumulated in the state treasury to stabilize Roman Empire. However, Caligula quickly squandered the vast treasury to finance his extravagant lifestyle. After emptying his treasury, he began to extortion of prominent roman citizens and the confiscation estates of rich roman senators.

He forced wives of many roman senators to have sexual relationship with him. It was rumored that he had incestuous relationships with his three sisters.


After becoming emperor, Caligula appeared in public dressed as various gods and demigods such as Hercules, Mercury, Venus and Apollo.

In some of the public documents he referred himself as “Jupiter”, the god of the sky and thunder.

Caligula also forced people and Senate of Rome to worship him as a tangible and living god.


Caligula had many Roman citizens murdered on flimsy excuses. He took great pleasure in torturing his victims.

He also took great pleasure in terrorizing his lovers by saying in their ears “I can have your beautiful throat cut anytime I like.”

Above trait conclusively prove that Caligula leadership style was autocratic.

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