4 – He Didn’t Just Commit Murder & Incest
Caligula is usually remembered solely for his insanity, and it is often assumed that Rome became weaker under his inept rule. However, the Emperor did at least make an attempt at expanding the empire which goes against the suggestion that he treated the office as a ‘part-time job.’ In 40 AD, he made a move on Mauretania which was one of Rome’s client kingdoms. He invited its leader, Ptolemy, to Rome only to have him executed. Caligula annexed the kingdom and divided it into two provinces; Mauretania Caesariensis and Mauretania Tingitana.
Ancient historians disagree on whether it was the mad emperor who divided the kingdom. Pliny suggests it was the work of Caligula, but Cassius Dio claims a rebellion took place in 42 AD and division occurred after this point. Perhaps Caligula wanted to divide Mauretania, but the uprising prevented him from doing so. Dio wrote a full chapter on Caligula in the kingdom of Mauretania, but it was lost. As a result, details of the campaign are unclear.
Interestingly, Caligula set the wheels in motion for the conquest of Britain. He sent troops to the English Channel in what may have been a scouting mission. Alternatively, the Romans may have traveled that far to accept the surrender of Adminius, a British chieftain. Whatever the reason, Caligula never got around to invading Britain as he was murdered soon after.
The aborted attempt to invade Britain also contains yet another tale of Caligula’s madness that may be untrue. He apparently told his soldiers to collect seashells as ‘spoils of the sea.’ Again, this would be the sign of a madman. However, the word for seashells ‘musculi’ was also military slang for engineer’s huts. Caligula was a child of the military, so it is entirely possible that he was referring to huts and not seashells.