Germanicus and Agrippina: The Golden Couple, Parents of the “Mad” Emperor Caligula

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Agrippina and Germanicus

Germanicus and Agrippina: The Golden Couple, Parents of the “Mad” Emperor Caligula

Roman Emperor Caligula fell severely ill six months into his rule. When he recovered, he abandoned the toga for silk gowns and often dressed as a woman. He also declared himself as a living god. Caligula’s illness was widely credited by contemporary historians as a turning point to his madness. In contrast, Caligula’s parents, Germanicus and Agripinna, were the ‘Brad and Angelina’ of Ancient Rome. Their union provided the genetic lynch-pin between the two most powerful dynasties in Rome – the Julian and the Claudian, as well as celebrity, nobility and glamour. They were beloved by the Emperor and the empire alike. From the glowing reports on Germanicus and Agripinna, it was hard to believe that Caligula was their son.

Emperor Caligula.

Emperor Caligula. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

However, it is possible that Caligula’s descent into madness was not as dramatic as it was reported. His childhood was extraordinary even by ancient Roman standards. In the time that he lived in and all Caligula and his parents have had to go through as a family, is it so hard to believe that this may have planted at least some of the seeds of Caligula’s peculiarities?

Germanicus: The Public Relations Expert of Rome

Nowadays Germanicus’ name has faded into obscurity compared to the more famous romans such as his son Caligula, his uncle Tiberius, even his grandmother Livia. But during the height of the Roman Empire Germanicus was universally recognized by the citizens of Rome as one of the greatest warriors the Empire had ever produced.

Statue of Germanicus

Statue of Germanicus (Public Domain)

The stepfather of Germanicus’ father was the Emperor Augustus himself who, by the time of Germanicus’ birth, was already widely referred to as a living god and his grandfather on his mother's side was the legendary Mark Antony. The name Germanicus was given to him when it was awarded to his father posthumously in honor of his victories in Germania.

Bust of Germanicus

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