chapter  8
23 Pages

Britain and Germany

Caligula was descended from a line of celebrated military commanders. Both his father Germanicus and his grandfather Drusus had outstanding reputations as soldiers, reputations that were, at least in the case of his father, in excess of actual talents. His unconcealed penchant for riding in a chariot dressed as a triumphator, or as Alexander the Great, suggests that he himself was not immune to the attractions of military glory, and it was perhaps inevitable that he would eventually feel the need to emulate his forebears. It was on Rome’s northern frontier that they had won their laurels, and one of Caligula’s earliest memories would have been riding in his father’s chariot in AD 17 during the magnificent triumph held to celebrate Germanicus’ victories in Germany (Chapter 1).1 Caligula set his own sights on the same part of the world, but aimed to achieve a feat of arms that would eclipse even those of his forebears, and would emulate even Julius Caesar. In AD 39 he would seek to extend Rome’s imperium beyond the Ocean into Britain. He would begin this venture with no previous military experience whatsoever, and in the course of it he would be the first emperor to lead his troops into battle since Augustus’ campaigns in Spain in 26-25 BC.