Italy’s Top 3 Craziest Roman Emperors

Regions Tips & Tops Published on 6 March 2018

Many a Roman emperor was never voted into power, they inherited it. That meant succession was often a bit of a lucky packet. You got what you got. Unfortunately, quite a few Roman emperors turned out to be duds. In fact, bloodshed, deviance, maniacal law-making and undeniably hedonist lifestyles were the norm. These 3 craziest Roman emperors are some of history’s most iconic bad guys!


1) Emperor Caligula (37 – 41 AD)


How do we say this without offending? Caligula was close with his sisters. Very close. In fact, he was close with whomever he chose, including the wives of his colleagues (against their wishes). After a serious illness he believed himself to be a god, and made his horse a member of Senate and built it a marble house. He also killed his adopted son, his father, his grandmother, and his father- and brother-in-law.

Visit Caligula’s Legacy: By all means, Caligula did a lot for Rome’s public works. Visit the Aqua Anio Novus (part of the Aurelian Wall) or the Claudian Aqueduct in the Parco degli Acquedotti.


2) Emperor Caracalla (211 – 217 AD)


Caracalla had a reputation for murdering his own citizens. He inherited the title of emperor alongside his brother, Geta, who he promptly killed along with Geta’ wife. When the people of Alexandria in Egypt heard of this, they put on a play which ridiculed the act. Big mistake! Caracalla invited these citizens into the main square and slaughtered 20 000 of them before razing the city to the ground. Talk about a bad temper!

Visit Caracalla’s Legacy: See the ruins of the Thermae Antoninianae (or ‘the Baths of Caracalla) in Rme, which were named after the emperor.


3) Emperor Elagabalus (218 – 222 AD)


The poor old Romans didn’t have much time to recover! Immediately after Caracalla’s reign, they had Elagabalus to deal with. Firstly, the new emperor was only 14 years old! He desperately wanted to be a woman, but because this wasn’t an option he took to dressing like one to trick men into bed. Elagabalus named the Syrian god El-Gabal to be the most important, and had children tortured and then killed as sacrifices. He also locked live animals up in El-Gabal’s temple, and threw human genitals in amongst them as a holy rite.

Visit Elagabalus’s Legacy: The platform for the huge temple that Elagabalus built for his god can still be seen at Rome’s Palatine Hill.

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