A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

the slayer of the emperor Caligula, was tribune of the praetorian cohort. He is said to have been incited to conspire against the emperor partly by his noble spirit and love of liberty, partly by his disgust at the cruelties which he was employed to execute, partly by his suspicion that the confidence and favour of Caligula was the forerunner of his destruction, and most of all by the insults of the emperor, who used himself to ridicule him as if he were an effeminate person, and to hold him up to ridicule to his fellow-soldiers, by giving through him such watchwords as Venus and Priapus. Having formed a conspiracy with Cornelius Sabinus and other noble Romans, he fixed on the Palatine games in honour of Augustus for the time of action. On the fourth day of the games, as the emperor was going from the theatre to his palace, the conspirators attacked him in a narrow passage, and killed him with many wounds, Chaerea striking the first blow. (Jan. 24, A. D. 41.) In the confusion which ensued, some of the conspirators were killed by the German guards of Caligula; but others, among whom was Chaerea, escaped into the palace. Chaerea next sent and put to death Caligula's wife Caesonia and her daughter. He warmly supported the scheme, which the senators at first adopted, of restoring the republic, and received from the consuls the watchword for the night,-- Liberty. But the next day Claudius was made emperor by the soldiers, and his first act was to put Chaerea and the other conspirators to death. Chaerea met his fate with the greatest fortitude, the executioner using, at Chaerea's own desire, the sword with which he had wounded Caligula. A few days afterwards, many of the people made offerings to his manes. (Josephus, Ant. Jud. xix. ]-4; Sueton. Calig. 56-58, Claud. 11; D. C. 59.29; Zonaras, 11.7; Seneca, de Const. 18; Aurel. Vict. Caes. 3.)