Drusilla (c. 37–c. 41 CE)

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Drusilla (c. 37–c. 41 ce)

Roman noblewoman. Name variations: Julia Drusilla. Born around 37 ce; died around 41 ce; daughter of Caligula (12–41), Roman emperor (r. 37–41), and Milonia Caesonia (d. 41 ce).

All the ancient sources speak of Roman emperor Caligula's cruelty. To demonstrate his character, Suetonius enumerates both minor malicious tricks and gross cruelties. Caligula removed canopies at the hottest time of day during the games, forbidding people to leave. He fed criminals, rather than butcher's meat, to wild animals in the arena. He made fathers attend their sons' executions and in one case invited the father to dine with him immediately afterward in jovial company. According to Suetonius, Caligula's daughter Drusilla's violent temper convinced him of his own paternity: "While still an infant she would try to scratch her little playmates' faces and eyes."

In 41 ce, a successful conspiracy against Caligula was carried out by a tribune of the Praetorian Guard who held both personal and public grievances against the emperor. Thus Caligula, writes Dio, "after doing in three years, nine months, and twenty-eight days all that has been related, learned by actual experience that he was not a god." Hatred for Caligula was so great, in fact, that after he had been assassinated his wife Milonia Caesonia was killed as well, and his daughter Drusilla's "brains," writes Dio Cassius, "were dashed out against a wall."