5 Bad Roman Emperors

Bad Roman Emperors

5 Bad Roman Emperors

As the wheels of the Roman imperial rule turned slowly through ancient times, it presented history with indelible images of some Roman rulers. Here are 5 of the most insane and horrible Roman Emperors whose days on the throne were full of gnashing of teeth.



Caligula – Rome’s 3rd Emperor (from 37 AD to 41 AD).

No mention can be made of wicked Roman rulers without Caligula’s name popping up. Born in 12 AD as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Caligula became Rome’s 3rd Emperor in 37 AD. He started well as a caring Roman leader, but later metamorphosed into a blood-sucking tyrant.

Caligula killed dozens of people, including his relatives. He most likely murdered Emperor Tiberius (his own great uncle and predecessor), Antonia Minor (his grandma), and many more innocent citizens. Caligula was guilty of rape, incest, and also carried himself as a god. Romans rose up and collectively halted his growing barbarism. After spending about 3 years on the throne, Caligula was assassinated in 41 AD.



Emperor Tiberius reigned for about 22 years

He was the Great Augustus’ successor, even though  Augustus himself didn’t see that coming. The military leader’s rise to power in 14 AD was followed by increasing failures and brutalities.

Emperor Tiberius was largely irresponsible during his reign. The megalomaniac emperor virtually did nothing meaningful for the empire; he rather busied himself with executions and luxurious living. He took delight in killing offenders by pushing them off from high hills. Worst of all, he was a sex vulture who abused the bodies of women and kids.

Tiberius least expected that his successor, Caligula, would kill him in 37 AD.



Emperor Elagabalus reigned from 218 to 222 AD

Also known by his birth name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus II, this brutal Roman emperor’s reign started in 218 AD. Elagabalus got his nickname from an occultic leadership role he assumed for Elah-Gabal (a god from Syria). The Emperor showed extreme devotion to the cult and tried to even impose it on Romans, openly contradicting Rome’s religious deities and identity.

It was believed that Emperor Elagabalus had an insatiable sex desire which he used to terrorize many Romans. His sexual orientation was very difficult to be described with a single word. He married several times but couldn’t stop being a sex predator.

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Roman Emperor Commodus

Rising to the throne in 161 CE, Commodus largely failed to leave a positive impression on the face of the Empire. Many historians label his era as one that was marked by corruption, laziness and great exhibition of stupidity. Commodus said he was a reincarnated Hercules, so he sat down lazily and allowed his bodyguards and friends (the Praetorian prefects) to run the Empire.

Emperor Commodus even competed as a gladiator in the Colosseum, making an absolute fool of himself. The fights were everything but staged and rigged. To top it all off, those fights cost the state an absolute fortune to organize.

In Commodus’ reign, their currency devalued greatly. Commodus tainted his image by living a debaucherous life while the Roman economy wasn’t in good shape. His disgraceful and childish behavior caused his death in 192 CE. It is for the above reasons why Commodus makes it on the list of bad Roman emperors.

Read More: Ancient Roman Gladiators- History and Major Facts


Emperor Caracalla

Emperor Caracalla of the early 3rd Century AD

This very dangerous and unpredictable emperor, also known as Marcus Aurelius Antoninus I, was the eldest son of Septimius Severus. After ruling jointly with his father from 198 to 211, Caracalla was supposed to share power (i.e. co-rule) with his younger brother, Geta. But Caracalla selfishly opted to kill Geta. During his unitary reign from 211 to 217, he meted outright violence on his opponents and successfully wiped out a good number of them, including many of Geta’s supporters and associates.

After using Alexander the Great‘s military tactics to kill people, including followers of Aristotle. On April 8, 217, Caracalla met his hot death when he was assassinated during a military campaign against the Parthians near Carrhae, Mesopotamia. It’s most likely Macrinus, the commander of the imperial guard, had a hand in Caracalla’s death. Upon Caracalla’s death, Macrinus succeeded to the throne.

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