Tuesday, April 08, 2008

April 8

The Emperor Marcus Aurelius Septimius Bassianus Antoninus -- known to the Roman world as Caracalla -- ascended to power in the year 211 upon the death his father, Septimus Severus. For a few months he shared the imperial duties with his brother Geta, but in December of that year, Caracalla decided to dispose of his fraternal rival. He arranged a meeting with Geta in his mother’s apartment, where a group of centurions hacked the unfortunate brother to bits.

After Geta had been assassinated and his body burnt to a crisp, Caracalla began a killing spree that solidified his reputation as one of the more bloodthirsty Roman leaders. He ordered his counselor Laetus -- with whom he had originally discussed the assassination plot -- to commit suicide, taking care to send him the poison himself. Other plotters and advisers met similar ends. One victim threw himself from a window to avoid his assassins; when he merely suffered a broken leg and tried to crawl away, his pursuers mocked him in the streets before finishing him off. As the Historia Augusta explains,
[d]uring this same time there were slain men without number, all of whom had favoured the cause of Geta, and even the freedmen were slain who had managed Geta's affairs. Then there was a slaughtering in all manner of places. Even in the public baths there was slaughter, and some too were killed while dining, among them Sammonicus Serenus, many of whose books dealing with learned subjects are still in circulation.... After this he committed many further murders in the city, causing many persons far and wide to be seized by soldiers and killed, as though he were punishing a rebellion.
Over the next four years, Caracalla presided over massacres in Gaul, in Germany, and in Egypt, where thousands of Alexandrians were put to death for little reason other than to remind the rest of the city of its subordinate relationship to Rome.

Loathed by apparently everyone, Caracalla died on this date in the year 217; he was assassinated will taking a piss on the side of the road hear Harran, a city on the edge of the Parthian Empire, which included all of modern-day Iran and much of modern-day Iraq.

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