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MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS CARACALLA
FROM A. D. 211 to 217.
From A. D.
From A. D.
Biography. It has been already mentioned, that the original name Soldiers with the view of inducing them to declare for Marcus
of this Emperor was Bassianus, derived from his him alone, and to set aside his brother. But the Troops, Aurelius maternal grandfather, who was Priest of Apollo, in a attached to the memory of Severus, and respecting his Antoninus city of Phænicia. When Severus had ascended the will in the destination of the Empire, rejected the prof
Caracalla. 21. Throne, and resolved to perpetuate the Crown in his fered bribes; looking upon themselves as the proper
family, he made his eldest son relinquish an appellation guardians of the two Princes, to whom they owed an 217. which denoted the humble, and even obscure, lineage equal allegiance and affection. Geta tried other arts
211. of Caracalla
from which he drew his blood, and assume the noble to supplant his more boisterous colleague. He had and of Geta, and respected names of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, recourse to smooth speeches and plausible professions; 217.
which were associated in the mind of every Roman and as he was naturally of a mild and, apparently, an
unavailing; her entreaties and her tears were despised; Empire. Their dis
The late Emperor continued to cherish the ground and she at length began to perceive that the enmity less hope that his two sons, whom he invested with an which embroiled the Palace and divided the Army, equal and joint authority, would administer the Govern- could not be extinguished but by the death or distant ment with mutual affection, and a due regard to the separation of the two brothers. It is, therefore, surprisinterests of the Commonwealth; a proof that his ing that she should have opposed herself to the only natural acuteness failed him in the most important con- expedient which could have removed her apprehensions cern of his whole life, or that his partiality for two very respecting the fate of her sons. Fatigued with their unpromising youths had more weight in his decision incessant quarrels, the young men themselves proposed than the peace and prosperity of half the globe. Such a to divide the Empire, and to establish their Thrones in divided rule, it has been well observed, would probably different seats of Government. Geta declared that he have proved a source of discord between the kindest bro- would be satisfied with Egypt and the Asiatic Provinces, thers : it was therefore impossible that it could long sub- and would fix his residence at Alexandria or Antioch. sist between two implacable enemies, who had no desire The Propontis, a natural boundary between the East to accomplish either a reconciliation or even a compro- and the West, was to have fixed the limits of their mise. Both seemed to be impressed with the conviction respective dominions, while garrisons at Byzantium and that only one could reign, and that the other must fall; Chalcedon would have been charged with the duty of and each of them, judging of his rival's designs by the preventing all such communication as might have sentiments which filled his own breast, thought it neces- endangered the repose of either Country. sary to guard his life with the most unremitting vigilance. But the dismemberment of the Roman Empire was Prevented Herodian tells us, that during their journey from Britain opposed not only by Julia, who compared it to the dis- by Julia. to Rome, they neither lodged in the same house nor section of her own body, but it was likewise deprecated eat at the same table; and that when they arrived in by the chief persons in the Commonwealth, who forethe Capital, they divided between them the Imperial saw, in its division, the seeds of weakness and mutual Palace, shutting up all communications which might distrust. Disappointed in this project, which the connect their several apartments, and placing Guards feelings of his subjects were not prepared to adopt, at their doors, as if the City had been threatened by an Caracalla resolved to rid himself of his colleague by invading Army.
means less scrupulous. He solicited an interview with Caracalla, even before the obsequies of his father his brother in the chamber of their common parent; were duly performed, wrought upon the avarice of the where, by the hands of assassins, whom he had con- Geta is
cealed for the purpose, he put him to death, notwith- murdered. *Spartian. in Caracall.c. 9. Herodian. lib. ix. Dion Cassius, standing the shrieks and struggles of the Empress, who Epilom. p. 344.
had clasped her unfortunate child in her arms. She
Biography. even received a wound in her endeavours to prevent the Geta, posterity has cast a veil over bis vices. That Marcus
murder ; but the bodily pain which she endured was young Prince has been considered as the innocent vic- Aurelius From
Antoninus nothing, in her estimation, compared to the anguish tim of his brother's ambition, without a recollection that
Caracalla. inflicted upon her maternal sensibility, by an order from he himself wanted power rather than inclination to 211. the brutal survivor to suppress every token of grief, and consummate a crime similar to that by which he was
From to conceal from the world that she was aware of the destroyed.* 217.
melancholy catastrophe which had just polluted and The subsequent conduct of Caracalla is marked by 211. alarmed the Palace of the Cæsars. *
so many features of extravagance, that it is impossible Caracalla This compulsory dissimulation on the part of Julia to account for it without the supposition of occasional 217. gains the was necessary to accomplish the object which Caracalla insanity. His conscience appears to have been haunted ExtravaPrætorians. had yet in view. Geta, he knew well, possessed a by the most frightful phantoms; and he confessed that gance and firm hold upon the affections of the Ariny: on which he often saw the indignant shades of his father and cruelty of
. account he determined to have recourse to strata- brother pursuing him with angry looks, and threatening gem, in order to divert their resentment until he him with the severest punishment for his cruelty and should have an opportunity of addressing himself with disobedience. His remorse for the murder of Geta flattery and an extraordinary largess to their vanity and frequently melted him to tears; and while the fit of avarice. Rushing out of his mother's apartment with compunction was him, he was wont to issue orders an air of assumed terror, he exclaimed, that he had to put to immediate death certain of the individuals just escaped from the most imminent danger, and had who had been concerned in that atrocious deed. with difficulty saved his life. Summoning his Guards Lætus, who is understood to have approved his deterto attend him, he proceeded to the Camp of the Præ- mination to reign alone, was among the first who fell torians, where he returned thanks to the Gods for his victims to his repentance. But, with the inconsistency miraculous escape, and entreated the wondering Soldiers of a madman and a tyrant, he embrued his hands deeply to join with him in offering up sacrifice to Heaven for in the blood of those who were known to have been the continued preservation of the Empire. He inti- attached to Geta. Dion Cassius relates, that about mated, indeed, that his brother had not been as for- twenty thousand persons, against whom no other charge tunate as himself; but congratulated them that one could be brought than that they had been friends or Emperor still lived, ready to promote their interest and dependents of the Emperor's brother, were condemned increase their coinforts. He promised them a donative to death in some one of the various forms in which it of ten thousand sesterces a man, doubled their daily pleased Caracalla to inflict it. In this miserable proallowance of provisions, and professed that the pleasure scription were included all who had served the Prince, of his whole life would be to live amongst them, and in a public or in a private capacity; his Guards, his his greatest honour to die in their ranks.fi
Freedmen, his Counsellors, the Officers whom he had The Senate The mercenary Prætorians could not resist such promoted, and the Commanders whom he had emlistens to arguments as these.
After passing a night in the ployed. Virtue could not protect, nor could obscurity his defence. Camp, which he pretended to regard as the only conceal the victims; and both sexes were equally
place of safety, the Emperor convoked the Senate, exposed to the fatal resentment of the unfeeling and
ment of Caracalla without any expression of impatience public interest, to lead than to follow. In truth, the Apotheosis or of disapprobation. It was suggested to him, how- more assiduously Papinianus laboured for the good of of Geta. ever, that in order to soothe the feelings of the People, the community, the more did he become an object of
and to atone, in some measure, for the crime to which hatred to the jealous spirit of his master.
Herodian. lib. iii. Dion Cassius. Epitom. Xiphilin. p. 345.
+ Dion Cassius, Epitom. p. 352. Herodian, lib. iv.
* Spartian. in Get. p. 6, 7.
+ Dion Cassius, Epitom. Xiphilin. p. 352. Herodian. lib, iv, Spartian in Caracall. 4; in Geta, 6
War on the
Biography. the Senate. The generous Roman made answer, that he took away the life of his own cousin, because Marcus
it was much more easy to commit a murder than to his name was Severus. In this instance, indeed, Aurelius From justify it; and that to assail the memory of the mur- he added the most contemptible duplicity to his in
Caracalla, dered person, was nothing better than to commit the humanity. He sent to him a dish from the Imperial 211 crime a second time. Such freedom could not be par- table as a mark of his respect and friendship, and next
doned at the Court of Caracalla. The wrath which he morning gave orders for his immediate death. Pertinax,
others denoting foreign conquest, annexed to the ImIndignity Not being able on all occasions to carry with him perial designation, he suggested that they should add inficted on the concurrence even of the brutal Soldiery who exe- the more striking honour of Geticus; an expression
arms were at that time new to the Romans, and received Minor. C-ber The reader of History cannot fail to regret, that the hostages from the Dacians, who wished to avoid hoseruelties of records of the Roman Empire, for the period now
tilities. Passing through Thrace, he arrived at the under our consideration, are so closely connected with shores of the Hellespont; after which he sailed for Asia the personal character of its rulers; or rather, indeed, Minor, with the view of visiting Troy, and of doing that the events which stand inost prominently forward honour to the heroes who had perished under its walls. may be identified with the caprice, the extravagance, He erected a statue to Achilles, and offered up libations and the cruelty of the Sovereign. But as such details upon his tomb. Smitten with disease, both in body are neither agreeable nor instructive, we shall not enter and mind, he repaired to Pergamos, where there was a into them with the minute diligence of Spartianus and magnificent Temple of Æsculapius, celebrated for the Dion Cassius. It cannot be interesting to any one
wonderful cures performed in it by the influence of that to know that Caracalla condemned to death an aged God. The effects of dissipation, and the disorders of lady, sister of Commodus and daughter of Marcus an intellect which had never been well balanced, were Aurelius, merely because she mixed her tears with ascribed to the incantations of the Germans, who, as those of the Empress Julia upon the murder of his flatterers insinuated, being unable to oppose
him Geta. Nor can it be more gratifying to learn, that in the field of battle, had sought their revenge in magic
Spartian. in Caracall. c. 5. Dion Cassius, Epitom. lib. lxxvii.
* Spartian. in Caracall. c. 10.
Biography. and witchcraft. From the evils under which he la- of that facetious People ; who, finding that he aspired Marcus
boured, the Emperor found no permanent relief in the to the fame of Achilles in respect of strength and Aurelius From
Autoninus professional fame of Æsculapius, nor even in the more beauty, and to the renown of Alexander the Great as a
Caracalla. powerful aid of Apollo and of Serapis ; the Gods, says conqueror, could not repress their merriment when they 211. Dion Cassius, being less pleased with his offerings, saw in Caracalla a deformed figure of very
costly as they might be, than they were incensed at his stature, and learned that his courage had never been
shown, except in the murder of his friends and relatives. 211. Prepares to During a winter spent at Nicomedia, he made great Their unseasonable wit sought vent even in the invade the
preparations for invading the Parthians and Armenians, theatres and public places. Eteocles and Polynices 217. Parthians.
who, it was acknowledged, had given him no provoca- were produced as types of Caracalla and Geta; and
had altogether passed away from his mind, they made Treachery The advantage which Caracalla thus took of the cir- preparations to receive him with the utmost joy and to the
cumstances in which the Parthian Prince found himself magnificence. Concerts of music, illuminations, perKings of Edessa and
involved, might, perhaps, be justified by the example of fumes, garlands of flowers, and crowns of gold, were Armenia. better men, and might find an apology in the motives lavished with profusion. The sullen, vindictive Monarch
upon which Sovereigns too frequently go to war. But appeared to receive these tokens of loyalty with entire
Caracalla pretended a desire to form an Alexandrian Boasts of Though the perfidy of the Emperor recoiled upon his phalanx, after the model of the famous Macedonian his dupli- own head, and involved him in disgrace which could Body; and in pursuance of this object, he assembled city.
not have occurred in an open and honourable war, he all the young men of the city in a plain adjoining to
activity of the assassins. It was on this occasion, if Caracalla is The cruelty and deceit with which he treated foreign Herodian is to be believed, that he consecrated to incensed at Princes, were in a short time surpassed by the bar- Serapis the dagger with which he had murdered his the people
barities which he exercised upon the Citizens of Alex- brother.t of Alexandria. andria. His person and pretensions excited the ridicule
* Spartian. in Caracall. c. 6. Herodian. lib. iv.
of Herodian. lib. iv. Spartian. in. Caracall. c. 6. Dion Cassius, * Dion Cassius, Epitom. Xiphilin. p. 354.
Biography. Resuming the intention of an Eastern campaign, he was unprovided by nature with those qualities which Marcus
returned into Syria ; but as he was at peace with all are necessary to form a successful Commander, he Aurelius Prom the nations which bordered on the Roman Province, it thirsted for military reputation with so strong an appe- Caracalla.
was necessary to create a pretext for a quarrel before he tite, as to place the main study and pleasure of his life 211.
could march' his Army into their country. With that in the aggrandisement of the Soldiery, whom he was From
view, he demanded in marriage a daughter of the King pleased to regard as the instruments of his fame. The 217,
of Parthia, in the hope that she would be refused, and desire which he manifested to be thought like Alexander 211. into Syria, thereby justify an appeal to arms, or in the prospect, if the Great, and to rival the exploits of that celebrated and renews his request were granted, of having a right to dictate conqueror, led him into a thousand absurdities. It 217.
in all affairs of Government. Herodian states, that was not enough for him to form a Macedonian phalanx
advantages, bestowed upon the Museum at Alexandria,
their conquests. But the career of his boasting and time of profound peace, or the security of a summer Is usassic folly was now near an end. The author of his death encampment, his bustling activity had no other effect
was Macrinus, one of the Prætorian Præfects, whose than that of exciting derision. Herodian adds, that he Martialis. hatred he had provoked by many contumelies, and sometimes ground with his own hands the corn which
whose aspiring disposition had alarmed his jealousy. was selected to make his bread, then kneaded the doughi, This Commander, aware of the danger with which he baked it, and eat the fruit of his own toil. He condewas surrounded, resolved to anticipate the designs of scended, on other occasions, to act the part of an Ensign, his suspicious master; for which purpose he applied and carry on his shoulders the heaviest standards of the to Martialis, an Officer of the Guard, who had various Legions. In a word, he thought himself an Alexander reasons to be dissatisfied with Caracalla, and incited merely because he did the duty of a common soldier, him, by the strongest motives of hope and of fear, to by working in the trenches; and imagined that he revenge his wrongs on the body of the tyrant. During could revive in his Army the Spartan discipline, by a march, accordingly, which the latter, attended by a tasting once or twice of coarse food, and by descending detachment of the Prætorians, undertook to Carrhæ, from the necessary dignity of his high station. where he meant to offer up a sacrifice in the Temple of Another bad consequence arising from his military His con. the Moon, Martialis, seizing an opportunity when the affectation, appeared in a marked contempt for Learning, tempt of Emperor was quite alone, stabbed him with a poniard. and for all men of Letters. The peaceful pursuits of learning. The assassin was himself almost instantly put to death the Student, and the abstract researches of the Philoby a Scythian bowman belonging to the Imperial Guard, sopher, were regarded by him as an avowed dereliction but not before he had the satisfaction of knowing that of manhood; and on no occasion was he more dehis personal enemy had breathed his last.*
lighted than when an opportunity occurred for expresUnworthy and contemptible as Caracalla was, his sing his deep and utter aversion from all the vozed by loss was nevertheless deeply regretted by a large por- taries of the Muses. He endeavoured to forget that Be Army. tion of the Army. The Prætorians, already increased he had ever heard the name of one of the Sciences,
in number from ten to fifty thousand, bewailed in him a The Games of the Circus and the fights of wild beasts constant benefactor ; for although the son of Severus were his favourite studies; and he boasted that in one
day, after taking a share in other combats, he had killed Diou Cassius, Epitom. p. 359. Spartian, in Caracall. c. 6, 7. a hundred boars with his own hand.