Caracalla: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign 198 – 209 (with Severus);
209 – February 4, 211
(with Severus and Geta);
February – December 211
(with Geta);
December 211 – 8 April 217 (alone)
Full name Lucius Septimius Bassianus (from birth to 195);
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caesar (195 to 198);
Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus
(198 to 211);
Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Pius Augustus (211 to death)
Born April 4, 188(188-04-04)
Birthplace Lugdunum
Died April 8, 217 (aged 29)
Place of death Near Harran
Predecessor Septimius Severus (alone)
Successor Macrinus
Wife Fulvia Plautilla
Dynasty Severan
Father Septimius Severus
Mother Julia Domna
Roman imperial dynasties
Severan dynasty
Severan dynasty - tondo.jpg
The Severan Tondo
Septimius Severus 193198
-with Caracalla 198209
-with Caracalla and Geta 209211
Caracalla and Geta 211211
Caracalla 211217
Interlude: Macrinus 217218
Elagabalus 218222
Alexander Severus 222235
Severan dynasty family tree
Category:Severan Dynasty
Preceded by
Year of the Five Emperors
Followed by
Crisis of the Third Century

Caracalla (April 4, 188 – April 8, 217. Caracallus), born Lucius Septimius Bassianus and later called Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus, was the eldest son of Septimius Severus and Roman Emperor from 211 to 217.[1] He was one of the most nefarious of Roman emperors leading many scholars to believe he was afflicted with neurosyphylis.[2][3] Caracalla's reign was notable for:

"Caracalla was the common enemy of mankind", wrote Edward Gibbon.[4] He spent his reign traveling from province to province so that each could experience his "rapine and cruelty."[4]


Rise to power

Caracalla, of mixed PunicRomanBerber[5][6] and Syrian descent,[7][8][9] was born Lucius Septimius Bassianus in Lugdunum, Gaul (now Lyon, France), the son of the later Emperor Septimius Severus and Julia Domna. At the age of seven, his name was changed to Marcus Aurelius Septimius Bassianus Antoninus to solidify connection to the family of Marcus Aurelius. He was later given the nickname Caracalla, which referred to the Gallic hooded tunic he habitually wore and which he made fashionable.

His father Severus, who had risen to the imperial throne in AD 193, died in AD 211 while campaigning in the Caledonian marches at Eboracum (now York), and Caracalla was proclaimed co-emperor with his brother Publius Septimius Antoninius Geta. However since both of them wanted to be sole ruler, tensions between the brothers were evident in the few months they ruled the empire together (they even considered dividing the empire in two, but were persuaded not to do so by their mother). Then in December AD 211, Caracalla had Geta, the family of his former father-in-law Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, his wife Fulvia Plautilla (also his paternal second cousin), and her brother assassinated by members of the Praetorian Guard loyal to him. He then persecuted Geta's supporters and ordered a damnatio memoriae by the Senate against his brother.


In AD 213, Caracalla went north to the German frontier to deal with the Alamanni tribesmen who were causing trouble in the Agri Decumates. The Romans did defeat the Alamanni in battle near the river Main, but failed to win a decisive victory over them. After a peace agreement was brokered, the Senate conferred upon him the empty title of "Germanicus Maximus". In the next year the emperor traveled to the East and to Egypt.

When the inhabitants of Alexandria heard Caracalla's claims that he had killed Geta in self-defense, they produced a satire mocking this claim, as well as Caracalla's other pretensions. Caracalla responded to this insult savagely in AD 215, by slaughtering the deputation of leading citizens who had unsuspectingly assembled before the city to greet his arrival, and then unleashed his troops for several days of looting and plunder in Alexandria. According to historian Cassius Dio, over 20,000 people were killed.

Bust of Caracalla (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

During his reign as emperor, Caracalla raised the annual pay of an average legionary to 675 denarii and lavished many benefits on the army which he both feared and admired, as instructed by his father Septimius Severus who had told him on his deathbed to always mind the soldiers and ignore everyone else. The emperor did manage to win the trust of the military with generous pay rises and popular gestures, like marching on foot among the ordinary soldiers, eating the same food, and even grinding his own flour with them. [10] His official portraiture marks a break with the detached images of the philosopher–emperors who preceded him: his close-cropped haircut is that of a soldier, his pugnacious scowl a realistic and threatening presence. The rugged soldier–emperor iconic type was adopted by most of the following emperors who depended on the support of the legions to rule, like Maximinus Thrax.[11]

According to the historian Herodian, in AD 216, Caracalla tricked the Parthians into believing that he accepted a marriage and peace proposal, but then had the bride and guests slaughtered after the wedding celebrations. The thereafter ongoing conflict and skirmishes became known as the Parthian war of Caracalla.[12]

Seeking to secure his own legacy, Caracalla also commissioned one of Rome's last major architectural achievements, the Baths of Caracalla, the largest public baths ever built in ancient Rome. The main room of the baths was larger than St. Peter's Basilica, and could easily accommodate over 2,000 Roman citizens at one time. The bath house opened in AD 216, complete with libraries, private rooms and outdoor tracks. Internally it was lavishly decorated with gold-trimmed marble floors, columns, mosaics and colossal statues.

The Roman Empire and its provinces in 210 AD


While travelling from Edessa to continue the war with Parthia, he was assassinated while urinating at a roadside near Carrhae on April 8, AD 217, by Julius Martialis, an officer of his personal bodyguard. Herodian says that Martialis' brother had been executed a few days earlier by Caracalla on an unproven charge; Cassius Dio, on the other hand, says that Martialis was resentful at not being promoted to the rank of centurion. The escort of the emperor gave him privacy to relieve himself, and Martialis ran forward and killed Caracalla with a single sword stroke. He immediately fled on horseback, but was in turn killed by a bodyguard archer.[citation needed]

Caracalla was succeeded by the Praetorian Guard Prefect, Macrinus, who almost certainly engineered the conspiracy against the emperor.[citation needed]

His nickname

According to Aurelius Victor in his Epitome de Caesaribus, the cognomen "Caracalla" refers to a Gallic cloak that Caracalla adopted as a personal fashion, which spread to his army and his court.[13] Cassius Dio[14] and the Historia Augusta[15] agree that his nickname derived from his cloak, but do not mention its country of origin.

Caracalla and Geta by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 1907.

Legendary king of Britain

Geoffrey of Monmouth's legendary History of the Kings of Britain makes Caracalla a king of Britain, referring to him by his actual name "Bassianus", rather than the nickname Caracalla. After Severus's death, the Romans wanted to make Geta king of Britain, but the Britons preferred Bassianus because he had a British mother. The two brothers fought a battle in which Geta was killed, and Bassianus succeeded to the throne. He ruled until he was betrayed by his Pictish allies and overthrown by Carausius, who, according to Geoffrey, was a Briton, rather than the Menapian Gaul that he actually was.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "Caracalla" The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary. Tony Deverson. Oxford University Press 2004. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ "Caracalla" A Dictionary of British History. Ed. John Cannon. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ "Caracalla" World Encyclopedia. Philip's, 2005. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ a b Gibbon, Edward, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter VI.
  5. ^ Marcel Le Glay. Rome : T2, Grandeur et chute de l'Empire p336. Librairie Académique Perrin, 2005. ISBN 978-2262018986
  6. ^ Gilbert Meynier. L’Algérie des origines :De la préhistoire à l’avènement de l’Islam p74. La découverte, 2007. ISBN 978-2707150882
  7. ^ Irfan Shahid, Rome and The Arabs: A Prolegomenon to the Study of Byzantium and the Arabs, Washington, 1984, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, p. 167, ISBN 0884021157
  8. ^ Glen Warren Bowersock, Roman Arabia, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1983, pp. 126-128, ISBN 0674777565 [1]. "with the last of his names, he clearly tried to forge a link with the ultimate Antonines, who were the Arab emperors from the family of Julia Domna"
  9. ^ Maxime Rodinson, The Arabs, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, pp. 55, ISBN 0226723569, [2], "The emperor Septimus Severus married an Arab from Emessa, Julia Domna, whose sons and great-nephews ruled Rome."
  10. ^ Caracalla
  11. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art: Portrait head of the Emperor Caracalla". acc. no. 40.11.1a
  12. ^ Herodian's Roman History, chapter 4.11: Caracalla's Parthian War, translated by Edward C. Echols (Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire, 1961 Berkeley and Los Angeles), online at
  13. ^ Aurelius Victor, Epitome de Caesaribus 21 (translation). For information on the caracallus garment, see William Smith Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities: "Caracalla"
  14. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History 79.3
  15. ^ Historia Augusta: Caracalla 9.7, Septimius Severus 21.11
  16. ^ Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae 5.2-3

External links

  • Life of Caracalla (Historia Augusta at LacusCurtius: Latin text and English translation)
Born: 4 April 186 Died: 8 April 217
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Septimius Severus
Roman Emperor
198 – 217
Septimius Severus
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Legendary kings of Britain Succeeded by

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CARACALLA (or [[Caracallus), Marcus A Urel I Us Antoninus]] (186-217), Roman emperor, eldest son of the emperor Septimius Severus, was born at Lugdunum (Lyons) on the 4th of April 186. His original name was Bassianus; his nickname Caracalla was derived from the long Gallic tunic which he wore and introduced into the army. He further received the imperial title of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus at the time when his father declared himself the adopted son of M. Aurelius. After the death of Severus (211) at Eboracum (York) in Britain, Caracalla and his brother Geta, who had accompanied their father, returned to Rome as colleagues in the supreme power. In order to secure the sole authority, Caracalla barbarously murdered his brother in his mother's arms, and at the same time put to death some 20,000 persons, who were suspected of favouring him, amongst them the jurist Papinianus. An important act of his reign (212) was the bestowal of the rights of Roman citizenship upon all free inhabitants of the empire, although the main object of Caracalla was doubtless to increase the amount of revenue derived from the tax on inheritances or legacies to which only Roman citizens were liable. His own extravagances and the demands of the soldiery were a perpetual drain upon his resources, to meet which he resorted to taxes and extortion of every description. He spent the remainder of his reign wandering from place to place, a mode of life to which he was said to have been driven by the pangs of remorse. Handing over the reins of government to his mother, he set out in 213 for Raetia, where he carried on war against the Alamanni; in 214 he attacked the Goths in Dacia, whence he proceeded by way of Thrace to Asia Minor, and in 215 crossed to Alexandria. Here he took vengeance for the bitter sarcasms of the inhabitants against himself and his mother by ordering a general massacre of the youths capable of bearing arms. In 216 he ravaged Mesopotamia because Artabanus, the Parthian king, refused to give him his daughter in marriage. He spent the winter at Edessa, and in 217, when he recommenced his campaign, he was murdered between Edessa and Carrhae on the 8th of April at the instigation of Opellius (Opilius) Macrinus, praefect of the praetorian guard, who succeeded him. Amongst the numerous buildings with which Caracalla adorned the city, the most famous are the thermae, and the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus in the forum.


- Dio Cassius lxxvii., lxxviii.; Herodian iii. to, iv. 14; lives of Caracalla, Severus and Geta, in Scriptores Historice Augustae; Eutropius viii. 19 -22; Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus, 20-23; Epit. 20-23; Zosimus i. 9 -10; H. Schiller, Geschichte der romischen Kaiserzeit (1883), 73 8 ff.;. Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopddie, H. 2434 ff. (von Rohden).

<< Caracal

Caracas >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:





  • enPR: kĕräkăllâ

Proper noun




  1. A Roman emperor that ruled from 211 to 217 AD


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Roman emperor (211-217); son of Septimius Severus. It is said that as a boy of seven he had a Jewish playfellow, and having heard that the latter had been cruelly whipped on account of his religion, he could not for a long time endure the sight either of his own father or of the boy's father, both of whom were responsible for the punishment (Spartianus, "Antoninus Caracalla," i.). The anecdote may be credited, since his mother, Julia Domna, was a Syrian. While still a prince, though already invested with the title "Augustus," his father permitted him to have a triumphal procession on the occasion when the Senate decreed Septimius Severus a Jewish triumph in honor of his successful wars in Syria (Spartianus, "Severus," xvi.); for the words "Cui senatus Judaicum triumphum decreverat" do not refer to Caracalla, as has been erroneously assumed (Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," 4th ed., iv. 208), but to Septimius Severus, who as a mere amusement allowed even his youthful son to take part in the triumph.

As Augustus, Caracalla, whose real name was Bassianus, assumed the name Antoninus (beginning 198), an official designation under which he is mentioned several times together with his father. A synagogal inscription found in the otherwise little-known place Ḳaisun contains a prayer of the Jews for the welfare of the whole imperial family, naming Septimius Severus, the empress Julia Domna, and their two sons, Antoninus and Geta ("Journal Asiatique," Dec., 1864; "Monatsschrift," 1865, p. 154). Hence Jerome's words in his commentary on Dan 11:34: "Hebræorum quidam hæc de Severo et Antonino principibus intelligunt qui Judæos plurimum dilexerunt" (Many of the Jews take this to refer to the emperors Severus and Antoninus, who greatly loved the Jews), are to beinterpreted literally, and do not, as Grätz assumes (ib. iv. 452), refer only to one name, Alexander Severus. This contemporaneous rule of father and son becomes evident also in the laws of the Digesta ("De Decurialibus," Leges 50, II. iii. § 3). Those who followed the Jewish superstition were permitted by the emperors Severus (in some editions erroneously "Verus") and Antoninus to obtain offices ("honores"). This decree must be dated between 198 and 208, since Geta, who became Augustus in 208, is not mentioned therein. In any case there are several witnesses to Caracalla's friendliness toward the Jews, while nothing is known of any inimical measures during his short reign. Hence those scholars may be right who identify with Caracalla the Antoninus who is often mentioned in both the Talmuds as a friend and patron of the patriarch Judah I.

It is known that Caracalla undertook an expedition against the Parthians, during which he passed through Antioch and Syria (217); he may at that time have met R. Judah. On this expedition he was murdered by the subsequent emperor, Macrinus, who is also mentioned in Jewish writings. After his death the nickname "Caracalla" was given to him from a long Gallic garment which he had preferred. Some scholars think that this garment is mentioned also by the Rabbis (Krauss, "Lehnwörter," ii. 592).

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
This article needs to be merged with Caracalla (Catholic Encyclopedia).
Facts about CaracallaRDF feed

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address