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Emperor of the Roman Empire
Image:Caracalla bust2.jpg
Reign 209 - February 4 211
(with Severus & Geta);
February - December 211 (with Geta);
December 211 - 8 April 217 (alone)
Full name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caracalla
Born April 4 186
Died April 8 217
Near Harran
Predecessor Septimius Severus (alone)
Successor Macrinus
Wife/wives Fulvia Plautilla
Dynasty Severan
Father Septimius Severus
Mother Julia Domna
<tr><td colspan="2" style="text-align: center; font-size: 90%; border-bottom: 1px solid #aaa;">Image:Severan dynasty - tondo.jpg
The Severan Tondo</td></tr>
Roman imperial dynasties
Severan dynasty
Septimius Severus alone
Septimius Severus, with Geta and Caracalla
Geta and Caracalla
Caracalla alone
Interlude, Macrinus
   Alexander Severus, adoptive
Alexander Severus

Caracalla (April 4, 186April 8, 217) was Roman Emperor from 211217.


[edit] Life

Caracalla was the son of the later Emperor Septimius Severus and Julia Domna. He was born in Lugdunum, Gaul, and his full name at birth was Lucius Septimius Bassianus, which was changed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus at the age of seven, 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. He is generally considered among the most depraved and psychopathic of Roman emperors.

[edit] Rise to power

Image:052 Plautilla.jpg
Denarius issued in the name of Fulvia Plautilla, wife of Caracalla.

Severus, who had taken the imperial throne in 193, died in 211 while visiting Eboracum (York), and Caracalla was proclaimed co-emperor with his brother Publius Septimius Antoninius Geta. Caracalla, however, wanted to be the sole ruler. He had Geta, his own father in law Gaius Fulvius Plautianus and wife Fulvia Plautilla assassinated. He persecuted Geta's supporters and ordered a damnatio memoriae against his brother. 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 215 by slaughtering the deputation of leading citizens who had unsuspectingly assembled before the city to greet his arrival, then unleashed his troops for several days of looting and plunder of Alexandria. According to historian Cassius Dio, over 20,000 people were killed.

During his reign as emperor, Caracalla raised the pay of an average legionnaire to 675 denarii and lavished many benefits on the army, as instructed by his father Septimius Severus who had told him to always mind the soldiers and ignore everyone else.

Three things stand out from his reign: the edict of 212 (Constitutio Antoniniana) granting Roman citizenship to freemen throughout the Roman Empire in order to increase taxation; debasing the silver content in Roman coinage by 25% in order to pay the legions their bounties; and the construction of a large thermae outside Rome, the remains of which, known as the Baths of Caracalla, can still be seen.

[edit] Fall

Image:Sestertius-Caracalla-Circus Maximus-RIC 0500a.jpg
Caracalla coin. On the reverse, Circus Maximus, with the obelisk and the spinae, restored by the emperor.

Caracalla had effectively become a military dictator, and was consequently very unpopular except with the soldiers. Ironically while travelling from Edessa to begin a war with Parthia, he was assassinated while urinating at a roadside near Harran on April 8, 217 by Julius Martialis, an officer in the imperial 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 killed by a bodyguard archer. Caracalla was succeeded by the Praetorian Prefect of the Guard, Macrinus who almost certainly was part of the conspiracy against the emperor.

[edit] Source of his nickname

Image:Circle-question-red.svg The factual accuracy of this section is disputed.
Please see the relevant discussion on the talk page.

The cognomen Caracalla refers to a sort of Oriental cloak that the emperor, who was of Syrian origin on his mothers line, affected to wear during his reign. The Aramaic or Syriac kərākā refers to a short-sleeved loose mantle which is still used in Arab countries under the name karaka(t).[citations needed]

[edit] Mythical king of Britain

Geoffrey of Monmouth lists Caracalla, as Bassianus in the Historia Regum Britanniae, as one of the kings of Britain following the death of Geta. This is partially true as Geta was well liked in the west when he was killed, and Caracalla probably exerted his power over the Britons harshly. In this account, Caracalla is listed as a half-brother of Geta through a Briton mother. This claim is highly criticized by historians. The text goes on to say that a general named Carausius was given ships to defend the British coastline and instead he rose up and defeated Caracalla; although it never states that Caracalla was killed in this battle, it does say that Caracalla fled from it. After this, Roman rule weakened considerably in Britain until it was fully restored by the Caesar Constantius Chlorus.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Septimius Severus
Roman Emperor
211 – 217
Septimius Severus (197 – 211)
Geta (208 – 211)
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Septimius Severus
Severan Dynasty
208 – 211 with Septimius Severus and Geta
Feb – Decenber 211 with Geta
December 211 – 217 alone
Succeeded by:
Alexander Severus


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