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Caracalla, Aurelius Antonīnus Bassiānus

The eldest son of Septimius Severus. His name Caracalla was derived from a species of Gallic cassock which he introduced at Rome; and that of Bassianus from his maternal grandfather. Caracalla was born at Lugdunum (Lyons), A.D. 188, and was appointed by his father to be his colleague in the government at the age of thirteen years; yet he is said, even at this early age, to have attempted his father's life. Severus died A.D. 211, and was succeeded by his two sons, Caracalla and Geta. These two brothers bore towards each other, even from infancy, the most inveterate hatred. After a campaign against the Caledonians, they concluded a disgraceful peace and then wished to divide the Empire between them; but their design was opposed by their mother, Iulia, and by the principal men of the State; so that Caracalla now resolved to get rid of his brother, by causing him to be assassinated. After many unsuccessful attempts, he pretended to desire a reconciliation, and requested his mother to procure him an interview with his brother in her own apartment. Geta appeared, and was stabbed in his mother's arms, A.D. 212, by several centurions, who had received orders to this effect. The praetorian guards were prevailed upon, by rich donations, to proclaim Caracalla sole emperor, and to declare Geta an enemy to the State; and the Senate confirmed the nomination of the soldiers. After this, the whole life of Caracalla was only one series of cruelties and acts of extravagant folly. All who had been in any way connected with Geta were put to death, not even their children being spared. The historian Dio Cassius makes the whole number of victims to have amounted to 20,000 (Dio Cass. lxxvii. 4). Among those who fell in this horrible butchery was the celebrated lawyer Papinianus. And yet, after this, by a singular act of contradiction, he not only put to death many of those who had been concerned in the murder of his brother, but even demanded of the Senate that he should be enrolled among the gods. His pattern was Sulla , whose tomb be restored and adorned. Like this dictator, he enriched his soldiers with the most extravagant largesses which extortion enabled him to furnish. The augmentation of pay received by them is said to have amounted to 280 millions of sesterces a year. As cruel as Caligula and Nero, but weaker than either, he regarded the Senate

Caracalla. (Vatican.)

and people with equal hatred and contempt. From motives of avarice, he gave all the freemen of the Empire the right of citizenship, and was the first who received Egyptians into the Senate. Of all his follies, however, the greatest was his admiration of Alexander of Macedon. From his infancy he made this monarch his model, and copied him in everything which it was easy to imitate. He had even a Macedonian phalanx of sixteen thousand men, all born in Macedonia, and commanded by officers bearing the same names with those who had served under Alexander. Convinced, moreover, that Aristotle had participated in the conspiracy against the son of Philip, he caused the works of the philosopher to be burned. With equally foolish enthusiasm for Achilles, he made him the object of his deepest veneration. He went to Ilium to visit the grave of Homer's hero, and poisoned his favourite freedman, named Festus, to imitate Achilles in his grief for Patroclus. His conduct in his campaigns in Gaul, where he committed all sorts of cruelties, was still more degrading. He crossed over the Rhine into the countries of the Catti and Alemanni. The Catti defeated him, and permitted him to repass the river only on condition of paying them a large sum of money. He next marched through the land of the Alemanni as an ally, and built several fortifications. He then called together the young men of the tribe, as if he intended to take them into his service, and caused his own troops to surround them and cut them in pieces. For this barbarous exploit he assumed the surname of Alemannicus. In Dacia he gained some advantages over the Goths. He signed a treaty of peace at Antioch with Artabanus, the Parthian king, who submitted to all his demands. He invited Abdares, the king of Edessa, an ally of the Romans, to Antioch, loaded him with chains, and took possession of his estates. He exercised the same treachery towards Vologeses, king of Armenia; but the Armenians flew to arms and repulsed the Romans. After this, Caracalla went to Alexandria, to punish the people of that city for ridiculing him. While preparations were making for a great massacre, he offered hecatombs to Serapis, and visited the

Caricature of Caracalla as an Apple-seller. (Avignon.)

tomb of Alexander, on which he left his imperial ornaments by way of offering. He afterwards devoted the inhabitants for several days and nights to plunder and butchery, and seated himself, in order to have a view of the bloody spectacle, on the top of the Temple of Serapis, where he consecrated the dagger which he had drawn, some years before, against his own brother. His desire to triumph over the Parthians induced him to violate the peace, under the pretence that Artabanus had refused him his daughter in marriage. He found the country undefended, ravaged it, marched through Media, and approached the capital. The Parthians, who had retired beyond the Tigris to the mountains, were preparing to attack the Romans the following year with all their forces. Caracalla returned without delay to Mesopotamia, without having even seen the Parthians. When the Senate received from him information of the submission of the East, they decreed him a triumph and the surname Parthicus. Being informed of the warlike preparations of the Parthians, he prepared to renew the contest; but Macrinus, the praetorian prefect, whom he had offended, assassinated him at Edessa, A.D. 217, on his way to the Temple of Lunus. His reign had lasted more than six years. It is remarkable that this prince, although he did so much to degrade the throne of the Caesars, yet raised at Rome some of the most splendid structures that graced the capital. Magnificent thermae bore his name (see Balneae), and among other monuments of lavish expenditure was a triumphal arch, on which were represented the victories and achievements of his father, Severus, and of which an illustration is given on page 118. Notwithstanding his crimes, Caracalla was deified after death by a decree of the Senate.

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