Random Reading: Caracalla

So like I said before, my reading has become very random and thanks to stumble, I land on different topics at different times. European history and culture is like an endless digging site. The more you dig the more you unearth.

This morning with my tea, I came across some spinets about the emperor Caracalla, who was also know as the "enemy of mankind". He was the same emperor who had commissioned the Baths of Caracalla in Rome which really impressed me during my last visit to Rome.

Often in history we come across blood shed and treachery in family, all in the name of hunger for power. Back in 211, 22 year old Caracalla was no different. He arranged for the assassination of his 21 year old brother Geta during a reconciliation meeting arranged by their mother Julia. Geta died in their mother's arms. One can imagine the pain and anguish Julia might have suffered. Since just murdering his brother was not enough, Caracalla went on to eradicate every living and non living memory of his brother.

The majority of his rein was spent in the several provinces of the empire and every province bled in turns under his cruel rulings.The senators, compelled by fear, had to attend to his capricious motions and were obliged to provide daily entertainments at an immense expense, which he abandoned with contempt to his guards. He ordered them to erect in every city, magnificent palaces and theaters, which he either disdained to visit, or ordered to be immediately torn down. The most wealthy families were ruined and all his subjects were oppressed by different kinds of taxes.

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

His bloody ruthlessness can be seen in yet another incident; 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. That was the day the wine and blood flowed together.

Through all his rampage of killing and plundering, Caracalla remained true to his soldiers and to Rome. He was first of many emperors who cut their hair short and favored the look of a common solider.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.

His own end was no different from the fate he doomed others to, while traveling 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. He was succeeded by Marcus Opellius Macrinus who was well know for his reluctance to engage in warfare. A short but welcome relief in the bloody history.



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