48 Facts About Caracalla


Caracalla was a member of the Severan dynasty, the elder son of Emperor Septimius Severus and Empress Julia Domna.

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Caracalla's brother was murdered by the Praetorian Guard later that year, under orders from Caracalla himself, who then reigned afterwards as sole ruler of the Roman Empire.

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Caracalla found administration to be mundane, leaving those responsibilities to his mother.

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Caracalla's reign featured domestic instability and external invasions by the Germanic peoples.

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Caracalla's reign became notable for the Antonine Constitution, known as the Edict of Caracalla, which granted Roman citizenship to all free men throughout the Roman Empire.

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Domestically, Caracalla became known for the construction of the Baths of Caracalla, which became the second-largest baths in Rome; for the introduction of a new Roman currency named the antoninianus, a sort of double denarius; and for the massacres he ordered, both in Rome and elsewhere in the empire.

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Caracalla did not see this campaign through to completion due to his assassination by a disaffected soldier in 217.

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Caracalla was renamed Marcus Aurelius Antoninus at the age of seven as part of his father's attempt at union with the families of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius.

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Caracalla had a slightly younger brother, Geta, with whom Caracalla briefly ruled as co-emperor.

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Caracalla was awarded tribunician power and the title of imperator.

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In inscriptions, Caracalla is given from 198 the title of the chief priesthood, pontifex maximus.

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Caracalla's colleague was his father, serving his own third consulship.

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In 202, Caracalla was forced to marry the daughter of Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, Fulvia Plautilla, a woman whom he hated, though for what reason is unknown.

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In 205, Caracalla was consul for the second time, in company with Geta – his brother's first consulship.

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Caracalla was to rule in the west and Geta was to rule in the east.

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Caracalla then persecuted and executed most of Geta's supporters and ordered a damnatio memoriae pronounced by the Senate against his brother's memory.

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Caracalla went north to the German frontier to deal with the Alamanni, a confederation of Germanic tribes who had broken through the limes in Raetia.

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In spring 214, Caracalla departed for the eastern provinces, travelling through the Danubian provinces and the Anatolian provinces of Asia and Bithynia.

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At the outset of his reign, Caracalla declared imperial support for Serapis, the god of healing.

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Caracalla erected a temple on the Quirinal Hill in 212, which he dedicated to Serapis.

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Dio maintains that one purpose for Caracalla issuing the edict was the desire to increase state revenue; at the time, Rome was in a difficult financial situation and needed to pay for the new pay raises and benefits that were being conferred on the military.

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The damnatio memoriae against Geta and the large payments Caracalla had made to his own supporters were designed to protect himself from possible repercussions.

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Expenditures that Caracalla made with the large bonuses he gave to soldiers prompted him to debase the coinage soon after his ascension.

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In 215 Caracalla introduced the antoninianus, a coin intended to serve as a double denarius.

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Caracalla lavished many benefits on the army, which he both feared and admired, in accordance with the advice given by his father on his deathbed always to heed the welfare of the soldiers and ignore everyone else.

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Caracalla needed to gain and keep the trust of the military, and he did so with generous pay raises and popular gestures.

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Caracalla spent much of his time with the soldiers, so much so that he began to imitate their dress and adopt their manners.

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In planning his invasion of the Parthian Empire, Caracalla decided to arrange 16, 000 of his men in Macedonian-style phalanxes, despite the Roman army having made the phalanx an obsolete tactical formation.

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In 216, Caracalla pursued a series of aggressive campaigns in the east against the Parthians, intended to bring more territory under direct Roman control.

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Caracalla offered the king of Parthia, Artabanus IV of Parthia, a marriage proposal between himself and the king's daughter.

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That summer Caracalla began to attack the countryside east of the Tigris in the Parthian war of Caracalla.

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At the beginning of 217, Caracalla was still based at Edessa before renewing hostilities against Parthia.

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When Caracalla was murdered, Julia Domna was in Antioch sorting out correspondence, removing unimportant messages from the bunch so that when Caracalla returned, he would not be overburdened with duties.

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Dio mentions that when Caracalla was a boy, he had a tendency to show an angry or even savage facial expression.

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Way Caracalla wanted to be portrayed to his people can be seen through the many surviving busts and coins.

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Images of the young Caracalla cannot be clearly distinguished from his younger brother Geta.

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Between the death of the father and the assassination of Geta towards the end of 211, Caracalla's portrait remains static with a short full beard while Geta develops a long beard with hair strains like his father.

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Caracalla was not subject to a proper damnatio memoriae after his assassination; while the Senate disliked him, his popularity with the military prevented Macrinus and the Senate from openly declaring him to be a hostis.

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The Baths of Caracalla are presented in classical literature as unprecedented in scale, and impossible to build if not for the use of reinforced concrete.

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The Edict of Caracalla, issued in 212, however, goes almost unnoticed in classical records.

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However, historian Clare Rowan questions Dio's accuracy on the topic of Caracalla, referring to the work as having presented a hostile attitude towards Caracalla and thus needing to be treated with caution.

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Caracalla's memory was revived in the art of late eighteenth-century French painters.

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Caracalla's visibility was influenced by the existence of several literary sources in French that included both translations of ancient works and contemporary works of the time.

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Caracalla's likeness was readily available to the painters due to the distinct style of his portraiture and his unusual soldier-like choice of fashion that distinguished him from other emperors.

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Caracalla has had a reputation as being among the worst of Roman emperors, a perception that survives even into modern works.

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The art and linguistics historian John Agnew and the writer Walter Bidwell describe Caracalla as having an evil spirit, referring to the devastation he wrought in Alexandria.

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Gibbon then concluded that Caracalla was "the common enemy of mankind", as both Romans and provincials alike were subject to "his rapine and cruelty".

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The history professors Molefi Asante and Shaza Ismail note that Caracalla is known for the disgraceful nature of his rule, stating that "he rode the horse of power until it nearly died of exhaustion" and that though his rule was short, his life, personality, and acts made him a notable, though likely not beneficial, figure in the Roman Empire.

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