Marble bust of Caracalla 

212-217 AD

Eldest son of Septimus Severus and Julia Domna. He ruled jointly with his brother Geta for a short time before he had him murdered in 211 AD. He had his brother’s memory erased from monuments and coins and killed any supporters he had had. Including Caracalla’s ex wife Fulvia Plautilla and her family. 

The nickname Caracalla was given to him because of the type of Gallic hooded tunic he wore. He is one of the most notorious and unpleasant Emperors thanks to a number of massacres and persecutions he instigated across the Empire. He did however grant Roman citizenship to all freemen across the Empire… but that was in order to increase his tax revenues. 

He had an estimated 20,000 people murdered in Alexandria after they made a satire play about Caracalla’s claims that Geta’s murder was self defence.

He is said to have tricked the Parthians into peace by pretending to accept a Parthian bride then slaughtering both bride and guests at the wedding celebrations. Leading to further wars with Parthia. 

Seeking popularity in Rome he commissioned the Baths of Caracalla (as they are known today). They were the largest public baths ever built in Rome. The main bath room was larger than St Peter’s Basilica and could accomodate over 2000 citizens at any one time. It was opened in 216, with its own libraries, outdoor tracks and private rooms. It was lavishly decorated with marble trimmed floors, columns, mosaics and colossal statues.

He was assassinated while urinating near Carrhae on his way to continue his war with Parthia on 8th April 217 AD. The killer was his own body guard Julius Martialis.  

Source: Metropolitan Museum

Notes

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