Top 10 Facts about Caracalla

The Roman Empire became known to the world for the good works done by the great emperors Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, and Vespasian. However, like all other empires, it was not free from the worst emperors, Caracalla, Diocletian, and Domitian.

Caracalla was remembered for war, cruelty, and the construction of his massive bath complex. As a notorious ruler, Caracalla had committed several crimes and busts. 

The cruel deeds and inhuman acts made the Roman Era an interesting Era to be known to. Here is the list of the top 10 facts and events about the Cruel Roman Emperor Caracalla.

10. Caracalla was assassinated in the desert at the age of 29

Death of Caracalla
Death of Caracalla

Caracalla invested huge money in his soldiers, but it ended in vain. He was killed by one of the soldiers he had been training for many years.

On the 28th of April, 217 AD, four days after Caracalla’s 29th birthday, a horrific plan was executed, murdering Emperor Caracalla. Caracalla was attacked and murdered by one of his soldiers while he was on his way to a temple near Carrhae.

He, unknown about the horrific plan, stopped urinating and asked his soldiers to leave him alone for a while. As per their plan, the soldiers went near Caracalla and acted like speaking to him but stabbed him instead.

The execution plan was made after Caracalla had refused to grant the position of Centurion to Justin Martialis. Macrinus, the successor of Caracalla, took advantage of this incident and planned to stab him by taking the support of Martialis.

Macrinus, after the incident, declared himself the emperor with the Roman army’s help.

9. Caracalla never returned to Rome after departing in 213 A.D

Caracalla's Family Tree
Caracalla’s Family Tree

Caracalla didn’t have a good relationship with his family members. But his presence among his militaries was encouraging, for he was always in support of his army and soldiers.

Caracalla always tried to portray himself as a fellow soldier during the campaign. He would share the army’s labor carrying legionary standards and preparing bread himself. All these actions made Caracalla popular among his troops. 

In 213 AD, Caracalla departed Rome to fight the Germanic Tribes along with his soldiers. The fight against the Germanic Tribes ended with a negotiation of Caracalla dominating a few of the parts.

However, Caracalla ended the war with negotiation in late 214 AD. He left Rome and the Germanic Tribes heading towards the East, from where he never returned to his city, Rome.

8. Caracalla issued the “Constitution of Antoninus” in the year 212 A.D

Caracalla ( 211 AD ) - The Roman Emperor
Caracalla ( 211 AD ) – The Roman Emperor

One of the notable works Caracalla had done during his reign was the “Constitution of Antoninus.” It was issued on 11th July AD 212 and was also known as the Edict of Caracalla.

This edict granted Roman Citizenship to all the Empire’s inhabitants, both men, and women. Caracalla portrayed himself as a more egalitarian emperor by creating a strong Roman identity and equality. 

However, the proclamation was made for the sole purpose of benefitting the Roman Emperor. The change would lead to collecting massive amounts of tax with the increased number of official inhabitants.

The increased tax amount was used for the soldiers and armies of Caracalla. They were given a lavish lifestyle.

7. Caracalla was obsessed with Alexander the Great

Caracalla and Alexander the Great
Caracalla and Alexander the Great

Caracalla had obeyed only two people in his life; his father and Alexander the Great. He idolized and worshipped Alexander for his great military leadership.

As a Greek-Macedonian general, Alexander the Great had conquered several great wars. These all inspired Caracalla greatly.

He openly imitated Alexander in his personal style. It all started with his military campaign when he ascended to be emperor. 

Caracalla’s obsession with Alexander was unimaginable. Caracalla would fill his imperial capital with images of Alexander.

According to Herodian, Caracalla kept the bizarre portraits with a double-faced portrait. In the portrait, Caracalla was on one side, Alexander on the other. 

Cassius Dio also reports that Caracalla copied Alexander in administering the army. Caracalla organized soldiers’ organization in traditional Macedonian styles with 16,000 men armed.

It was simply a tribute to the leadership of 4th century B.C. styles and referred to as ‘Alexander’s Phalanx.’ Caracalla’s planned journey to the East was to accomplish an emulation like that of Alexander. 

6. Caracalla had people slaughtered for mocking him in Alexandria

Caracalla's inhuman act
Caracalla’s inhuman act

Caracalla had an incestuous relationship with his mother, Julia Domna. Alexandrians delighted in referring to Julia as Jocasta. She was the tragic mother and wife of Oedipus.

They also spoke against Caracalla for killing Geta, despite claiming that he had to kill Geta in self-defense. Caracalla, in rage, went to the Empire and vacated the imperial capital in 213 AD.

The journey began by camping at the Germanic frontier, subdued the Alamanni tribes, and continued towards the East.

He spent the winter of 214/5 at Nicomedia and reached Alexandria in the following year. The insults had been hunting him, for which he ordered a massacre of the entire city’s welcome committee that had come to greet him.

5. Caracalla built the large structures: Baths of Caracalla

Baths of Caracalla located in Rome
Baths of Caracalla located in Rome

One of the remarkable things Caracalla had done was the construction of the Baths of Caracalla. The Baths of Caracalla started in 211 A.D. when Caracalla became the sole emperor and was completed in 216 A.D. 

These structures were the second largest Roman public baths in Ancient Rome. They were operational until the 530s and then were ruined. 

These giant baths occupied around 202,000 square meters of land. They could accommodate around 1,600 bathers at once. The baths referred to the typical Roman practice of building complexes at the time. 

These types of buildings were used for social and state activities. Anyway, the Baths of Caracalla featured swimming pools, exercise yards, a stadium.

They also included steam rooms, libraries, meeting rooms, fountains, and many other amenities. 

All of these multiple entertainment facilities could come under formal gardens. Besides, the interior spaces featured colorful marble floors, columns, and mosaics. 

4. Caracalla was a brutal fratricide

Caracalla - a brutal fratricide
Caracalla – a brutal fratricide

Caracalla wasn’t the single child of Septimius Severus. But he also had a brother, Geta, only eleven months younger. They always had conflict over crown possession. After their father’s death, Caracalla and Geta ruled the Empire together. 

However, the relation between the two is not like that of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Both brothers constantly conspired against each other to be sole emperors. Whenever they tried to make decisions over the nation together, a disagreement occurred.

According to Herodian, after the matters worsened, the brothers divided the imperial palace.

They also tried to convince their cooks to poison the opponent’s food. It was only their mother’s (Julia Domna) interruption that stopped her son’s wrongdoings. Otherwise, they didn’t fail to split the whole Empire. 

When the Empire’s division was canceled, Caracalla tried to murder his brother. But he failed in his mission. Then, he arranged a meeting with his brother and mother in the imperial apartments. 

When Geta and his mother arrived, Caracalla had his brother murdered. He did it with centurions’ help on December 26, 211. His mother wailed a lot.

But Caracalla didn’t fail to assassinate his brother, who tried to hide in his mother’s arms. Caracalla didn’t stop here. He ordered the massacre of 20000 people who were Geta’s supporters.

3. Caracalla married a woman whom he hated at the age of 14

Fulvia Plautilla - Wife of Caracalla
Fulvia Plautilla – Wife of Caracalla

Caracalla married Fulvia Plautilla, the daughter of Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, in 202 A.D. However, he was not ready to marry her but was forced to marry under the pressure of his father.

Fulvia, despite being a wise and gentle woman, was hated by Caracalla for being married forcefully. But, they had a daughter together in 204 AD, and her name is unknown.

Fulvia was exiled and killed after the murder of her father, Plautianus. Both father and daughter were found guilty of treason and ordered to be executed by Caracalla. 

2. Caracalla became co-emperor along with his father at the age of 9

Caracalla
Caracalla

Caracalla was a spoiled child earlier. Still, his father granted Caracalla Joint Augustus and full emperorship.

He successfully sacked the Parthian capital, Ctesiphon. There the Romans had won the Battle of Ctesiphon in October 197. It means Caracalla had brought gold and silver in lavish possession in Rome. 

Recently, Septimius Severus had won over the Parthian Empire in the Roman–Persian Wars. So, it was the day of a victory celebration.

On this day, Caracalla received tribunician power and the title of Imperator. He also got the title of the chief priesthood, Pontifex Maximus. 

With all these titles, Septimius Severus declared Caracalla the ruler of Rome. He became a co-emperor along with his father at the young age of nine.

1. Caracalla was not an official name as emperor

A bronze statue with the face of Caracalla
A bronze statue with the face of Caracalla

Caracalla was born on April 4, 188, as Lucius Septimius Bassianus in Lugdunum. Septimius Severus was the governor of Gallia Lugdunensis during the emperor Commodus’s ending years.

As he belonged to a high-class society, he was awarded “Augustus” at the age of 5. When Caracalla stepped seven, his name was changed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. 

It was done under his father’s wish, who was now an emperor. His father wanted to bridge the new Severan dynasty with the previous Nerva-Antonine Dynasty.

Thus, Caracalla remained a nickname that referred to a particular type of cloak. Roman emperors wore such cloaks at the time. The historians used this nickname pejoratively. Thus, Caracalla was never the official name of the emperor. 

The contemporary historian Cassius Dio called the emperor “Tarautas.” It refers to one of the most violent and brutal gladiators. It gives an idea of how people observed Caracalla at the time.

Conclusion

History teaches that a man is killed by his own weapon, just as Caracalla died at the hand of his soldier.

Caracalla’s investment in the military for power, though noteworthy, came to a fitting end. It is the most interesting part about Caracalla’s life to me.

Do you find any catchy detail about Caracalla in the above facts? Would you please mention below?

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