Top 10 Facts about Caracalla

The Roman Empire was ever known for the great emperors such as Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, and others. However, examples of worse leaders also appear, which have stained Roman history. Caracalla is a name among such worse emperors who always stayed in controversy. 

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. 

If you are interested in Roman Empire or Roman History even a little, this piece will be awesome for you. Let’s begin with the top interesting details about 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 taming for many years. Caracalla was on the way to visit a temple near Carrhae and stopped at the desert to urinate. 

When he went off from his guard soldiers to relax, someone among the soldiers approached him. He went near to say something to the emperor, and in the meanwhile, he stabbed Caracalla to death.

The event happened on April 8, 217 A.D., four days after Caracalla’s 29th birthday. It was Justin Martialis whom the emperor had refused to grant him the position of a centurion. Macrinus, the successor of Caracalla, knew this incident. He plotted to kill the emperor using Martialis. 

Caracalla continued increasing the number of enemies since he started his reign. After Caracalla’s death, Macrinus declared himself the emperor with the Roman army’s help. But shortly, Macrinus was also killed.

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. It was because of Caracalla’s words and actions for his soldiers.

To pay the army salary raised by fifty percent, Caracalla debased the coinage. He lowered the silver content in the coin. He also created a coin known as the antoninianus to pay his army. 

Besides, 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. 

When military activity slowed down in Britain, Caracalla thought to put out the campaign. But he did not stop it until he created a protectorate in southern Scotland. He had to keep an eye on native activities. 

Through this, he ensured his father’s legacy. It also helped Caracalla prove his adoption of the title Britannicus. Later Caracalla departed Rome in 213 A.D.to fight the Germanic Tribes. Germanic Tribes were making trouble at the Danube, the northern border of the Empire.

The fight against Germanic Tribes was called the Alamannic war. It happened in 213 and 214 AD. After dominating some parts, Caracalla made a deal with the remaining tribes to end the campaign. Here the amazing fact is that Caracalla never returned to Rome after leaving it. He started a journey to the East instead.

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 also called the Edict of Caracalla. The Constitution of Antoninus was issued on 11th July AD 212. 

This edict granted Roman Citizenship to all the Empire’s inhabitants, both men and women. Through this proclamation, Caracalla wanted to portray himself as a more egalitarian emperor. 

Caracalla believed that all free men and women of the Empire should be citizens. He wanted to create a strong sense of Roman identity. The proclamation issued by Caracalla could help the poor people get equal rights. 

But the contemporary historians claimed that this proclamation was an illusion. Caracalla planned it for his benefit instead. 

Through this proclamation, Caracalla could collect a massive amount of tax. He had already increased the number of inhabitants. And the increased tax amount can be lavished on the army. 

The second probable reason to create this mandate can be an attempt to appease the gods. After killing his wife, brother, and thousands of people, he wanted to purify his crime. He believed that he could make Serapis, the Roman god of healing, happy through edict.

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; one is his father, and another is Alexander the Great. Not only did he obey Alexander the Great, but Caracalla worshipped him. Caracalla idolized Alexander, the Great for his great military leadership. Alexander’s reign was very popular between 356 and 323 B.C. 

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

After killing Fulvia Plautilla, Caracalla never remarried but fell in controversies. According to Aurelius Victor and Eutropius, Caracalla had an incestuous relationship with his mother, Julia Domna. These types of rumors were also famous among the people of Alexandria. 

Alexandrians delighted in referring to Julia as Jocasta. Jocasta was the tragic mother and wife of Oedipus. Anyway, they made a satire on Caracalla. They scolded Caracalla when he claimed that he killed Geta in self-defense. Later these jibes owed the numbers of death in Alexandria.

After Geta’s murder, Caracalla went out on a tour of the Empire. He vacated the imperial capital in 213 A.D and departed. First, he camped at the Germanic frontier. There Caracalla subdued the Alamanni tribes who had crossed the Empire’s boundary. 

Then, Caracalla continued the east journey after receiving the title of Germanicus Maximus. He spent the winter of 214/5 at Nicomedia and reached Alexandria in the following year. The last insult from Alexandrian already fired Caracalla. To avenge, he ordered a massacre of the entire city’s welcome committee, who came to greet the emperor. 

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 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 emperor. Whenever they tried to make decisions over the nation together, the 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 sons’ 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 received the title of “pater patriae” in 199 AD. It means “the father of the country.” Caracalla became Roman consul after three years. He also served his third consulship along with his father.

The same year in 202 A.D., Caracalla married Fulvia Plautilla, the daughter of Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, . The marriage happened under Caracalla’s father’s wish between 9 and 15 April. It was against Caracalla’s desire, so his relationship with his wife didn’t work. Caracalla hated his wife, but the reason was unknown. 

Later, the marriage produced a single daughter. Then, Caracalla had got Plautianus executed for treason in 205 AD. Plautianus was found guilty and exiled first to Sicily and eventually to Lipari. After the demise of Caracalla’s father, Caracalla’s soldiers killed Plautianus under his command. 

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 face of Caracalla

Caracalla was born on April 4, 188, as Lucius Septimius Bassianus in Lugdunum. His father, 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 the title of “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? Please mention below.

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