Top 10 facts about Domitian

Caesar Domitianus Augustus was born on the 24th of October, 51 AD. He belonged to a dynasty known as the Flavian Dynasty which consisted only of three members from his family itself.

Domitian was raised by his father, Vespasian under the shadow of his brother Titus. He was not given proper knowledge about administration, military skills, decision-making power, but only ceremonial powers.

10. Family History

Family tree of Domitian
Family tree of Domitian

Domitian was born to Vespasian, the Emperor, and Domitilla the elder. His father was the first member of the Flavian dynasty. His father started from being an unknown person and reached the highest rank of Ancient Rome.

He lived with his father and brother, as his mother and sister had passed away when he was very young. But he never got enough chance to stay with father and brother, since they were always away for battles and military campaigns.

Vespasian became the Emperor in 69 AD and Domitian was appointed as praetor having consular power. So, whenever his father and brother were out for campaigns, he would act as the representative of the Flavian Dynasty.

He had an easy life, a privileged one, as both his father and brother were of a high level. He got an education in the Senatorial class of Ancient Rome and studied rhetoric and literature. He also learned and had an interest in poetry and art.

Despite his wisdom, he was quite upset with his appearance, mainly for the reason of him being bald at a very early age. He started wearing wigs for the rest of his life. He also wrote a book on hair care and made clear about his insecurities regarding baldness.

He was married to Domitia Longina. Domitia was married to the Roman Senate but was forced to leave him and marry Domitian.

Domitian was attracted by Domitia’s beauty and also for her being the granddaughter of Junia Lepida who was the descendent of Emperor Augustus. He had a son with Domitia, but he died at the age of 3 .

9. Last member of the Flavian Dynasty

Members of Flavian Dynasty
Members of Flavian Dynasty

Domitian belonged to the Flavian Dynasty which came into rising after the fall of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty. The dynasty took over from 68 BC after the fall of Nero, the last emperor of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty.

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There were a total of three Emperors in the Flavian Dynasty which began in 69 BC and fell in 96 BC with the death of Domitian.

The first emperor of the Flavian Dynasty was Vespasian, father of Domitian, who ruled from 69 BC  to 79 BC. The second one was Titus, brother of Domitian, who ruled from 79 BC to 81 BC. And, the last heir of this dynasty was Domitian, who ruled from 81 BC until his death in 96 BC.

The dynasty began with loyal and professional army formation and the expansion of membership of the Senate, created by Vespasian. Whereas, Domitian started with autocracy, focused on confiscations of costly shows, buildings, and games. 

The Flavian Dynasty fell and was empowered by Marcus Cocceius Nerva as an emperor on the same day of Domitian’s assassination.

8. Domitian infamous for his personality

Domitian was never accepted as a good emperor
Domitian was never accepted as a good emperor

Domitian spent most of his life living under the shadow of his brother and father. However, he lacked the charisma to impress the people unlike his father and brother. He lacked enthusiasm and came out as a lazy person who loved to spend most of his time alone. 

Such characters did not show a good sign of an influential emperor. He had a self-deprecating sense of humour which would compel others to judge him.

However, despite the drawbacks he managed and proved to be an emperor who would be liked by the people and military force of Rome.

7. Domitian delivered his famous speech at the age of 18

 Domitian stayed back at Rome when his father, Vespasian and brother, Titus travelled to places for campaigns. They took over the empire after defeating Judaea. 

During all these events, he was back in Rome as the representative of the Flavian Dynasty. He had learned ways to deal with officials and the senatorial board.

He gave a speech when he was just the age of 18 which happened to be the first step for his fame. The speech given in front of the Roman Senate was able to impress the Senate as well as the people of Rome.

6. Domitian’s reign as Emperor turned to be the reign of terror

Domitian became the Emperor in 81 BC and ruled until 96 BC. The time he ruled was filled with terror ,so he was known as the reign of terror.

Despite the chaos and crisis caused due to the ongoing terror during his reign, he was known as Father of the country and venerable.

However, the period of his reign saw numerous developmental progress. He was involved in numerous good deeds since the time he was in power.

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Unfortunately, he was not liked by everyone, mainly the Senators. The hatred could not stop him from doing some good and bringing positive changes in Rome. 

During his reign as emperor, Domitian expanded the economical situation as well as the border. But, forced people to call him as their lord or god for taking Rome in the right path.

5. Domitian completed most of the incomplete construction during his reign

The famous Villa of Domitian
The famous Villa of Domitian

Domitian’s period although known as reign of terror went under numerous developmental works. Numerous buildings were built, the first one was the Arch of Titues located near the Roman Forum, managed to become one of the most famous triumphal arches which is located near the Roman Forum.

Another one was the completion of the Roman Colosseum that was left half done by the previous emperor. Others included Villa of Domitian, Domitian Stadium, and the odeum of Domitian and a total of 50 buildings.

Not just buildings, he is also known for his wealth. He was involved in revaluation of the Roman Currency , the change in taxation was made by his father and brother.

Domitian was involved in  donations as well, he gave away about 135 million sestertii to Roman people. The sum was given in the forms of lavish games and public banquets.

Also, he managed to move the centre of government to the imperial court during his reign. He also issued edicts and looked into every detail of governance. He managed to lower the corruption and exploitation during his time.

He also replaced the senators he thought were unworthy for the post. He did not practice nepotism, he did not appoint any of his family members for public official posts. He only placed those people in posts who were worthy of it.

There was a cultural renaissance during his reign , it was possible due to his renovation projects. Instead of expansionist warfare he believed in a defensive approach so he built roads, forts, and watchtowers.

 Some military officers did not find him eligible, as he did not have good decision making skills, or the tactical skills. However, they were happy for the fact that he was the second emperor, after Augustus to raise the pay so he was able to gain loyalty of these soldiers.

He also practiced ancient morals and customs, also asked people to do so as he himself was a traditional person and believed in  such practices.

4. Inhuman acts of Domitian 

Domitian lacked in military skills as he had never had any sorts of training and had never been to military campaigns. So, he believed in defensive fights when in power.

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However he managed to go on a very few military campaigns after being an emperor, he went to Gaul, Dacia, and Britain. 

Domitian, at the beginning period of his reign seemed as a gentleman with kind and thoughtful nature. However, he turned into a different personality after some time.

He wanted everyone to follow the Pagan religion and honor the Roman gods as he did. He also was involved in the execution of large-scale Christians, Jewish, advisors, and his close ones.

In addition to this, he was involved in the execution of numerous politicians, his cousin Flavius Clemens, 12 ex-consuls, and wealthy people. 

Not just that, he used the finance of Rome for his personal needs. He renovated his palace, added music place, theater, gymnastics, and other recreational areas.

3. Relationship with Senate and officials

Domitian with Senate and Officials
Domitian with Senate and Officials

Almost every Roman Emperor who managed to become emperor due to their strength and capabilities had some issue with the Senators. Domitian was infamous amongst the Senators as the military, religious, and cultural propaganda fostered a cult of personality in him.

Also he sought for control over public and private morals which was not accepted by the senators. Despite being a peaceful and stable time during his reign, it was considered by the Senate as a reign of terror.

The government during the reign of Domitian exhibited totalitarian characteristics causing disapproval of Roman Senate. The relationship with the officials was also not in good terms. So, he was assassinated by the palace official teaming with other conspirators.

2. Death of Domitian

Death of Domitian
Death of Domitian

Domitian died on the 18th September of 96 AD, when he was just the age of 44. He was assassinated by conspirators, including Maximus and Stephanus, he was stabbed in his groin in his room. He was reading a paper, he was stabbed about 7 times.

Rumours have that he had seen his death in his dream where he was to die at noon. So, when he woke up he kept guards around him and asked them to protect him.

He also asked his guard if he was able to pass the noon time just to feel secured and safe. Unfortunately, he was stabbed by his guard whom he had full faith in right past noon.

1. Domitian’s name and legacy erased from Roman History

A statue of Domitian
A statue of Domitian

Like most of the Roman Emperor, Domitian also was not the favourite of Senators. So, his crimination was done in a very regular manner without any ceremonial manner.

Anything belonging to him was burnt or destroyed by the senators. They erased the name and legacy of Domitian.

His belongings and precious materials related to him such as coins were destroyed by melting. Also, the arches were torn down.

His image was also changed from good to evil as all of his good deeds were proved false or the credit was given to someone else. He was depicted as a cruel and paranoid tyrant.


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