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This Week In History

The Death of Caracalla. April 8, 217.

His father, Roman emperor Septimius Severus initiated the Severan Dynasty, a dynasty of military emperors. Caracalla´s birthname was Septimius Severus Bassianus, but became known by the agnomen Caracalla because after the Danube wars he started wearing a hooded Gallic tunic called “caracallus”.

Septimius Severus ruled over Rome for 18 years with iron fist and decided to split power between his two sons, Geta and Caracalla, which proved to be a huge mistake, being both corrupt and evil. Caracalla in the end killed Geta in February 212 and made up a story in which a band of assassins managed to get to Geta´s quarters and he had tried to defend him heroically but was finally defeated and his brother killed. Of course, nobody believed him, but as he was now the sole emperor, nobody could do anything to him. Caracalla was so evil, he made his corrupt brother Geta look good. His mother, Julia Domna hated Caracalla for killing her favorite son.

Caracalla, knowing of this hatred that surrounded him, started killing his brother´s friends, supporters, family and even pets, in order to erase any trace of his lineage. This, of course, only made aversion grow and grow around him, so he left Rome with the excuse of visiting all his domains.

When he arrived to Alexandria wanting to visit Alexander´s tomb, citizens of the city received him with great expectations, as they wanted to see him in person. Caracalla turned to be short and bald, wearing a blond wig, nothing to do with the idealized sculptures that had been distributed around the city during his reign. This caused a burst of laughter among the people and Caracalla ordered his legions to slaughter and raze the whole city.

These acts resulted in Caracalla´s power slowly deteriorating. Among his pretorial guard, Macrinus (prefect of the guard) was constantly ridiculed and scorned by the emperor, and grew tired of these continuous offences.

While travelling to visit a temple near Carrhae in the Anatolian Province (nowadays Turkey), Caracalla was approached by a soldier, who´s brother had been executed by the emperor with no justification, and after talking with Macrinus, stabbed the emperor to death.

Macrinus proclaimed himself emperor three days later with the support of the army.

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