Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Caracalla

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(MARCUS AURELIUS SEVERUS ANTONINUS, nicknamed CARACALLA)

Roman Emperor, son of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna, b. 188; d. 217. He became joint ruler in 211 with his brother Geta, whom he caused to be murdered in 212, and thereby became sole emperor. He was slain himself in the neighbourhood of Carrhæ in Mesopotamia. In spite of his cruelty, immorality, avarice and treachery Caracalla was a brave soldier and successful administrator and did much to restore the security of the Empire by his campaigns against the Germans and in the Orient. He had little sympathy with Roman ideals or customs and his influence aided considerably in weakening the moral unity of the Empire and destroying the ancient traditions of Rome. The most noteworthy act of his reign was the extension by the Constitutio Antoniana (212) of the rights of Roman citizenship to all the inhabitants of the Empire. It is impossible to estimate what effect this rather doubtful boon had upon the fortunes of Christianity. While the martyrs henceforth could be executed as Romans the right of appeal to Cæsar was abrogated and new and heavy burdens of taxation were imposed. No changes in the laws regarding Christians were introduced by Caracalla and the policy followed in the reign of his father was continued with unabated severity and many were put to death. Rome and the spirit of syncretism fostered by the policy of this Emperor bore fruit in later reigns.

TERTULLIAN, Ad Scapulam; DIO CASSIUS, Hist. Bk. LXXVII; HERODIAN, Bks. VII and VIII; SPARTIANUS, Vita Caracallæ in Scriptores Hist. Aug.; Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, III, 98; GIBBON, Chap. vi; ALLARD, Hist. des persécutions pendant la première moitié du IIIe siecle (Paris, 1886), II, 158-69; SCHILLER, Geschichte der römischen Kaiserzeit, I, pt. II, 739-89.

P.J. HEALY