1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Caracalla, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5
Caracalla, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

CARACALLA (or Caracallus), MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS (186–217), Roman emperor, eldest son of the emperor Septimius Severus, was born at Lugdunum (Lyons) on the 4th of April 186. His original name was Bassianus; his nickname Caracalla was derived from the long Gallic tunic which he wore and introduced into the army. He further received the imperial title of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus at the time when his father declared himself the adopted son of M. Aurelius. After the death of Severus (211) at Eboracum (York) in Britain, Caracalla and his brother Geta, who had accompanied their father, returned to Rome as colleagues in the supreme power. In order to secure the sole authority, Caracalla barbarously murdered his brother in his mother’s arms, and at the same time put to death some 20,000 persons, who were suspected of favouring him, amongst them the jurist Papinianus. An important act of his reign (212) was the bestowal of the rights of Roman citizenship upon all free inhabitants of the empire, although the main object of Caracalla was doubtless to increase the amount of revenue derived from the tax on inheritances or legacies to which only Roman citizens were liable. His own extravagances and the demands of the soldiery were a perpetual drain upon his resources, to meet which he resorted to taxes and extortion of every description. He spent the remainder of his reign wandering from place to place, a mode of life to which he was said to have been driven by the pangs of remorse. Handing over the reins of government to his mother, he set out in 213 for Raetia, where he carried on war against the Alamanni; in 214 he attacked the Goths in Dacia, whence he proceeded by way of Thrace to Asia Minor, and in 215 crossed to Alexandria. Here he took vengeance for the bitter sarcasms of the inhabitants against himself and his mother by ordering a general massacre of the youths capable of bearing arms. In 216 he ravaged Mesopotamia because Artabanus, the Parthian king, refused to give him his daughter in marriage. He spent the winter at Edessa, and in 217, when he recommenced his campaign, he was murdered between Edessa and Carrhae on the 8th of April at the instigation of Opellius (Opilius) Macrinus, praefect of the praetorian guard, who succeeded him. Amongst the numerous buildings with which Caracalla adorned the city, the most famous are the thermae, and the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus in the forum.

Authorities.—Dio Cassius lxxvii., lxxviii.; Herodian iii. 10, iv. 14; lives of Caracalla, Severus and Geta, in Scriptores Historiae Augustae; Eutropius viii. 19-22; Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus, 20-23; Epit. 20-23; Zosimus i. 9-10; H. Schiller, Geschichte der römischen Kaiserzeit (1883), 738 ff.; Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie, ii. 2434 ff. (von Rohden).