(Marcus Aurelius Antoninus)


Caracalla was only five years old when his father suddenly assumed the imperial throne. By age 8, he had been adopted into the imperial family, and declared Caesar, or heir to the throne, along with his brother, and lifelong rival, Geta. Caracalla's father was absent from Rome for much of his youth, and the empire was run primarily by Caracalla's father-in-law, Plautianus, and also his mother, Julia Domna. It is thought that one of Caracalla's first acts of treachery was to plot the downfall of Plautianus, by accusing him of a plot to overthrow the Severus family.

Soon after Severus returned from his extended absence, he determined that his sons were under bad influences in Rome. In 208, He took them on a trip to Britain, in hopes of improving their character, and giving them some military experience. Less than three years later, however, Severus died in Britain, and the throne passed to Geta and Caracalla, who were still in their early twenties. The rivalry between them, always present, now burst wide open, with large factions of Romans siding with one brother or the other. On the pretext of agreeing to a peaceful settlement between them, Caracalla arranged to meet Geta alone, in the presence of their mother, and then murdered him in his mother's arms. His mother, who had favored Geta, and had trusted Caracalla in this matter, could not protest the murder without putting her own life in jeopardy. Within a year, over 20,000 supporters of Geta had been put to death, and Caracalla had established his reputation as a brutal and iron-fisted tyrant.

With all opposition effectively silenced, Caracalla set forth on several ambitious projects. He secured the loyalty of the army by substantially raising their payments. In order to increase revenues, he granted Roman citizenship to almost all inhabitants of the realm. He undertook construction of the famous baths of Caracalla. He led several campaigns in Dacia and Persia, and in Alexandria he brutally put down a revolt, by massacring all men of military age. After a reign of only six years, he was murdered by Macrinus, one of his ministers, who assumed the throne for himself.

Key events during the life of Caracalla:

Caracalla's father Severus rises to the imperial throne.
Adopted into the Antoninus family, and declared Caesar, heir to throne.
Brought about downfall of Plautianus, chief minister to Severus.
Travels to Britain with Severus.
On death of his father Severus, Caracalla shares throne with Geta.
Murders his brother Geta; executes 20,000 of Geta's supporters.
Bestows Roman rights on all citizens of empire.
Begins construction of famous Baths of Caracalla.
Campaigned against Goths in Dacia.
Crushes rebellion in Alexandria by ordering massacre of all young men.
Attacks Artabanus, Parthian king. Ransacks Mesopotamia.
Murdered by Macrinus, praefect of the Praetorian guard, who declared himself emperor.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Senate of Women  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber

Image Links

Baths of Caracalla
 in The Story of the Romans

Caracalla's Entrance into Alexandria
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

The Baths of Caracalla
 in Historical Tales: Roman

Short Biography
Septimus Severus Seized Imperial throne after the death of Commodus. Put down many rebellions.
Julia Domna Wife of Severus; mother of Caracalla. Influential in Imperial government.
Geta Son of Severus. Murdered by his brother, Caracalla.
Plautianus Administered Empire when Severus was in East. Brought down by plot of Caracalla.
Macrinus Praefect of the Praetorians; murdered Caracalla and assumed the throne.