(Titus Flavius Domitianus)


Domitian was the third and last of the Flavian Emperors; son of Vespasian and brother of Titus. He was, however, significantly younger than Titus, and did not have the benefit of the military experience that Titus gained by serving under his father. While Titus was effectively a co-ruler with Vespasian during much of his reign, Domitian was relegated to much less important roles. When he succeeded to the throne on the sudden death of Titus, he had much less administrative experience than his predecessor. Nevertheless, he ruled with reasonable competence, spent a great deal of energy on building up public infrastructure, and left the state treasury with a surplus. He largely disregarded the senate however, and thereby made many enemies.

Domitian was jealous of the military successes of his predecessors, and also of his contemporaries. Agricola, governor of Britain, was one of Domitian's chief generals, but he was recalled at the height of his power, and prevented from assuming another important position. Domitian did achieve some military successes over the Chatti tribe in Germany, and he prosecuted a war in Pannonia, but the loyalty of the legions to him was largely bought rather than earned. Although he ruled competently for the most part, he was never popular with either the people or the senate, and by the end of his reign he had established a reputation for executing his political enemies.

Domitian also has a reputation as a persecutor of Christians, but, in fact, the persecutions that occurred under his administration were largely regional, ad hoc affairs rather than empire-wide, systematic purges. One famous Christian, martyred under the reign of Domitian, was his cousin Flavius Clemens. However, given the fact that Domitian had appointed Clemens consul the previous year, knowing full well his Christian sympathies, it is hard to make the case that his persecutions, which were widespread, were directed specifically against Christianity.

Key events during the life of Domitian:

Vespasian, father of Domitian, succeeded to the imperial throne.
Married Domitia, daughter of an esteemed general. Their only child died young.
  Held various ceremonial positions, but none of major influence.
On death of Vespasian, brother Titus became emperor.
Succeeded to the throne on death of Titus.
Victory over Chatti, a German tribe.
Recalled Agricola, his rival, from governorship of Britain.
Rebellion of Saturnius, governor of upper Germany.
Returned from Second Pannonian War.
Cousin and consul Flavius Clemens was martyred for Christian faith.
Murdered by freedman of his wife Domitia.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Terrible Banquet  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber

Image Links

The martyrdom of Anicetus
 in To the Lions

 in Pictures from Roman Life and Story

Short Biography
Agricola Roman general and statesman. Governor of Britain. Pacified Wales.
Titus Second Flavian emperor. Conquered Jerusalem. Reigned with father Vespasian.
Nerva First of the "Five Good Emperors." Ruled briefly between Domitian and Trajan.
Domitia Wife of Domitian. Had Domitian killed after she learned that he was planning to kill her.
Flavius Clemens Cousin of Domitian, friend and consul, who was martyred for being Christian.