Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Caracalla assassinated 1797 years ago!

On April 8th 217 AD the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (better known these days from the nickname or agnomen Caracalla, which, according to Aureius Victor refers to a Gallic cloak that Caracalla adopted as a personal fashion, which spread to his army and his court) was assassinated.

While travelling from Edessa to continue the war with Parthia, he was assassinated while urinating at a roadside near Carrhae on 8 April 217 (4 days after his 29th birthday), by Julius Martialis, an officer of his personal bodyguard. Herodian says that Martialis' brother had been executed a few days earlier by Caracalla on an unproven charge; Cassius Dio, on the other hand, says that Martialis was resentful at not being promoted to the rank of centurion. The escort of the emperor gave him privacy to relieve himself, and Martialis then ran forward and killed Caracalla with a single sword stroke. While attempting to flee, the bold assassin was then quickly dispatched by a Scythian archer of the Imperial Guard.

Caracalla was succeeded by his Praetorian Guard Prefect, Macrinus, who (according to Herodian) was most probably responsible for having the emperor assassinated.

The coin at the start of this post is a silver denarius of Caracalla from Rome with Jupiter holding a thunderbolt on the reverse. It was struck during the last year of his reign.