Mark Karakalla

Mark Karakalla

Roman emperor from the Severan dynasty, who reigned from 211 to 217.
Country: Italy

Biography of Mark Caracalla

Mark Caracalla was a Roman emperor from the Severan dynasty who reigned from 211 to 217 AD. In his childhood, Julius Bassianus, later known as Antoninus and Caracalla, had a gentle character. He was intelligent, friendly with his parents, and kind to his friends, which made him beloved by all. He showed great aptitude in his studies and was generous with gifts. However, his demeanor changed as he grew older, becoming more reserved and serious. He admired Alexander the Great and often praised Tiberius and Sulla. He held himself in high regard and looked down upon his brother Geta for his simplicity.

In 196 AD, his father proclaimed him Caesar and gave him the name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, considering him the greatest of all emperors. According to Herodian, both sons of Septimius Severus had luxurious and extravagant lifestyles, a passion for spectacles, and a love for horse racing and dancing. They often quarreled, driven by their own egos and influenced by flatterers and servants who stoked their rivalry. Septimius Severus tried to reconcile and discipline his sons, but his efforts were in vain.

To familiarize his sons with power, Septimius Severus took them on military campaigns to Parthia and Britain. Antoninus was married to the daughter of the prefect of the praetorian guard, hoping that marriage would mature him. However, he treated his young wife with contempt, refusing to share a bed or meals with her, and often threatening to kill her to become the sole ruler. It is said that he did not hide his ambition to seize the throne by any means necessary.

In Britain, when Septimius Severus fell gravely ill, Antoninus began ingratiating himself with the soldiers while slandering and plotting against his brother. He found his sick father burdensome and implored his doctors and attendants to harm him during treatment. When Septimius finally died in 211 AD, Antoninus ordered the execution of all who did not follow his instructions, including his father's physicians and tutors, who pleaded for harmony. He then bribed military leaders to support his claim to sole power and plotted against his brother.

However, both brothers commanded the same respect and loyalty from their soldiers. Antoninus made a pact with the Britons, promising them peace and taking hostages as a sign of loyalty. He then rushed to his brother and stepmother, where Julia Domna and other high-ranking officials tried to reconcile them. Antoninus, reluctantly and under pressure, agreed to a show of friendship, but their rivalry continued openly, and they constantly schemed against each other.

After their father's funeral, they began openly fighting and plotting each other's downfall. Each wanted to be rid of the other and gain complete power. Their supporters were divided, with many favoring Geta for his modesty and congeniality, while others feared Antoninus for his cruelty and volatility. Eventually, the brothers agreed to divide the empire, with Geta ruling the eastern part from Antioch or Alexandria, and Antoninus ruling the western part from Rome. However, their mother, Julia Domna, convinced them to abandon this plan to avoid civil war, but unknowingly condemned her own son to death.

On February 26, 212 AD, Antoninus ambushed and killed Geta in their mother's bedroom. He then fled the palace, ordering the praetorian guards to escort him to their camp for protection. The soldiers, unaware of what happened inside, believed him and followed him. Antoninus sought refuge in the temple where military standards and statues were worshipped, offering sacrifices for his safety. When the soldiers heard about this, they rallied around him. Antoninus addressed them, vaguely describing what had occurred, but blamed his brother and portrayed himself as the survivor against all odds. He promised generous rewards and increased pay to secure their loyalty.

In a single day, all the wealth accumulated by Septimius Severus over eighteen years was recklessly squandered to appease the soldiers. Antoninus became the sole emperor, and Geta was declared an enemy. He continued to kill all those associated with Geta and eliminated anyone who could be a threat to his power. He executed members of the imperial family, senators, and prominent citizens, sparing no one, regardless of age or innocence. Even Vestal Virgins were buried alive for allegedly violating their vows.

Antoninus earned his nickname "Caracalla" from the Gallic cloak he wore, which reached down to his feet. He distributed these cloaks to the people and became known as the "caracallae." He married his stepmother, Julia Domna, whom he had desired for a long time. Rumor has it that she seduced him by casually revealing her body, and Antoninus, consumed by his unbridled passion, married her in defiance of all laws and morals.

After these events, in the spring of 213 AD, he traveled to Gaul, where he immediately killed the proconsul of Narbonensis. He instilled fear and hatred among the Gallic population, ruling with tyranny. He committed many injustices and fell seriously ill. He showed extreme cruelty to those who cared for him during his illness. He then traveled to Dacia, engaging in hunting and other physical activities. He formed close bonds with the Germanic tribes and even dressed and behaved like them.

Arriving in Asia, he spent some time in Antioch and then arrived in Alexandria. The Alexandrians welcomed Antoninus with great enthusiasm, unaware of the secret hatred he harbored towards their city. Antoninus had received reports of their mockery towards him. Seeking retribution, he ordered the most promising young men to assemble outside the city under the pretense of a military parade. He surrounded them with his troops and systematically exterminated them. The massacre was so brutal that blood flowed like rivers across the plains, staining the delta of the Nile and the coastal areas near the city. Having dealt with the city in this manner, he returned to Rome, leaving behind a trail of destruction.