Titus Flaviu Domitianus

Titus Flaviu Domitianus

Roman Emperor (reigned 81–96), youngest son of Emperor Vespasian
Country: Italy

  1. Biography of Titus Flavius Domitian
  2. Early Life and Rise to Power
  3. Foreign Policy and Military Campaigns
  4. Domitian's Rule and Policies

Biography of Titus Flavius Domitian

Titus Flavius Domitian, also known as Domitian, was a Roman emperor who ruled from 81 to 96. He was the youngest son of Emperor Vespasian. Domitian's full name was Titus Flavius Domitianus.

Early Life and Rise to Power

During the uprising against Emperor Vitellius in 69, Domitian, then a relatively unknown youth, was living in Rome. After Vitellius was killed, Domitian was hailed as Caesar and held full authority until his father arrived. However, his father and his brother, Titus, who succeeded their father, only granted him honorary titles and kept him away from governance due to their distrust of his ambitious and power-hungry nature.

In 81, Domitian inherited the throne after Titus' death. During his reign, he significantly strengthened the tendencies towards absolutism that were already present during Vespasian's rule. Domitian manipulated the composition of the Senate by instructing the censors to include outstanding members of the equestrian order and prominent provincial representatives. He then became censor perpetuus, or lifelong censor, gaining full control over the Senate. Domitian only sought advice from his personal aides, who formed the consilium principis (council of the prince). He treated the Senate with contempt, often appearing before them in the attire of a triumphator, wearing a laurel wreath, carrying a scepter, and accompanied by 24 lictors (previous emperors had only 12). Despite the aristocratic and court circles' hatred towards Domitian, he skillfully governed the state, appointing competent governors and punishing the corrupt. Taxes were strict but fair, and the activities of procurators (financial agents) and freedmen, who often held positions as officials and secretaries in the administrative apparatus, were strictly monitored.

Foreign Policy and Military Campaigns

Domitian's foreign policy aimed at defending and consolidating existing borders. His campaign in 83 BCE against the powerful Germanic tribe, the Chatti, is often underestimated due to the bias against Domitian in subsequent traditions. In reality, it was a successful attempt to fortify the Main-Danube frontier by capturing the Taunus mountain range. Domitian also conducted major campaigns along the lower Danube. In 86, Oppius Sabinus, the governor of the province of Moesia, died in battle against the Dacian king Decebalus, resulting in the enemy obtaining a legionary eagle, a sacred symbol of the Roman legion. In the following year, the Romans achieved a significant victory at Tapae, and in 89, Domitian concluded a peace treaty with Decebalus on mutually acceptable terms. Upon his return to Rome, he celebrated a triumph. In 92, Domitian personally led a successful campaign against the Sarmatians. Another significant military campaign during Domitian's reign was Agricola's expedition to northern Britain. However, in 84, this general was recalled, possibly due to the emperor's jealousy.

Domitian's Rule and Policies

Domitian enforced strict moral standards, allowing pantomimes to be performed only in private homes and banning the castration of boys. In 83, he executed three Vestal Virgins for breaking their vow of chastity, and in 90, the senior Vestal Virgin, Cornelia, was buried alive.

Domitian's rule can be divided into two periods. Until 88, his rule was strict but moderate. However, in early 89, a revolt led by Lucius Antonius Saturninus, the governor of Upper Germany, erupted against the emperor. After suppressing the rebellion, Domitian implemented a harsh policy, and during the last three years of his reign, from 93 to 96, Rome was engulfed in terror. The horrors of accusations against those plotting against the emperor resurfaced, and trials for state crimes were revived. The confiscated assets of those executed were added to the treasury, which might have been partly driven by financial difficulties. Domitian increased the legionnaires' pay from 300 to 400 denarii per year, conducted costly military campaigns, and initiated the construction of significant structures, including the Capitolium Temple of Jupiter, the Temple of Jupiter Custos on the Quirinal Hill, and his magnificent Alban Villa near Rome. These expenses, along with monetary distributions to the population reaching 225 denarii per person, put a strain on the treasury. Revenge and mistrust were equally important motives for Domitian. As he had no children, his suspicions were heightened. Each failed assassination attempt was met with more executions, fueling discontent and new conspiracies. In the end, Domitia, the emperor's wife, fearing for her own safety, conspired with two praetorian prefects, leading to Domitian's demise.