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AD 198 - 217
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
Caracalla was born at Lugdunum, now Lyons, in AD 188 to Septimius Severus and Julia Domna. His original name was Bassianus, but was given the names Marcus Aurelius Antoninus in AD 196 when he was created Caesar at Viminacium. The surname Caracalla was only a nickname, and was not used on any of his coins or monuments. It came about after the name of a long Gaulish tunic which he had adopted as his favourite dress, and which he made fashionable.
As a youth, he displayed a mild character and was well liked by all. He was elevated to Augustus in 198 at the age of 10. He accompanied his father on military expeditions, including Mesopotamia, Gaul, Parthia, Egypt and Britain.
In 208 they set out to Britain, in a campaign during which his father died at York in 211. Caracalla made a hasty peace with the Caledonians, before returning to Rome with his younger brother Geta. While still in Britain, he had attempted to persuade the army to accept him as sole emperor, to the exclusion of his brother, and continued to plot against him on the return journey, despite having feigned a reconciliation. In 212, the two brothers entered Rome, where in the middle of negotiations about the division of power, Caracalla murdered Geta in his their mother's arms. He managed to placate the soldiers with generous bribes, to become sole emperor, and put to death all those who he suspected had favoured his brother, men and women both, numbering many thousands.

From Bad to Worse
From this point, his behaviour deteriorated (!), and he threw himself into excesses of amusements, games, spectacles and extravagant buildings including some very famous baths, and the continuing dispensation of large amounts of cash to his soldiers to retain his power.
In AD 201 he had married, receiving a large dowry, the beautiful Plautilla. Shortly after, he persuaded his father to banish her to the Lipari Isles, in about 205. On his accession, she was murdered along with their daughter, on Caracalla's orders.
In 215, he slaughtered 20,000 citizens of Alexandria, on little more than a whim. He then asked the King of Parthia, Artabanus, for his daughter in marriage. Possibly because of the fate of Plautilla, or because of a dowry demand, Artabanus refused, Caracalla invaded Media and devastated the entire region, before returning to winter quarters. He then invited Artabanus to a conference at which he took him captive, along with possession of his kingdom. The next year, on his way to another campaign against the Parthians, Caracalla was assassinated by Martialis, a member of his own bodyguard, on the instigation of Macrinus.
The sweeteners or donatives which Caracalla was obliged to give his troops in order to sustain his power were very costly. In order to pay them, he had to raise taxes and other income from citizens, asserting that all the wealth of the world belonged to him by right. It is said that his mother remonstrated with him about the size, frequency and cost of the payments, and Caracalla pointed to his sword saying "as long as we have this, money will always be forthcoming."
Caracalla became an object of universal hatred and contempt. His word, even under oath, was disbelieved by all, and with good reason. His removal would have had great popular support.

Caracalla introduced a new coin denomination, the antoninianus, which was named after him.

Roman Emperors Portrait Gallery
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