Caracalla: The Son Of Septimius

Roman Emperor Caracalla


This article will focus on the Roman Emperor Caracalla who became Emperor in the first few years of the 3rd century AD. During a time when Roman power and influence over her Barbarian neighbors began to weaken. We will also discuss the baths of Caracalla since it is a building still standing named after Caracalla that travelers love to visit, as well as a little bit about the Roman emperor Caracalla’s denarius.

Early Life

At birth, Caracalla’s name was Lucius Septimius Bassianus. Roman historians writing almost 100 years after his life claim that he got his name Caracalla from a type of Gallic tunic he regularly wore. As a result, he ended up making the tunic fashionable among people in Rome. It should be noted that Caracalla was born in Lugdunum, modern-day Lyon, France, in the Roman province of Gallia Lugdenensis. While he was not the first Emperor born outside of the Italian Peninsula. He was the first emperor to be born in Lugdunum since Claudius.

At the age of just ten years old, Caracalla was made co-Emperor of Rome by his father, Septimius Severus. It was the first time since Marcus Aurelius and Commodus that a son succeeded his father to the Roman imperial throne. He was granted the title of caesar and from a young age acted as a junior emperor. In his youth, Caracalla was forced to marry a woman he resented. The reasons for his hatred of her are not clear. This woman would go on to become his empress.


During his co-reign with his father, his mother played a crucial role in being a private administrator helping run the Empire. She also had a vast knowledge of how to surround her family with the best minds in the Empire. This impressive and influential role in the early life of both Caracalla and his brother Geta cannot be neglected.

Roman Emperor Caracalla

After the death of Septimius Severus in 211 AD, while in Britannia, Caracalla and Geta became co-Emperors. The Empire was now in the hands of Julia Domna, the late Emperor’s wife, and Caracalla’s mother. Caracalla was unwilling to accept co-rule with his younger brother. The rivalry and amount of resentment between the brothers only became more bitter after the death of their father.

As an emperor, Caracalla was both young, ambitious, and ruthless. Numerous scholars and sources, both modern as well as ancient, have been quick to point out how brutal he was. In 211, he had his own younger brother Geta assassinated in cold blood. Caracalla was said to have killed many of Geta’s friends and anyone in league with him. After he murdered his brother, there were no threats to his rule.

Decision and Character

Caracalla as a man doesn’t appear to have been eccentric or unusual. Although most ancient sources quickly point out just how ruthless and tyrannical he was. There is a strong possibility that Caracalla was mentally ill. The Roman god he prayed to the most was the god of health. According to some sources, he would become bitter and have a terrible temper.

As an administrator, Caracalla was only average, though no more effective than any of the Severan dynasty Emperors. Due to the steady leadership that was present under his father’s rule, Caracalla inherited talented and intelligent Roman minds as administrators. After he cleared the house of all those loyal to his brother Geta, he embarked on several building projects, most notably the Baths Of Caracalla in Rome.


Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla were Rome’s second-largest baths. Historians seem to agree that it was built between 211CE and 212CE; some historians think even as late as 217CE.

The Baths of Caracalla remained in continuous use till the mid 530s, when they fell into disuse and eventually became the ruins we know today.

The baths continued to be used until the 5th century and were even referred to as “One of the seven wonders of Rome.”. It would later be used as a quarry to source stones for constructing various religious and non-religious sites.

Baths of Caracalla
Baths of Caracalla

Personal Life

Many scholars often quickly contrast Caracalla with the philosopher emperors who preceded him. He always seemed to want to emulate great past commanders when campaigning and even behaved like Alexander The Great did. Whether or not his portrayal by historians as one of the worst Roman Emperors and a cruel tyrant is justifiable or not, we’ll never honestly know.

Modern and Ancient scholars have said that as an Emperor, he was ruthless, uncompromising, stubborn, a dreamer, and a fool. Many have compared and contrasted his reign with his predecessors, including his father, Septimius Severus. Most of his predecessors, except Commodus, were all considered wise and righteous men. For this reason, perhaps it is easy to be critical of him and his many shortcomings, given his rule’s historical context.

Downfall and Death

By the last two years of his reign, Caracalla’s subjects, most of all Roman legionnaires, were growing impatient and tired of the emperor’s incompetence and cruelty. Foolishly, Caracalla decided to try and follow in the literal footsteps of his hero Alexander The Great and undertake the conquest of Parthian lands and beyond. He even tried to use the same routes that Alexander took. While in the Parthian territory, his men must have realized that this was a near-impossible feat to achieve even for the legions.

On the date of April 8, 217 CE, Caracalla was visiting a temple in Harran at a place where the Romans had suffered a defeat by the Parthians in 53 BC. While there, after pausing to urinate, a Roman soldier named Justin Martialis approached the emperor, drew his sword, and stabbed Caracalla to death. The Severan dynasty would last for only eighteen more years. But the reign of one of the most unpopular and tyrannical young emperors in Roman history was over.


Roman Denarius

Each coin has a unique history attached to it. Coin collectors love the Roman Denarius. Coin collectors worldwide adore it. We carry Roman Denarius from various periods in the Roman Republic/Empire. Click the link below to see if we have a Roman emperor Caracalla denarius currently in stock.

Roman Emperor Caracalla Denarius
Roman Denarius from the reign of Caracalla. The Roman Emperor Caracalla denarius displays the portrait of Caracalla.

Published by Invest in History Co.

We specialize in high-quality gold and silver coins. Focusing on Middle East, Eastern European, and Ancient coins. We carry Roman, Greek, Parthian, Phoenician, Celtic, Byzantine, Russian, Jewish, Islamic, and many other culture's coins.

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