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DOMITIANUS (Flavius), the younger of the two sons of Vespasian, by Flavia Domitilla, was born at Rome, the 24th of October, in the year U. C. 804 (A.D. 51), when his father was consul designatus, and about entering upon office in the following month. This was the first consulate of Vespasian, still a private citizen; and it was a consulatus suffectus, held during the two last months of the above named year. Vespasian, having been proclaimed imperator by the legions of the east, Domitian, who was left at Rome, finding himself exposed to the vengeance of the partizans of Vitellius, took refuge in the capitol, with his uncle Sabinus, at the end of December. And, after that building had been besieged and set fire to, eventually made his escape, disguised as a priest of Isis, his hiding-place being sought for in every other direction. (Suctonius, chap. i. Tacitus Hist. iv.)—Vitellius having been put to death, about the 20th of December, 822 (A.D. 69), Domitian issued from his retreat, and was hailed as Caesar by the army. The choice of the soldiers wsa confirmed by the Senate, who, in addition, decreed to Domitian the pretorship of the city, and the consular dignity. In January, 823 (A.D. 70), he entered upon the government of the city, and discharged its functions in an unprincipled manner, distributing capriciously the public offices; insomuch as to cause the absent Vespasian to express his surprise, that his son did not send out some one to supersede himself. He set out with Muchianus against the Galli, Batavi, and Germani, who were in revolt; but, hearing by the way that success had attended the operations of Petilius Cerealis, he stopped at Lugdunum (Lyon). Same year, he married Domitia Longina, whom he took away by force from her husband AEmilianus.
824 (A. D. 71).—This year, consul suffectus, and afterwards consul designatus for the second time, he assisted at the triumph of his father and brother, for the capture of Jerusalem—an object of notice on that occasion from being mounted on a white horse.
825 (A.D. 72).—During this and the six following years, no particulars of Domitian's life are furnished by public records. But coins had begun to be abundant.—"It is very probable (observes Eckhel) that suspicions being entertained of his revolutionary designs, he now assumed a modesty and simplicity of demeanour, and affected especially a passion for literature, in order to conceal the real bent of his mind." Volagases I, King of Parthia, in 828 (A.D. 75), requesting succours from Vespasian against the Alani, and another general from among his sons, Domitian used every effort to procure the appointment for himself. But Vespasian refused the required aid altogether.
832 (A.D. 79).—His father dying on the 9th kalens of July, his elder brother Titus succeeded to the empire. Domitian complained, that tho'left a share in the sovereignty, the will of his father had been tampered with. His brother endeavoured to console him with the assurance, that he should be not only the sharer of the empire, but should also be his successor.
833 (A.D. 80).—He unceasingly, both in secret and openly, engaged in plots against his brother, attempting to seduce the army, and medated flight. Titus, all the while, bearing those annoyances with patience; and sometimes with tears entreating his brother to return to terms of affection.
834 (A.D. 81).—This year Domitian was proclaimed emperor, on the death of Titus his brother.
835 (A.D. 82).—Domitian signalised his accession to the throne by the introduction of salutary laws. He restored the Capitol magnificently. A son was born to him, respecting whom see DOMITIA.
836 (A.D. 83).—Agricola defeated the Caledonians. Under that able, brave, and active commander, it was then for the first time ascertained that Britain is entirely surrounded by water. Domitian undertook this year an expedition against the Catti (people of Hesse).
837 (A.D. 84).—The war with the Catti was put an end to by Domitian without coming to blows with the enemy. The title of Germanicus appeared for the first time on coins of this year. By the valour of Agricola, Britain was for a time reduced to a state of peaceful subjection.
838 (A.D. 85).—Foreign wars, relative to which there is no certain information; and at home atrocious acts of cruelty on the part of Domitian.
839 (A.D. 86).—The first Capitoline games were celebrated this year, intended, like the Olympic, to recur every fifth year. The Dacian war commenced, being set on foot by Decebalus, king of that nation, and was carried on for many years with varied success, but with great discredit to the Roman arms.
841 (A.D. 88).—Celebration of the Secular Games.—To this year (though the matter is in great uncertainty), Tillemont refers the revolt of L. Antonius, governor of Upper Germany, who made an attempt to invade the empire.—Domitian went out to repel his advance, but returned on learning that Antonius had been defeated and slain by L. Maximus.
842-843 (A.D. 89 and 90).—There are no certain records of the events of these two years.
844 (A.D. 91).—Eusebius refers the triumph over the Dacians to this year, as recorded also by Suetonius, but without a date.
846 (A.D. 93).—It is probable that the war with the Sarmatae by Domitian was undertaken this year, when a whole legion, with its general, was destroyed, as Suetonius states.
848 (A.D. 95).—Domitian ordered Flavius Clemens, his cousin-german, and the then consul, to be put to death for his attachment to the Christian religion, or as it ws then termed, the superstition of the Jews, and this occasion is treated of by ecclesiastical writers as the second persecution of the Church.
849 (A.D. 96).—On the 18th of September, at the instigation of his wife, whom with other friends he, in his insupportable tyranny, had doomed to be slaughtered, Domitian was assassinated by his freedman Stephanus, in the 45th year of his age, after a reign of 15 years and six days.
The character of this most execrable prince is thus ably summed up and commented upon by the pen of Eckhel (vi. 391-2):—
There could not have appeare anything premature in th death of a ruler, who, for so long a space in the life-time of man, displayed the greatest cruelty towards all worthy men; appropriated the property of the citizens, as if it had been his own; and who detested as crimes the virtues and noble deeds of the illustrious, punishing them as such with death and exile. His inhuman disposition is thus severeley touched on by Tacitus (in vitá Agricolae, ch. 2), whilst speaking of this reign of oppression and impeity: "We have, indeed, afforded a notable example of patience; and, as the olden times witnessed the ne plus ultra of liberty, so have we that of servitude, when the very intercourse of speaking and listening has been taken from us by an inquisitorial superintendence. We should have lost our memory too with our voices, had it been equally within the power of our volition to forget, as to be silent." And this cruelty of disposition was the less endurable from its being cojoined with incredible arrogance and vanity. The same individual, who, on entering upon a campaign, would suddenly retrace his steps without even seeing his enemy, and who was satisfied with such a triumph over the Dacians, that he was not ashamed to pay them a yearly tribute—could, nevertheless, erect so many arches, surmounted by quadrigae, and other triumphal insignia (as even coins testify), that they were equalled by no preceding emperor. According to Suetonius, he called the months of September and October after his own names of Germanicus and Domitianus, because in the one he had succeeded to the empire, and in the other was born (ch. 13). He built a temple in honour of the gens Flavia (his own family), and at length styling himself Dominus and Deus, desired those titles to be applied to him by others; and though they never appear on his coins, they are still to be found on the works of pottery, given by Passeri, not to mention the flatteries of contemporary writers, especially the poets. An this Lord and God was wont and devote an hour in each day to the catching and transfixing of flies! Nothing was ever more absurd than the funereal banquet which he set before the most dignified personages of Rome, and which Dion has so minutely described (lxvii. SS 9).—No wonder, then, that the Senate should have shewn their satisfaction at his death, by ordering ladders to be immediately brought, and his shields and busts to be pulled down and scattered on the ground, his titles erased, and every memorial of his existence banished from their sight. (Suet. ch. 23). This, indeed, is the chief reason why Procopius asserts, that in his time but one statue of this emperor remained; though there is reason to suspect some egregious falsehood to be mixed up with his account.—The army, however, were much incensed at the murder of Domitian, and instantly endeavoured to procure him the title of Divus, demanding that the perpetrators of the crime should be given up to punishment. (Suet. ch. 23). The motive for this display of affection on their parts, was his having increased their pay one fourth; the result of which inconsiderate liberality was, that the treasury being inadequate to meet the additional expense, he was compelled to reduce the numbers of the army; and the provinces, thus deprived of their necessary garrisons, became more open to the incursions of barbarian tribes.
Domitian died without any progeny surviving him. By his wife he had one son, who died at nine years of age.—See DOMITIA.
MINTAGES OF DOMITIAN
"The medals of this emperor (as Capt. Smyth observes), are abundant and cheap, and are prized according to their preservation, and the degree of interest attached to their reverses.—Many of them were struck in the life-time of his father."—With the exception of medallions in gold, silver, and brass, and some reverses, in each metal, of the usual size, all are common. On these he is styled IMPerator CAESAR DOMITIANVS GERManicus AVGusti Filius (viz. the son of Vespasian) Pater Patriae. On a silver coin, struck A.D. 69, when Vespasian was reigning, and Titus and Domitian were both only Caesars, we see the respective bare heads of the two brothers facing each other, as in token of that fraternal concord which the latter never sincerely manifested a desire to maintain.—Other denarii, for a like purpose, exhibit them both seated on a curule chair, holding olive branches, and with the legend TITVS ET DOMITianus CAESares PRINcipes IVVENtutis. (Morell, Impp. Roman. TAB. vii. figs. 17 & 18).
Among the rarest reverses are the following:
GOLD MEDALLIONS.—Obv.—IMP. CAES. DOMIT. AVG. GER. P. M. TR. P. VII. Laurelled bust of the emperor, with amulet (Medusa's head) on the throat.—Rev.—IMP. XIIII. COS. XIIII. CENS. PP. P. Minerva standing on a ship's prow, holding a spear in the right hand, and a buckler on the left arm; at her feet is an owl. On the prow E. A.—There is nothing rare in the reverse of this medallion, its type being similar to that of the commonest denarius of Domitian.
See cut at the head of the foregoing biographical notice, engraved after a cast from the original in the Cabinet de France.
SILVER MEDALLIONS.—CAPIT. RESTIT. Jupiter Capitolinus, seated in a temple, between two standing figures. See an engraving of the coin in p. 170 of this dictionary.—PRINCIP. IVVENTVT. Emperor on horseback.