|Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.|
CARACALLA, Emperor, was the eldest son of Septimius Severus. His mother was Julia Domna. The surname of Caracalla, by which he is commonly denominated by historians, does not appear on any coins or other public monuments. It was in fact only a nickname (like that of Caligula given to Caius
Caesar (see p. 164), and derived from a kind of Gaulish vestment, which he, the spoiled child of his mother, had himself brought into fashion. He was born at Lugdunum, in Gaul (Lyon), whilst his father was governor of that province, in the year u. c. 941 (A. D. 188), on the 4th or 6th of April. At his birth the name of Basianus was given him, derived, according to Victor, from his maternal grandfather. The mildness of disposition and lively temperament, which he displayed in early youth, and which rendered him the favorite of his parents and of the people are mentioned by Spartian in terms of high commendation, and offer a striking contrast to the cruelty which disgraced his more advanced years, and rendered him scourge of the world. During the first years of his father's reign, he remained in the position of a private citizen. But when, in 949 (A. D. 196), that emperor left Mesopotamia to conduct operations against Albinus, he stopped on his way at Viminacium (in Upper Moesia, now Serbia and Bulgaria), and there creating Caracalla a Caesar, gave him the names of M. Aurelius Antoninus, in the place of that of Bassianus. He was in this yearm on coins styled CAESAR and PRINCEPS IVVENTVTIS. In the following year (A.D. 197) he was elected member of the pontifical college, and the title PONTIFEX begins on his coins. In the same year, Albinus being overthrown, he was styled DESTINATVS IMPERATOR. (See the words). - In 951 (A.D. 198), having completed his 10th yeas, he was declared AVGVSTVS by his father and the army; and had the Tribunitia Potestas conferred upon him.
952 (A.D. 199). Caracalla was this year with his father in the East. The following year he was present at the Parthian campaign with Severus.
The titles of PART. MAX. begin at this date to appear on his coins.
954 (A.D. 201). Returning with his father to Antioch, he assumed the toga virilis, and was nominated consul for the year ensuing. Accordingly in A.D. 202, he proceeded consul, in Syria, Severus himself being his colleague. He accompanied his father into Egypt, and thence returned with him to Rome, where he married Plautilla. - In the same year the title PIVS begins to appear on obverses.
956 (A.D. 203). - The titles of PART. MAX. now cease on his coins. For the occurrences of this and four consecutive years, including the celebration of the Secular Games, 957 (A.D. 204), see biographical notice and coinage of Severus.
691 (A.D. 208). Caracalla, after having this year celebrated his Decennales, set out with his father for the campaign in Britain, where he was also present during the two following years of the war's continuance.
964 (A. D. 211). - In the preceding year he began to be styled BRIT. on his coins. On the death of his father, which took place this year at York, on the 4th of February, Caracalla, after duly sole using the obsequies of Severus, hastened to conclude a peace with the Caledonians. At the same time, he endeavored to induce the army to acknowledge him as sole emperor, to the exclusion of Geta. Failing in that attempt, he feigned amity towards his brother. A pretended reconciliation took place; and Geta and he returned to Rome together with the ashes of their parent. Yet even on their journey homeward, Caracalla indulged in frequent designs on his brother's life, but refrained to put them into execution, partly through fear of the soldiers and partly through the watchful precautions of Geta, who was apprised of his own danger.
965 (A.D. 212). The two brothers entered the city together - together bestowed donatives on the troops, and distributed largesses to the people. But in the midst of negotiations commenced for peaceably dividing the empire between them, Caracalla murdered Geta in the very arms of their mother. The soldiers though at first exasperated by the atrocity of the act were at length appeased by extravagant bribes, and thus enriched with the wealth accumulated during the reign of Severus, they unscrupulously pronounced Geta a public enemy. To the senate he boldly justified his crime and fratricide, on the alleged plea that Geta had been engaged in plots against his life. He then put to death all those who known, or suspected, to have favored the cause of his brother, whose name was from that moment erased from the public monuments. (See a remarkable instance cited in p. 79). Many thousand persons are said to have fallen victims on this occasion to the cupidity and blood thirstiness of the imperial despot: among these were Papinius, prefect of the praetorian guard, and a distinguished lawyer; together with other men, as well as women, of rank.
966 (A. D. 213). Remorse at having committed these dreadful crimes pursued him everywhere; but abandoned to the torrent of his brutal passions, he never ceased to perpetrate cruelties and to inflict oppression. In the vain endeavor to banish the terrors of an evil conscience, he addicted himself still more eagerly than ever to amusements which, measured by the Roman standard of public morals, might under other circumstances have found excuse in the desire to gratify the dissolute and inhuman taste of corrupt people. Chariot racing, combats of gladiators, and hunting of wild animals, at once served to divert the enslaved multitude, and to satiate his own savage nature. On a large brass, the reverse legend of which ( P. M. TR. P. XVI. IMP. II. COS. IIII. P. P. S. C.) shows it to have been minted in this year - the type ( as will be seen by the subjoined cut from a well preserved and genuine specimen), exhibits a grand edifice, composed of arcades, temples walls, and portals, forming the outer enclosure; and a lofty obelisk, metae, and statues, constituting the interior objects of the Circus Maximus, at Rome, as it existed in the beginning of the third century.
On comparing this type
with that on the large brass coin of Trajan
, it is evidently intended to represent the same magnificent building erected by that great emperor; and to the repairs of, or additions to, which Caracalla probably contributed some portion of those immense sums, he was in the habit of grinding out of the citizens in the shape of taxes, or of seizing as military plunder from the whole world besides. - See CIRCUS MAXIMUS
The title of FELIX now begins to appear on coins of Caracalla, and BRITannicus ceases, being succeeded by that of GERManicus, which he had adopted on account of pretend victories over the Germans. This year, or perhaps at the close of the year preceding, he went into Gaul, and after cruelly despoiling that province, he returned to Rome.
In 967 (A. D. 214), he entered on an expedition against the Alamanni, over whom he gained a victory on the banks of the maenus (river Mayne, in Germany). In this expedition it is stated, he made himself an object of ridicule even to barbarians. Declared Imperator III. he preceded into Dacia; thence into Thrace, and crossing the Hellespont, wintered at Nicomedia.
968 (A.D. 215). After gladiatorial shows, on his birthday, the 4th of April, ar Nicomedia, he went to Pisidian Antioch, with the intention of invading the Parthians, on some far fetched cause of quarrel. But they being seized with panic, and instantly complying with the demands of Caracalla, he proceeded to Alexandria, where he revenged himself for some railleries, by slaughtering twenty thousand of the inhabitants.
969 (A.D. 216). - Returning from Egypt to Antioch, Caracalla (who, four years before, had caused his wife Plautilla to be put to death), was "the meek and modest suitor" to ask in marriage the daughter of Artabanus, king of the Parthians. This request being refused, he crossed the Euphrates, invaded Media, took Arbela, and, after ravaging the whole region with fire and sword, returned to winter quarters in Edessa. Having inveigled Abagarus, king of the Osrhaeni, into conference, he loaded him with chains, and took possession of his kingdom..
970 (A. D. 217). - This year Caracalla prepared for war against the Parthians, who made their appearance with a large force, to avenge the aggression of the year preceding. On his way in Mesopotamia from Edessa to Carrhae, where he intended to have visited the celebrated temple dedicated to the Syrian god Lunus, he was assassinated by a soldier of his own bodyguard, named Martialis, at this instigation of Macrinus, the praetorian prefect on the 8th of April, in the 29th year of his age, during the celebration of Megalensian games.
As, in boyhood he displayed so much moderation, affability, and averseness to even the most just severity, all, who had known him at that period of life, were lost in astonishment at the monstrous cruelties of Caracalla's riper years. Spartian is of opinion that his previous character was but the result of an artful dissimulation, or a desire of resembling Alexander the Great, of whose defects, rather than merits, both of mind and body, he showed himself servile imitator. Even during his father's life time, he was unable wholly to conceal the natural ferocity of his disposition; and to rid himself of the sense of restraint and fear which the old emperor's authority imposed, he made frequent attempts, during the campaign in Britain, by instigating plots and tumults, to put an end to the life of Severus. And when at length all apprehension of parental punishment was removed, he showed at once his determination to kill his brother, which, as we have seen under the events of the year 965 (A. D. 212), he carried out with a cruelty that extended itself to every member of the unfortunate Geta's family. If to this we add the horrors of his massacre at Alexandria, perpetrated on the slightest possible provocation, we perceive clearly, that there were no relations, however sacred and religious, which he was not capable of violating by bloodshed. Finding the contents of the treasury insufficient to meet the demands of his cupidity, on account of this extravagant expenditure in public spectacles, and because it was matter of necessity to enrich his soldiers both in order to reconcile them to the murder of Geta, and to retain their services as a defense against attempts on his own person, - he attacked with impunity the properties of the citizens, openly asserting, that the wealth of the world belonged to him alone, as the dispenser of it to his faithful soldiers; and it is said, that, when his mother remonstrated with him on the costliness and frequency of his donatives, adding, that shortly no means, fair or foul, of raising money would be left to him - his reply was, " Be of good courage, mother; for so long as we retain this (pointing to his sword), money will always be forthcoming." He exhibited so many instances of perfidy in the presence of the whole world, that at last no one believed him, even on his oath, and he became an object of hatred and contempt to foreign nations, as well as to his own. After death, his body was burned, and bones brought to Rome, and deposited in the tomb of the Antonines. - See Eckhel, vii. 199, et seq.
MINTAGES OF CARACALLA
On his coins Caracalla is styled M. AVRELIUS ANTONINVS, or M. AVR. ANTON. CAES. - IMP. M. AVR. ANTONIN. - IMP. C. or CAES. ANTONINUS - M. AVR. ANTONINUS PIVS AVG. - ANTONINVS PIVS AVG. BRITanicus. - ANTININVS PIVS FELIX AVG. - ANTONINVS PIVS AVG. GERManicus. - DIVVS ANTONINUS MAGNVS. - On the reverses occur P. or PARThicus - MAX. or MAXIMVS - also RECTOR ORBIS.
The medallions and gold coins of this emperor are of considerable rarity; so are the small brass; but the denarii, together with large and middle brass, are for the most part common.
- His first brass, however even with common reverses, when in very fine preservation, bring high pieces. From the commencement of his reign the silver is found to be nor pure but mixed with brass. His brass coinage of cities and colonies is abundant. That portion ot the roman mintages which give to Caracalla the name of "Great" are very rear, the epithet being found only on his consecrations - for, notwithstanding " his atrocious career of folly and barbarity (as Captain Smyth observes), this execrable ' Man of Blood' received the honors of deification, by command of the soldiers."
After Caracalla, another, and if possible still greater disgrace to the name of the emperor, Elagabalus, profaned (by his own assumption of it) the title of M. AVRELIUS ANTONINUS. There is in consequence sometimes a difficulty to distinguish the coins of those to princes. It may not, therefore, be unacceptable, especially to the tyro, if the following rules are here cited for ascertaining the point, as concisely given by the learned and accurate author of Lecons Elementaires de Numismatique Romaine: -
1st. The head without crown, and the title of Caesar alone, can belong only to Caracalla, since Elagabalus was at once created Augustus.
2nd. The dignity of Pontifex (without the epithet of MAX.) with which Caracalla was invested during the life time of his father, cannot be appropriated to Elagabalus, who was always Pontifex Maximus.
3rd. A very infantile head, or one strongly bearded; and the titles PART. MAX. BRIT. GERM. suit only only with Caracalla. The same remark applies to the epithet AVGG. in the legends of certain reverses; seeing that he reigned simultaneously during several years either with his father, or with his brother; whilst we know Elagabalus never had any colleague.
4th and lastly. Caracalla, in his 5th tribunate, (the epoch when he perished), was consul for the first time. Therefore every record of the tribunitian power marked by a number exceeding V. can apply only to the son of Severus, etc.
There is also a star, or small radiated sun, on many of the coins, especially the silver ones, of Elagabalus, which are not to be met with on those of Caracalla.
The following are among the rarest and most remarkable reverses: -
GOLD AND SILVER MEDALLIONS.- TR. P. XVIII. COS. IIII. The moon (or Diana) in a car drawn by two bulls. (gold, valued by Mionnet at 400 fr.) - VENVS VICTRIX, holding a victriola and hasta, (gold valued by Mionnet at 400 fr.) - Young beardless head of Caracalla laureated, with reverse of VICTORIA AVGVSTA. (Silver, valued at 200 fr.)
GOLD of common size. - ADVENTVS. Three figures on horseback. - FELICITAS SAECVLI. Severus seated between his two sons. (Valued by Mionnet at 200 fr.) - LAETITIA TEMPORVM. Galley, cars, and animals. - PLAVTILLAE AVGVSTAE. Head of the empress. - TR. P. XIII. COS. IIII. Several figures sacrificing. - TR. P. XVII. COS. IIII. The circus, with chariots. - P. SEPT. GETA CAES. etc. Bare head of Geta. - Obverse. Bust of Caracalla. (a very fine specimen of this rare type, in a high state of preservation, brought £11 at Pembroke sale). - AVGVSTI COS. Severus and Caracalla seated on an estrade, and two figures standing. - CONCORDIAE AETERNAE. Heads of Severus and Julia Domna. - CONCORDIA FELIX. Severus and Plautilla joining hands. - COS. LVDOS. SAECVL. FEC. The four Seasons. - P. M. TR. P. XVIII. etc. Esculapius in a temple; two figures sacrificing at an altar. (Brought £16 16s. at the Thomas sale). - VICTORIAE BRIT. Victory seated on bucklers, with palm and shield. (A very fine specimen brought £16 at Thomas sale).
SILVER. - Head of Plautilla, as in gold. - AETERNIT. IMPERI. Heads of severus and Caracalla. - ARCVS AVGG. Arch of Severus. (See engraving, p. 78). - CONCORDIAE. Heads of Severus and Julia. - DIVO. ANTONINO MAGNO. Consecration medal. - IMP. ET CAESAR. Three figures seated. - LIBERALITAS. Two emperors seated, two figures standing. - Heads of Caracalla and Geta.
BRASS MEDALLIONS. - CONCORDIAE AVG. Caracalla and Geta, each crowned by Victory. (Valued by Mionnet at 200 fr.) - IMP. II. COS. IIII. Emperor in a quadriga. - TR. P. XVI. IMP. II. COS. IIII. Grand circus, in which are an obelisk and chariot races. - SEVERI. AVG. PH. PIL. Sacrificial instruments. (Valued by Mionet at 250 fr.)-TRAIECTVS. Emperor and soldiers crossing a river on a bridge of boats.
FIRST BRASS. -DIVO. ANTONINO MAGNO. Bare head. - Rev. CONSECRATIO. Funeral pile. - COS. LVD. SAEC. FEC. A sacrifice: six figures. - PONTIF. Caracalla and Geta, with three soldiers. - SAECVLARIA SACRA. Several figures sacrificing. - VIRTVS AVGG. The emperor standing near a trophy. - AEQVITATI PVBLICAE. The three Monetae. - Pontiff. etc. Severus and Caracalla. - COS. III.