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Emperor Caracalla Stabbed To Death By A Roman Soldier

Today on April 8, 217, Caracalla, one of Rome's cruelest emperors, finally met his treacherous fate.

Lucius Septimius Bassianus, commonly known as Caracalla, was the eldest son of emperor Septimius Severus. He was born in the Roman city of Lugdunum, Gaul (now present-day Lyon) in 188. When he was seven years old, his father had his name changed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus — an attempt to associate his son with the more prestigious Antonine dynasty. He earned the nickname Caracalla in reference to the Gallic-style cloak that he commonly wore. The nickname was used pejoratively and never as the emperor's official title.

Contemporary historians have described the young Caracalla as a generous and sensitive boy. But as time went on, he slowly evolved into the notoriously cruel man that we now remember. In 198, at the age of 10, he began ruling as co-emperor alongside his father. This political arrangement lasted for almost thirteen years until Septimius died in 211. He then jointly governed with his younger brother Geta. But their relationship was tumultuous from day one. The two brothers couldn't agree on any decisions and were always conspiring against one another. In fact, they almost split the empire in half before their mother finally intervened. One day Caracalla tricked his brother and mother into attending a meeting at the royal apartments to discuss reconciliation. Upon entering the room, Geta was ambushed and stabbed him to death by a group of centurions. Many of Geta's friends and associates were subsequently murdered as well.

As the new sole emperor, Caracalla proved to be a ruthless brute. His seven-year solo reign is considered to be one of the bloodiest periods in Roman history. Furthermore, his general mismanagement of the state contributed to the empire's further decay. Caracalla had a profound obsession with Alexander the Great and often fancied himself to be of equal stature. But in reality, this couldn't have been further from the truth. His reign was plagued by domestic instability with constant attacks and invasions from neighboring Germanic tribes. One of the emperor's only lasting legacies was the Baths of Caracalla — the largest and most luxurious bathing complex across the empire.

In 217, the emperor began preparing for a major campaign against the Parthian Empire. Caracalla amassed a large invasion army and began marching eastward. While visiting a temple near Carrhae (in present-day Turkey), he was suddenly stabbed by one of his own soldiers. The emperor was said to have been urinating at the side of the road at the time. His assassin supposedly became enraged after Caracalla refused to promote him to the position of centurion. The emperor's bodyguards immediately executed the soldier.


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