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Herodian's Roman History


Marcus Aurelius. Equestrian statue on the Capitol, Rome. Photo Marco Prins.
Herodian (late second, first half third century): Greek historian, author of a History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius (table of contents) in which he describes the reign of Commodus (180-192), the Year of the Five Emperors (193), the age of the Severan dynasty (211-235), and the Year of the Six Emperors (238).

The translation was made by Edward C. Echols (Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire, 1961 Berkeley and Los Angeles) and was put online for the first time by Roger Pearse (Tertullian.Org). The version offered on these pages is hyperlinked and contains notes by Jona Lendering.
Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
Bust of Geta. Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Geta (Louvre)

4.6: Executions of adherents of Geta

[211/212] Geta's friends and associates were immediately butchered, together with those who lived in his half of the imperial palace. All his attendants were put to death too; not a single one was spared because of his age, not even the infants. Their bodies, after first being dragged about and subjected to every form of indignity, were placed in carts and taken out of the city; there they were piled up and burned or simply thrown in the ditch.

No one who had the slightest acquaintance with Geta was spared: athletes, charioteers, and singers and dancers of every type were killed. Everything that Geta kept around him to delight eye and ear was destroyed. Senators distinguished because of ancestry or wealth were put to death as friends of Geta upon the slightest unsupported charge of an unidentified accuser.[1]

He killed Commodus' sister [Cornificia], then an old woman, who as the daughter of Marcus had been treated with honor by all the emperors. Caracalla offered as his reason for murdering her the fact that she had wept with his mother over the death of Geta. His wife [Plautilla], the daughter of Plautianus, who was then in Sicily;[2] his first cousin Severus; the son of Pertinax; the son of Lucilla, Commodus' sister [Pompeianus]; in fact, anyone who belonged to the imperial family and any senator of distinguished ancestry, all were cut down to the last one. 


Wooden tondo, showing Julia Domna, Septimius Severus, Geta (erazed) and Caracalla. Berlin (Germany). Photo Jona Lendering.
The Severus family. Geta's portrait was destroyed after he had been killed by his brother (Altes Museum, Berlin)

Then, sending his assassins to the provinces, he put to death the governors and procurators friendly to Geta. Each night saw the murder of men in every walk of life. He burned Vestal Virgins alive because they were unchaste. Finally, the emperor did something that had never been done before; while he was watching a chariot race, the crowd insulted the charioteer he favored. Believing this to be a personal attack, Caracalla ordered the Praetorian Guard to attack the crowd and lead off and kill those shouting insults at his driver.

The praetorians, given authority to use force and to rob, but no longer able to identify those who had shouted so recklessly (it was impossible to find them in so large a mob, since no one admitted his guilt), took out those they managed to catch and either killed them or, after taking whatever they had as ransom, spared their lives, but reluctantly.



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Note 1:
Among those killed were the two praetorian prefects, Papinianus (the lawyer) and Patruinus.

Note 2:
The Aeolioan Isles, to be precise.
Online 2007
Revision: 2 July 2007
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