(born April 4, AD188, Lugdunum [Lyon], Gaul—died April 8, 217, near Carrhae, Mesopotamia) Roman emperor (198–217). He was nicknamed Caracalla for a Gallic cloak he allegedly designed. Until 211 he ruled with his father, Septimius Severus, a North African who became emperor in 193. To assure his undisputed rule, Caracalla killed his brother Geta and many of his friends. He built colossal baths in Rome, which still stand. He gave Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the empire (212) but showed extreme cruelty toward all who opposed him, and he massacred Germans, Parthians, and Alexandrians. He was murdered by the praetorian prefect. He is regarded as one of Rome's most bloodthirsty tyrants, and his reign contributed to the empire's decay.
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"Caracalla was the common enemy of all mankind," wrote Edward Gibbon. He spent his reign traveling from province to province so that each could experience his "rapine and cruelty."
His father, who had taken the imperial throne in 193, died in 211 while touring the northern marches at Eboracum (York), and Caracalla was proclaimed co-emperor with his brother Publius Septimius Antoninius Geta. However since both of them wanted to be the sole ruler, tensions between the brothers were evident in the few months they ruled the empire together (they even considered dividing the empire in two, but were persuaded not to do so by their mother). In December 211, Caracalla had Geta, the family of his former father-in-law Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, his wife Fulvia Plautilla (also his paternal second cousin), and her brother assassinated. He persecuted Geta's supporters and ordered a damnatio memoriae by the Senate against his brother.
Caracalla defeated the Alamanni in a battle near the river Rhine, but failed to win a decisive victory over them. After a peace agreement was brokered, the senate conferred upon him the title "Germanicus Maximus". In the next year the emperor traveled to the East.
When the inhabitants of Alexandria heard Caracalla's claims that he had killed Geta in self-defense, they produced a satire mocking this claim, as well as Caracalla's other pretensions. Caracalla responded to this insult savagely in 215 by slaughtering the deputation of leading citizens who had unsuspectingly assembled before the city to greet his arrival, and then unleashed his troops for several days of looting and plunder in Alexandria. According to historian Cassius Dio, over 20,000 people were killed.
During his reign as emperor, Caracalla raised the annual pay of an average legionary to 675 denarii and lavished many benefits on the army which he both feared and admired, as instructed by his father Septimius Severus who had told him to always mind the soldiers and ignore everyone else.
Seeking to secure his own legacy, Caracalla also commissioned one of Rome's last major architectural achievements, the Baths of Caracalla, the largest public bath ever built in ancient Rome. The main room of the baths was larger than St. Peter's Basilica, and could easily accommodate over 2,000 Roman citizens at one time. The bath house opened in 216, complete with private rooms and outdoor tracks. Internally it was decorated with golden trim and mosaics.
Caracalla was succeeded by the Praetorian Prefect of the Guard, Macrinus, who almost certainly was part of the conspiracy against the emperor.
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