From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Emperor of the Roman Empire|
|Bust of Domitian, Capitoline Museum, Rome|
|Reign||14 September, 81 AD –|
18 September, 96 AD
|Full name||Titus Flavius Domitianus|
|Born||24 October 51(51-10-24)|
|Died||18 September 96 (aged 44)|
|Wife/wives||Domitia Longina (70–96)|
|Issue||One son, died young|
Titus Flavius Domitianus (24 October 51 – 18 September 96), commonly known as Domitian, was a Roman Emperor who reigned from 14 October 81 until his death on 18 September 96. Domitian was the last emperor of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 69 and 96, encompassing the reigns of Domitian's father Vespasian (69–79), his elder brother Titus (79–81), and finally Domitian's own.
Domitian spent much of his youth and early career in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during campaigns in Germania and Judaea in the 60s. This situation continued under the rule of Vespasian, who became emperor on 21 December 69, following a year of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors. While his elder brother shared almost equal powers in the government of his father, Domitian was left with honours but no responsibilities. Vespasian died on 23 June 79 and was succeeded by Titus, whose brief reign came to an unexpected end on 13 September 81. The following day, Domitian was declared emperor by the Praetorian Guard, and began a reign which lasted more than fifteen years—longer than any man who had governed Rome since Tiberius.
Traditional views hold that Domitian was a cruel and paranoid tyrant. Among ancient authors, he ranks among the most reviled rulers in Roman history, earning comparison to such emperors as Caligula and Nero. Many of these views however, were propagated by hostile contemporary authors such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius, a small but highly vocal minority who exaggerated Domitian's harshness, in favour of the highly regarded Five Good Emperors who followed. Modern history has rejected these views, instead characterizing Domitian as a ruthless but efficient autocrat, whose cultural, economic and political programme was a precursor to the peaceful 2nd century, rather than the twilight of the tumultuous 1st century.
 Early life
 Family and education
Domitian was born in Rome on 24 October 51, as the youngest son of Titus Flavius Vespasianus—commonly known as Vespasian—and Flavia Domitilla Maior. He had one older sister, Domitilla the Younger (b. 39), and one older brother, also named Titus Flavius Vespasianus (b. 39), but commonly referred to as Titus.
Decades of civil war during the 1st century BC had contributed greatly to the demise of the old artistocracy of Rome, which was gradually replaced in prominence by a new Italian nobility during the early part of the 1st century AD. One such family was the gens Flavia, which rose from relative obscurity to prominence in just four generations, acquiring wealth and status under the emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Domitian's great-grandfather, Titus Flavius Petro, had served as a centurion under Pompey during Caesar's civil war. His military career ended in disgrace when he fled the battlefield at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC. Nevertheless, Petro managed to improve his status by marrying the extremely wealthy Tertulla, whose fortune guaranteed the upwards mobility of Petro's son Titus Flavius Sabinus I, Domitian's grandfather. Sabinus himself amassed further wealth and possible equestrian status through his services as tax collector in Asia and banker in Helvetia. By marrying Vespasia Pollio he allied himself to the more prestigious patrician gens Vespasia, ensuring the elevation of his sons Titus Flavius Sabinus II and Vespasian to the senatorial rank.
The political career of Vespasian included the offices of quaestor, aedile and praetor, and culminated with a consulship in 51, the year Domitian was born. As a military commander, he gained early renown by participating in the Roman invasion of Britain in 43. Nevertheless, ancient sources allege poverty for the Flavian family at the time of Domitian's upbringing, even claiming Vespasian had fallen into disrepute under the emperors Caligula (37–41) and Nero (54–68). Modern history however, suggests these stories were merely part of a propaganda campaign, later instigated under Flavian rule, to diminish early successes under the less reputable emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and maximize achievements under Claudius (41–54) and his son Britannicus. By all appearances, imperial favour for the Flavians was high throughout the 40s and 60s. While Titus received a court education in the company of Britannicus, Vespasian pursued a successful political and military career. Following a prolonged period of retirement during the 50s, he returned to public office in 63 under Nero, serving as proconsul of the Africa province, and accompanying the emperor during an official tour of Greece in 66. When a revolt broke out among the Jews of the Judaea province the same year, the emperor appointed Vespasian to lead the Roman army in the war against the insurgents. In this campaign he was joined by Titus, who had completed his military education by this time and personally commanded one of Vespasian's three legions.
For Domitian, this meant that a significant part of his adolescence was spent in the absence of his near relatives. His mother and sister had long died by 66, and his father and brother were continuously active in the Roman military, commanding armies in Germania and Judaea. During the Jewish-Roman wars, Domitian was likely taken under the care of his uncle Titus Flavius Sabinus II, then city prefect of Rome; possibly even Marcus Cocceius Nerva, a loyal friend of the Flavians and the future successor to Domitian. He received the education of a young man of the privileged senatorial class, studying rhetoric and literature. In his biography in the Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Suetonius attests to Domitian's ability to quote the important poets and writers such as Homer or Virgil on appropriate occasions, and describes him as a learned and educated adolescent, with elegant conversation. Among his first published works were poetry, as well as writings on law and administration. Unlike his brother Titus however, Domitian was not educated at court, nor does it appear he received a formal military training.
 Year of the Four Emperors
On June 9, 68, amidst growing opposition of the Senate and the army, Nero committed suicide, and with him the Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an end. Chaos ensued, leading to a year of brutal civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors, during which the four most influential generals in the Roman Empire—Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian—successively vied for the imperial power. News of Nero's death reached Vespasian as he was preparing to besiege the city of Jerusalem. Almost simultaneously, the Senate had declared Galba, then governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, as emperor of Rome. Rather than continue his campaign, Vespasian decided to await further orders and sent Titus to greet the new princeps. Before reaching Italy however, Titus learnt that Galba had been murdered and replaced by Otho, the governor of Lusitania. At the same time Vitellius and his armies in Germania had risen in revolt, and prepared to march on Rome, intent on overthrowing Otho. Not wanting to risk being taken hostage by one side or the other, Titus abandoned the journey to Rome and rejoined his father in Judaea.
Otho and Vitellius were only too aware of the threat posed by the Flavian faction. With four legions at his disposal, Vespasian commanded a strength of nearly 80,000 soldiers. His position in Judaea further granted him the advantage of being nearest to the vital province of Egypt, which controlled the grain supply to Rome. His brother Titus Flavius Sabinus II, as city prefect, commanded the entire city garrison of Rome. Tensions among the Flavian troops were high, but so long as Galba and Otho remained in power, Vespasian refused to take action. When Otho was defeated by Vitellius at the First Battle of Bedriacum however, the armies in Judaea and Ægyptus took matters into their own hands and declared Vespasian emperor on July 1, 69. Vespasian accepted, and through negotiations by Titus joined forces with Gaius Licinius Mucianus, governor of Syria. A strong force drawn from the Judean and Syrian legions marched on Rome under the command of Mucianus, while Vespasian himself travelled to Alexandria, leaving Titus in charge to end the Jewish rebellion.
In Rome meanwhile, Domitian was placed under house arrest by Vitellius, as a safeguard against future Flavian aggression. Support for the old emperor was quickly wavering however, as more legions throughout the empire pledged their allegiance to Vespasian. On October 24, both sides clashed at the Second Battle of Bedriacum, which ended in a crushing defeat for the armies of Vitellius. In despair, he attempted to negotiate a surrender. Terms of peace, including a voluntary abdication, were agreed upon with Titus Flavius Sabinus II, but the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard—the imperial bodyguard—considered such a resignation disgraceful, and prevented Vitellius from carrying out the treaty. On the morning of December 18, the emperor appeared to deposit the imperial insignia at the Temple of Concord, but at the last minute retraced his steps to the imperial palace. In the confusion, the leading men of the state gathered at Sabinus' house, proclaiming Vespasian emperor, but the multitude dispersed when Vitellian cohorts clashed with the armed escort of Sabinus, who was forced to retreat to the Capitoline Hill. During the night, he was joined by his relatives, including Domitian. The armies of Mucianus were nearing Rome, but the besieged Flavian party could not hold out for longer than a day. On December 19, Vitellianists broke down the doors of the Arx, and in the resulting skirmish, Sabinus was captured and executed. Domitian himself managed to escape by disguising himself as a worshipper of Isis, and spent the night in safety with one of his father's clients. By the afternoon of December 20, Vitellius was dead, and his armies defeated by the Flavian legions. With nothing more to be feared from the enemy, Domitian came forward to meet the invading forces; he was universally saluted by the title of Caesar, and the mass of troops conducted him to his father's house. The following day, December 21, the Senate proclaimed Vespasian emperor of the Roman Empire.
 Reign of Vespasian and Titus
 Aftermath of the war
Although the war had officially ended, a state of anarchy and lawlessness pervaded in the first days following the demise of Vitellius. Order was properly restored by Mucianus in early 70, but Vespasian did not return until September of that year. In the mean time Domitian acted as the representative of the Flavian family in the Roman Senate. In addition to receiving the title of Caesar, he was appointed praetor with consular power. Domitian's authority was merely nominal however, foreshadowing what was to be his role for at least ten more years. By all accounts, Mucianus held the real power in Vespasian's absence, and he was careful to ensure that Domitian, still only 18 years old, did not overstep the boundaries of his function. Tacitus describes Domitian's first speech in the Senate as brief and measured, at the same time noting his ability to elude awkward questions. Strict control was also maintained over the young Caesar's entourage, promoting away influential generals such as Arrius Varus, Praetorian prefect, and Antonius Primus, who had led the Flavian forces at Bedriacum, and replacing them by more reliable men such as Arrecinus Clemens.
Equally curtailed by Mucianus were Domitian's military ambitions. The civil war of 69 had severely destabilized peace within the provinces, leading to several local rebellions which continued throughout 70. In Gaul, Batavian auxiliaries of the Rhine legions, led by Gaius Julius Civilis, had revolted and been joined by a faction of Treveri under command of Julius Classicus. Seven legions were sent from Rome, led by Vespasian's brother-in-law Quintus Petillius Cerialis. Although the revolt was quickly suppressed, exaggerated reports of disaster prompted Mucianus to depart the capital with reinforcements of his own. Domitian eagerly sought the opportunity to attain military glory, and joined the other officers with the intention of commanding a legion of his own. According to Tacitus, Mucianus was not keen on this prospect, but he considered Domitian a liability in whatever capacity entrusted to, and therefore preferred to keep him close at hand instead of at Rome. When news arrived of Cerialis' victory over Civilis, Mucianus tactfully dissuaded Domitian from pursuing further military endeavours. Domitian then wrote to Cerialis personally, suggesting to hand over command of his army, but once again, he was snubbed. With the return of Vespasian in late September finally, his political role was rendered all but obsolete. Domitian withdrew from government and devoted his time to arts and literature.
Where his political and military career had ended in disappointment, Domitian's private affairs were more prosperous in 70. Vespasian attempted to arrange a dynastic marriage between his youngest son and the daughter of Titus, Julia Flavia, but Domitian was adamant of his love for Domitia Longina, going so far as to persuade her husband, Lucius Aelius Lamia, to divorce her so that Domitian could marry her himself. Despite its initial recklesness, the alliance was very prestigious for both families. Domitia Longina was the younger daughter of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, a respected general and honoured politician. Following the failed Pisonian conspiracy against Nero in 65, he had been forced to commit suicide. The new marriage not only re-established ties to senatorial opposition, but also served the broader Flavian propaganda of the time, which sought to diminish Vespasian's political success under Nero. Instead connections to Claudius and Britannicus were emphasised, and Nero's victims, or those otherwise disadvantaged by him, rehabilitated.
The marriage appears to have been happy, despite allegations by Roman sources of adultery and divorce. The couple had only one child, an unnamed son, born in 73, who died sometime around 81. It is believed that, because of this, Domitian exiled his wife on grounds of infertility in 83, but soon recalled her, either out of love or amidst allegations he carried on an affair with his niece Julia Flavia. It is not known whether Domitian ever had other children, but he did not marry another woman during his lifetime.
 Ceremonial heir
In June 71, Titus returned triumphant from the war in Judaea. Eventually, the rebellion had claimed the lives of over 1 million people, a majority of which were Jewish. The city and temple of Jerusalem were completely destroyed, its most valuable treasures carried off by the Roman army, and nearly 100,000 people were captured and enslaved. For his victory, the Senate awarded Titus a Roman triumph. On the day of the festivities, the Flavian family rode into the capital, preceded by a lavish parade carrying the spoils of the war. The family procession was headed by Vespasian and Titus, while Domitian, riding a magnificent white horse, followed with the remaining Flavian relatives. Leaders of the Jewish resistance were executed in the Forum Romanum, after which the procession closed with religious sacrifices at the Temple of Jupiter. To further memorialize the successful end of the war, a triumphal arch—the Arch of Titus—was erected at the south-east entrance to the Forum.
Yet, the return of Titus further highlighted the comparative insignificance of Domitian, both military and political. As the eldest and most experienced of Vespasian's sons, Titus shared tribunician power with his father, received seven consulships, the censorship, and was given command over the imperial bodyguard, the Praetorian guard; powers which left no doubt he was the designated heir to the Empire. As a second son, Domitian held honorary titles, such as Caesar or Princeps Iuventutis, and several priesthoods, including those of augur, pontifex, frater arvalis, magister frater arvalium, and sacerdos collegiorum omnium, but no office with imperium. He held only one ordinary consulship during Vespasian's reign, in 73, and five suffect consulships, in 71, 75, 76, 77 and 79 respectively, usually replacing his father or brother on the 13th of January. While merely ceremonial, these offices no doubt gained Domitian valuable experience in the Roman Senate, and may have contributed to his later reservations about its relevance. Under Vespasian and Titus, non-Flavians were virtually excluded from the important public offices. Mucianus himself all but disappeared from historical records during this time, and it is believed he died sometime between 75 and 77. Real power was unmistakenly concentrated into the hands of the Flavian faction; the Senate remained merely a facade of democracy.
Because Titus effectively acted as co-emperor to his father, no abrupt change in Flavian policy took place when Vespasian died on June 23, 79. Titus assured Domitian that full partnership in the government would soon be his, but neither tribunician power nor imperium of any kind was conferred upon him during his brief reign. Understandibly, the new emperor was not hardpressed to alter this arrangement anytime soon: he would have expected to rule for at least another 20 or 30 years, and more urgent attention was required to the multitude of disasters which struck throughout 79 and 80. On August 24, 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the surrounding cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum under metres of ash and lava; the following year, a fire broke out in Rome, lasting three days, which destroyed a number of important public buildings. Consequently, Titus spent much of his reign coördinating relief efforts and restoring damaged property. On September 13, 81 however, after barely two years in office, he unexpectedly died of fever during a trip to the Sabine territories.
A number of ancient authors have implicated Domitian in the death of his brother, either by directly accusing him of murder, or implying he left the ailing Titus for dead, further alleging that even during his lifetime, Titus was openly plotted against by his brother. The factual veracity of these statements, especially given the bias of the surviving sources, is difficult to assess. Yet brotherly affection was likely at a minimum, and not surprisingly, since they had hardly known each other. But whatever the nature of their relationship, Domitian seems to have displayed little concern when Titus lay dying, instead making for the Praetorian camp where he was proclaimed emperor.
The classic view of Domitian as Emperor is usually negative since most of the antique sources are related to the Senatorial aristocratic class, and, as emperor, Domitian tended to have a strong independent action, often against the Senate.
During its administration, the economy first came to a halt and then went into recession, forcing him to devalue the denarius (silver currency). To further compensate for the economic situation, taxes were raised and discontent soon followed. Due to his love of the arts and to woo the population, Domitian invested large sums in the reconstruction and embellishment of the city, still suffering the effects of the great fire of Rome of 64, the civil war of 69, and the fires that plagued Rome the year following the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius during Titus' reign. Around fifty new buildings were erected and restored, including the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill and a palace in the Palatine Hill.
Domitian's greatest passions were the arts and the games. He implemented the Capitoline Games in 86. Like the Olympic Games, they were to be held every four years and included athletic displays, chariot races, but also oratory, music and acting competitions. The Emperor himself supported the travels of competitors from the whole empire and attributed the prizes. He was also very fond of gladiator shows and added important innovations like female and dwarf gladiator fights.
 Military campaigns
Major military contribution of Domitian was the development of the Limes (in particular the Limes Germanicus) to defend the empire. During his Empire wars had usually a defensive nature. Domitian was accused not to be a gifted military commander, due to his education in Rome away from the legions and to limit the Roman military enterprises for this reason. He claimed several Roman triumphs, namely over the Chatti and in Britain, but they were only propaganda manoeuvres, since these wars were still being fought. Nevertheless, several campaigns were fought during his reign, especially in the Danube frontier against Decebalus, king of Dacians. Domitian also founded Legio I Minervia in 82, to fight against Chatti.
According to many historians, Jews and Christians were heavily persecuted toward the end of Domitian's reign. The Book of Revelation is thought by many scholars to have been written during Domitian's reign as a reaction to persecution. Other historians, however, have maintained that there was little or no persecution of Christians during Domitian's time. There is no historical consensus on the matter. The emperor is known, however, to have developed a paranoid fear of persecution that led him to kill or execute several members of the senatorial and equestrian orders. At least twenty political and ideological opponents were executed, including his cousin, the Consul Flavius Clemens. Domitian disliked aristocrats and had no fear of showing it, withdrawing every decision-making power from the Senate. He signed documents dominus et deus ("Lord and God") , and required people to address him similarly. Coins of the period represent him enthroned as "father of the gods".
 Death and succession
Domitian was murdered in September 96, in a palace conspiracy organized by court officials and high ranking members of the Praetorian Guard. The emperor believed that, according to an astrological prediction, he would die around noon. Therefore, he was always restless during this time of the day. On his last day, Domitian was feeling disturbed and asked a servant boy several times what time it was. The boy, included in the plot, lied, saying that it was much later. More at ease, the emperor went to his desk to sign some decrees, where he was stabbed eight times by Stephanus.
Domitian was succeeded by Nerva (by appointment of the senate). The custom of damnatio memoriae was issued on Domitian, ordering his obliteration from all public records. Domitian is the only known emperor to have officially received a damnatio memoriae, though others may have received de facto ones. Many of the images that survive of Domitian's successor, Nerva, were actually once Domitian but converted to Nerva after the damnatio was issued. Nearly all surviving images of Domitian were found in the provinces.
 Ancient sources
Juvenal, Tacitus and Suetonius authored information about the reign of Domitian after it ended. This would have been impolitic.
- Tacitus, a historian, spoke from personal knowledge when he wrote his Histories on the arc of the Flavian dynasty. Unfortunately, this work is lost.
- Juvenal, an author of Roman satire, depicted Domitian and his court as corrupt, violent, and unjust.
- Suetonius, author of the Lives of the Twelve Caesars, the most extensive ancient account of the life of the emperor extant.
- Statius wrote four poems that contained information about Domitian's life.
- Martial's work contains references and epigrams to Domitian.
 Domitian in later arts
- Chief character in The Roman Actor by Philip Massinger
- An important character in Donna Gillespie's novel The Light Bearer
- ^ Jones (1992), p. 196–198
- ^ a b Jones (1992), p. 1
- ^ Jones (1992), p. 3
- ^ a b Jones (1992), p. 2
- ^ Jones (1992), p. 8
- ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Dom. 1
- ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Vesp. 4
- ^ Jones (1992), p. 7
- ^ Jones (1992), p. 9–11
- ^ a b c Jones (1992), p. 13
- ^ Josephus, The War of the Jews III.4.2
- ^ Murison, p. 149
- ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Dom. 9
- ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Dom. 12.3
- ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Dom. 20
- ^ a b Jones (1992), p. 16
- ^ Tacitus, Histories II.1
- ^ Tacitus, Histories II.2
- ^ Tacitus, Histories III.64
- ^ Tacitus, Histories II.41–49
- ^ Josephus, The Wars of the Jews IV.10.4
- ^ Tacitus, Histories II.5
- ^ Josephus, The Wars of the Jews IV.11.1
- ^ Tacitus, Histories II.82
- ^ Tacitus, Histories III.59
- ^ Tacitus, Histories III.34
- ^ Tacitus, Histories III.65
- ^ Tacitus, Histories III.66
- ^ Tacitus, Histories III.69
- ^ Tacitus, Histories III.74
- ^ a b Jones (1992), p. 14
- ^ Tacitus, Histories III.86
- ^ Tacitus, Histories IV.3
- ^ a b c Jones (1992), p. 15
- ^ Tacitus, Histories IV.40
- ^ Tacitus, Histories IV.68
- ^ Tacitus, Histories IV.85
- ^ a b Tacitus, Histories IV.86
- ^ a b Jones (1992), p. 33
- ^ Jones (1992), p. 34
- ^ Jones (1992), p.35
- ^ Jones (1992), p. 36
- ^ Jones (1992), p. 39
- ^ a b Josephus, The Wars of the Jews VI.9.3
- ^ a b Josephus, The Wars of the Jews VII.5.5
- ^ a b Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Dom. 2
- ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Titus 6
- ^ Jones (1992), p. 18
- ^ a b Jones (1992), p. 19
- ^ Crook, John A. (1951). "Titus and Berenice". The American Journal of Philology 72 (2): p166. Retrieved on 2007-07-30.
- ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVI.17
- ^ a b Jones (1992), p. 20
- ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVI.22
- ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Titus 8
- ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Titus 10
- ^ Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana 6.32
- ^ a b Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVI.26
- ^ Smallwood, E.M. Classical Philology 51, 1956.
- ^ a b c Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 805-809. ISBN 0-385-24767-2.
- ^ Irenaeus, Against Heresies, c.170 C.E.
- ^ Merrill, E.T. Essays in Early Christian History (London:Macmillan, 1924).
- ^ Willborn, L.L. Biblical Research 29 (1984).
- ^ Thompson, L.L. The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire (New York: Oxford, 1990).
- ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Dom. 8.15
- ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Dom. 23
- Jones, Brian W. (1992). The Emperor Domitian. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-10195-6.
- Murison, Charles Leslie (2003). "M. Cocceius Nerva and the Flavians" (subscription required). Transactions of the American Philological Association 133 (1): pp. 147–157.
 Further reading
- Gsell, Stéphane (1894). Essai sur le règne de l'empereur Domitien (HTML, PDF), Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome (in French), Paris: E. Thorin.
- Southern, Pat (1997). Domitian: Tragic Tyrant. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-16525-3.
 External links
 Primary sources
- Suetonius, The lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Domitian, Latin text with English translation
- Cassius Dio, Roman History Book 67, English translation
- Tacitus, Agricola, English translation
 Secondary material
- Donahue, John (1997-10-10). Titus Flavius Domitianus (A.D. 81-96). De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families. Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
Pax Romana emperors
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