lunedì 6 aprile 2015

Domitian, Twelfth of the Twelve Caesars

Domitian, Aureus

Titus Flavius Domitianus was born in 51 AD, the second son of the emperor Vespasian and Flavia Domitilla.  He was overshadowed by his elder brother, Titus, whose military exploits garnered public attention and accolade.  He remained in Rome during his father's battles with Vitellius for the throne.  The troupes of the general, Primus, acclaimed Domitian Caesar at Vitellius' demise.  Domitian was the one to welcome his victorious father to Rome.

 Vespasian sought to form a dynasty to rule the empire, and his choice for his successor was Titus, and Titus was given opportunities for military conquests and glory to bolster his public image.  Domitian was kept in the background and denied the stellar glory given his brother.  He was, however given offices, titles and a modicum of authority.  This situation continued during the reign of Titus, during which time it was publicly known that Domitian was Titus' designated heir.
Aureus, celebrating German conquests.

At the point of his elevation to the throne when Titus died, Domitian had a great pent up need for glory.  He was determined to achieve the glory of conquest his predecessors basked in.  In 83 he occupied the Agri Decumates in Germany, suppressed the Chatti and pushed Rome's frontiers to the Lahn and Main rivers.  From these conquests of the Germans, he adopted the title of Germanicus, and afterward wore the uniform of a victorious general.  This raised both his self image and the public's perception of him.  From 85-88 Domitian's troops battled the Dacian king, Decebalus.  After winning victory, Domitian held games in Rome and held a Triumph.
Sestertius, addressing the troops

Domitian was a very capable administrator and manager.  He reorganized record keeping and had a personal hand in military appointments.  He made record keeping systematic, giving accountability for actions, and instituted penalties for infractions against regulations.

During his reign, Domitian proved to be a prodigious builder.  He built a huge stadium in which to hold the Capitoline Games.  He had a new palace constructed on the Palatine Hill for himself.  He built the arch of Titus and restored the Temple of Jupiter.

Sestertius, Iovi Victori
Of special interest to Domitian was the maintaining of the control of Judea imposed by his father and brother.  Taxes levied upon the Jews were severe, and special attention was paid to putting those to death that claimed descent from the lineage of King David.  Any claim of authority other than that of the emperor was not allowed perpetuation.  One of the main issues causing Jewish persecution was the refusal to worship the divinity of the emperor.  This was considered treasonous.
Sestertius, high style, Cens Perp

As time passed, Domitian sought greater and more complete power.  In 85 he assumed the title of Perpetual Censor, and began to demonstrate that his power was absolute.  He persecuted senators who did not side with his edicts, and reinstated internal spying and trials for treason.  The more he pushed for control, the greater the opposition to his authority became.  Eventually, plots against his life began to form, and finally one including his wife, Domitia Longina took shape.  An ex-slave named Stephanus was enlisted to carry out the act.  During the conflict, both Domitian and his assassin were killed.  A lawyer, Nerva, who shared a consulship with Domitian was named emperor the same day of the assassination.  Nerva likely played a part in the conspiracy to overthrow Domitian, but solid evidence is lacking.

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