CARACALLA, the appellation by which Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, a Roman emperor, is generally known, though it was given to him as a mark of reproach, on account of his silly fondness for a Gaulish robe called by that name, which he himself usually wore, and which he distributed gratuitously among the soldiers and inhabi tants of Rome. This infamous person was the son of Severus and Julia Domna. He was born in A. D. 188 ; invested with the dignity of Cxsar in 197 ; proclaimed " Augustus" in 199 ; and in 202, when he was only 14 years of age, in consequence of a successful war against the Jews, in which he held the title of commander, he had a triumph decreed him by the senate, he put on the toga virilis, and was appointed colleague to his father in the consulship. In the following year he married, con trary to his inclination, the daughter of Plautianus, the prxtorian prefect, whose abuse of the power with which, as a favourite, he was intrusted, was ultimately the cause of his own death, and of the ruin of his whole family.
Severus died A. D. and was succeeded by Cam calla and his other son Geta, both of whom he had raised to the sovereign power during his lifetime, and whom he nominated in his last will as his joint successors on the imperial throne. The ambition of Caracalla had scarcely allowed him to wait for this event. He hated Geta, who also hated him in return. Indeed, this mutual antipathy had begun when they were children : it in creased as they grew up ; and gave much distress to Se verus, who adopted, but in vain, every method of pro moting between them, if not a complete reconciliation, at least a mutual forbearance. It was for the purpose of allaying the animosity which he could not remove, that lie took them along with him in his military expedition into Britain. But Caracalla, whose dark and savage mind was wholly unsusceptible of generous emotions, disappointed the expectations of his father, and, equally unmoved by the scenes of martial glory in which he act ed, and by the continual expressions of parental affec tion which he experienced, he thought of nothing but of raising himself to the supreme power, by the destruc tion both of Severus and Geta. Ile endeavoured to pre vail upon the army to acknowledge him as sole emperor. He attempted to murder his father. He then intrigued with the officers and soldiers to get him deposed. And failing in all these infamous measures, finally tried to hasten his death, by bribing the physician who attended him in his last illness.
No sooner had Severus expired, than Caracalla re newed his unjust and diabolical acts against Geta. But the army, from respect for the appointment of their late emperor, refused to enter into his views ; and two vio lent attempts to murder Geta, one of them made cloning their progress homeward, and the other during the Sa turnalian festival, proved unsuccessful. At length, how
ever, he accomplished his guilty purpose, under the mask of returning friendship. Having- persuaded Geta to meet with him in a private apartment on terms of peace, he introduced sonic centurions, who had been previously hired and tutored, and who assassinated Geta in the very arms of his mother; Caracalla himself stand ing by and instigating them to the bloody deed, or rather assisting in the perpetration of it, as appears front his afterwards consecrating, in the temple of Serapis at Alexandria, the very sword which he had used on that occasion.
The remainder of Caracalla's life was characterised by the same infamous duplicity and savage cruelty which bad thus enabled him to attain the sovereign power. Ile persuaded the army, by the most unfounded pretem es, that he had acted in self-defence; and compelled the se nate, by demonstrations of violence, if not to believe in his false statements, at least to approve of his conduct. And in order to satisfy the people, he, with a strange in consistency, permitted the memory of his brother to be so highly honoured, that by a decree of the senate, who were ready for every base compliance, he was enrolled among. the gods! Ills detestation of Geta, however, ap peared in a thousand ways. Not only was all the money bearing Geta's name melted down, and the inscriptions erased, but all his domestics and friends, some say to the number of 20,000, were inhumanly massacred, without regard to age, or rank, ur sex ; and the mere mention of his name, even on the stage, where it was familiarly applied to slaves, was punished as a capital crime. Ca racalla now wantoncd in barbarity, gratifying his malig nant passions without remorse, extorting money from the people without any regard to their circumstances, and squandering what he thus procured by rapine and oppression, on pursuits the must unworthy, and plea sures the most ignoble. There was in his whole beha viour such a contempt principle and reputation, such a uniform disregard of every quality and every action which cou id excite one feeling of genuine respect among his subjects, or lighten in the least degree those deep shades of guilt by which his general deportment was darkened, that we are at a Loss to determine whether he was more the victim of mental derangement, or the slave of innate depravity and profligate habits. if any thing he wanting to render his character completely odious and contemptible, it may be found in his affected zeal for chastity and religion, in the midst of the most shocking impiety, and of the grossest debaucheries.