Europe 213: Caracalla’s Germanic War

Political map of Europe & the Mediterranean on 24 Sep 213 (The Severan Dynasty: Caracalla’s Germanic War), showing the following events: Principate of Caracalla; Sasanian Kingdom; Assassination of Geta; Constitutio Antoniniana; Annexation of Osroene; Parthian Civil War of 213–224; Caracalla’s Germanic War.

Technically Caracalla succeeded his father with his brother Geta as co-emperor (211), but Caracalla was always more dominant and that December he had Geta murdered. Caracalla then extended Roman citizenship to all free men in the Empire, allowing him to raise more taxes to pay for the massive bonuses he was granting the legions. Responding to a request for aid from the Alemanni, Caracalla traveled to Germania in 213, where he occupied and massacred the Alemanni and fought their neighbors, the Cenni. Although this temporarily stabilized the northern frontier, Roman cruelty would not be forgotten.

Main Events

4 Feb 211–8 Apr 217 Principate of Caracalla

Antoninus—commonly known as ‘Caracalla’ after a Gallic hooded tunic he made fashionable—succeeded his father Septimius Severus in February 211, murdering his brother and co-emperor Geta to become sole Roman Emperor later that year. Caracalla’s cruelty, especially his massacres against the people of his own empire, would make him infamous, although his generosity to the legions kept him popular among the troops. Leaving his mother Julia Domna in charge of the details of Empire, he spent most of his reign at the frontier, where he was assassinated at the behest of his successor, Praetorian Guard prefect Macrinus, in April wikipedia

211? Sasanian Kingdom

By 211/212 Ardashir had succeeded his father Pabag and defeated his brother Shapur to become undisputed King of Persis. Openly breaking with Parthian authority, he rallied forces from the region to quickly defeat and capture King Balash of neighboring wikipedia

26 Dec 211 Assassination of Geta

Caracalla’s relationship with his younger brother and co-emperor Geta was openly hostile even before their father’s death. Just after the Saturnalia, in December 211, Caracalla tricked their mother Julia Domna into bringing them both together for a private reconciliation, whereupon centurions, acting on Caracalla’s orders, cut down Geta in his mother’s arms. After this murder, Caracalla ordered the killing of all Geta’s friends, associates, and supporters, in Rome and across the wikipedia

11 Jul 212 Constitutio Antoniniana

In 212 the Roman emperor Caracalla issued the Constitutio Antoniniana, or Edict of Caracalla, declaring that all free men in the Roman Empire were to be given full Roman citizenship and that all free women were to be given the same rights as Roman women. Prior to this, few outside of Italy held Roman citizenship, as it had to be inherited or earned. According to Cassius Dio, Caracalla made this move to increase tax revenue—Roman citizens had to pay more taxes than non-citizens—so that he could cover the vast amounts of money that he was lavishing on the wikipedia

213 Annexation of Osroene

In 211 Abgar IX assumed the throne of Osroene, which by this time consisted of little more than the city of Edessa. Caracalla—probably while he was still in Rome in 212/213—cordially invited Agbar to visit him, but had the new king arrested and imprisoned on arrival. Following this, the emperor annexed Osroene to the Roman province of wikipedia

? ?? 213?–28 Apr 224 Parthian Civil War of 213–224

In c.213 Artabanus IV rose up against his elder brother Shah Vologases IV of Parthia, eventually gaining control in Ecbatana by 216. With Adiabene and Elymais siding with Artabanus, Vologases seems to have been reduced to a small realm around Seleucia at this point. The civil war was complicated by the intervening Romans and the rebellious Sasanian Persians—the latter of whom defeated and killed Artabanus at Hormozdgan in wikipedia

11 Aug–8 Oct 213 Caracalla’s Germanic War

While Caracalla was in Gaul in 213, the Alemanni—a Germanic confederation not mentioned in sources before—requested support from the Romans. Caracalla responded by occupying Alemannic territory in the Main River basin and massacring their men of military age. Having thus forcibly secured the grudging allegiance of the Alemanni, Caracalla fought against the neighboring Cenni (the Chatti) but, narrowly escaping with his life, was compelled to pay them and their allies in the Elbe tribute in return for wikipedia