The Emperor Domitian

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In 86 he founded the Capitoline Games , a quadrennial contest comprising athletic displays , chariot racing , and competitions for oratory , music and acting. Domitian himself supported the travel of competitors from all corners of the Empire to Rome and distributed the prizes. Innovations were also introduced into the regular gladiatorial games such as naval contests, nighttime battles, and female and dwarf gladiator fights.

Lastly, he added two new factions to the chariot races, Gold and Purple, to race against the existing White, Red, Green and Blue factions. The military campaigns undertaken during Domitian's reign were generally defensive in nature, as the Emperor rejected the idea of expansionist warfare. The conquest of Britain continued under the command of Gnaeus Julius Agricola , who expanded the Roman Empire as far as Caledonia , or modern day Scotland. Domitian also founded a new legion in 82, the Legio I Minervia , to fight against the Chatti.

As judged by the carved titles of Caesar, Augustus and Germanicus, the related march took place between 84 and 96 AD. Domitian's administration of the Roman army was characterized by the same fastidious involvement he exhibited in other branches of the government. His competence as a military strategist was criticized by his contemporaries however.

Tacitus derided Domitian's victory against the Chatti as a "mock triumph", and criticized his decision to retreat in Britain following the conquests of Agricola. Nevertheless, Domitian appears to have been very popular among the soldiers, spending an estimated three years of his reign among the army on campaigns—more than any emperor since Augustus—and raising their pay by one-third. Once Emperor, Domitian immediately sought to attain his long delayed military glory. As early as 82, or possibly 83, he went to Gaul, ostensibly to conduct a census , and suddenly ordered an attack on the Chatti.

Although little information survives of the battles fought, enough early victories were apparently achieved for Domitian to be back in Rome by the end of 83, where he celebrated an elaborate triumph and conferred upon himself the title of Germanicus.


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One of the most detailed reports of military activity under the Flavian dynasty was written by Tacitus, whose biography of his father-in-law Gnaeus Julius Agricola largely concerns the conquest of Britain between 77 and In 82 Agricola crossed an unidentified body of water and defeated peoples unknown to the Romans until then. This conquest never happened, but some historians believe that the crossing referred to was in fact a small-scale exploratory or punitive expedition to Ireland.

Turning his attention from Ireland, the following year Agricola raised a fleet and pushed beyond the Forth into Caledonia. To aid the advance, a large legionary fortress was constructed at Inchtuthil. In 85, Agricola was recalled to Rome by Domitian, having served for more than six years as governor, longer than normal for consular legates during the Flavian era. He was offered the governorship of the province of Africa but declined it, either due to ill health or, as Tacitus claims, the machinations of Domitian.

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Reinforcements were needed, and in 87 or 88, Domitian ordered a large-scale strategic withdrawal of troops in the British province. The most significant threat the Roman Empire faced during the reign of Domitian arose from the northern provinces of Illyricum, where the Suebi, the Sarmatians and the Dacians continuously harassed Roman settlements along the Danube river. Of these, the Sarmatians and the Dacians posed the most formidable threat. In approximately 84 or 85 the Dacians, led by King Decebalus , crossed the Danube into the province of Moesia , wreaking havoc and killing the Moesian governor Oppius Sabinus.

Domitian quickly launched a counteroffensive , personally travelling to the region accompanied by a large force commanded by his praetorian prefect Cornelius Fuscus. Fuscus successfully drove the Dacians back across the border in mid, prompting Domitian to return to Rome and celebrate his second triumph. The victory proved short-lived, however: as early in 86 Fuscus embarked on an ill-fated expedition into Dacia. Fuscus was killed, and the battle standard of the Praetorian Guard was lost. Domitian returned to Moesia in August He divided the province into Lower Moesia and Upper Moesia, and transferred three additional legions to the Danube.

In 87, the Romans invaded Dacia once more, this time under the command of Tettius Julianus , and finally defeated Decebalus in late 88 at the same site where Fuscus had previously perished.


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  6. In order to avert having to conduct a war on two fronts, Domitian agreed to terms of peace with Decebalus, negotiating free access of Roman troops through the Dacian region while granting Decebalus an annual subsidy of 8 million sesterces. Domitian probably wanted a new war against the Dacians, and reinforced Upper Moesia with two more cavalry units brought from Syria and with at least five cohorts brought from Pannonia.

    Trajan continued Domitian's policy and added two more units to the auxiliary forces of Upper Moesia, and then he used the build up of troops for his Dacian wars. Again, the Roman army sustained heavy losses, but Trajan succeeded in capturing Sarmizegetusa and, importantly, annexed the Dacian gold and silver mines.

    Domitian firmly believed in the traditional Roman religion , and personally saw to it that ancient customs and morals were observed throughout his reign. In order to justify the divine nature of the Flavian rule, Domitian emphasized connections with the chief deity Jupiter , [67] perhaps most significantly through the impressive restoration of the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill.

    A small chapel dedicated to Jupiter Conservator was also constructed near the house where Domitian had fled to safety on 20 December Later in his reign, he replaced it with a more expansive building, dedicated to Jupiter Custos. The goddess he worshipped the most zealously, however, was Minerva. Not only did he keep a personal shrine dedicated to her in his bedroom, she regularly appeared on his coinage—in four different attested reverse types—and he founded a legion, Legio I Minervia, in her name.

    Domitian also revived the practice of the imperial cult , which had fallen somewhat out of use under Vespasian. Significantly, his first act as an Emperor was the deification of his brother Titus.

    The Emperor Domitian

    Upon their deaths, his infant son, and niece, Julia Flavia, were likewise enrolled among the gods. With regards to the emperor himself as a religious figure, both Suetonius and Cassius Dio allege that Domitian officially gave himself the title of Dominus et Deus "Lord and God". To foster the worship of the imperial family, he erected a dynastic mausoleum on the site of Vespasian's former house on the Quirinal , [] and completed the Temple of Vespasian and Titus, a shrine dedicated to the worship of his deified father and brother. Construction projects such as these constituted only the most visible part of Domitian's religious policy, which also concerned itself with the fulfilment of religious law and public morals.

    In 85, he nominated himself perpetual censor, the office that held the task of supervising Roman morals and conduct. He renewed the Lex Iulia de Adulteriis Coercendis , under which adultery was punishable by exile. From the list of jurors he struck an equestrian who had divorced his wife and taken her back, while an ex-quaestor was expelled from the Senate for acting and dancing. Domitian also heavily prosecuted corruption among public officials, removing jurors if they accepted bribes and rescinding legislation when a conflict of interest was suspected.

    In 87, Vestal Virgins were found to have broken their sacred vows of lifelong public chastity. As the Vestals were regarded as daughters of the community, this offense essentially constituted incest. Accordingly, those found guilty of any such transgression were condemned to death, either by a manner of their choosing, or according to the ancient fashion, which dictated that Vestals should be buried alive. Foreign religions were tolerated insofar as they did not interfere with public order, or could be assimilated with the traditional Roman religion. The worship of Egyptian deities in particular flourished under the Flavian dynasty, to an extent not seen again until the reign of Commodus.

    Veneration of Serapis and Isis, who were identified with Jupiter and Minerva respectively, was especially prominent. The Senatorial officers may have disapproved of Domitian's military strategies, such as his decision to fortify the German frontier rather than attack, as well as his recent retreat from Britain, and finally the disgraceful policy of appeasement towards Decebalus.

    At any rate, the uprising was strictly confined to Saturninus' province, and quickly detected once the rumour spread across the neighbouring provinces. By a stroke of luck, a thaw prevented the Chatti from crossing the Rhine and coming to Saturninus' aid. The mutinous legions were sent to the front in Illyricum, while those who had assisted in their defeat were duly rewarded. Lappius Maximus received the governorship of the province of Syria, a second consulship in May 95, and finally a priesthood, which he still held in Titus Flavius Norbanus may have been appointed to the prefecture of Egypt, but almost certainly became prefect of the Praetorian Guard by 94, with Titus Petronius Secundus as his colleague.

    Although little is known about the life and career of Nerva before his accession as Emperor in 96, he appears to have been a highly adaptable diplomat, surviving multiple regime changes and emerging as one of the Flavians' most trusted advisors. Since the fall of the Republic , the authority of the Roman Senate had largely eroded under the quasi-monarchical system of government established by Augustus, known as the Principate.

    The Principate allowed the existence of a de facto dictatorial regime, while maintaining the formal framework of the Roman Republic. Some rulers handled this arrangement with less subtlety than others. Domitian was not so subtle. From the outset of his reign, he stressed the reality of his autocracy. The dislike was mutual.

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    Emperor Domitian 🤴 history, following of Augustus, Flavian dynasty, facts

    After Domitian's assassination, the senators of Rome rushed to the Senate house, where they immediately passed a motion condemning his memory to oblivion. Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that Domitian did make concessions toward senatorial opinion. Whereas his father and brother had concentrated consular power largely in the hands of the Flavian family, Domitian admitted a surprisingly large number of provincials and potential opponents to the consulship, allowing them to head the official calendar by opening the year as an ordinary consul.

    By offering the consulship to potential opponents, Domitian may have wanted to compromise these senators in the eyes of their supporters. When their conduct proved unsatisfactory, they were almost invariably brought to trial and exiled or executed, and their property was confiscated.

    Both Tacitus and Suetonius speak of escalating persecutions toward the end of Domitian's reign, identifying a point of sharp increase around 93, or sometime after the failed revolt of Saturninus in According to Suetonius, some were convicted for corruption or treason, others on trivial charges, which Domitian justified through his suspicion:. He used to say that the lot of Emperors was most unfortunate, since when they discovered a conspiracy, no one believed them unless they had been murdered. Jones compares the executions of Domitian to those under Emperor Claudius 41—54 , noting that Claudius executed around 35 senators and equestrians, and yet was still deified by the Senate and regarded as one of the good Emperors of history.

    His autocratic style of government accentuated the Senate's loss of power, while his policy of treating patricians and even family members as equals to all Romans earned him their contempt. Domitian was assassinated on 18 September 96 in a conspiracy by court officials. He alleges that Domitian's chamberlain Parthenius played the main role in the plot, citing the recent execution of Domitian's secretary Epaphroditus as his primary motive.

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    According to Suetonius, a number of omens had foretold Domitian's death. Several days prior to the assassination, Minerva had appeared to the emperor in a dream. She announced that she had been disarmed by Jupiter and could no longer give Domitian her protection. As a result, he was always restless around that time. On the day of the assassination, Domitian was distressed and repeatedly asked a servant to tell him what time it was. The servant, who was himself one of the plotters, lied to the emperor, telling him that it was already late in the afternoon.

    Stephanus, who had been feigning an injury to his arm for several days and wearing a bandage to allow him to carry a concealed dagger, suddenly appeared:. The wounded Emperor put up a fight, but succumbed to seven further stabs, his assailants being a subaltern named Clodianus, Parthenius's freedman Maximus, Satur, a head-chamberlain and one of the imperial gladiators. During the attack, Stephanus and Domitian had struggled on the floor, during which time Stephanus was stabbed by the emperor and died shortly afterward.

    Emperor Domitian

    Domitian's body was carried away on a common bier and unceremoniously cremated by his nurse Phyllis. Later, she took the emperor's ashes to the Flavian Temple and mingled them with those of his niece, Julia. He was 44 years old. As had been foretold, his death came at midday.