Geta
Bust of Geta
Bust in the Louvre
Roman emperor
Reignlate 209 – December 211
(senior from 2 February 211)
PredecessorSeptimius Severus
SuccessorCaracalla
Co-emperorsSeptimius Severus (until 211)
Caracalla
Born7 March 189
Rome
Died26 December 211 (aged 22)
Names
Publius Septimius Geta
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Publius Septimius Geta Augustus
DynastySeveran
FatherSeptimius Severus
MotherJulia Domna

Publius Septimius Geta (/ˈɡɛtə/ GHET; 7 March 189 – 19/26 December 211) was Roman emperor with his father Septimius Severus and older brother Caracalla from 209, when he was named Augustus like his brother, who had held the title from 198. Severus died in 211, and although he intended for his sons to rule together, they proved incapable of sharing power, culminating with the murder of Geta in December of that year.[1]

Early life

Geta was the younger son of Septimius Severus by his second wife Julia Domna. He was born on 7 March in either Rome[2][3] or Mediolanum,[4][5] at a time when his father was only a provincial governor at the service of Emperor Commodus. In 198, Geta was raised to Caesar. Septimius Severus gave him the title of augustus in late 209.[6]

During the campaign against the Britons in the early 3rd century AD, imperial propaganda promoted the image of a happy family that shared the responsibilities of rule. Geta's brother Caracalla acted as Severus' second-in-command, and administrative and bureaucratic duties were Geta's responsibility. In reality, however, the rivalry and antipathy between the brothers did not abate. With the death of Severus in 211, control of the empire passed to Geta and Caracalla jointly.[7]

Joint Emperor

When Septimius Severus died in Eboracum on 4 February 211, Caracalla and Geta were proclaimed joint emperors and returned to Rome. Their mother, Julia Domna, who had served as a crucial advisor and confidante to her husband, was able to maintain her political influence over two co-emperors. It is said that on the journey from Britain to Rome the two brothers kept well away from each other, not once lodging in the same house or sharing a common meal.[8]

Geta Dying in his Mother's Arms, Jacques-Augustin-Catherine Pajou, 1766–1828 (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart)
Geta Dying in his Mother's Arms, Jacques-Augustin-Catherine Pajou, 1766–1828 (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart)

Their joint rule was a failure. The Imperial Palace was divided into two separate sections, and neither allowed the servants of the other into his own. They only met in the presence of their mother, and with a strong military guard, being in constant fear of assassination.[9] The current stability of their joint government was only through the mediation and leadership of their mother, Julia Domna, accompanied by other senior courtiers and generals in the military. The historian Herodian asserted that the brothers decided to split the empire in two halves, but with the strong opposition of their mother, the idea was rejected, when, by the end of 211, the situation had become unbearable.[10] Caracalla tried unsuccessfully to murder Geta during the festival of Saturnalia (17 December). Finally, the next week, Caracalla had his mother arrange a peace meeting with his brother in his mother's apartments, thus depriving Geta of his bodyguards, and then had him murdered in her arms by centurions.[11][12]

Deleted mention of Geta in an inscription after his damnatio memoriae (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cagliari)
Deleted mention of Geta in an inscription after his damnatio memoriae (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cagliari)

Caracalla ordered the damnatio memoriae, which was thoroughly carried out, as is clear from the archaeological record.[13][14] Reportedly, Caracalla was thereafter tormented by guilt over his deed, but sought to expiate it by adding to this crime the proscription of all his brother's former followers.[15] Cassius Dio stated that around 20,000 men and women were killed or proscribed on this charge during this time.[16]

Portrait

Very few marble portraits attributable to Geta survive to date, presumably due to the very thorough damnatio memoriae which resulted in the erasing of his images. However Roman coins with his image are plentiful, and can reflect how his father Septimius Severus and mother Julia Domna and later Geta himself wanted him to be seen by the Roman people (and especially the Roman military).

Images of Geta and his older brother Caracalla cannot be well distinguished until the death of the father. Both sons were supposed to be presented as equally suitable heirs to the throne, showing thus more "depth" to the dynasty.

On his coins, Caracalla, who became Augustus in 198, was shown with a wreath of laurels, while Geta remained bareheaded until he himself became Augustus in 209.[17] Between 209 and their father's death in February 211, both brothers were shown as equally mature young men with a short full beard, ready to take over the empire. Between the death of Septimus Severus and the assassination of Geta, Caracalla's portraits did not change, while Geta was depicted with a long beard with hanging hairs, much like his father, a strong indication of Geta's efforts to be seen as the "true" successor of his father.[17]

The Severan Tondo panel painting depicts Septimius Severus and his family with an obliterated face assumed to be Geta.

Gallery

Severan dynasty family tree

See also

References

  1. ^ Varner, Eric R. Mutilation and Transformation: Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture (2004) Brill Academic Publishers. p. 168
  2. ^ Vagi, David (2016). Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. Routledge. p. 252. ISBN 9781135971250. The notoriously unreliable Historia Augusta (Geta, 3) suggest Geta was born [on 27 May 189]. However, other more reliable sources are available for determining Geta's date of birth. ((cite book)): External link in |quote= (help)
  3. ^ Kitzler, Petr (2015). From 'Passio Perpetuae' to 'Acta Perpetuae'. de Gruyter. p. 14. ISBN 9783110418675.
  4. ^ "Publius Septimius Geta | Roman emperor [died 212]". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 4 October 2021. Publius Septimius Geta, (born March 7, 189, Mediolanum [now Milan, Italy]—died Dec. 26, 211, Rome), Roman emperor from 209 to 211, jointly with his father, Septimius Severus (reigned 193–211), and his brother, Caracalla (reigned 198–217).((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Heffernan, Thomas J. (18 June 2012). The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-19-977757-0. Publius Septimius Geta was the younger son of Septimius Severus. He was likely born in Rome—Milan has also been proposed—in March of 189.
  6. ^ Birley 1999, p. 274. "Roxan no. 191 shows that Geta was already Augustus and trib. pot. II on 7 January 210".
  7. ^ "Roman Emperors - DIR Geta". Archived from the original on 11 March 2022.
  8. ^ Edward Gibbon, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, (The Modern Library, 1932), chap. VI., p. 114
  9. ^ Gibbon, Ibid.
  10. ^ Herodian, History of the Empire from the death of Marcus, IV., p. 144
  11. ^ Gibbon, Ibid. p. 115
  12. ^ According to Dio, "he was only twenty-two years and nine months old". The exact date is disputed: Zwei syrische Verwandte des severischen Kaiserhauses. In: Chiron 12, 1982, S. 217–235: 229f y 49 (19 December); Michael L. Meckler: Caracalla and his late-antique biographer, Ann Arbor 1994, S. 15, 109–112 (25 December); Anthony R. Birley: The African Emperor. Septimius Severus, Routledge, 1991, 189 (26 December); A. Mastino, Le titolature di Caracalla e Geta, 1981 (2 February 212, accepting the HA).
  13. ^ Dunstan, William, E. (2011). Ancient Rome. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 405–406. ISBN 978-0-7425-6832-7.
  14. ^ Goldsworthy, Adrian (2009). How Rome Fell: death of a superpower. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 70–71. ISBN 978-0-300-16426-8.
  15. ^ Gibbon, Ibid.
  16. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History 78.4.
  17. ^ a b (in German) Andreas Pangerl: Porträttypen des Caracalla und des Geta auf Römischen Reichsprägungen - Definition eines neuen Caesartyps des Caracalla und eines neuen Augustustyps des Geta; Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt des RGZM Mainz 43, 2013, 1, 99–116

Bibliography

Geta (emperor) Severan dynasty Born: 7 March 189  Died: December 211 Regnal titles Preceded bySeptimius Severus Roman Emperor 209–211 With: Septimius Severus and Caracalla Succeeded byCaracalla Political offices Preceded byLucius Fabius Cilo, Marcus Annius Flavius Libo Consul of the Roman Empire 205with Caracalla Succeeded byMarcus Nummius Umbrius Primus Senecio Albinus, Lucius Fulvius Gavius Numisius Petronius Aemilianus Preceded byLucius Annius Maximus, Gaius Septimius Severus Aper Consul of the Roman Empire 208with Caracalla Succeeded byLucius Aurelius Commodus Pompeianus, Quintus Hedius Lollianus Plautius Avitus Legendary titles VacantInterregnumTitle last held byLucius King of Britain Succeeded byBassianus