• Fri. Mar 31st, 2023

Caracalla Erased Hated Brother’s Memory Using Damnatio Memoriae


Feb 7, 2023

We’ve all had points with household at one time or different. However the lengths taken by the Roman emperor Caracalla actually take the biscuit. To make sure he would by no means once more be reminded of his youthful brother Geta, he used a tactic which has been outlined in fashionable occasions with the Latin damnatio memoriae .

When Emperor Septimius Severus died throughout his failed conquest of Caledonia (modern-day Scotland), he left the Roman Empire within the arms of his sons Caracalla and Geta. “Be harmonious, enrich the troopers, and scorn all different males,” are stated to have been his final phrases, a last enchantment for them to be good to one another and rule as joint emperors. His elder son, Caracalla, was having none of it.

Caracalla had change into co-emperor along with his father in 198 AD, having fun with the ability of being second-in-command. Septimius Severus promoted the picture of his Severan Dynasty as a contented household working collectively to rule the empire. However when he promoted his youngest son Geta to augustus, forging a ruling trio in 209, their sibling rivalry got here to a head.

After their father’s dying in 211, the 2 brothers have been unable to fulfill with out the presence of their mom, Julia Domna, and that of an armed escort. In true fratricide vogue, Caracalla organized peace talks and had Geta murdered in his mom’s arms. Good.

Not content material with killing his brother, Caracalla determined to have his reminiscence erased in what has, because the seventeenth century, been dubbed damnatio memoriae . This “condemnation of reminiscence” included the elimination of Geta’s picture from portraits, imperial inscriptions and pictures, together with on the Arch of Argentarii . Most famously, a painted panel of the joyful Severan household, together with Septimus Severus, Julia Domna and their sons, contains the plain elimination of Geta.

Painted panel often known as a tondo, depicting the joyful Severan household together with Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, Caracalla and the erased face of Geta, who suffered after his brother pronounced a damnatio memoriae. (Carole Raddato / CC BY-SA 2.0 )

This damnatio memoriae was really nothing new, with examples current from historical Egypt, such because the erasure of Akhenaten the heretic king. In reality, in accordance with Discentes, “round half of all Roman emperors acquired some type of the condemnation.”

In ancient Rome , those that have been deemed to have acted towards the pursuits of the empire have been handled as enemies and purged from historical past. In a tradition the place statues acted as symbols of state energy, being forgotten was the final word penalty.

Nonetheless, in Notes in the History of Art , Lauren Hackworth Peterson has argued that the victims of damnatio memoriae have been “condemned” fairly than “forgotten.” In different phrases, these acts “redefine our perceptions” and due to this fact our reminiscence.

This pattern continues right now. From the #MeToo motion and its cancel tradition, to Black Lives Matter advocating for the elimination of public statues and symbols of racism, damnatio memoriae can draw to consideration injustice, and function a lesson for future generations.

High picture: Geta Dying in his Mom’s Arms by Jacques Pajou. His dying by the hands of Caracalla has been remembered because of the subsequent use of damnatio memoriae to erase him from public reminiscence. Supply: Public domain

By Cecilia Bogaard

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