Emperor Geta

Life: AD 189 – 211

Publius Septimius Geta - "Geta"
  • Name: Publius Septimius Geta
  • Born on 7 March AD 189 in Rome.
  • Consul AD 205.
  • Became co-emperor on 4 February AD 211.
  • Wife: none.
  • Died in Rome in December AD 211.

Early Life

Publius Septimius Geta was born in AD 189 in Rome as the younger son of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna. He most likely possessed the same bad temper as his infamous brother Caracalla. Although it appears he was not as brutish.

This difference was only enhanced by the fact that Geta suffered from a slight stammer. In his time, he became quite literate, surrounding himself with intellectuals and writers. He showed his father much more respect than Caracalla and also was a far more loving child to his mother. He took great care of his appearance, liking to wear expensive, elegant clothes.

The Beginning of Rivarly Between Brothers

Caracalla was declared Caesar already in AD 195 (to provoke Clodius Albinus into war) by Severus. Geta’s elevation to Caesar took place in AD 198, the same year in which Caracalla should be made Augustus. And so, it appears quite obvious that Caracalla was being groomed as the heir to the throne. He was, at best, a substitute should anything happen to his older brother. This will no doubt only have contributed to the rivalry which existed between the two brothers.

From AD 199 to 202, Geta traveled through the Danubian provinces of Pannonia, Moesia, and Thrace. In AD 203-4, he visited his ancestral North Africa with his father and brother. In AD 205, he was consul alongside his older brother Caracalla, with whom he lived in ever more bitter rivalry.

Emperor Geta

Becoming an Augustus

From AD 205 to 207, Severus had his two quarrelsome sons live together in Campania, in his own presence, in order to try and heal the rift between them. However, the attempt clearly failed. In AD 208, Caracalla and Geta left for Britain with their father to campaign in Caledonia. With his father ill, much of the command lay with Caracalla. Then, in AD 209, Geta, who had remained in Eburacum (York) with his mother Julia Domna while his brother and father campaigned, took over the governorship of Britain and was made Augustus by Severus.

What made Severus grant his second son the title of Augustus is not quite clear. There were wild rumors about Caracalla even trying to kill his father, but they are almost certainly untrue. But it might have been that Caracalla’s desire to see his sick father dead so that he could finally rule angered his father. But what also might have been the case is that Severus realized he had not much time to live and that he rightly feared for the life of Geta if Caracalla came to power alone.

Death of Emperor Severus

Septimius Severus died in February AD 211 at Eburacum (York). On his deathbed, he famously advised his two sons to get on with each other, pay the soldiers well, and not care about anyone else. The brothers, though, should have a problem following the first point of that advice. Caracalla was 23, and Geta was 22 when their father died. And felt such hostility towards each other that it bordered on outright hatred.

Caracalla Seizing Power

Immediately after Severus’ death, there appeared to have been an attempt by Caracalla to seize power for himself. Whether this was truly an attempted coup is unclear. Far more, it appears Caracalla tried to secure power for himself by outright ignoring his co-emperor.

He conducted the resolution of the unfinished conquest of Caledonia by himself. He dismissed many of Severus’ advisors who would have sought to also support Geta, following Severus’ wishes. Such initial attempts at ruling alone were clearly meant to signify that Caracalla ruled, whereas Geta was emperor purely by name (a little like emperors Marcus Aurelius and Verus had done earlier). Geta, however, would not accept such attempts. Neither would his mother, Julia Domna. And it was she who forced Caracalla to accept the joint rule.

Emperor Geta

Fight for the Senate

With the Caledonian campaign at an end, the two then headed back for Rome with the ashes of their father. The voyage back home is noteworthy, as neither would even sit at the same table with the other for fear of poisoning. Back in the capital, they tried to live alongside each other in the imperial palace. Yet so, determined were they in their hostility that they divided the palace into two halves with separate entrances. The doors which might have connected the two halves were blocked. More so, each emperor surrounded himself with a large personal bodyguard.

Each brother sought to gain the favor of the senate. Either one sought to see his own favorite appointed to any official office that might become available. They also intervened in court cases in order to help their supporters. Even at the circus games, they publicly backed different factions. Worst of all, attempts apparently were made from either side to poison the other.

Emperor Geta

Failed Plan of Dividing the Empire

Their bodyguards were in a constant state of alert, both living in everlasting fear of being poisoned – Caracalla and Geta came to the conclusion that their only way of living as joint emperors was to divide the empire. Geta would take the east, establishing his capital at Antioch or Alexandria, and Caracalla would remain in Rome.

The scheme might have worked. But Julia Domna used her significant power to block it. It is possible that she feared that if they separated, she could no longer keep an eye on them. Most likely, though, she realized, that this proposal would lead to an outright civil war between East and West.

Assassination Plot

A plan was uncovered that Caracalla intended to have Geta assassinated during the festival of Saturnalia in December AD 211. This led Geta to increase his bodyguard. Alas, in late December AD 211, he pretended to seek to reconcile with his brother and so suggested a meeting in the apartment of Julia Domna. Then, as Geta arrived unarmed and unguarded, several centurions of Caracalla’s guards broke through the door and cut him down. Geta died in his mother’s arms.

Emperor Geta

Death of Emperor Geta

What, other than hate, drove Caracalla to the murder is unknown. Known as an angry, impatient character, he perhaps simply lost patience. On the other hand, Geta was the more literate of the two, often surrounded by writers and intellects. It is, therefore, well likely that Geta was making more of an impact with senators than his tempestuous brother.

Perhaps even more dangerous to Caracalla, he was showing a striking facial similarity to his father, Severus. Had Severus been very popular with the military, Geta’s star might have been on the rise with them, as the generals believed they detected their old commander in him. Hence, one could speculate that perhaps Caracalla opted to murder his brother once he feared Geta might prove the stronger of the two of them.

Emperor Geta

People Also Ask:

Was Geta a good or bad emperor?

Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Commodus, Geta, and Caracalla — these names evoke immense power and great fear. They are the most terrible of the Roman emperors, known as tyrants, madmen, killers, blasphemers, and perverts.

Who killed emperor Geta?

Caracalla murdered Geta in February 212 and his supporters shortly after that. Geta is said to have died on his mother’s lap. Caracalla strove to eradicate Geta’s memory by obliterating all portraits and memorials, so historians know relatively little about this short-lived emperor.

How did Geta become emperor?

The younger son of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna, he was given the title Caesar on Jan. 28, 198, when his elder brother Caracalla became joint emperor (as Augustus) with their father. In 210, Geta was himself made an Augustus, and he became co-emperor upon his father’s death at Eboracum (present-day York, Eng.)

What was Geta known for?

Publius Septimius Geta (/ˈɡɛtə/ GHET-ə; 7 March 189 – 26 December 211) was a 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.

Was Geta deified?

So far from being deified, Geta under which damnatio memoriae; his statues were overthrown, his name erased from public monuments, and coins bearing his effigy were melted down.

What did Caracalla do?

His principal achievements were his colossal baths in Rome and his edict of 212, giving Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the empire. Caracalla, whose reign contributed to the decay of the empire, has often been regarded as one of the most bloodthirsty tyrants in Roman history.

Who was the wife of the emperor Geta?

Publius Septimius Geta was born in 189 and quarreled with his brother all through his youth. He never married and had no children. He was only slightly younger than his brother Caracalla but received honors such as the title Augustus much later than he did. He was assassinated by his brother at the age of 22.