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Domitian

Emperor A.D 81 - 96

Domitian was the younger son of the emperor Vespasian. His older brother Titus occupied the throne from A.D. 79 to 81. While Domitian was growing up, he was not given any real power in the Roman government. Because of this, Domitian always felt a certain amount of resentment towards his elder brother. Though there were rumors that Domitian poisoned Titus, these are generally believed to be false. Like Tiberius and Caligula before him, Domitian sought to be absolute ruler. He scandalized the Senate and the rest of the Roman upper classes by having statues of himself erected and by insisting that people refer to him as "Lord and God". The Senate grew to loathe and fear Domitian and he became increasingly suspicious of them as well. There were also many plots against his life hatched by members of the Senate. He resumed the tyranny of the treason trials that accounted for so many senators’ deaths under Tiberius. In the last three or four years of Domitian’s reign, the senators lived in fear of their lives. Although Domitian usually punished informers, he used the slightest accusation brought by an informer to find a senator guilty of treason. After the man's death, Domitian would seize all of his property for the imperial treasury. He also eliminated his two praetorian prefects in A.D. 95. It was because the two men who replaced them, Petronius Secundus and Norbanus believed that they would soon be eliminated too that they decided to form a conspiracy to do away with Domitian.

Domitian was liked by the army. He increased the legionaries' pay from 225 denarii a year to 300. After his murder, the Praetorian Guard demanded that those involved in his assassination be handed over to them for execution. The emperor Nerva had no choice but to agree, as he was only barely tolerated by the army who thought that he had been involved in Domitian’s murder. Despite the fact that he surrounded himself with personal bodyguards day and night, Domitian was murdered in his bath by a freedman named Stephanus in a plot involving the two praetorian prefects and Domitian's own wife. The assailant stabbed Domitian in the groin and they fell to the floor with the emperor trying desperately to grab the knife from Stephanus. Altogether too late, the emperor's German bodyguard rushed in and slew Stephanus after the deed was done.


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