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Macrinus

Emperor A.D 217 - 218

Macrinus was emperor for a little more than a year. He was born in Mauretania (North Africa) and, as a young man was an advocate who made his living pleading legal cases. He was made Praetorian Prefect under Caracalla. While he was Praetorian Prefect, a rumor surfaced that an astrologer had predicted that Macrinus would replace Caracalla as emperor. The cruel and suspicious Caracalla had murdered thousands for much less reason than this. According to Edward Gibbon, Macrinus actually intercepted the order for his own execution. In self defense, he organized a plot and had Caracalla murdered while on a pilgrimage.

Macrinus then fought a minor battle against the Parthians, which he lost. This did nothing for his popularity. Many of the soldiers had liked Caracalla because he had paid them lavish bonuses and his father had been a great general. Macrinus attempted to gain a little popularity by giving his son Diadumenian the name Antoninus and making him caesar. It was a politically aware and resourceful woman of the Severan family that brought about the downfall of Macrinus. Julia Maesa was the sister of the powerful and intelligent Julia Domna, widow of Septimius Severus. Both women were very well loved by the people of Rome, especially the Senatorial classes. Macrinus had banished Julia Domna from Antioch, afraid that her power and popularity would undermine his reign. Having once been the most powerful woman in the world at the time, she felt she could not live with such disgrace and starved herself to death. Julia Maesa, however, decided to organize a revolt and have her grandson Bassianus, also known as Elagabalus made emperor. Accordingly, Macrinus and his troops were defeated by the Syrian legions who supported Julia Maesa. Gibbon also tells us that when it looked like her troops were about to be defeated, Julia Maesa leapt from her chariot in the midst of the battle and encouraged her troops to victory by her bravery. Macrinus might still have won, but he panicked and fled. He and his son Diadumenian were later put to death. Macrinus attempted to disguise himself as an Imperial messenger and flee across Asia Minor. He was attempting to reach Rome, where he might gain some support amongst the Senatorial class. He might have made it, except he attempted to send to the procurator of Bithynia for money. He was arrested by a centurion and sent in disgrace back to Antioch. Macrinus attempted to jump from the chariot in which he was riding but received a broken arm for his trouble. It was decided that he should be tried and convicted of treason before he even reached Antioch and he was executed on the road back. He had been emperor for a little over a year.


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