Which Roman emperor killed his brother?

Interviews with emperors

Pupils in grade 10 of the Schubart-Gymnasium Aalen talked to Roman emperors.

Roman rulers - "great" men and women? Why should a person today concern themselves with the rulers of the Romans? Even today, do many people long for a strong personality with a claim to leadership?

In recent times there has been an increasing number of rulers who run government with absolute claims and who often take rigorous action against opponents. Photos that are strongly reminiscent of the imperial behavior of state leaders of earlier times go through the press: rulers on horseback, posing next to hunted big game up to the sanctioned assault on democratic institutions.

Are rulers "big" if they are ruthless enough?

What is it that makes these people of power so fascinating? And are there temporal mechanisms of power that always work?

On the one hand, the Roman emperors use many stereotypes of abuse of power, on the other hand, they are often astonishingly “modern” and sometimes even a little “liberal”. Civil rights and women's rights become a topic, and philosophical reflections on good governance flow into the exercise of power. The ambivalence between will and reality is tense: one emperor never wanted to take power and still proved himself to be a skilful administrator, the other was a sensitive philosopher and nevertheless persecuted the Christians. From a historical distance one can find some illuminating things for the present. The fact that then, as now, there are light and shadow in one person shows that the ideal person and state leader will probably remain an illusion.

Emperor in the here and now

The tenth grader Victoria Straub in an interview with Emperor Domitian. (© City of Aalen)

At a time when many people are looking into the depths, the Latin students in grade 10 at the Schubart-Gymnasium, together with their Latin teacher Simone Robitschko and the Limesmuseum Aalen, sought a dialogue with Roman rulers from Caesar to Caracalla. Inspired by the cast marble busts on the ground floor of the Limes Museum, they developed interviews with the emperors, which can be listened to here. So far there have only been short portraits of three emperors, the interviews are still in progress.

On the way to sole rule: Caesar

In the year 100 BC The most famous Roman was born: Gaius Julius Caesar. At a young age he had contact with the big politicians and came into conflict with the rulers: The dictator Sulla at the time ordered him to divorce his wife, who was a daughter of Sulla's opponent Cinna. Caesar refused! Caesar was a power-hungry Roman politician: he pursued his goals staunchly, sometimes ruthlessly.

So he conquered Gaul, which included what is now France, the Netherlands and Belgium. He subjugated countless Gallic tribes and put down rebellions. Nor did he shrink from war crimes. When he was about to be brought to justice, he chose not to fire his army and would rather risk a civil war than face charges. He crossed the Rubicon, fought bitterly against his former friend Pompey, whom he was chasing halfway across the Mediterranean. Caesar claimed sole power - this was in stark contrast to the Roman Republic. Nevertheless, he rejected the title "King". In the end, numerous senators allied against him and murdered him with 23 stabs.

Simon Rettenmaier 10a, Luca Tagger 10b

The first princeps of the Romans: Augustus

Caesar is probably the most famous Roman. But who inherited him when he was murdered? The young emperor Augustus, who was previously called Octavius. He had served under Caesar, who had adopted him and so he also avenged his murder. The young man desperately wanted to take power himself and prevailed against Marc Anton in the battle of Actium. During the civil wars that marked his path to power, 200 senators and 2,000 knighters were executed. He set up a completely new form of rule while retaining the old structures, the Principate.

So he gave back all powers to the Senate, only the supreme command of the army and the Roman provinces and power over the city of Rome he kept to himself: with this trick he had secured all power. Augustus was a stroke of luck for Rome: the city was expanded under Augustus, and many aqueducts and temples were built. A golden age emerged under him - the empire flourished. However, his plan to expand the empire as far as the Elbe was hit hard: In the battle in the Teutoburg Forest, his general Varus was defeated and lost three legions. The wise and energetic Augustus died of illness at an advanced age.

Marc Hegele, Julius Eberhard 10b

The interview with Emperor Augustus

Bad Emperor? - Tiberius

Tiberius was emperor from AD 14 to 37. He was the second emperor of the Roman Empire. His reign was one of the longest autocratic rule by a Roman emperor. 20 BC Tiberius had his first command during a war. He achieved a great diplomatic success. He was able to bring back standards that the army had lost after heavy defeats. Augustus did not adopt his stepson Tiberius, but the sons of his sister Julia, Gaius and Lucius. But these died before him. So Augustus appointed the "unwanted" Tiberius as his successor. Tiberius proved to be a good and thrifty administrator of the empire. He chose a conservative foreign policy and ended risky offensives. In the provinces he expanded the administration. In emergencies, he invested generously in reconstruction. After disasters he gave very generously and granted tax breaks.

The numerous trials for libel of majesty made him a tyrant in the eyes of many. In addition, Tiberius is said to have tormented other people with sadistic pleasure. He simply had people he didn't like thrown off the cliff. On March 16, 37 AD, Tiberius died as a most unpopular ruler. Through countless trials against senators and citizens, as well as high taxes, he had lost all sympathy.

Dilara Kütük, Valentin Fetahu 10b

At first smiled at ... but successful: Claudius

Claudius (41 to 54 AD) came as the last male successor to his family after the assassination of Caligula surprisingly to power over the Roman Empire. Despite health problems and a difficult youth, the inconspicuous emperor achieved a lot: The expansion or stabilization of the Roman Empire is one of his achievements - although he personally did not like to travel. In addition, he created an infrastructure with aqueducts, canals and traffic routes to supply the Romans with food.

The emperor integrated the provincial population by generously giving the slaves civil rights. On the other hand, he centralized public administration. In his private life he was less happy and was eventually poisoned by his wife. Its success can be traced back to the combination of political priorities that was very innovative at the time: safeguarding the empire's foreign policy with liberal civil rights policy and securing basic services through infrastructure measures.

Anja Borgmeier, Hannah Jarebica, 10a

The interview with Emperor Claudius

Bad mother of a bad emperor: Agrippina

You always wanted to know who Nero's mother was and what influence she had on her son? Then you are exactly right here! Agrippina is considered the city founder of Cologne and was the great-granddaughter of Augustus. She married her uncle Claudius in AD 49. Since this was originally forbidden, she had a law changed so that nothing stood in her way. She was also the first Roman woman to be awarded the title "Augusta" while she was still alive. She got this title from her uncle and husband Claudius. Agrippina was a domineering wife and mother. In 54 AD. she had Claudius murdered. Maybe not her only murder.

Instead of Agrippina, however, Nero became the next ruler of Rome. The first five years of Nero's reign were a heyday due to the influence of his advisers, the philosopher Seneca and the Praetorian prefect Burrus. But his mother Agrippina also exerted a strong influence on him in the first years of his rule. Later, Nero escaped his mother's influence and relied on other advisors. He finally had his mother murdered in AD 59 and staged it as an accident.

Rea-Franziska Markgraf, Michelle Meinecke, 10a

The interview with the Emperor's mother Agrippina

A megalomaniac despot: Domitian

Titus Flavius ​​Domitianus (Domitian) was born in 51 AD in Rome, the son of Emperor Vespasian. He had a brother, Titus, with whom he did not have a good relationship. Since he died childless, Domitian succeeded him. Domitian was seen as a bad princeps because he kept the Senate out of political decisions and treated them badly. On the other hand, he let himself be addressed as Dominus et Deus - as Lord and God. Domitian was considered very paranoid and had any suspect executed. This could affect even his closest confidante. His autocratic style of rule was extremely unpopular.

So it was not surprising that he finally fell victim to an attack himself: A certain Stephanus hid a dagger in a splint on his arm. He had already worn this a few days beforehand so as not to arouse suspicion. In a duel that was only decided when other conspirators interfered, the emperor was finally killed. There was mourning only in the army, the Senate cheered and the large crowd remained indifferent. Domitian was the first emperor to fall victim to the Damnatio memoriae, which meant that nothing in the entire empire was allowed to remember him.

Victoria Straub 10a, Moritz Vogt 10b

Diplomat in imperial garb: Hadrian

Can rule be reconciled with diplomacy? Absolutely! It was AD 117 when Hadrian ascended the Roman throne. He succeeded his adoptive father Trajan and was the first ruler of Rome to come to power not by birthright but by adoption. He lived from 76 to 138 AD. His rule was shaped by his eccentric manner, which allowed little criticism. Hadrian was also thirsty for knowledge, energetic and liked to bask in his deeds. He was no stranger to making a name for himself, but ultimately he can also look back on some positive changes.

So he increasingly campaigned for women's rights, who could finally decide for themselves who they wanted to marry. Hadrian was also more interested in consolidating and securing the borders of the Roman Empire than in expanding the empire through wars. This is how, among other things, Hadrian's Wall named after him was created in England. Diplomacy was in the foreground for him and he was remembered by many as a ruler of peace. The fact that he was the first self-confessed homosexual was certainly also unforgotten. Hadrian not only loved his long-term partner Antinous, but also art and science. His work shows even today that you can not achieve something with armed confrontation alone. His cosmopolitan nature and diverse interests should be an example to us.

Isabella Raspe, Kim Weber, 10a

The interview with Emperor Hadrian

A man of change? - Marc Aurel

Commitment to the weak in society - taken for granted today, but downright revolutionary in the ancient world. This is exactly what Marc Aurel, born in 121, campaigned for, one of the last great Stoics. The attempt to realize these goals through the implementation of his philosophical ideals of freedom and equality seems to do justice to the title of philosopher on the imperial throne. Nevertheless, questionable actions cloud the picture: persecution of Christians, foreign policy failure, military incompetence.

To be fair, it is fair to say that disasters occurred outside of his control, such as the Antonine Plague and a flood of the Tiber, during his reign. Yet its military failure led to the destabilization of the borders and exacerbated famine. A controversial personality, a man of change, positive as well as negative. A philosopher for whom the burden of the responsibility of an emperor demanded much, perhaps too much, with which the golden era of Rome ended. What Marc Aurel still brings us closer: A ruler should serve the people and is by no means infallible.

Madita Mühlberger, Elias Malisi 10a

The interview with Emperor Marc Aurel

Fratricide and spa builder: Caracalla

The Roman Emperor Caracalla ruled from AD 211 to AD 217. The name Caracalla was derived from his hooded coat. Visitors to Rome can still admire the Baths of Caracalla built under his rule. Caracalla was the successor of his father Septimius Severus, the founder of the Severan ruling dynasty. Originally he came to power together with his brother Geta, but after a short time he lured him into a trap and murdered him in the presence of his mother. This was followed by a wave of executions in which he had 20,000 (alleged) supporters of his brother murdered.

Another example of his cruelty was a massacre among the people of Alexandria who felt mocked him. Caracalla based its power mainly on the army. He led several campaigns, including against the Teutons and Parthians, and took on the same hardships as the common soldiers. In 217 he was murdered as part of a conspiracy. Caracalla was a cruel ruler, but he is also famous for granting Roman citizenship to all free residents of the Roman Empire, which significantly improved the legal position and the opportunities for advancement of many residents of the empire.

Johannes Kurz, Katerina Severin 10a

The interview with Emperor Caracalla