Edict of Caracalla

Edict of Caracalla

The Roman emperor Caracalla (or Marcus Aurelius Antoninus) issued the Edict of Caracalla, also known as the Constitutio Antoniniana or Edict of Antoninus, in 212 c.e.

Prior to this Roman citizenship had been highly treasured and was extended only to people from Rome, children of existing citizens, and people who had served a term in the military, being gradually extended to cover all the freeborn people in the Italian peninsula.

The Edict of Caracalla extended Roman citizenship to include all freeborn men throughout the Roman Empire and gave all freeborn women in the empire the same rights as Roman women.

Caracalla was born in Gaul in 186 c.e., the son of the future emperor Septimus Severus. When Caracalla was born he was called Lucius Septimius Bassianus, and when he was seven, his name was changed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus to emphasize his family’s connection with the late emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Caracalla was a nickname given to him when he was a young man on account of the Gallic hooded tunic that he often wore. Caracalla’s father had become emperor in 193 and died in 211.

Caracalla and his brother Publius Septimius Antoninius Geta became co-emperors, but Caracalla was anxious to reign by himself, and Geta and his own father-in-law, Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, were both murdered soon afterward. The method by which Caracalla came to power led to public criticism, and a satire play was produced in the city of Alexandria in Egypt.

In 215 Caracalla killed a deputation from the city and then let his soldiers slaughter up to 20,000 people in Alexandria. Caracalla had once been told by his father to look after the army, and to this end he gave the legionnaires pay of 675–750 denarii (raised from 500 denarii), as well as other benefits.

This was largely because the period before Caracalla become emperor had been one of significant inflation. Caracalla not only ensured that were the salaries raised, but also soldiers were partially paid in kind—with food and materials—which would obviously not be affected by price rises.

This was meant not only to reward the soldiers and ensure their loyalty but also to try to get more people to join the Roman army. This has long been suggested as one of the reasons for Caracalla’s edict. However, there were more pressing reasons.

There had not been enough money in the treasury for the pay rise for the soldiers, so the silver content in Roman coins was lowered by a quarter. The real reason for the edict can clearly be seen as being connected with revenue raising.

Traditionally Roman citizens were freeborn people who lived in the city of Rome. In addition, descendants of Roman citizens around the empire had citizenship, along with men who had served in the army (as was the case during the Roman Republic) and also auxiliaries (from the reign of Augustus).

The Romans also allowed client kings, nobles, and others to become Roman citizens. In Acts of the Apostles, Paul proclaims his Roman citizenship several times.

As well as the obvious advantages in being a Roman citizen, there were several disadvantages. All Roman citizens paid two taxes from which noncitizens were exempt. The first was inheritance taxes, which were paid by the beneficiaries on the death of somebody who left them money or property.

Initially in the Roman Empire it was impractical to levy inheritance taxes on everybody, but by the time of Caracalla there was a large middle class in the empire and well-regulated methods of collecting taxes. The other tax that was levied on Roman citizens was an indirect tax when slaves were emancipated.

Because of inflation, the monetary value of slaves had risen, and with growing affluence, more masters were freeing their slaves, who often continued to work for them; many slaves were able to buy their own freedom.

Caracalla was also responsible for the building of a large complex in Rome that became known as the Baths Carthage 69 of Caracalla. However, he became increasingly unpopular with many in the Roman Empire. He was killed on April 8, 217, at Harran, Parthia. The account by Cassius Dio says that he was slain when he was relieving himself, with a single stroke of the sword.