Domitian  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Titus Flavius Domitianus (24 October 51 – 18 September 96), commonly known as Domitian, was a Roman Emperor who reigned from 14 September 81 until his death. Domitian was the last emperor of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 69 and 96, encompassing the reigns of Domitian's father Vespasian (69–79), his elder brother Titus (79–81), and that of Domitian himself.

Domitian spent much of his youth and early career in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War. This situation continued under the rule of Vespasian, who became emperor on 21 December 69, following a year of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors. While Titus effectually reigned as co-emperor with his father, Domitian was left with honours but no responsibilities. Vespasian died on 23 June 79 and was succeeded by Titus, whose own reign came to an unexpected end when he was struck by a fatal illness on 13 September 81. The following day Domitian was declared emperor by the Praetorian Guard, commencing a reign which lasted more than fifteen years—longer than any man who had governed Rome since Tiberius.

As emperor, Domitian strengthened the economy by reevaluating the Roman coinage, expanded the border defenses of the Empire, and initiated a massive building programme to restore the damaged city of Rome. In Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola expanded the Roman Empire as far as modern day Scotland, while in Dacia, Domitian was unable to procure a decisive victory in the war against the Dacians. On 18 September 96, Domitian was assassinated by court officials, and with him the Flavian dynasty came to an end. The same day he was succeeded by his friend and advisor Nerva, who founded the long-lasting Nervan-Antonian dynasty. His memory was condemned to oblivion by the Roman Senate, with which he had a notoriously difficult relationship throughout his reign. Senatorial authors such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius published histories after his death, propagating the view of Domitian as a cruel and paranoid tyrant. Modern history has rejected these views, instead characterising Domitian as a ruthless but efficient autocrat, whose cultural, economic and political programme was a precursor to the peaceful 2nd century, rather than the twilight of the tumultuous 1st century.

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In later arts

Literature

Painting

  • The Triumph of Titus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1885). Oil on canvas. Private collection. This painting depicts the triumphal procession of Titus and his family. Alma-Tadema was known for his meticulous historical research on the ancient world. Vespasian, dressed as Pontifex Maximus, walks at the head of his family, followed by Domitian and his first wife Domitia Longina, who he had only recently married. Behind Domitian follows Titus, dressed in religious regalia. An exchange of glances between Titus and Domitia suggests an affair which historians have speculated upon.

Film and television




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Domitian" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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