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of an extraordinary kind. The student of Roman history is well aware of the desperate

character of Caracalla, and is prepared to expect all manner of treachery at his hands. In

nothing, however, was the deep-seated perfidy of his nature more fully revealed than in

the transaction in which he now engaged with Artabanus IV. He sent an embassy to that

sovereign bearing a letter in which the Roman traversed at length the relations existing

between the two Empires, and ended by asking the Parthian to give him his daughter in

marriage. By this means the two great Powers of Europe and Asia would be united in a

common destiny. The surrounding barbarian nations could be easily reduced by war, and thus

the two great Powers of Europe and Asia be brought under a single scepter.

The Parthian king was staggered by this astounding proposal, but seeing that war was

intended in case of a refusal, he first temporized, and then yielded to the demand. The

Roman Emperor hereupon set out in great state, with a strong military force, to visit the

Parthian capital and receive his bride. On arriving at Ctesiphon he was received with

corresponding pomp in the plain before the city. But while the ceremonies were preparing,

and the conference of the sovereigns no more than begun, a signal was given, and the Roman

soldiers rose with drawn swords upon the Parthians. The latter were butchered by

thousands. The king himself barely escaped the common fate. Ctesiphon was taken and

plundered, and the Romans, laden with spoils, set out on the return through Babylonia. On

the way Caracalla directed his march through the ancient necropolis of the Parthian

nobility at Arbela. Here the Romans paused and tore open and ravaged the tombs. Thence

they continued the march to Edessa, where the Emperor established himself for the winter

of 216-17. In the following spring he made preparations to renew his barbarous and wanton

war, but in April of this year he was assassinated in the temple of the Moon-god, at


So far as Caracalla possessed the right to the Imperial diadem of Rome, the same was now

transferred to Macrinus, who to the vices of his predecessor added a cowardice of his own.

He would fain have come to an accommodation with the Parthians, but the latter were now

angered to desperation. In the negotiations that followed Artabanus made such demands as

could not be accepted even by a poltroon. Macrinus was accordingly obliged to put forth

his army and take the hazard of battle: The hostile forces came together near the city of

Nisibis, at this time the metropolis of Mesopotamia. Here the question was finally decided

whether the power of Rome should be extended over the Great Plateau of Iran, or whether

the line of demarkation which Augustus had pointed out should remain as the thus-far of

Roman domination in the East.

Both armies as they came together were at their best; but the Parthians were the more ably

commanded. The battle began with a local struggle between divisions of the two forces for

the possession of a stream which was to furnish water. A hard-fought engagement terminated

indecisively, and the armies rested for the night. On the following morning the conflict

was renewed, and all day long the battle raged with fury. One division of the Parthian

army was composed of a body of soldiers mounted