ROME-AGE OF THE ANTONINES.
undisguised hostility to each other. The mother Julia, undertook to effect
a reconciliation between her darling scions, whereupon the elder in
vindication of his filial love, stabbed the younger in his mother's arms
and killed him. The same delightful quietus was extended to the friends of
Geta, several thousand of whom are said to have been murdered by
Caracalla's orders. Thus perished Fadilla, the daughter of the Emperor
Aurelius; the remaining son of Pertinax, and the jurist Papinian, whose
crime consisted in refusing to defend the assassination of Geta.
Caracalla soon established his reputation as the greatest monster ever clad
in the Imperial purple. The compressed beastliness of Caligula, Nero, and
Commodus together was equaled in the horrid kennel of Caracalla's
animality. He soon left the capital to practice his debauches in the
provinces of the Empire. Nor is it likely that his reign could have been
protracted for six years, had it not been for its removal from place to
place. In Egypt, being gibed at for his beastly visage, he ordered a
frightful massacre of the people. Without pretending to assume the command
of the army, he wandered from one city to another, until at last, in A. D.
217, he was struck down by a private soldier on the borders of Syria.
The assassination was procured by Macrinus, one of the praefects of the
city, who was now proclaimed Emperor, and at once assumed the purple. He
did not return to Rome, but remained with the army in the East. His first
work was an attempt to improve the discipline of the legions, and thus to
control the force by which he had been raised to the throne. The soldiers-
though the Emperor did not at first direct his efforts to the veterans of
the service-quickly perceived and resented the interference of the
Imperator. Meanwhile a second train of causes had been prepared for one of
the strangest revolutions ever witnessed in the Empire. A certain Julia
Maesa, sister of the empress Julia, dwelt now at Antioch, where Macrinus
had established his head-quarters. This princess, now aged, had by her two
daughters, who, like herself, were widows, two grandsons named Bassianus
and Alexander. The former, guided by his mother, had become a priest of the
Sun at Emesa. Here was stationed a strong division of the Roman army.
Bassianus had become well known to the soldiers, and by his personal beauty
and accomplishments had won their favor and applause. When they learned
that Macrinus was pursuing a course which tended manifestly to the
destruction of their power in the state, they proclaimed the Sun-priest
Emperor. The soldiers at Antioch abandoned Macrinus and joined their
brethren at Emesa. The praetorians-for by that name the new guards
organized by Severus were still known -remained loyal to the reigning
Emperor; and in a battle which followed between them and the legionaries,
victory at first inclined to the side of Macrinus; but he himself presently
fled and the praetorians were routed. The fugitive Emperor and his son were
pursued and put to death. Opposition to Bassianus ceased and he ascended
the throne with the Imperial titles of Antoninus and Severus. These names,
however, as well as that given him by his parents, were quickly supplanted
by the title of Elagabalus, the same being the name of the Syrian Sun-god
whom he served.
So the black stone symbolizing the Sun in the tradition of Syria was