Macrinus

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This article is about the Roman emperor Macrinus. For the addressee of many of Pliny the Younger's Epistles, see Minucius Macrinus.
Macrinus
Macrino, 217-218 ca, collez. albani.JPG
Bust of Macrinus, from the Capitoline Museum
24th Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign 8 April 217 – 8 June 218
Predecessor Caracalla
Successor Elagabalus
Born c. 165
Caesarea
Died June 218 (aged 53)
Cappadocia
Spouse Nonia Celsa
Issue Diadumenian
Full name
Marcus Opellius Macrinus
(from birth to accession);
Caesar Marcus Opellius Severus Macrinus Augustus (as emperor)
Father equestrian family

Macrinus (Latin: Marcus Opellius Severus Macrinus Augustus;[a] c. 165 – June 218), was Roman Emperor from 217 to 218. He reigned jointly with his son Diadumenianus. Macrinus was by origin a Berber from Mauretania Caesariensis. As a member of the equestrian class he became the first emperor who did not hail from the senatorial class and the first emperor of Mauretanian descent. Before becoming emperor Macrinus served under Caracalla as praetorian prefect and dealt with Rome's civil affairs. He later conspired against and have Caracalla murdered in a bid to protect his own life.

As Emperor, Macrinus attempted to enact reform to bring economic and diplomatic stability to Rome. His predecessor's policies had left Rome's coffers empty and at war with several kingdoms, including Parthia, the Kingdom of Armenia and Dacia. While Macrinus' diplomatic actions brought about peace with each of the individual kingdoms, the additional fiscal costs and subsequent fiscal reforms generated unrest in the Roman military. This paved the way for Elagabalus to lead a successful rebellion to overthrow and later execute Macrinus in 218.

Background and career[edit]

Macrinus was Born in Caesarea Mauretaniae (modern Cherchell, Algeria) in the Roman province of Mauretania to an equestrian family of Berber origins.[1][2] In his earlier years he received an education which allowed him to ascend to the Roman political class.[2] Over the years he earned a reputation as a skilled lawyer, and under the emperor Septimius Severus he became an important bureaucrat. Severus' successor Caracalla later appointed him prefect of the Praetorian Guard.[2][3]

While Macrinus probably enjoyed the trust of Caracalla, this may have changed when, according to tradition, it was prophesied that he would depose and succeed the Emperor.[2] Macrinus, fearing for his own safety, resolved to have Caracalla murdered before he himself was condemned.[4]

In the spring of 217, Caracalla was in the eastern provinces preparing a campaign against the Parthian Empire.[5][6] Macrinus was among his staff, as were other members of the Praetorian Guard. In April, Caracalla went to visit a temple of Luna near the spot of the battle of Carrhae and was accompanied only by his personal guard which included Macrinus.[5] On April 8, while traveling to the temple, Caracalla was stabbed to death by Justin Martialis, a soldier whom Macrinus had recruited to commit the murder.[5][7] In the immediate aftermath, Martialis was himself killed by one of Caracalla's men.[5]

For either two or three days, Rome remained without an Emperor.[4][8] But by April 11, Macrinus had proclaimed himself emperor, and taken for himself all of the imperial titles and powers without waiting for the Senate.[4] The army backed his claim as emperor, and the Senate, so far away, was powerless to intervene.[8] Thus Macrinus became the first emperor to hail from the equestrian, rather than senatorial, class and also the first emperor of Mauretanian descent.[9] He adopted the name of Severus, in honor of the Severan dynasty, and conferred the imperial title and name of Antoninus to his son Diadumenianus, thus making him co-emperor, in honor of the Antonine dynasty.[9][10]

Family[edit]

Macrinus had a wife, Nonia Celsa, who received the title of Augusta upon Macrinus' becoming Emperor and a son Diadumenian who was made co-emperor immediately after Macrinus' ascension.[11][12]

Reign (April 217 – June 218)[edit]

Despite his equestrian background, Macrinus was at first cheerfully confirmed into his new role by the Senate and the provinces.[13] The Senate themselves were less concerned by Macrinus' Mauretanian ancestry, however, than by his equestrian social background and heavily scrutinized his decisions.[4] Their opinion of him was reduced by his decisions to appoint men to high offices who were of similarly undistinguished backgrounds.[4] Actions such as these led to the Senators scrutinizing Macrinus with critical severity. Only the Senate had the constitutional power to choose the emperor from among the Senators, and Macrinus, not being a Senator and having become emperor through force rather than through traditional means, was looked down upon.[13]

Macrinus' predecessor Caracalla had a tendency towards military belligerence and upon his death had left several conflicts for Macrinus to resolve.[14] Macrinus was at first occupied by the threat of the Parthians, with whom Rome had been at war since the reign of Caracalla. Macrinus settled a peace deal with the Parthians after fighting an indecisive battle at Nisibis in 217.[15] In return for peace, Macrinus was forced to pay an indemnity of 200 million sesterces to the Parthian ruler Artabanus V.[16][17] Simultaneously, Macrinus was under the threat of both Dacia and Armenia, and thus, any deal with Parthia might have been beneficial to Rome.[18] Next, Macrinus turned his attention to Armenia. He settled a peace treaty with them by returning the crown and loot to Tiridates and releasing his mother from prison, thus returning Armenia to its status as a client kingdom of Rome.[19] Finally, Macrinus turned his attention to the Dacians, settling peace with them by releasing hostages, though this was likely not handled by himself but Marcus Agrippa instead.[20] In matters of foreign policy, Macrinus showed a tendency towards settling disputes through diplomacy and a reluctance to engage in military conflicts, though this may have been due to lack of resources and manpower than his own personal preference.[14]

Caracalla was a profligate spender of Rome's income. He spent much of it on the army and stripped bare whatever sources of income he had.[21] Thus, upon Macrinus' ascension the fiscal situation of Rome was dire.[22] Macrinus made the initial move to overturn Caracalla's fiscal policies and moved closer towards those that had been set forth by Septimius Severus.[23] One such policy change involved the Roman legions, the soldiers that had already enlisted under Caracalla and who enjoyed exorbitant payments continued to receive that pay, but, Macrinus reduced the pay of new recruits to the level that had been set by Severus.[24][25] Macrinus then revalued the Roman currency, increasing the silver purity and weight of the denarius from 50.78% and 1.66 grams at the end of Caracalla's reign to 57.85% and 1.82 grams from Fall 217 to the end of his own reign, again mirroring the fiscal policy made under Severus.[26][27] Macrinus' goal with these policies might have been to return Rome to the relative economic stability that had been enjoyed under Severus' reign, though it came with a cost.[28] The fiscal changes that Macrinus enacted might have been tenable if not for the military. By this time the strength of the military was too great and by enacting his reforms managed to anger the military. In this way Macrinus paved the way for his own downfall.[28][29]

Caracalla's mother Julia Domna was initially left in peace when Macrinus became emperor. This changed when Macrinus discovered that she was conspiring against him and had her placed under house arrest in Antioch.[30] By this time Julia Domna was suffering from an advanced stage of breast cancer and soon died in Antioch, possibly by starving herself.[9][30] Soon after, Macrinus sent her sister Julia Maesa and her children back to Emesa in Syria, from where she set in motion her plans to have Macrinus overthrown.[9][31] Macrinus himself had decided to remain in Antioch instead of going to Rome upon being declared emperor, a step which furthered his unpopularity in Rome and another contributor to his eventual downfall.[32]

Downfall[edit]

An aureus of Macrinus. Its elaborate symbolism celebrates the liberalitas ("prodigality") of Macrinus and his son Diadumenianus.

Julia Maesa had retired to her home town of Emesa with an immense fortune which she had accrued over the course of twenty years. Her children, Julia Soaemias and Julia Mamaea and grandchildren, one of whom was Elagabalus, the son of Julia Soaemias went with her.[33] Elagabalus himself was the chief priest of the Phoenician sun-deity Elagabalus (or El-Gabal) in Emesa.[33] Soldiers from Legio III Gallica that had been stationed at the nearby camp of Raphanea often visited Emesa and often went to go see Elagabalus perform his priestly rituals and duties while there.[33][34] Julia Maesa took advantage of this to suggest to the soldiers that Elagabalus was indeed the illegitimate son of Caracalla.[9][33] On May 18, Elagabalus was proclaimed emperor by the Legio III Gallica at its camp at Raphanea.[35]

Execution (218)[edit]

By now Macrinus sensed that his life was in danger, but could not decide upon a course of action and instead remained at Antioch.[36] Not to remain idle however, Macrinus sent Ulpinus Julianus with a force of cavalry to regain control of the rebels. This attempt to bring about an end to the rebellion failed and resulted in the death of Ulpinus and further strengthened Elagabalus' army.[36] Soon after a force under Elagabalus' tutor Gannys marched on Antioch and engaged a force under Macrinus on June 8, 218 near the village of Immae.[32] At some point during the ensuring battle, but before its conclusion, Macrinus deserted the field and fled back to Antioch.[32] Macrinus was then forced to flee from Antioch as fighting erupted and was later be captured and executed.[32] His son and co-emperor Diadumenianus suffered a similar fate.[9]

Damnatio Memoriae[edit]

Macrinus and his son Diadumenianus were declared hostes by the Senate immediately after news had arrived of their deaths. This declaration was an official declaration of support for the usurper Elagabalus who was immediately recognized in the Senate as the new Emperor. The declaration of hostes against led to two actions being taken against the images of the former Emperors. First, their portraits were destroyed outright and their names were stricken from many inscriptions and papyrii. The second action, taken by the Roman soldiers who had rebelled against Macrinus in favour of Elagabalus, was to destroy all of the works and possessions of Macrinus. Varner comments that the damnatio memoriae against Macrinus is among some of the earliest such sanctions enacted by the Republican Senate. The marble busts of Macrinus that exist have all been defaced and mutilated as a response to the damnatio memoriae and many of the coins depicting Macrinus and Diadumenianus have also been destroyed. These actions against Macrinus are presented by Varner as evidence of his unpopularity at Rome.[12]

Legacy[edit]

Shortly after Macrinus was named emperor, a tetrastyle Capitoline Temple, was erected in Volubilis, Morocco in honor of Macrinus and dedicated to the Capitoline deities of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.[37]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In Classical Latin, Macrinus' name would be inscribed as MARCVS OPELLIVS SEVERVS MACRINVS AVGVSTVS

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Naylor, Phillip C. (2015-01-15). North Africa, Revised Edition: A History from Antiquity to the Present. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-76190-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d Gibbon, Edward (1776). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 1. p. 176. 
  3. ^ Mennen, Inge (2011). Impact of Empire, Volume 12: Power and Status in the Roman Empire, AD 193-284. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 15. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Goldsworthy, Adrian (2009). How Rome Fell. Yale University Press. p. 75. 
  5. ^ a b c d Goldsworthy, Adrian (2009). How Rome Fell. Yale University Press. p. 74. 
  6. ^ Mennen, Inge (2011). Impact of Empire, Volume 12: Power and Status in the Roman Empire, AD 193–284. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 22. 
  7. ^ Gibbon, Edward (1776). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. p. 177. 
  8. ^ a b Gibbon, Edward (1776). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. p. 178. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Dunstan, William, E. (2010). Ancient Rome. Rowman and Littleman Publishers. p. 213. 
  10. ^ Mennen, Inge (2011). Impact of Empire, Volume 12: Power and Status in the Roman Empire, AD 193–284. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 26. 
  11. ^ Crevier, Jean Baptiste Louis (1814). The History of the Roman Emperors From Augustus to Constantine, Volume 8. F. C. & J. Rivington. p. 238. 
  12. ^ a b Varner, Eric (2004). Mutilation and transformation: damnatio memoriae and Roman imperial portraiture. Brill Academic. pp. 184–188. ISBN 9-004-13577-4. 
  13. ^ a b Gibbon, Edward (1776). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. p. 179. 
  14. ^ a b Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. p. 118. 
  15. ^ Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. p. 76. 
  16. ^ Goldsworthy, Adrian (2009). How Rome Fell. Yale University Press. p. 88. 
  17. ^ Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. p. 119. 
  18. ^ Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. p. 111. 
  19. ^ Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. p. 113. 
  20. ^ Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. pp. 114–115. 
  21. ^ Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. pp. 118–119. 
  22. ^ Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. p. 125. 
  23. ^ Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. p. 126. 
  24. ^ Gibbon, Edward (1776). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Emperor. p. 180. 
  25. ^ Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. pp. 127–128. 
  26. ^ Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. pp. 130–131. 
  27. ^ Harl, Kenneth W. "ROMAN CURRENCY OF THE PRINCIPATE". Tulane University. Archived from the original on 10 February 2001. Retrieved 30 August 2016. 
  28. ^ a b Scott, Andrew (2008). Change and Discontinuity Within the Severan Dynasty: The Case of Macrinus. Rutgers. pp. 134–135. 
  29. ^ Gibbon, Edward (1776). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. p. 181. 
  30. ^ a b Goldsworthy, Adrian (2009). How Rome Fell. Yale University Press. p. 176. 
  31. ^ Goldsworthy, Adrian (2009). How Rome Fell. Yale University Press. pp. 76–77. 
  32. ^ a b c d Glanville, Downey (1961). History of Antioch in Syria: From Seleucus to the Arab Conquest. Literary Licensing LLC. pp. 248–250. ISBN 1-258-48665-2. 
  33. ^ a b c d Gibbon, Edward (1776). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. p. 182. 
  34. ^ Goldsworthy, Adrian (2009). How Rome Fell. Yale University Press. p. 77. 
  35. ^ Goldsworthy, Adrian (2009). How Rome Fell. p. 78. 
  36. ^ a b Gibbon, Edward (1776). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. p. 183. 
  37. ^ Melton, Gordon, J. (2014). Faiths Across Time: 5000 Years of Religious History. p. 340. 

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dio, Cassius. (n.d.). Roman History.
  • Herodian of Antioch. (n.d.). History of the Roman Empire.
  • Historia Augusta. (n.d.)
  • Miller, S.N., "The Army and the Imperial House," The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XII: The Imperial Crisis and Recovery (A.D. 193–324), S.A. Cook et al. eds, Cambridge University Press, 1965, pp. 50–2.

External links[edit]

Macrinus
Born: 11 April 165 Died: June 218
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Caracalla
Roman Emperor
217–218
Served alongside: Diadumenianus
Succeeded by
Elagabalus
Political offices
Preceded by
Gaius Bruttius Praesens ,
Titus Messius Extricatus
Consul of the Roman Empire
218
with Marcus Oclatinius Adventus
Succeeded by
Elagabalus,
Marcus Oclatinius Adventus