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Featured article Domitian is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
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Commonly known as "Satan the Devil"? Uhh...please tell me that that is graffiti, and in relation to the pro-senatorial bias, see

What exactly does "despite some arguments in the scientific community" mean? Did somebody do a test and discover the persecutions did not occur?

Who exactly questions the persecutions and why? Do they have historical credentials, or are they assumed to be experts because of scientific credentials? Need to contextualize. Jdavidb 21:41, 8 Mar 2004 (UTC)

"He was also very fond of gladiator shows and added important innovations like women and dwarf gladiator fights." Uhmmm... important innovations? Mrzaius 20:27, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)

This discription follows the traditionally pro-Senatorial viewpoint of Domitian's reign and his effectiveness as a ruler. Much research has been done to reform Domitian's image and I will work to bring this here in the near future. draven5 02:50, 1 June 2005


"Sexual Significance Domitian remains significant in the history of sexuality for being the first Roman Emperor to use a spray on condom during one of his many attempts to 'ave a jab at one of dem dere Roman Bitches. {Source: S. Watson}"

wtf? don't make me laugh wikipedia

There is a section described as "Boats and Hoes" I dont think thats meant to be there, but I cant see what it was previously in the history... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:43, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

Domitian and early Christianity[edit]

This entire section is unsourced with a very strong POV that is pretty much irrelevent to an artical about Domitian. It should be removed or substantually rewritten with some citations about the claims made.RBobicus 21:08, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

How about from the mouths of the Romans themselves.

Seutonius - Lives of the Twelve Caesars - Domitian 15 "To conclude his last victim was Flavius Clemens, who is thought by some to be a convert to the Christian reilgion. He suddenly killed him."

And he died the same way as Jezebel in the Bible

But nothing so much disquieted Domitian as an answer given by Ascletario, the astrologer, and the accident that happened to him. This Ascletario had been informed against, and did not deny his having predicted that which by his art and learning he foresaw. Domitian asked him what end he thought he should come to himself. And the astrologer answered that his destiny was to be torn to pieces by dogs, Domitian ordered him immediately to be slain, and in order to prove the rashness and uncertainty of his art, caused him to be very carefully buried. But in the execution of this order, it chanced that the funeral pile was blown down by a sudden tempest, and Domitian's body, half burnt, was piecemeal by dogs; which, being observed by Latinus, the comic actor, as he chanced to pass that way, he told it, among the other news of the day, to the emperor at supper.

Seutonius - Lives of the Twelve Caesars - Domitian 15

The first quotation is inaccurate, and in the second Suetonius was discussing the death of the astrologer, not that of Domitian. I agree with RBobicus that the section as written does not belong in this article. I have moved it below. If anyone cares to preserve it, they could perhaps place in the article on Christian persecution. That said, within the Christian community there is a long established idea that there was a persecution under Domitian, derived from extrapolation from the New Testament book of Revelation. This is part of the historical discourse concerning Domitian, and might be profitably discussed as such in the article, if there were interest.--Nefasdicere 16:29, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Is the venerable Catholic Encyclopedia considered a trustworthy source? Much of the information in its entry on Domitian is at sharp variance with Wikipedia's article. The Sanity Inspector (talk) 23:06, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

So what is being said here is that Domitian was at best a "Ruthless Autocrat with a Cult of Personality" but that because there is no evidence except Christian evidence that he persecuted Christians it didn't happen. Hmmm.

Domitian and early Christianity[edit]

For scholars, it is difficult to uncover Domitian's exact policy towards the developing Christian community. Many people believe that he was the Emperor during the time that the Revelation to John was authored (95 or 96). From a traditional Christian perspective, the Revelation, the final canonical book of the New Testament, reveals God's plan for the Apocalypse. From a secular viewpoint, the Revelation could be viewed as a reaction to the anti-Christian policies of Domitian and some earlier emperors. At the time, Christianity was a struggling religion attempting to find a foothold in the classical world. In addition to persecution, Christians were also facing pressure to conform to the Imperial Cult of Domitian. Although it is unclear that Domitian officially enforced adherence to the cult, scholars generally agree that Roman governors forced citizens to participate in order to prove their loyalty and patriotism. Since Christian doctrine specifically forbids the worship of idols, Christians refused to partake in this Imperial tradition. In the face of adversity many 'Christians' may have been doubting their beliefs and may even have been on the verge of abandoning Christianity all together (if they were even Christians to begin with.) In this atmosphere it is conceivable that John of Patmos wrote the Revelation in hopes of inspiring fledgling Christians to persevere. Within the book several symbolic references are made about the Roman Empire and the incumbent Emperor, possibly Domitian. In short, Christians are reminded that their Savior will return to reward those who believe.

Article is unfair[edit]

I studied Ancient History to degree level at university and this article repeats many of the mistakes often made about Domitian. It's been a while since I studied him and I've no longer access to my 1980s textbooks, though I recall that he was endowed with substantial administrative skills and was a very able emperor. The sources treat him harshly because (like Tiberius, another gifted leader) he gradually fell out with the senatorial class, from whom historians normally came. This article requires substantial revision from someone with a familiarity with the period bigpad 12:12, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

The main Domitian historian whose work survives is Tactitus, whose father in law was one of Domitian's political enemies, this is probably part of why sources are biased Rurp 09:36, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

If somebody want short realistic facts about Domitian this is:
  • He has been second best emperor in administration skills (only August is better)
  • He has been mentaly sick ( from childhood ) but he has find way to control his wish to see death of other people.
  • He has been in military stuff really joke!

I really do not have time to start war on article page with morons which think that myths are reality. I have tried that with Caligula. rjecina 03:13 (CET), 4 october 2006

This article is badly in need of an overhaul, I agree. It is very summary and seems to be borrowing mostly from Suetonius, who wrote a highly unfavourable account. For instance, the page claims Domitian's reign was a financial disaster but modern historians (e.g. Syme) have demonstrated that the contrary was true. The article needs to be rewritten from the viewpoint of comprehensive modern studies. I will start reworking the text as soon as I can but I still have several other projects lined up. --Steerpike 18:54, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

What Happened? Vandalism?[edit]

What happened? The article has been deleted. It's vandalism! Should we block 23:15, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps a few additions[edit]

Although I am no professional historian (and that may invalidate my opinion right there!) it seems this article might also be improved by the addition of a few bits, such as Domitian's personality, his building and rebuilding of the 'limes' anti-siegework (ramparts, ditches, etc.) on and near the Danube, as well as some of the more colourful episodes known about him (his odd sense of humor, his propensity to begin each proclamation with the then-scandalous [if not necessarily so to those who recalled Gaius Caligula!] preamble "Our Lord and God commands..."), et al. Domiitian comes across in both the ancient sources and the modern re-evaluations as a man of parts which do not fit together (wisely another contributor to this talk page has noted how the one dependable historian who covers Domitian had some bad blood against him due to a family connection). So the very real possibility of some kind of madness may be interpreted. Given, I'm not the first to suggest that. But then, Wikipedia (like New York City, and more fortunately) is a work in progress. K. G. Griffiths 18:21, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

TfD nomination of Template:Suetonius 12 Caesars[edit]

Template:Suetonius 12 Caesars has been nominated for deletion. You are invited to comment on the discussion at the template's entry on the Templates for Deletion page. Thank you.

Single bust?[edit]

Chapter 8 of Procopius' Anecdota says that there was just one image of Domitian known, a bronze bust. Was there only one known in his time, or is this just Procopius at his usual semi-historical self? Nyttend 16:11, 19 September 2007 (UTC)

We have several surviving statues and busts of Domitian. One of the most striking and beautiful currently resides in the Toledo Museum of Art (link here). In fact, a photograph of this bust would much enhance the current article on Domitian. If anyone has a free picture available, do not hesitate and upload it! --Steerpike 12:37, 4 October 2007 (UTC)



I've started work on a complete—and much needed—overhaul of this page. I invite everyone with an interest in the subject matter to help and improve the article over the course of the next few weeks. As my primary source of reference, I will be using Jones' authoritative The Emperor Domitian, supplemented with other papers (Syme, Murison) and, where possible, ancient authors, although I'd like to keep these references to a strict minimum, as I feel I've relied too heavily on those sources in the past. Please post your comments and suggestions here. Regards. --Steerpike 07:35, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Progress may be slow, btw :) --Steerpike 13:00, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
It's been a while since I last edited the page (and what I did wrote will probably receive further revisions in the future), but I'm going to have to put this on hold until I find some free time. Meanwhile I will remove the 'editing' template at the top of the page. I know the article looks weird right now with its disproportionally detailed sections, but I hope I can change this sometime in the future. --Steerpike 11:10, 1 December 2007 (UTC)

I'm just going to continue talking to myself in this section: I've finished all sections leading up to his actual emperorship. Some minor adjustements should still be made, but overall, I'm fairly satisfied with the current version. Then again, maybe I could have extracted a better narrative from my source material. And the page already approaches 40kb in size, despite my efforts to summarize the facts as much as possible. The problem is that, with subject matter such as this, a lot needs to be explained in terms of who/what/where/how to casual readers. I find it hard to trim anything from the current text without sacrificing crucial context information. Comments and suggestions are welcome. --Steerpike (talk) 00:09, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Wikipedia isn't paper. You're doing great. Bill (talk) 02:03, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

New work[edit]

It's been nearly 6 months since my last major edit. Yesterday I resumed work on this article, which I hope to finish sometime in the near future. I have restructured the headings somewhat, expanded the section on Domitian's personality, added information on Domitian in later arts, and expanded the details on Nerva's succession. The latter is mostly copy-pasted from my own work on the Nerva article however. My next step will be to cover Domitian's administration as emperor, including military campaigns, economic and cultural programme, and political/religious persecutions. My ultimate ambition is to bring the article to FA status. Cheers. --Steerpike (talk) 19:23, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

This article is now a whitewash. Negative characterizations from primary and secondary sources must be included, since they are the sources, not those 2000 years later with a 'deconstructionist' fetish. The sources may be of varying reliability, that can be stated and referenced. But as it stands, this article is incomplete. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:36, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

Hence the "under construction" template at the top of the page. And btw, these sources with a "deconstructionist fetish" you mention happen to be well-established and respected authors in the field of classical studies (Syme, Jones, Murison,...). Ancient authors fail the criteria of WP:Verifiability, and should therefore never be used as a main point of reference. We cannot ask of editors or readers to have to piece together the "truth" from these texts, however factual they may be. A Wikipedia article should ideally present the prevailing expert/academic opinion on any given subject. There is plenty of reason to believe that Domitian was not nearly the monster described by Tacitus or Suetonius. To give just one example: if we are to believe the ancient sources, Domitian's reign was financially a disaster. Modern numismatic analyses however, confirm that Domitian actually revalued the coinage to a higher standard than that of his father and brother! But don't worry, there is plenty more to be added on Domitian's reign: his military campaigns, religious policies, senatorial opposition and, importantly, a historiography section dealing with the sources. --Steerpike (talk) 11:21, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

You've made the article even better; although I would like to see more liberal use of primary source quotations (or even ancient secondary sources). Even though the article is probably long enough as it is. In my initial comments I did not wish to denigrate your work, which has been undoubtedly industrious. But the current version is now in my view, more balanced. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Eusebius12 (talkcontribs) 18:02, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

Thank you :) --Steerpike (talk) 18:07, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

I greatly appreciate the amount of information you provided concerning Domitian. Although not privy to the apparently bias opinion of the previous article, I gleaned much information from your work. Certainly, many of the modern historian viewpoints are present in force and much of the historical records are fascinating. I would strongly urge caution, however, in simply dismissing the idea that Domitian was a horrible tyrant. Indeed, your article resembles almost a heroic representation of him by only lightly touching on anything negative. True, evidence apparently points to idea of Domitian as a great builder and effective administrator. However, the fact that the government greatly celebrated his death and ordered the destruction of all of his history greatly mirrors the de-Stalinization of the 20th century in the Soviet Union. Nobody denies that Stalin was one of the greatest builders in Russian history, but at what cost? 29.4 million lives, according to the Russian government. I recommend you address the evidences and writings of those, even if biased, more fully than you have done so in order to create a more representative historical picture of Domitian. Otherwise you've gone from one end of the spectrum of bias to the other. Bristus (talk) 03:16, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

Thank you for your comments. I understand your concerns, but perhaps I should say that, first of all, this article is supposed to be an entry in an encyclopaedia. That means that its content should ideally represent "the prevailing academic view" on its subject. In Domitian's case, this means the text is mostly drawn from Brian Jones' The Emperor Domitian, which is the standard reference work on this era. Perhaps that book does whitewash Domitian, who knows, but until a more influential work appears that sheds a radically different light on the facts, The Emperor Domitian should probably be the basis of any encyclopaedia article seriously dealing with the subject. People have asked me in the past to treat ancient sources more in-depth, but I don't think it serves the readers of this article well to overemphasise controversies and turn Domitian's biography into a legal case arguing against or for his (alleged) tyranny. For the curious, translations to the original sources are provided in the external links section, but I don't think readers should have to try and make sense of the mass of primary material.
To an extent, I agree about the Stalin comparison. It's something I've often wondered about myself. Exactly how ruthless was Domitian? Are the surviving sources really a biased minority, or just the tip of the iceberg? Perhaps time has erased much of the true nature of Domitian's tyranny, but the picture is inherently complicated by the bias of the surviving sources. This cannot be overstated. Authors like Tacitus and Pliny are so obviously biased against Domitian that piecing together his life and career based on these writings is akin to writing a biography of Barack Obama through Republican campaign speeches. It's nearly worthless. I think modern history has done an extremely good job at critically evaluating the available evidence, and yes, rightfully rehabilitating Domitian as one of the better administrators of the Empire. Nevertheless, modern authors (including Jones) do agree that he ruled autocratically, that he was paranoid, and that his regime exhibited totalitarian traits. But much of the accusations levelled at him were also found to be baseless. For instance:
  • Tacitus criticized Domitian's foreign policy, but at a time when the Roman Empire faced severe threats along the borders of the Northern and North-Eastern provinces, the conquests of Agricola were quite simply irrelevant and a burden to the military treasury. In fact Agricola himself seems guilty of the military incompetence Tacitus accuses Domitian of. He never subdued the Caledonians or defeated Calgacus, even after spending five years (longer than normal) as governor on the island. His supposed "triumph" may very well have been as phony as that of Domitian against the Gauls.
  • Although Suetonius and Dio suggest Domitian's economy was in debt, numismatic analysis confirms the opposite was true.
  • The alleged persecution of Christians and Jews is completely unfounded, and an invention of early Church historians. I think here in particular does Jones argue a very solid case.
  • He did not have an affair with Julia, nor did she die by an abortion. Again, Jones' arguments are very strong.
It's true that the Senate rejoiced at Domitian's death, but senators were only a minority, an elite class of men who had good reason to hate Domitian: he accentuated their loss of power through his autocracy. According to Suetonius, the common man met the news of his death "with indifference" (and Suetonius would have been there to know). To quote Syme: "What else could [the people] do? Domitian had fed and amused them, but had stood no nonsense from them". True, the Senate ordered damnatio memoriae, but again, analysis suggests that the order was not carried out very consistently or enthusiastically, and in fact almost wholly ignored in the provinces. Note that according to Suetonius, Domitian maintained historically low corruption among provincial governors, so it stands to reason that he would have been popular outside Rome. Finally, there is also evidence of his popularity with the army: during his lifetime, Domitian increased their pay, and spent significant amounts of time with them on campaigns; upon his death, soldiers rioted in several provinces, while the Praetorian Guard avenged his assassination during Nerva's administration. So we have proof that he was popular in the provinces and among the army. The common plebs neither loved nor hated him.
Lastly, the Nervan-Antonian dynasty which rose to power after Domitian's death, and therefore (in)directly benefited from his assassination, endured for nearly a century, giving ample time to establish a hostile tradition against Domitian. Remember history is written by the victors. Claudius executed far more senators and equestrians than Domitian ever did, and yet he was deified by the Senate, and today celebrated as a lovable emperor-fool. Nerva was hailed as a "financial genius", the first of Five Good Emperors, but in reality, his brief administration brought the Empire on the brink of collapse. So you see, it's not exactly a clear-cut picture. Cheers. --Steerpike (talk) 21:51, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

Nearing completion[edit]

Once again, I'm putting further edits on hold for a while, although I suspect the article will be finished sometime within the next two weeks. Domitian's early life and death I consider to be largely complete by now. Concerning his emperorship, the administration is finished, while his military campaigns and religious policy are both nearing completion. Significant expansions in the near future include:

  • Conquest of Britain
  • Religious persecution
  • Relationship with the Senate
  • Historiography

The article is approaching 80kb in size, although readable prose only constitutes 53kb so far, so it probably won't become too unwieldy. Regards. --Steerpike (talk) 23:52, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

The article is now more or less finished. I've immediately taken the liberty of nominating it for Featured Article status. Please leave your comments on the relevant page (see link at the top). --Steerpike (talk) 02:21, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

Suetonius contradicts death story here[edit]

In all of the details except for the bit about a servant telling him it was the sixth instead of the fifth hour, where the text here is merely exaggerated. Lycurgus (talk) 09:37, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Will be fixed shortly! --Steerpike (talk) 19:23, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Featured Article: Congratulations[edit]

Well done Steerpike - very impressive work. I completed the copyedit (better late than never) and had little to add to the later sections. As always, please review for changes to meaning as a result of disambiguation. Dhatfield (talk) 16:08, 17 August 2008 (UTC)

Thanks! I just added some minor corrections. --Steerpike (talk) 21:31, 17 August 2008 (UTC)


Amandajm (talk) 02:21, 16 July 2009 (UTC)


In the infobox AD occurs before the date, after the date or not at all. Perhaps some consistency could be applied? I'd do it myself but am unsure which stance the editors of this article have adopted. Sarsaparilla39 (talk) 03:58, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

Shouldn't we have an AD mentioned in the text near the start of the article - since it is on the Main Page this doesn't look clear to me and you can't see the AD in the box? (Msrasnw (talk) 09:47, 16 July 2009 (UTC))

I've converted AD to CE to help eliminate this issue. - Team4Technologies (talk) 11:50, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
If you use CE you must also replace "BC" with "BCE". You can't mix the BC/AD notation with the BCE/CE notation (see Wikipedia:Manual of Style). Since the article started out with the BC/AD notation, I'd much rather see the current use of CE revert back to AD. --Steerpike (talk) 13:42, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
Removing AD and CE altogether solves the problem, and I've edited the article as such.

Rsloch (talk) 13:46, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

My worry was the opening on the Main Page (where you cannot see the box) would be better if it had ADs in. So not "Domitian (51–96) was a Roman Emperor who reigned from 14 September 81 until his death." But "Domitian (51AD–96AD) was a Roman Emperor who reigned from 14 September 81AD until his death." I think the ADs would help the general reader. Only a thought - it is probably just me (Msrasnw (talk) 13:50, 16 July 2009 (UTC))


Was this article featured to draw parallels to Obama?

No. (?!) Brutannica (talk) 21:32, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

TFA hit count[edit]

Primary Sources[edit]

Is it true that Tacitus is the main primary sources for Domitian? I don't think so. There are 2 extensive primary sources: 1) Suetonius, which has been quoted in this article. 2) Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book LXVII. Josephus made a brief mention of Domitian in his account of the War of the Jews, but we do not have any extensive sources regarding Domitian from Tacitus. Actually, reading Tacitus' Annals we can see that Tacitus encouraged us to read more about Domitian in his other work, Histories. Unfortunately, the section concerning Domitian is no longer extant.

There were of course other accounts of Domitian from Christian primary sources, the Patristic Fathers: Tertullian and Melito. The most famous secondary sources of course was Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History.

Having just recently these primary sources, I have a hard time picturing the Domitian which this article portrays. Except for Josephus, who was taken in by the Flavians, hence his name Flavius Josephus, all the other sources, both Romans and Christians, were very adamant that Domitian was both a immoral person and an inept emperor. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:49, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

Image request - Toledo Museum of Art[edit]

There has been some confusion in recent days over an image request on this article in "Toledo, Ohio". I tracked down the original request to a request on WikiProject Ohio. The Toledo Museum of Art apparently has a bust of Domitian in excellent condition, and an editor has requested a photograph of that bust if possible. When this request was made, most of the current photographs on the article were already here, so I think the request is still valid. —Tim Pierce (talk) 03:01, 29 October 2010 (UTC)

Early Life[edit]

I'm not sure we can say with certainty that Domitian's mother was "long dead" by the time he was 6. My understanding is that all we know is that she likely died before AD 69, as Josephus probably would have mentioned the passing of Domitilla had it happened during the Jewish War. I have not read Waters' interpretation, however, so I'm hesitant to make the change outright.

"Benevolent despot"[edit]

In the section "Emperor (81)," there is a Wikiink to "benevolent despot," which redirects to Enlightened absolutism. Based upon the content of that page, it appears that term refers only to monarchs influenced by the Enlightenment. Would it be better to either use a different term (perhaps "benevolent dictator") that doesn't carry the association with the Enlightenment? Brad E. Williams (talk) 12:58, 2 April 2013 (UTC)

"Dictator" has a precise constitutional meaning in an ancient Roman context so would be inappropriate here. Ledmatt (talk) 08:06, 19 October 2014 (UTC)

Interesting tidbit[edit]

From the letter at the end of the lex Irnitana we know that Domitian, following in the footsteps of Julius Caesar and Augustus, named a month (October) after himself."The lex Irnitina, a new copy of Flavian Municipal Law", Julian Gonzales Kleuske (talk) 15:33, 16 September 2013 (UTC)

Jones (1992), pp. 182–188[edit]

I'm doing a project for a Latin class, and looking for help finding this source for reference 133:

Jones (1992), pp. 182–188

Does anyone know what it refers to? M0N57R0517Y (talk) 14:24, 12 May 2016 (UTC)