The latter part of the reign saw increasing trouble on the lower Danube from the Dacians, a tribe occupying approximately what is now Romania. Led by an able king, Decebalus, the Dacians in 85 invaded the empire. The war ended in 88 in a compromise peace which left Decebalus as king and gave him Roman "foreign aid" in return for his promise to help protect the frontier chiefly against himself.
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One of the reasons Domitian failed to crush the Dacians was a revolt in Germany by the governor Antonius Saturninus. The revolt was quickly suppressed, but henceforth Domitian's always suspicious temper grew steadily worse. It was, of course, the people nearest him who suffered, and after a reign of terror at court Domitian was murdered on Sept. The Senate, which had always hated him, hastened to condemn his memory and repeal his acts, and Domitian joined the ranks of the tyrants of considerable accomplishments but evil memory.
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Frontier Policy The northern frontiers needed Domitian's special attention. Encyclopedia of World Biography. Copyright The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Link to this page.
At about midnight he was so terrified that he leaped from his bed. The next morning he conducted the trial of a soothsayer sent from Germany, who when consulted about the lightning strokes had foretold a change of rulers, and condemned him to death. Then he dismissed all his attendants and went to his bedroom, where he was slain. As the conspirators were deliberating when and how to attack him, whether at the bath or at dinner, Stephanus, Domitilla's 66 steward, at the time under accusation for embezzlement, offered his aid and counsel. To avoid suspicion, he wrapped up his left arm in woollen bandages for some days, pretending that he had injured it, and concealed in them a dagger.
Then pretending to betray a conspiracy and for that reason being given an audience, he stabbed the emperor in the groin as he was reading a paper which the assassin handed him, and stood in a state of amazement. He was bidden by Domitian, immediately after he was dealt the first blow, to hand him the dagger hidden under his pillow and to call the servants; but he found nothing at the head of the bed save the hilt, and besides all the doors were closed.
Meanwhile the emperor grappled with Stephanus and bore him to the ground, where they struggled for a long time, Domitian trying now to wrest the dagger from his assailant's hands and now to gouge out his eyes with his lacerated fingers. He was handsome and graceful too, especially when a young man, and indeed in his whole body with the exception of his feet, the toes of which were somewhat cramped. In later life he had the further disfigurement of baldness, a protruding belly, and spindling legs, though the latter had become thin from a long illness. Be assured that nothing is more pleasing than beauty, but nothing shorter-lived.
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He took no interest in arms, but was particularly devoted to archery. Sometimes he would have a slave stand at a distance and hold out the palm of his right hand for a mark, with the fingers spread; then he directed his arrows with such accuracy that they passed harmlessly between the fingers. Yet he never took any pains to become acquainted with history or poetry, or even to acquiring an ordinarily good style.
He read nothing except the memoirs and transactions of Tiberius Caesar; for his letters, speeches and proclamations he relied on others' talents. Yet his conversation was not inelegant, and some of his sayings were even noteworthy. He went to the bath before the end of the forenoon and lunched to the point of satiety, so that at dinner he rarely took anything except a Matian apple 73 and a moderate amount of wine from a jug. He gave numerous and generous banquets, but usually ended them early; in no case did he protract them beyond sunset, or follow them by a drinking bout.
In fact, he did nothing until the hour for retiring except walk alone in a retired place. His constant sexual intercourse he called bed-wrestling, as if it were a kind of exercise. It was reported that he depilated his concubines with his own hand and swam with common prostitutes. After persistently refusing his niece, who was offered him in marriage when she was still a maid, because he was entangled in an intrigue with Domitia, he seduced her shortly afterwards when she became the wife of another, and that too during the lifetime of Titus.
Later, when she was bereft of father and husband, he loved her ardently and without disguise, and even became the cause of her death by compelling her to get rid of a child of his by abortion.
This, however, they did accomplish a little later by most insistently demanding the execution of his murderers. The senators on the contrary were so overjoyed, that they raced to fill the House, where they did not refrain from assailing the dead emperor with the most insulting and stinging kind of outcries. They even had ladders brought and his shields 75 and images torn down before their eyes and dashed upon the ground; finally they passed a decree that his inscriptions should everywhere be erased, and all record of him obliterated.
The Editor's Notes: 1 Various quarters and streets of the city were designated p in this way; cf. Otho , xii. The reference is to his consulships before he became emperor; see chap. Dio, It occupied a part of the Argiletum. Nero , xvii. Livy, Claudius, which forbade senators to engage in business, and that law may have had a chapter referring to the scribae quaestorii and other "civil servants"; or, as some suppose, Publius Clodius may have passed such a law.
Pliny, Paneg. Nero , xx. According to Tzetzes, Lyc. Nero , xl. Nero , xlix. Doubtless Domitian's ruddy complexion was a recommendation in his youth. The bow and arrow were not included by the Romans in the term arma. The Pergamene library was given by Antony to Cleopatra and transferred to Alexandria, where it was kept in the temple p of Serapis. It was frequently damaged during civil disturbances. Burman thinks that the reference is to the latter; but the plural suggests both.
Matius, a friend of Augustus and a writer on cookery and gardening. It was not, however, the original name of the hill, as some Roman antiquarians supposed.
Thayer's Notes: a This doesn't say much for the Roman navy. I'm hardly the first to notice it, though: see Tobias Smollett's entertaining commentary on this passage. At any rate, for photographic evidence of the month name, see this page. Those who need the details should see the comments in the sourcecode of this page. Astrologically, from the phrase "the moon would be stained with blood in Aquarius", one might expect a malefic aspect from Mars. Mars, however, was in the 9th degree of Taurus, and in no aspect; although it is interesting to note that it was stationary.
At any rate, the astrological chart in and of itself is not particularly striking; if astrology there was in all this, it must have been in the relationship between the transiting chart of the event and Domitian's natal chart.