September 18, 2023

The People's Superstitious Emperor, Domitian

Domitian Bust in Naples
It is September 18, and what I find most esoterically significant about this day is that it is the death of the Roman emperor Domitian, who died on this day in the year 96 CE.  First, he was from that time when the Roman emperors thought themselves a god, which as we know ended when the powers to be got tired of changing the temple statues with each knew emperor, and so created a capital G "God" to be worshiped under the cloak of "love" with each new bloody regime change, genocide, war, etc...  Yes, all those wonderful things the monolithic god has giving us in the name of love.

Like Julius Caesar, Domitian was another leader liked by the people, for as Caesar had done before him, Domitian improved the public bathrooms and lowered taxes by putting the burden of taxation where it belonged: on the rich.  And like Caesar, Domitian would be killed by the wealthy politicians (Senators) of the day who were pissed about being taxed to pay for social programs they weren't benefiting from, i.e., today's 1%ers.

Now, Domitian was no angel, he killed a lot of people he didn't trust and took advantage of the system, but the people didn't care because he taxed the rich to feed the poor, and built them a badass sports area called the Stadium of Domitian with daily gladiator violence.  He also improved roads and public showers, as well as protected the people with a large military buildup, which, he paid the men handsomely on their return from battle.  He also restored the Temple of Jupiter, one of the peoples gods of the days, as well as allowed all forms of worship including the Hebrews and the vegetarian Pythagoreans and Neoplatonist. What a guy! 

Over the last two-thousand years a lot has been written about Domitian, mostly how he was a superstitious, paranoid, Emperor who got what he deserved, which is bullshit, and the best summation I've read is from an old Look and Learn magazines from the 70's

One day in A.D. 95 the Emperor woke up in a state of fear and trembling. He had had a terrible dream, he told his attendants, in which a golden hump had sprouted from his back. Like all Romans, Domitian was very credulous, believing in any kind of portent or omen. This dream, he deduced, meant that the Roman Empire would be a far richer and happier place when he was gone, and that certainly turned out to be the truth.

Then, a little while later, a raven perched on the roof of the Capitol, the building where the statue of Jove (Jupiter) was kept.  Someone said that it croaked out the words “All will be well” before flying off.  That, decided the Roman populace, must be a portent – and it was left to a wag to explain it thus:

“There was a raven, strange to tell,
Perched upon Jove’s own gable, whence
He came to tell us ‘All is well’ –
But used, of course, the future tense.”

Superstitious Domitian added up all these things in his mind and was convinced that some day soon he would be assassinated. Roman soothsayers were even able to indicate the date when influences would be particularly bad, when someone, the Emperor deduced, would kill him.  A long time ago, he remembered, his own father, Vespasian, had teased him openly at dinner for refusing a dish of mushrooms.  “It would be more in keeping with your destiny to be afraid of swords,” his father jibed.

Daily, the Emperor became more jittery. The gallery where he was accustomed to pace up and down in the mornings was now lined with plaques of highly-polished moonstone, which reflected everything that happened behind his back. To remind his staff that even the best intentions could never justify an official’s complicity in his master’s murder, he executed his secretary, who had reputedly helped the former Emperor Nero to commit suicide after everyone else had deserted him.

Suddenly Rome was engulfed by continuous storms. Domitian cried out: “Let the Almighty strike wherever he pleases!” He was convinced that all the bad weather portended his own death. The Almighty, or at least his lightning, did strike everywhere, too, including the palace and Domitian’s own bedroom. A hurricane wrenched the inscription plate from the base of one of the Emperor’s triumphal statues and what some people might describe as faulty workmanship was at once attributed to the growing nearness of Domitian’s death.

And the Romans, who knew how to get rid of evil Emperors, were as convinced as was Domitian that he must soon die.  The only questions were as to who would do the killing and on what final pretext.  Both were speedily answered.  On a whim the Emperor suddenly ordered the death of his half-witted cousin, the consul Flavius.  That was enough for the Romans.

The Triumph of Titus

A group of conspirators got together and debated whether it would be better to murder Domitian in his bath or at dinner.  Before the question was resolved they were approached by Stephanus, a steward at the palace, who offered his services.  Stephanus had been accused of embezzlement and therefore was particularly anxious for the Emperor’s death.  He was chosen to do the murder.

For several days Stephanus feigned an arm injury and went around with a dagger concealed in the woollen bandages. Then, when he knew that Domitian was about to take a bath, he went to Parthenius, the Emperor’s valet, and told him that he had discovered a plot against Domitian’s life and must speak to the Emperor at once about it.

Parthenius hurried to tell Domitian, who dismissed his attendants and told the valet he would see Stephanus in the Imperial bedroom.  There Stephanus produced a list of names and while the Emperor was reading it Stephanus suddenly produced the dagger hidden in his bandages and stabbed Domitian in the groin.

In an alcove in the bedroom a slave boy was attending to the household-gods, which was his usual evening duty, and it was he who later described the assassination, which he witnessed, in great detail.

As soon as the first blow was struck, the Emperor grappled with Stephanus and screamed at the boy to hand him the dagger which was kept under his pillow, and then run for help.  The boy did as he was told, but the dagger proved to have no blade and the door to the servants’ quarters was locked.

Domitian fell on top of Stephanus and they both rolled on the floor.   But another door to the bedroom was unlocked and suddenly opened, bringing more conspirators to the aid of Stephanus.  There were four of them: Clodianus, an officer; Maximus, who was a servant of the valet Parthenius; Satur, a palace official, and one of the Imperial gladiators.  With their daggers they stabbed Domitian to death.

The Emperor’s body was taken away on a litter by the public undertakers, who buried the common people, and cremated by his old nurse in her garden on the Latin Way.  She was one of the few who mourned Domitian; the rest of Rome went wild with joy.

Or did they?  I mean, who wrote the history?

~~ Dr TV Boogie

Domitian Bust in Esoteria



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