Geta was one of the Roman emperors who ruled briefly and tragically in the early 3rd century AD. He was the younger son of Septimius Severus, who became emperor after overthrowing Commodus in 193 AD. Geta’s mother was Julia Domna, a Syrian noblewoman who played a significant role in the imperial politics and culture. Geta had an older brother, Caracalla, who was his rival and eventual murderer.
Geta was born on March 7, 189 AD, in either Rome or Milan, according to different sources. He grew up in a turbulent period of Roman history, marked by civil wars, foreign invasions, and military reforms. His father was a successful general who expanded the empire’s borders and strengthened its administration. Geta received a good education and showed some interest in literature and philosophy, but he was overshadowed by his brother, who was more ambitious and aggressive.
In 198 AD, Geta was given the title of Caesar, or junior emperor, while Caracalla became Augustus, or senior emperor, alongside their father. The three of them ruled together for more than a decade, but they did not get along well. Geta was assigned to handle the civil affairs and bureaucracy, while Caracalla accompanied their father on military campaigns. They often quarreled over power and influence, and their mother tried to mediate between them.
In 209 AD, Geta was also elevated to Augustus, making him equal to his brother and father. The following year, they launched a joint invasion of Britain, where they faced fierce resistance from the local tribes. They managed to secure some victories and fortify the frontier, but they also suffered heavy losses and expenses. In 211 AD, Septimius Severus died at York, leaving his two sons as co-emperors.
The situation soon deteriorated into a civil war between Geta and Caracalla. They divided the empire into two zones of influence, with Geta controlling Africa, Spain, and Gaul, and Caracalla controlling Italy, Asia Minor, and the East. They also split the army and the court into two factions. They returned to Rome with their respective supporters and lived in separate parts of the palace. They only met in public under heavy guard and with their mother’s presence.
Their conflict reached a climax on December 26, 211 AD, when Caracalla arranged a meeting with Geta in their mother’s apartment. As they embraced each other, Caracalla’s soldiers stabbed Geta to death in front of Julia Domna. Caracalla then declared himself sole emperor and ordered a bloody purge of Geta’s followers. He also tried to erase Geta’s memory from history by destroying his statues, coins, inscriptions, and documents. He even forbade anyone to mention his name or mourn his death.
Geta’s short and tragic reign was one of the darkest episodes of Roman history. He was a victim of his brother’s ambition and cruelty, as well as his father’s failure to secure a peaceful succession. He left no lasting legacy or achievements, except for his sympathy among some historians and poets who lamented his fate. He was buried in an unmarked grave near the Mausoleum of Hadrian.