Worst Roman Emperors – 9 Surprising Facts

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The Roman Empire is often considered one of the most successful due to Gaius Octavius, the first emperor and Julius Caesar, the last republican ruler. However, there are several names in between that defamed and even sometimes destroyed the Empire. With no job description and selection criteria, the country produced some of the best and worst Roman emperors. We’re here to reveal to you a few of Rome’s most infamous rulers who had no control over the senate and the army.

1. Emperor Diocletian associated a mysterious fire at his palace with Christians and beheaded them

We keep Emperor Diocletian on top of this list as his reign marked the decline of the Third Century Crisis. His policies and reforms are the prime contributors to the Roman Empire’s longevity into a whole new millennium. Diocletian had great control over the military and suppressed several enemies. He revived the broken tax system of the kingdom too. 

However, all great things aside, he is infamous for carrying out one of the most brutal attempts to destroy Christianity. He took away the legal rights of Christians and encouraged the worship of Roman gods only. Diocletian destroyed churches and other religious scriptures and even prohibited Christians from worshipping in groups. He took to beheading, torture and scourging the Christians after a mysterious fire in the palace. 

Diocletian's sketch in Worst Roman Emperors
Emperor Diocletian

2. Caligula, one of the worst Roman emperors, loved only one

Caligula was selected as Emperor by Tiberius, his great uncle. However, he may have ordered the suffocation of his benefactor. Caligula was famous during his reign; however, things changed drastically after an illness that lasted seven months. He earned his wealth through legalised looting and murdered as a hobby. Caligula built a bridge that lasted two miles to ride with his horse over the Bay of Baiae. The only living thing he seemed to love was his horse, Incitatus. He even gifted the horse a marble home to live in. Although historians now disagree, legend has it that he made his horse a consul. Soon, Caligula would present himself as a God and demanded worship. Moreover, his palace could be described as a brothel with his sisters forced to be whores.

A picture of Caligula
Emperor Caligula

3. Nero murdered his mother to divorce his first wife

Grip yourself to a chair; you may get a faint on reading about the next Emperor. Emperor Nero has plenty to be ashamed of. To start with, he murdered his mother, only so that he could remarry by divorcing his first wife. However, he went on to execute her as well. After his second marriage, you would expect things to have gone great, but Nero kicked his second wife to death. The fact that his third marriage crumbled too is not surprising. However, this one was to a freed slave, whom he called by his second wife’s name, but in the end he had her castrated.

A picture of Nero
Emperor Nero

4. One of the worst Roman emperors, Tiberius suspected everybody

Even though Augustus wasn’t too fond of him, after his reign, Tiberius came into the picture. There is no doubt that the new Emperor was extremely gifted. He was a military commander and a respected authority of the senate. However, a delusional Tiberius suspected that all those around him were looking to pull him down and he sentenced almost anyone who gave him a bad vibe. Several Roman historians claim that Tiberius was a sexual predator too. Although Tiberius isn’t half as bad as his successors, it is safe to say that he started a trend of the worst Roman emperors.

Tiberius Caesar Painting by Titian in worst roman emperors
Emperor Tiberius Caesar

5. Some historians compare Domitian to Saddam Hussein

Although Domitian inherited his father, Vespasian’s charm, he was paranoid and suspected those around him. This may be due to his narrow escape from the civil war. He did not trust the senate and several leading citizens conspired against him. Domitian demanded to be treated as a God and went against several philosophers. He exiled several people and murdered the chief vestal virgin by burying her alive. Although some historians claim that his actions and crimes are exaggerated, others compare him to Saddam Hussein.

Emperor Domitian's painting
Emperor Domitian

6. Elagabalus prostituted himself in his palace making him one of the worst Roman emperors

Elagabalus took over the throne at the young age of fourteen. But you can’t refer to him as a “little boy” because of all the sex scandals and religious controversies surrounding him. In his initial days, he was a priest who worshipped the Syrian sun god. Elagabalus considered himself as Jupiter, which didn’t please the Empire. He married five different women and had countless sexual encounters with both men and women throughout his life. He would order his servants to go in search of lovers for him and enjoyed watching people bathe. Additonally, his reign ruined the value of the Roman currency. Once again, he proved his immaturity by appointing his lovers to critical positions in politics. Although his rule ended when he turned 18, the four years of his reign deem him as one of the worst Roman emperors of all time. 

A sculpture of Emperor Elagabalus
Emperor Elagabalus

7. Caracalla provided all inhabitants of Rome citizenship, not as a good deed, but to gain more tax

Caracalla co-ruled with his brother, Geta, for several years. However, ultimately he had him killed. Certainly not satisfied, he slaughtered Geta’s supporters as well. He removed Geta from all images, coins and statues and soon, uttering his name became a crime. Caracalla was one of the worst Roman emperors and did his Empire no good. He offered free citizenship only so that he could get more tax. Caracalla carried out unnecessary military campaigns and drained all the Empire’s funds. Obsessed with Alexander the Great, Caracalla persecuted Aristotelian philosophers because of the legend that Aristotle poisoned Alexander.

Bust of Caracalla - a sculpture
Emperor Caracalla

8. Maximinus cared only about the Army

Maximinus was appointed by the Army to be their leader. However, the Senate considered him a peasant and disliked him right from the beginning. Maximinus favoured war and engaged his troops in battles constantly with opponents from the Germanic tribes to the Battle of Tzirallum. Additonally, he doubled his troops pay by increasing taxes to keep them happy. However, due to famine and uncontrolled diseases at home, the army finally beheaded him, his son and the chief ministers. They put the heads on a pole and carried them back to Rome. 

A picture of Maximinus Thrax's sculpture
Maximinus Thrax

9. Commodus pretended to be Hercules, making him one of the worst Roman emperors

Roman Emperor Commodus viewed himself as Hercules, dressed like him and gifted himself divine awards. Commodus bankrupted the Roman treasury. Additonally, he found the most treacherous way to regain everything he lost i.e by executing wealthy citizens for treason. After this, Commodus would claim their property. Moreover, he also plotted against his sister. However, the plan did not work out, but, he executed several others.

A picture of Roman Emperor Commodus
Emperor Commodus

The above list compiled of the worst rulers of Rome, now how about the crazy rulers in history, read 10 Crazy Rulers In History and their antics

 

 

 

 

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