Geta (emperor)

For other people with the same name, see Publius Septimius Geta (disambiguation).
Joint 22nd Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign 209 – December 211
Predecessor Septimius Severus
Successor Caracalla
Co-emperors Severus (209–Feb.211)
Caracalla (209–Dec.211)
Born (189-03-07)7 March 189
Died 26 December 211(211-12-26) (aged 22)
Full name
Publius Septimius Geta
(from birth to 209);
Caesar Publius Septimius Geta Augustus (from 209 to death)
Dynasty Severan
Father Septimius Severus
Mother Julia Domna
Roman imperial dynasties
Severan dynasty
Severan dynasty - tondo.png
The Severan Tondo
Septimius Severus 193–198
—with Caracalla 198–209
—with Caracalla and Geta 209–211
Caracalla and Geta 211–211
Caracalla 211–217
Interlude: Macrinus 217–218
Elagabalus 218–222
Alexander Severus 222–235
Severan dynasty family tree
All biographies
Preceded by
Year of the Five Emperors
Followed by
Crisis of the Third Century

Geta (Publius, or Lucius, Septimius Geta Augustus;[note 1] 7 March 189 -26 December 211),[1] was a Roman emperor who ruled with his father Septimius Severus and his older brother Caracalla from 209, when he was named Augustus like his brother who had held the title since 198. Severus died in 211, and although he intended for his sons to rule together, they proved incapable of sharing power culminating with the murder of Geta in December of that year.[2]

Early life

Geta was the younger son of Septimius Severus by his second wife Julia Domna. Geta was born in Rome, at a time when his father was only a provincial governor at the service of Emperor Commodus.

Conflicts between Geta and Caracalla were constant and often required the mediation of their mother. To appease his younger son, Septimius Severus gave Geta the title of Augustus in 209.

During the campaign against the Britons in the early 3rd century CE, imperial propaganda promoted the image of a happy family that shared the responsibilities of rule. Septimius Severus entrusted Julia Domna with the role of counsellor, Caracalla acted as the emperor's second in command, and administrative and bureaucratic duties were Geta's responsibility. In reality, however, the rivalry and antipathy between the brothers did not abate.

Joint Emperor

When Septimius Severus died in Eboracum in early 211, Caracalla and Geta were proclaimed joint emperors and returned to Rome.

Their joint rule was a failure. Later sources speculated that the brothers wished to split the empire in two halves. By the end of 211, the situation had become unbearable. Caracalla tried unsuccessfully to murder Geta during the festival of Saturnalia. Finally, on the 19th of December, Caracalla had his mother arrange a peace meeting with his brother in his mother's apartments, and then had him murdered in her arms by centurions.

Following Geta's assassination, Caracalla ordered his brother's name to be removed from all inscriptions. The now sole emperor also took the opportunity to get rid of his political enemies, on grounds of conspiracy. Cassius Dio stated that around 20,000 men and women were killed or proscribed during this time.[3]


Very few marble portraits attributable to Geta survive to date, presumably due to the very thorough damnatio memoriae which resulted in the erasing of his images. However Roman coins with his image are plentiful, and can reflect how his father Septimius Severus and later Geta himself wanted him to be seen by the Roman people (and especially the Roman military).

Images of Geta and his older brother Caracalla cannot be well distinguished until the death of the father. Both sons were supposed to be presented as equally suitable heirs to the throne, showing thus more "depth" to the dynasty.

On his coins Caracalla, who became Augustus in 197, was shown with a wreath of laurels, while Geta remained bareheaded until he himself became Augustus in 209.[4] Between 209 and their father's death in February 211, both brothers were shown as equally mature young men with a short full beard, ready to take over the empire. Between the death of Septimus Severus and the assassination of Geta, Caracalla's portraits did not change, while Geta was depicted with a long beard with hanging hairs much like his father, a strong indication of Geta's efforts to be seen as the "true" successor of his father.[4]

Severan family tree

See also


  1. In Classical Latin, Geta's name would be inscribed as PVBLIVS SEPTIMIVS GETA AVGVSTVS.


  1. Birley 1999, p. 324.
  2. Varner, Eric R. Mutilation and Transformation: Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture (2004) Brill Academic Publishers. p. 168
  3. Cassius Dio, Roman History
  4. 1 2 (German) Andreas Pangerl: Porträttypen des Caracalla und des Geta auf Römischen Reichsprägungen - Definition eines neuen Caesartyps des Caracalla und eines neuen Augustustyps des Geta; Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt des RGZM Mainz 43, 2013, 1, 99–116


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Geta (emperor)
Born: 7 March 189 Died: 19 December 211
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Septimius Severus
Roman Emperor
With: Septimius Severus and Caracalla
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Lucius Fabius Cilo,
Marcus Annius Flavius Libo
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Caracalla
Succeeded by
Marcus Nummius Umbrius Primus Senecio Albinus,
Lucius Fulvius Gavius Numisius Petronius Aemilianus
Preceded by
Lucius Annius Maximus,
Gaius Septimius Severus Aper
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Caracalla
Succeeded by
Lucius Aurelius Commodus Pompeianus,
Quintus Hedius Lollianus Plautius Avitus
Legendary titles
Title last held by
King of Britain Succeeded by
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