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Domitian's Assassination On the Palatine Hill

Domitian's Assassination On the Palatine Hill

Old Jun 19th, 2005, 04:38 PM
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Domitian's Assassination On the Palatine Hill

You wouldn't find this location in guidebooks and probably not even in a google search.
I always wondered where his bedroom assassination took place when I visited the Palatine Hill.
Last year on a ContextRome tour their archaeologist pointed out this location that some archaelogists and historians believe was Domitian's bedroom.
Below is a trip report I wrote using historical guidebooks and google searches.
But you can always find different minor variations of events but overall I tried to follow what seemed to be the most logical and truthful.
I'm a terrible writer and a worst proofreader and between WebTv and this Forum it will probably run my paragraphs all together. So if you're interested just copy it and space it out yourself.
Personally I believe it is the site of Domitian's assassination, all the pieces just seem to fit that location. Of course the conspiracy within the conspiracy is from my own warped mind along with the little sex scandals. Regard, Walter
'Titus Flavius Domitianus'
(51-96AD) better known as Domitian.
 Son of Emperor Vespasian and younger brother (by ~11yrs) of Emperor Titus.
 Who were by Roman standards good emperors and very respected Generals. After Nero's suicide Rome had 3 emperors in ~18 months (2 were killed in the Forum and 1 committed suicide), it was a Civil War in which Vespasian finally won and became emperor (69AD). With Titus as heir to the throne.
 Domitain was given official jobs and titles under his father and brother but no real power.
Vespasian had Titus succeed him (79AD) on his death but Titus died a couple of years later with no son or adopted heir to the throne. Rumors were Domitian had Titus killed but he most likely died of natural causes.
It's fairly certain than both his father and brother never expected or wanted Domitian to become emperor (81AD).
 A loner as a child and always in the shadow of his father and brother it seems he tried to advance himself politically in his youth but offering himself sexually to older men in power.  Nerva who was twice his age and a politically powerful man had an affair with him. And oddly enough succeeded him as emperor.
And another power player named Clodius Pollio used to show around (as a joke and probably to slam his father Vespasian) a sexually explicit love letter Domitian had written him.
But later as emperor he came out with anti-homosexual decrees. In ancient Roman society the submissive partner was always looked down upon (no pun intended ) in these relationships, so he might(?) have been trying cover-up his past by being seen as anti-gay. He also had a rep for being a big womanizer in his adult life. He kind of reminds me of the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover (gay with an anti-gay political agenda) and also Senator Joseph McCarthy in his witch-hunts of the Vestal Virgins.
Domitian had 2 possibly 3 Vestal Virgins killed in 83AD and the Chief Vestal killed in 90AD.
  The Vestals should have been tried by the Pontifex Maximus and his Priests but Domitian held his own trials which he presided over.   Domitian isn't the 1st or last ruler to blame the Vestals when things go wrong or to just condemn them to make themselves look good. The emperor becomes the hero by rooting-out the non-virgin Vestals and saving Rome (a Vestal losing her chastity is just inviting catastrophe to befall Rome, the wraith of the Gods type).   Financially he wasn't a bad emperor and he had quite a few building projects, the impressive remains of his Palace is a major site on the Palatine Hill today and the Piazza Navona was built upon his stadium. But he did go overboard on gold and silver statues of himself and a few triumphal arches. He also took credit for bldgs that he only restored by re-dedicating them it his name alone.
He remained a solitary person in his adult life and always felt slighted by his father and brother. And he believed that it was thru him that they became emperors which was pure fantasy.   His favorite palace pastime was catching flies by stabbing them with a sharpened stylus (a long metal inkpen). When an aide would ask the guards at the door if the emperor was alone they would answer 'Yes, not even with a fly" .
A few omens and prophesies preceeded Domitian's death. The famed astrologer Ascletario predicted Domitian's downfall. When Domitian heard of this (thru informers) he had Ascletario brought before him.
Domitian asked him if he could predict his own end. Ascletario said "I will die soon and my body will be ripped apart by dogs".  Domitian figured that if he could negate this prophesy then his other prophesy concerning him wouldn't come to pass.
Domitian ordered him killed, his body burned and then buried. After they lit the funeral pyre a sudden powerful gust of wind put out the flames. Suddenly a pack of dogs ran to the pyre and starting ripping Ascletario's half-burnt body to shreds.
 When Domitian heard that Ascletario's prophesy came true, he was certain that his end was also near.
The Roman people kind of liked him, he puts on many spectacular games in the Colosseum (he loved to watch women and dwarf gladiators fight), Circus Maximus, Stadium of Domitian, Naumachiae (sea battles on artificial lakes) and also oratory/music/acting competitions. He was also pretty liberal with food and money allowances to the common people.  But he's not loved enough for them to riot in the streets over his murder.
The army loved him even though he was a terrible General but he kept them *well paid* (a 33% pay raise buys alot of loyality).
The Senate mostly hated him, he had a bad habit of killing Senators and Consuls for real or imaginary threats.
But when he puts those in his inner circle in fear of their lives...that was his fatal mistake.
There were a couple of plots against Domitian in 87 & 89AD, the Senators and Knights involved were either killed or banished. So I guess he had reason to be paranoid .
 He had the walls of porticoed courtyard where he was fond of walking finished in a stone that would reflect his image and that of anyone sneaking-up behind him.
 He also slept with a dagger under his pillow.
His wife Domitia Longina was very possibly in on the successful 96AD plot. Domitia was already married but Domitian made her divorce her husband and marry him (70AD).   During the marriage Domitia has an affair with an actor named Paris, Domitian finds out and has Paris killed and Domitia exiled (83AD).
 A few months later Domitian takes his niece (Titus's daughter) Julia Flavia as his live-in mistress. She was just recently married but that's not a problem when you're the emperor, you just make her a widow .
Domitian misses Domitia (although he tells her and everyone else, it's the Roman people that miss their empress) and recalls her from exile to live with him again as his wife. But still with Julia on the side of course .
 Julia becomes pregnant, Domitian orders an abortion which causes her death (91AD). Domitian has her deified.
In 96AD Domitia is in her late-40's and they've been married 26yrs. Perhaps(?) she no longer held sway over her husband and figured there was either a fatal accident, accusation or exile in her future?
The assassination is carried out by palace employees close to the emperor and a Gladiator from the Imperial School.
But for the conspiracy buffs , there were perhaps those in high places pulling the strings? Domitian's wife Domitia, already been exiled once and she's gettin' 'long in the tooth'. And then we have a seemingly loyal (he was a lawyer after all ) Nerva waiting in the wings, who becomes emperor after the assassination. Also alot of Senators would jump on this bandwagon in a heartbeat. Then we have the 2 new 'Prefects of the Praetorian Guard', Norbanus and Petronius, well the Prefects they replaced had been dismissed and accused by Domitian, so they're likely waiting for their own axe to eventally fall.
  Domitian makes a mistake of having 2 of his courtiers killed (Sept'96). One is his cousin Flavius Clemens and the other is an old and trusted freedman Epaphroditus.
  Flavius is married to Domitian's niece Domitilla who he has exiled for atheism possibly because she became a Christian.  And Epaphroditus was Nero's Freedman and who remained the only person loyal to his emperor. They fled the city together and when they knew that capture was imminent he helped Nero commit suicide. He was a loyal servant to Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.
  Now! the bureaucratic boys in Domitian's inner circle know that *no one* is safe and by the middle of the month Domitian will be murdered.
  The plotting begins, the 2 main conspirators are Parthenius who is Domitian's most trusted Chamberlain and allowed to wear a sword around the emperor.
  The other is Stephanus who will be the lone assassin although others will be nearby in case things go wrong...and they do.   Stephanus, is a freedman and Steward to the exiled Domitilla whose husband Domitian just killed. Some say he volunteered out of revenge and loyality to Domitilla.
  But many say Domitian's wife asked him to kill the emperor. I don't know, being in on the plot is one thing but *volunteering* to be the person to actually plunge the knife into the most powerful man in the World as a favor or out of loyality?
Well it also seems that at this time Stephanus was being accused of embezzling from Domitilla. An ex-slave turned freedman stealing from his patron is bad enough but from the Emperor's niece! Even if she is on his #@$% list you just can't have *those people* stealing from the royal family, he'd be lucky to get off with a simple beheading .
Whether Domitian lives or dies, he will still have to face this charge.
Now *I* wonder, could he have been offered a deal by someone in (Domitia?) or coming into power (Nerva, Senators, etc)? Well we'll never know, it seems that he was the only one *conveniently* killed after the assassination. Nothing like a dead patsy to blame the murder on esp if things went wrong. And any possible ties to other VIP conspirators will die with him also.
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 04:41 PM
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thanks Walter

Senator Joseph McCarthy persecuted the Vestal Virgins?
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 04:45 PM
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The other conspirators according to Suetonius, was the subaltern Clodianus (a low ranking military officer?), Satur (head chamberlain), Maximus (Parthenius's freedman) and a gladiator (unnamed).
Also Cassius Dio mentions Segeras (chamberlain) and Entellus (in charge of petitions) as being in on the plot.
And as mentioned before, very possibly Domitia and the 2 Praetorian Prefects.
Stephanus a couple of days before the assassination wraps is hand and arm in bandages and tells the emperor he had an accident. This is so he can hide a dagger there when the fatal day arrives. [This bothers me, Parthenius is always armed with a sword and the head conspirator, in 2 seconds he can kill the emperor anywhere and at anytime. Why go thru this bandaged hand ploy? He is either being forced or it is a point of honor for him to personally kill Domitian. The former just seems to ring true to me, esp after he winds up dead!]
September 18, 96AD-The 5th Hour: The conspirators set the plot in motion that morning.
  The 6th hour is midday, Domitian was once told by a fortune-teller that he would die in the 5th hour. He always fears that hour and is always relieved when it has past.
  In the past 8 months there have been many lighting strikes which are considered very bad omens by Romans. The 'Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus' on the Capitoline Hill (this is *THE* Temple in Rome and a *really bad omen*), Domitian's family home which is now a Family Temple & Tomb (containing Emperor Vespasian and Titus' ashes) and also Domitian's bedroom (where he will be murdered) in the Palace have all been struck by lighting.
  That morning he presided over a trial of a Geman Soothsayer (fortune-teller), who when asked about the lighting strikes had said that they foretold a change of emperors.   Not what Domitian wanted to hear! He condemned the Soothsayer to death. He then asked a servant "what time is it"? Being in on the plot he answered "The 6th Hour".   Relieved that he was out of danger for that day, Domitian headed for the baths. Parthenius stopped him and told him someone had an urgent message for him regarding a conspiracy.
  Domitian said he would meet the messager in his bedroom and dismissed his attendants.
  Stephanus entered with his bandaged arm and hand and handed the emperor a letter which he said would betray a conspiracy.   While Domitian was reading the letter, Stephanus slowly reached into his bandages for his dagger. And then suddenly stabbed the emperor in the groin.
  Domitian goes on the offensive and attacks, he receives defensive cuts on his hands. He calls to the young boy who attends the Lares (a small shrine to the household Gods) in his bedroom to get his dagger (which he keeps under his pillow) and to call for help. The boy obeys but Parthenius has removed the blade, leaving only the useless hilt and all the doors are closed so the boy's cries go unheeded [the boy was a witness and his account is recorded in history].   Now they are on the floor wrestling around, Domitian is trying both to gouge out Stephanus' eyes and to get his dagger.   The boy said they fought for a long time. The other conspirators are just outside the door but for some reason they don't rush in? Their lives are on the line at this point, if Domitian survives they will be killed...but they still wait???   Finally they come to Stephanus' aid, Clodianus, Maximus, Satur, and the gladiator.
  Domitian is finally killed, he received 7 stab wounds. And then it's said that others not in on the plot rush in and kill Stephanus, no one else...just him!!!
  I still wonder if Stephanus was the patsy in this plot? Domitian is 45 and has reigned for 15yrs. His corpse is carried away by
those who bury the poor. It's brought to the estate of his nurse who raised him and she cremates him. Later she sneaks his ashes into his family tomb and mixes them with his niece Julia.   The Senate orders all his statues torn down and his name erased from all plaques and buildings.
  The following year there is a small scale soldier's revolt against Emperor Nerva, during which the soldiers kill 2 of the conspirators.     The next 5 emperors after Domitian are known as the 'good emperors', it lasts for 84yrs and then we get Commodus!
Well that haven't found a sign saying 'Domitian Slept Here' in the Palace .
  But some archaeologists and historians are believe they know the bedroom's general location.
  The Palace has 3 sections, the western end is for public and political functions (audience hall, banquet hall, etc). The eastern end has the emperor's private outdoor area (the stadium/hippodrome gardens).   The middle section is the private palace of the emperor. Now in this section there is a beautiful outdoor porticoed courtyard with a large water pool, a fountain and gardens. This courtyard is also 2 stories below groundlevel. So it is very cool in the summer and very private and secure, it can only be reached an interior staircase which leads to 8 rooms and from these rooms short corridors go out into the courtyard.
  These 8 rooms are actually 4 rooms on each of 2 stories and many are interconnected.
  Each of these rooms have large windows that overlook an indoor fountain/pool () at each end, like this ()|--|--|(). With these rooms being below groundlevel and this fountain constantly being feed cold water, it looks like Domitian had a primitive form of AC .   Romans just used bedrooms to sleep in and also as Domitian used to call it "bed wrestling" . So even though he lives in a Palace don't expect him to have a huge Renaissance-type palace bedroom with large windows with a view, security at night was more important.   So when you add it all together (large private beautiful courtyard, cool rooms each overlooking a smaller fountain/pool and only reached by a single set of interior palace stairs) it's almost a given that this area was for the emperor. And those rooms were bedrooms, very secure and cool in the summer's heat.
To give you an idea of the location go to www.capitolium.org/eng/fori/pianta.htm
and look below #23 and you can make-out the Third Courtyard with bldgs around it. It's easy to find in real life, it's behind the Palatine Museum which you can't miss when you are there.   Now go to
http://www.utexas.edu/courses/romanc...39;spalace.jpg See the area between the 'Audience Chamber' and the 'Banquet Hall'. That is the porticoed outdoor courtyard that Domitian used to like to walk around, the one he had faced in a reflective stone so no one could sneak-up behind him.
  It's a good possibility that the Audience Chamber was where he was that fatal final morning for the trial of that German Soothsayer. Ok now find the 'Third Court', that's the private porticoed pool/fountain/garden courtyard.
  Now look below the word 'Court', see the 'H' structure. The bedrooms are in the cross section of or middle of the 'H', although it only shows 2 there are actually 2 more below it, so 4 on the groundfloor and 4 more above it.
  Notice in each of the vertical legs | | of the 'H' there is a ().
Those are the fountain/pools that each of the rooms overlook.   Also to the left of the bottom leg of the 'H' see the rectangle, that is the lone staircase (also I noticed a small room nearby that looked like a bath) that leads down from the palace into these rooms.   And in one of those eight rooms on September 18, 96AD in the 5th Hour, Emperor Domitian received a messenger with a bandaged arm & hand who had an urgent message for him...It was very bad news . Go to
http://wings.buffalo.edu/AandL/Maece.../ac780715.html that photo was taken from the bottom right section of the 'H', the bedrooms are in the far lower left corner. Also click-on 'Section Contents' and view the photos labeled 'Third Court'.
Go to www.peskytherat.com/susanpics/rome26.jpg that is a view from the opposite corner. The bedrooms are behind the wall in the center of the photo. That tall narrow doorway is one of the corridors that leads from a bedroom into the courtyard. The other is to the left of it-no doorway but you make out the corridor between the partial wall and the square protruding structure next to it.
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 05:01 PM
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Elaine: How can you not remember those hearings? "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the non-virgin Vestal Party". "Are any of your friends or relatives members of the non-virgin Vestal Party".
Regards, Walter
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 05:19 PM
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Thanks, Walter, you are truly a fount of classical knowledge! A fascinating bit of history.
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Old Jun 10th, 2014, 01:01 PM
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I would just like to update this.
This tour with an archaeologist took place in 2004 when he pointed-out this structure as "possibly" or "it was believed" was the bedroom of Emperor Domitian.
Of course a professional person must have solid proof to make a 'definite' claim or their reputation gets called into question.
While myself on the other hand has no worries that my stating this based on the evidence which is pretty 'cut and dry' as this is the most logical place for an Emperor's air-conditioned bedroom.
AC??? Look at the Models below and picture bedroom structure as 2-stories and roofed over and on each end of this enclosed structure is a fountain )]BED)] with *large* open windows in the bedrooms overlooking these fountains plus a doorway to each on the ground floor.
These 2 fountains are spraying and pooling ice cold aqueduct water in this structure plus the front of these rooms have more large open windows and doorways on the ground floor that open into a Huge courtyard which has a HUGE fountain (seen in photos below) also spraying and pooling ice cold water.
And this HUGE courtyard (Third Court) is also roofed over (but likely with an skylight opening [```==```] check the 'Models') and this courtyard is also walled in.

So what we have is an enclosed space with air that is cooled by ice cold water and cold air sinks and hot air rises and in the summer months THAT is where you would want to be... in a cool bedroom mid-day in September if you were the Emperor.

Anyway the reason I brought this back-up was before all I had was the archaeologist's "belief" and my amateur opinion on what I saw when there and my own guesses as to why I though it was the 'Bedroom'.

I recently found this that was written 4 months after I posted this and it is an article in the 'Dartmouth Foreign Study Program in Rome' which shows a diagram of the Palace with #20 as the huge courtyard fountain and 21 & 22 as the 2 bedroom fountains with the letter 'B' between them showing the bedroom's location.

"Domitian's bedroom itself was a small chamber in depths the lower quarters, hidden from view and always guarded in his sleep ("B" on figure 1)."
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~classics/r..._10/nov15.html OR

As you can see the on the 'Plan' this assassination bedroom site is just behind the 'Antiquarium' (Palatine Hill Museum) which stands out and is impossible to miss.
Just walk behind the museum and this site (shown on the photos below) plus a scenic overlook of the Circus Maximus is impossible to miss.

Models; The Huge (bedroom) courtyard (3rd Courtyard) is behind the semicircular structure just above the middle of the Circus Maximus

Photos from where you will be standing, the "H" Bedrooms and 2 end Fountains are on the left below you []H[]
http://jessonawhim.files.wordpress.c...6/dsc02687.jpg http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1405/5...3f6ccf9571.jpg
http://www.overome.com/blog/wp-conte...anoramica1.jpg http://jessonawhim.files.wordpress.c...6/dsc02687.jpg
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