Domitian and the Dynamics of Terror in Classical Rome

Peter Wiseman offers some intriguing thoughts on the world of the emperor Domitian - its traumas and terrors - to mark the 1900th anniversary of his assassination.

Nineteen hundred years ago this month, on September 18th, AD 96, as the emperor Domitian was going to retire for his midday siesta, Parthenius the chamberlain came to him with an urgent message. Someone had brought evidence of a conspiracy: the emperor must hear it at once. Domitian dismissed his entourage and withdrew into his bedroom with just a few trusted members of the palace staff. The informer was Stephanus, steward of the emperor's niece Domitilla. He had injured his arm, which was bandaged in a sling. Stephanus presented his document, and while Domitian was reading it, drew a concealed weapon and stabbed him in the groin. Domitian was a tall, stout man in his mid-forties. He grappled with his attacker, shouting to slave to give him the dagger from his pillow. But the blade had been removed from the hilt, and those who should have helped him barred the doors and joined in the attack. Seven stab wounds finished him off.

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