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Mon Sep 18, 2023, 08:50 AM

On This Day: Sep. 18 death prophecy comes true. Seer's life spared. - in the year 96

(edited from Wikipedia)
Larginus Proclus was a Germanic soothsayer in the 1st century AD. Using a method of divination based on interpretation of lightning, he predicted that the Roman emperor Domitian would die on a certain day [18 September 96].

He was in consequence sent by the governor of Germany to Rome, where he was condemned to death by the emperor himself. The punishment was deferred so that he could be executed after the prophesied date of death. However, Domitian was indeed assassinated on the date Larginus Proclus had prophesied, so his punishment was commuted and he was awarded 400,000 sesterces from Domitian's successor Nerva.


Domitian was assassinated on 18 September 96 in a conspiracy by court officials. A highly detailed account of the plot and the assassination is provided by Suetonius.

He alleges that Domitian's chamberlain Parthenius played the main role in the plot, and historian John Grainger cites Parthenius' likely fear over Domitian's recent execution of Nero's former secretary Epaphroditus as a possible motive. The act itself was carried out by a freedman of Parthenius named Maximus, and a steward of Domitian's niece Flavia Domitilla, named Stephanus.

According to Suetonius, a number of omens had foretold Domitian's death. The Germanic soothsayer Larginus Proclus predicted the date of Domitian's death and was consequently sentenced to death by him.

Several days prior to the assassination, Minerva had appeared to the emperor in a dream. She announced that she had been disarmed by Jupiter and could no longer give Domitian her protection. According to an auspice he had received, the Emperor believed that his death would be at midday. As a result, he was always restless around that time.

On the day of the assassination, Domitian was distressed and repeatedly asked a servant to tell him what time it was. The servant, who was himself one of the plotters, lied to the emperor, telling him that it was already late in the afternoon. Apparently put at ease, the Emperor went to his desk to sign some decrees. Stephanus, who had been feigning an injury to his arm for several days and wearing a bandage to allow him to carry a concealed dagger, suddenly appeared:

...he pretended that he had discovered a plot, and was for that reason granted an audience: whereupon, as the amazed Domitian perused a document he had handed him, Stephanus stabbed him in the groin. The wounded Emperor put up a fight, but succumbed to seven further stabs, his assailants being a subaltern named Clodianus, Parthenius's freedman Maximus, Satur, a head-chamberlain and one of the imperial gladiators.

During the attack, Stephanus and Domitian had struggled on the floor, during which time Stephanus was stabbed by the emperor and died shortly afterward. Domitian's body was carried away on a common bier and unceremoniously cremated by his nurse Phyllis.

Later, she took the emperor's ashes to the Flavian Temple and mingled them with those of his niece, Julia. He was 44 years old. As had been foretold, his death came at midday.

Cassius Dio, writing nearly a hundred years later, suggests that the assassination was improvised, while Suetonius implies it was a well-organized conspiracy, citing Stephanus' feigned injury and claiming that the doors to the servants' quarters had been locked prior to the attack and that a sword Domitian kept concealed beneath his pillow as a last line of personal protection against a would-be assassin, had also been removed beforehand.

Dio included Domitia Longina among the conspirators, but in light of her attested devotion to Domitian—even years after her husband had died—her involvement in the plot seems highly unlikely. The precise involvement of the Praetorian Guard is unclear. One of the guard's commanders, Titus Petronius Secundus, was almost certainly aware of the plot. The other, Titus Flavius Norbanus, the former governor of Raetia, was a member of Domitian's family.


Domitian was Roman emperor from 81 to 96. Described as "a ruthless but efficient autocrat", his authoritarian style of ruling put him at sharp odds with the Senate, whose powers he drastically curtailed.

After the death of his brother, Domitian was declared emperor by the Praetorian Guard. His 15-year reign was the longest since that of Tiberius. As emperor, Domitian strengthened the economy by revaluing the Roman coinage, expanded the border defenses of the empire, and initiated a massive building program to restore the damaged city of Rome.

Significant wars were fought in Britain, where his general Agricola attempted to conquer Caledonia (Scotland), and in Dacia, where Domitian was unable to procure a decisive victory against King Decebalus. Domitian's government exhibited strong authoritarian characteristics. Religious, military, and cultural propaganda fostered a cult of personality, and by nominating himself perpetual censor, he sought to control public and private morals.

As a consequence, Domitian was popular with the people and the army, but considered a tyrant by members of the Roman Senate. Domitian's reign came to an end in 96 when he was assassinated by court officials. He was succeeded the same day by his advisor Nerva. After his death, Domitian's memory was condemned to oblivion by the Senate, while senatorial and equestrian authors such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Suetonius propagated the view of Domitian as a cruel and paranoid tyrant. Modern revisionists instead have characterized Domitian as a ruthless but efficient autocrat whose cultural, economic, and political programs provided the foundation of the peaceful second century.

Accession [of Nerva]

On 18 September 96, Domitian was assassinated in a palace conspiracy organised by court officials.The Fasti Ostienses, the Ostian Calendar, records that the same day the Senate proclaimed Marcus Cocceius Nerva emperor. This was the first time the Roman Senate actually chose a new emperor rather than simply ratifying formally a choice made by either a previous emperor in his testament or an army or the Praetorian Guard.

Despite his political experience, this was a remarkable choice. Nerva was old and childless, and had spent much of his career out of the public light, prompting both ancient and modern authors to speculate on his involvement in Domitian's assassination, although his probable lack of involvement would have made him acceptable to the Domitianic faction.

According to Cassius Dio, the conspirators approached Nerva as a potential successor prior to the assassination, which indicates that he was at least aware of the plot. Suetonius by contrast does not mention Nerva, but he may have omitted his role out of tactfulness. Considering the works of Suetonius were published under Nerva's direct descendants Trajan and Hadrian, it would have been less than sensitive of him to suggest the dynasty owed its accession to murder.

On the other hand, Nerva lacked widespread support in the Empire, and as a known Flavian loyalist his track record would not have recommended him to the conspirators. The precise facts have been obscured by history, but modern historians believe Nerva was proclaimed Emperor solely on the initiative of the Senate, within hours after the news of the assassination broke. Although he appeared to be an unlikely candidate on account of his age and weak health, Nerva was considered a safe choice precisely because he was old and childless.

Furthermore, he had close connections with the Flavian dynasty and commanded the respect of a substantial part of the Senate. Nerva had seen the anarchy which had resulted from the death of Nero; he knew that to hesitate even for a few hours could lead to violent civil conflict.

Rather than decline the invitation and risk revolts, he accepted. The decision may have been hasty so as to avoid civil war, but neither the Senate nor Nerva appears to have been involved in the conspiracy against Domitian.

Following the accession of Nerva as emperor, the Senate passed damnatio memoriae on Domitian: his statues were melted, his arches were torn down and his name was erased from all public records. In many instances, existing portraits of Domitian, such as those found on the Cancelleria Reliefs, were simply recarved to fit the likeness of Nerva. This allowed quick production of new images and recycling of previous material.



On This Day: The Emperor of the United States comes forward - Sep. 17, 1859

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On This Day: The Nazi flag becomes the exclusive national flag of Germany - Sep. 15, 1935

On This Day: The British Empire skips from Wed. Sep. 2 to Thu. Sep. 14 - in the year 1752

On This Day: French rule in North America in tatters, as Quebec falls - Sep. 13, 1759

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Reply On This Day: Sep. 18 death prophecy comes true. Seer's life spared. - in the year 96 (Original post)
jgo Sep 18 OP
EYESORE 9001 Sep 18 #1
jgo Sep 18 #2
Aristus Sep 18 #3

Response to jgo (Original post)

Mon Sep 18, 2023, 09:34 AM

1. Thank you for helping me learn something every day

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Response to EYESORE 9001 (Reply #1)

Mon Sep 18, 2023, 09:36 AM

2. You're so welcome.

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Response to jgo (Original post)

Mon Sep 18, 2023, 11:24 AM

3. I read that too fast.

I mistook Domitian for Diocletian, and thought "Diocletian wasn't assassinated!"

Re-reading carefully is my friend. I know that now.

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