Domitian was only nineteen when he made his first appearance in the senate. It was also his first meeting with the men who were to bring about his downfall. Following his assassination in 96 AD after a reign that had lasted fifteen turbulent years, the senate declared the memory of this, the last of the Flavian emperors damned forever. Why? The surviving record relates tales of unbelievable depravity - Domitian's reign being described as the darkest in history, full of terror and uncertainty. Suetonius documents all Domitian's eccentricities, idiosyncrasies and crimes in ascending order of seriousness, culminating in the list of executions of senators - ten in fifteen years. But was his reign as bad as it has been portrayed? Why did contemporary authors have no good word for him even though their careers were advanced by his imperial favour? Many of the emperor's earlier achievements were enduring and well-advised - his administrative arrangements survived him, unchanged by later emperors - and his frontier wars were by no means ill-considered. Indeed, the number of senators murdered by him was far smaller than those killed by Claudius. Something indefinable had gone wrong between Domitian and the senate, but what? In this new in-depth study, Pat Southern distinguishes fact from fiction. She strips away the hyperbole and sensationalism from the literary record to present a clear picture of the youth and reign of a man who was not as black as he was painted but who caused undoubted suffering which must be accounted for. For the first time Domitian is examined from a psychological point of view, to reveal a living breathing individual - offering a more reasonable explanation of thetragedy of his reign to satisfy both his detractors and his few champions.
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