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Flavia Gemina

How to address Domitian in AD 80

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The TV series script writers (for the series that is not 'mine' but is based on my books) want to know how a crowd would address Domitian in AD 80, when Titus was officially emperor. As Titus and Domitian were co-regents, what would the crowd have called Domitian?

 

'Caesar!'?

'Imperator!'?

'Princeps!'?

'Your worshipfulness!'?

'Hey, you!'?

 

Martial addresses Domitian as 'Hope of Men!' but that is in an epigram after he's Emperor.

Edited by Flavia Gemina

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Hi Flavia.

 

This passage is from the encyclopedia of Roman Emperors.

 

Domitian's role in the 70's was determined largely by Vespasian's choice of Titus as his successor. To him fell a series of ordinary consulships, the tribunician power, the censorship, and the praetorian prefecture. Domitian, on the other hand, was named six times to the less prestigious suffect consulship, retained the title of Caesar, and held various priesthoods. He was given responsibility, but no real power. Nothing changed when Titus acceded to the throne, as Domitian received neither tribunician power nor imperium of any kind. The brothers were never to become close, and as Titus lay dying in September 81, Domitian hastened to the praetorian camp, where he was hailed as emperor. On news of Titus'imperium, the title Augustus, and tribunician power along with the office of pontifex maximus and the title pater patriae, father of his country.

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Thanks, Gaius.

 

So when Titus was in power, Domitian's only legal title was 'Caesar', and people in a crowd might have called him that, if they were trying to get his attention.

 

Any other suggestions?

 

Thanks,

 

Flavia

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Thanks, Gaius.

 

So when Titus was in power, Domitian's only legal title was 'Caesar', and people in a crowd might have called him that, if they were trying to get his attention.

 

Any other suggestions?

 

Thanks,

 

Flavia

 

 

Unfortunately, the ancient sources don't say much at all about what Domitian was doing during the short reign of Titus. He was co-consul with Titus though in AD 80 (not that the office carried much weight at this point, but the princeps still cared enough to name themselves consul periodically). Caesar seems an appropriate designation though in any case.

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The problem is that they have a big crowd scene at Ostia's amphitheatre (don't ask!) and people have been shut out of the games and want to come in. I believe Domitian walks by and they all cry out to him.

 

The screenwriters don't want the angry Ostians all calling him 'Caesar'; they wanted some variation.

 

Any suggestions in the light of that?

 

P.S. The reason I am fuzzy on some of this is that although the episode is based on one of my books, they have had to change it drastically due to financial limits. They don't have the 1 billion required to film the opening of the Colosseum with tigers, lions and then hippos and crocs in a flooded amphitheatre... The Emperor in my book is Titus but the actor who plays him might not be available, hence the need for Domitian to stand in. Thus is history changed when it goes to the small screen! :)

Edited by Flavia Gemina

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Flavia - this may sound strange, but would your producers have any objection to the crowd merely using his name - i.e. 'Domitian'? Nothing in our sources (letters, official documents and such) gives us any hint of a courtesy title being used to people in power. I rather think that is simply a very correct British invention. I doubt that a Roman would have been insulted by a crowd addressing him by his name - especially if it was the name of his gens, or his 'official' name. On the other hand, in the days when 'Caesar' was used as a title rather than a name, this would probably be the only appellation used by the mob.

 

I don't know how you feel, but hearing addresses such as 'Your excellency' and 'Your majesty' in a Roman mouth makes me wince as it sounds so unauthentic. If all else failed and the producers insist upon giving him a modern address, 'Sir' would do, and does not compromise the authenticity half as much as the others, IMHO.

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Thanks for those.

 

It gives us: Caesar! Domitian! Sir! and Fly-killer! ;)

 

Many thanks, one and all!

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The Emperor in my book is Titus but the actor who plays him might not be available, hence the need for Domitian to stand in. Thus is history changed when it goes to the small screen! ;)

 

I've just watched the second part of "The Assassins of Rome" with my Daughter and I quite liked the actor who played Titus, I thought he was quite convincing, but on the other hand I didn't rate the actor who played Domitian in the first part, he just didn't come across how I would have expected Domitian to be, I think he looked like a sweaty, drunken slave, a bit of a loser, instead of a sinister ruthless character like I would have imagined him.

 

I know you don't get as much input into the show as you would like Flavia, so what do you think about the whole Titus / Domitian thing. I personally would like to see the scene you mention with Titus instead of his sleazy brother. ;)

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The appearence of the Emperor before the people in this context is of huge significance, almost symbiotic in terms of the accessibility of the "two parties" to each other .That the person of the Emperor should make himself seen and be within earshot of the crowd was of great weight, it should be noted that when this duty was abrogated during grain shortages violence ensued ie: officials could not placate the people the duty of civitas could not be ignored . I mention this toward the end of this review:-

http://www.unrv.com/book-review/famine-food-supply.php

 

Such an occasion would , potentially, be therefore quite emotive if some crisis were afoot. What would over excited Plebs shout? Oi Guvnor? Boss (Patron?)? Fly boy?

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...I've just watched the second part of "The Assassins of Rome" with my Daughter and I quite liked the actor who played Titus, I thought he was quite convincing, but on the other hand I didn't rate the actor who played Domitian in the first part, he just didn't come across how I would have expected Domitian to be, I think he looked like a sweaty, drunken slave, a bit of a loser, instead of a sinister ruthless character like I would have imagined him...

 

No, I didn't get any say in the casting. Nicholas Farrell is fine as Titus but he doesn't look anything like him (I can recognize Titus's bust in any museum I step into) and I think he's a bit too emperor-y. I imagine Titus as a stocky, matter-of-fact soldier type. Not at all 'imperious'.

 

I don't think there was much of Domitian in that episode, was there? (I can hardly bear to watch them and have only seen a rough cut of that one...) Anyway, like the producers, I hope they get Nicholas Farrell.

 

BTW, Pertinax, in Titus's short reign there were plenty of crises to take him away from the games. Clean-up of the aftermath of Vesuvius, clean-up after the fire and plague of winter AD 80 and his ever-worsening headaches!

 

Flavia

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Somehow I just can't see a crowd shouting anything but "Caesar". Domitian had been declared such as early as AD 69 when he presented himself to his father's supporters in Rome even prior to Vespasian's arrival. As Titus had no children and did not adopt (nor had he apparently made any plans to do so), Domitian was clearly marked as second in line for the past decade.

 

It might be confusing for the audience, but somehow the crowd shouting out anything other than Caesar just doesn't feel right.

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It might be confusing for the audience, but somehow the crowd shouting out anything other than Caesar just doesn't feel right.

 

I think calling Domitian Caesar and Titus Augustus would be corect but totaly confusing for someone who is not a romanophile. And there is not much to tell us how were they really called in day-to-day life. Primary sources use often the name or the full name even when writing a book that is destined to make happy the ruler. I guess that the best option would be to be called by name - Domitian. After he gets power "dominus et deus" will do. Maybe "dominus" was in use already when adressing powerful people.

 

"Lord of the flies" would be nice especially if you use the hebrew translation - Belzebut ;)

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This is just my two cents, but the crowds of rome seem to give emperors nicknames that they use in these situations. The crowd, typically, does not restrain itself when venting its opinions on the guy in charge. Claudius gets pelted with stale crusts during a grain shortage, or caligula is called 'star' or similar pet-names. These sound utterly ridiculous in english but to unsophisticated latin/greek speakers it must have been perfectly natural. It depends of course on the emperors popularity. Someone like Domitian wasn't overly popular I think (correct me if I'm wrong). From the descriptions given by suetonius and such the impression I get is that the crowd do not call to the emperor by name - that would be familiarity and the emperor wouldn't be pleased by smelly plebs treating him like a best mate. Actually I'm not sure if all this helps but a little creativity wouldn't go amiss. Are the crowd calling to Domitian because they want to honour him? Then harmless and cute nicknames are in order. If they want to revile him, then any association with someting disreputable can give rise to an insult. If all they want is attention, then 'Caesar' is appropriate.

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I've emailed the producer and told her that 'Caesar!' 'Sir!' (for 'domine'; sounds less servile than 'master') and 'Domitian!' will work. These are angry plebs who want to get his attention. He's not yet Emperor so probably not deserving of nicknames like 'Baalzebub' or sycophantic epithets like 'Hope of Men'.

 

Many thanks, one and all! :)

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