Domitian (Titus Flavius Domitianus)dōmĭshˈən, A.D. 51–A.D. 96, Roman emperor (A.D. 81–A.D. 96), son of Vespasian. Although intended as the heir to his older brother, Titus, he was given no important posts. On Titus' death he succeeded to the throne and proved himself at once proud and more absolutist than his father. In his first years, however, he governed in the interests of order and public welfare. Except for his victory in A.D. 83 over the Chatti, a German tribe, Domitian's campaigns were only partially successful. He recalled (A.D. 84) Agricola from his successful campaign in Britain, probably because he thought it would overtax the empire. As time went on, Domitian became more despotic, particularly after the rebellion in A.D. 89 of Antonius Saturninus, governor of Upper Germany. His despotism caused plots against him, which brought on a reign of terror during the last years of his rule. Finally his wife, Domitia, had a freedman, Stephanus, stab him. Nerva succeeded. Tacitus and Juvenal describe Domitian's reign of terror with bitterness, but modern historians recognize that he governed the empire well.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.