“Got you some nice oriental sandals Mama”
Publius Septimius Geta - aka, the 'Go Geta '- was Roman emperor for about eight months in 211. He was the son of Septimius Severus and younger brother of Caracalla. He briefly shared power with his brother until Caracalla killed him personally in a family dispute about footwear. Whether this was a tragedy or a blessed relief depends on how you feel about fratricide.
Geta was born in around 190 AD. His brother Caracalla was a year older but always treated Geta as if he was a snivelling snot rag. Being that their family was also from North Africa, the Severan boys would have likely faced continuous put downs from other Romans until their father leapfrogged a field of imperial rivals to become Leader of the Mostly Enslaved World - i.e. the Roman Empire in 193. This transformed the status of Geta from a kid with outsized sandals into a prince of the empire.
Geta developed an interest in expensive clothes. He was keen to learn about the origins of silk. Romans knew they came from somewhere beyond Parthia and India. The Greeks had called this place 'Sino', otherwise known as China.
Keeping the family together
Septimius had already created his son Caracalla as co-emperor. In 2009 Septimius also became a junior emperor, with perhaps a presumption that the 'boys' would split the difference and Roman Empire at a later date. Two years later whilst in Yorkshire Septimius died after eating a vile local dish known as Black pudding.
Caracalla and Geta were with their father when he popped his buskins. By now Caracalla had identified himself as a 'working class' emperor' and wore manly clothes. In contrast Geta dressed in lightweight silks and smothered himself in perfume. This was around the time Geta acquired the nickname 'The Go-Geta' to contrast his sartorial tastes and energy. He thought Caracalla was a clod and walking fashion disaster.
The boys' mother Julia tried to keep the peace between her sons. The only person they were afraid of was there father. Septimius Severus was theoretically above the law (if not yet in practice). He could run anyone through if they trod on his toga in the Roman forum. Geta's love affair with all fashions east saw him throw away his Roman sandals and replace them with what looked like wooden open toed clogs. Caracalla openly mocked his brother for the footwear choice and put round the story that Geta was in fact a foreigner about to hand over the Roman Empire to the Chinese. As a consequence, when the boys returned from Rome they insisted on living at opposite ends of the Imperial palace and only seeing their mother (who lived in the central portion of the palace) on alternate days to prevent confrontations and knife fights.
For about 10 months this uneasy cohabitation continued. In the December of that year Caracalla and Geta arranged to see their mother on Boxing Day to hand over presents to their mother. Caracalla got his mother a selection of whips to beat her slaves more efficiently. Geta produced a pair of his custom-made sandals from 'the islands off the coast of China'. Julia was delighted to try on the wooden contraptions. This enraged Caracalla who whistled and at once a his private bodyguard stormed in. Geta's military detachment had been give the day off - it was after all the Festival of Saturnalia. They were too far away to help Geta. In desperation Geta tried to use his mother as a human shield but then tripped over. Caracalla got hold of his mother's gifted sandals and proceeded to beat Geta with them. Then Caracalla stabbed him with a concealed knife.
Geta's death was followed by all those he had claimed to be his friends or fashion conscious buddies. Caracalla also officially had Geta's name removed from every monument that had once been dedicated in his honour. Portraits were burnt or defaced, statues broken up and buried in sewerage. That was the end of the 'Go Geta'. He was gone.