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Be Excellent to Each Other

Posted by TestOut Staff on

Long ago in the middle centuries of the Roman imperial era, the emperor Septimius Severus died after appointing his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, to succeed him. The boys had an irreconcilable hatred of each other, and only managed to jointly rule the empire for about 11 months before Caracalla had Geta assassinated. Not "knifed in a dark alley" assassinated, either. Geta was murdered at a summit meeting arranged by his and Caracalla's mother in the hopes of talking them through their differences.

The Murder of Geta

Geta died in his mother's arms, whereupon newly sole emperor Caracalla formally damned his brother's memory and commenced a brutal and indifferent reign. He ruled Rome for five turbulent years plus about four months during which time the emperor's personal cruelty flourished, while nearly everything else withered. Then, as he traveled to visit a religious site in present-day Turkey, Caracalla halted the imperial litter, climbed down for a pit stop by the side of the road, and met his own end at the hands of an angry subordinate.

Not everyone who lives by the assassin's dagger also dies by it, though there is plenty of historical precedent for violent means leading to violent ends. Caracalla also famously adhered to a pearl of wisdom gleaned from his father, who, shortly before his death advised both Caracalla and Geta to "enrich the soldiers and scorn all other men." If the armies of Rome are on your side, in other words, then it doesn't matter how you treat anyone else. (The guy who actually killed Caracalla, fittingly, was a disgruntled Roman soldier.)

All of this is on our minds because today is April 8, marking 1,802 years to the day since Caracalla's poorly timed decision to relieve himself by a dusty roadside. You could criticize Caracalla for a lot of things, and would probably be right to criticize him for most of them, but one thing that especially stands out is his terrible, no good, very bad treatment of pretty much everyone he ever met. Killing his brother in front of their mother was no one-time fluke — that's just who the guy was.

As we can see, even being the godlike sovereign of a vast empire won't entirely protect you from a complete lack of regard for essentially everyone. We talk a lot in IT about the importance of so-called "soft" skills, which mostly relate to how you interact with others. It's not entirely the point of soft skills to learn to treat other people with respect and dignity. That is an important skill, however, and mastering it will help to enjoy both professional and personal success. When in doubt, be kind. The world doesn't need more Caracallas.

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