About Septimus Severus, Roman Emperor
Lucius Septimius Severus (11 April 145 – 4 February 211), commonly known as Septimius Severus or Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man, Severus advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors. After deposing and killing the incumbent emperor Didius Julianus, Severus fought his rival claimants, the generals Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus. Niger was defeated in 194 at the Battle of Issus, and Albinus three years later at the Battle of Lugdunum.
After solidifying his rule, Severus waged a brief war against the Parthian Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 197. In 202 he campaigned in Africa against the Garamantes, briefly taking their capital Garama and expanding the southern frontier of the empire radically. Late in his reign he fought the Picts in Caledonia and strengthened Hadrian's Wall in Britain. Severus died in 211 at Eboracum, succeeded by his sons Caracalla and Geta. With the succession of his sons, Severus founded the Severan dynasty, the last dynasty of the empire before the Crisis of the Third Century.
Family and education
Septimius Severus was born on 11 April 145 at Leptis Magna (in modern Libya), son of Publius Septimius Geta and Fulvia Pia. Severus came from a wealthy, distinguished family of equestrian rank. He was of Italian Roman ancestry on his mother's side and of Punic or Libyan-Punic ancestry on his father's. Severus' father was an obscure provincial who held no major political status, but he had two cousins, Publius Septimius Aper and Gaius Septimius Severus, who served as consuls under emperor Antoninus Pius. His mother's family had moved from Italy to North Africa and was of the Fulvius gens, an ancient and politically influential clan which was originally of plebeian status. Severus' siblings were an older brother, Publius Septimius Geta, and a younger sister, Septimia Octavilla. Severus’s maternal cousin was Praetorian prefect and consul Gaius Fulvius Plautianus.
Septimius Severus was brought up at his home town of Leptis Magna. He spoke the local Punic language fluently but he was also educated in Latin and Greek, which he spoke with a slight accent. Little else is known of the young Severus' education but according to Cassius Dio, the boy had been eager for more education than he had actually got. Presumably, Severus received lessons in oratory, and at age 17, he gave his first public speech.
Sometime around 162, Septimius Severus set out for Rome seeking a public career. By recommendation of his 'uncle', Gaius Septimius Severus, he was granted entry into the senatorial ranks by emperor Marcus Aurelius. Membership of the senatorial order was a prerequisite to attain the standard succession of offices known as the cursus honorum, and to gain entry into the Roman Senate. Nevertheless, it appears that Severus' career during the 160s was beset with some difficulties. It is likely that he served as a vigintivir in Rome, overseeing road maintenance in or near the city, and he may have appeared in court as an advocate. However, he omitted the military tribunate from the cursus honorum and was forced to delay his quaestorship until he had reached the required minimum age of 25. To make matters worse, the Antonine Plague swept through the capital in 166. With his career at a halt, Severus decided to temporarily return to Leptis, where the climate was healthier. According to the Historia Augusta, a usually unreliable source, he was prosecuted for adultery during this time but the case was ultimately dismissed. At the end of 169, Severus was of the required age to become a quaestor and journeyed back to Rome. On 5 December, he took office and was officially enrolled in the Roman Senate.
Between 170 and 180 the activities of Septimius Severus went largely unrecorded, in spite of the fact that he occupied an impressive number of posts in quick succession. The Antonine Plague had severely thinned the senatorial ranks and with capable men now in short supply, Severus' career advanced more steadily than it otherwise might have. After his first term as quaestor, he was ordered to serve a second term at Baetica (southern Spain), but circumstances prevented Severus from taking up the appointment. The sudden death of his father necessitated a return to Leptis Magna to settle family affairs. Before he was able to leave Africa, Moorish tribesmen invaded southern Spain. Control of the province was handed over to the emperor, while the Senate gained temporary control of Sardinia as compensation. Thus, Septimius Severus spent the remainder of his second term as quaestor on the island. In 173, Severus' kinsman Gaius Septimius Severus was appointed proconsul of the Africa Province. The elder Severus chose his cousin as one of his two legati pro praetore. Following the end of this term, Septimius Severus travelled back to Rome, taking up office as tribune of the plebs, with the distinction of being candidatus of the emperor.
Septimius Severus was already in his early thirties at the time of his first marriage. In 175, he married a local woman from Leptis Magna named Paccia Marciana. It is likely that he met her during his tenure as legate under his uncle. Marciana's name reveals that she was of Punic or Libyan origin but virtually nothing else is known of her. Septimius Severus does not mention her in his autobiography, though he later commemorated her with statues when he became emperor. The Historia Augusta claims that Marciana and Severus had two daughters but their existence is nowhere else attested. It appears that the marriage produced no children, despite lasting for more than ten years.
Marciana died of natural causes around 186. Septimius Severus was now in his forties and still childless. Eager to remarry, he began enquiring into the horoscopes of prospective brides. The Historia Augusta relates that he heard of a woman in Syria who had been foretold that she would marry a king, and therefore Severus sought her as his wife. This woman was an Emesan noblewoman named Julia Domna. Her father, Julius Bassianus, descended from the royal house of Samsigeramus and Sohaemus, and served as a high priest to the local cult of the sun god Elagabal. Domna's older sister was Julia Maesa, later grandmother to the future emperors Elagabalus and Alexander Severus. Despite Bassianus' wealth and high status at Emesa, Cassius Dio records that his family was but of "plebeian rank".
Bassianus accepted Severus' marriage proposal in early 187, and the following summer he and Julia were married. The marriage proved to be a happy one and Severus cherished his wife and her political opinions, since she was very well-read and keen on philosophy. Together, they had two sons, Lucius Septimius Bassianus (later nicknamed Caracalla, b. 4 April 188) and Publius Septimius Geta (b. 7 March 189).
Rise to power
Assassination of Commodus
In 191 Severus received from the emperor Commodus the command of the legions in Pannonia.
The Year of the Five Emperors
On the murder of Pertinax by the Praetorian Guard in 193, Severus' troops proclaimed him Emperor at Carnuntum, whereupon he hurried to Italy. The former emperor, Didius Julianus, was condemned to death by the Senate and killed, and Severus took possession of Rome without opposition. He executed Pertinax's murderers and dismissed the rest of the Praetorian Guard, populating its ranks with loyal troops from his own legions.
The legions of Syria, however, had proclaimed Pescennius Niger emperor. At the same time, Severus felt it was reasonable to offer Clodius Albinus, the powerful governor of Britannia who had probably supported Didius against him, the rank of Caesar, which implied some claim to succession. With his rearguard safe, he moved to the East and crushed Niger's forces at the Battle of Issus. The following year was devoted to suppressing Mesopotamia and other Parthian vassals who had backed Niger. When afterwards Severus declared openly his son Caracalla as successor, Albinus was hailed emperor by his troops and moved to Gallia. Severus, after a short stay in Rome, moved northwards to meet him. On February 19, 197, in the Battle of Lugdunum, with an army of about 75,000 men, mostly composed of Illyrian, Moesian and Dacian legions, Severus defeated and killed Clodius Albinus, securing his full control over the Empire.
Roman imperial dynasties
Septimius Severus 193 – 198
-with Caracalla 198 – 209
-with Caracalla and Geta 209 – 211
Caracalla and Geta 211 – 211
Caracalla 211 – 217
Interlude: Macrinus 217 – 218
Elagabalus 218 – 222
Alexander Severus 222 – 235
Severan dynasty family tree
Year of the Five Emperors Followed by
Crisis of the Third Century
Severus was at heart a soldier, and sought glory through military exploits. In 197 he waged a brief and successful war against the Parthian Empire in retaliation for the support given to Pescennius Niger. The Parthian capital Ctesiphon was sacked by the legions, and the northern half of Mesopotamia was restored to Rome.
His relations with the Roman Senate were never good. He was unpopular with them from the outset, having seized power with the help of the military, and he returned the sentiment. Severus ordered the execution of dozens of Senators on charges of corruption and conspiracy against him, replacing them with his own favorites.
Upon his arrival at Rome in 193, he discharged the Praetorian Guard which had murdered Pertinax and auctioned the Roman Empire to Didius Julianus. Its members were stripped of their ceremonial armour and ordered to remove themselves within 100 miles of the city on pain of death. Severus then raised a new Guard composed of 50,000 loyal soldiers mainly camped at Albanum, near Rome (also probably to grant the emperor a kind of centralized reserve). During his reign the number of legions was also increased from 25/30 to 33. He also increased the number of auxiliary corps (numerii), many of these troops coming from the Eastern borders. Additionally the annual wage for a soldier was raised from 300 to 500 denarii.
Although his actions turned Rome into a military dictatorship, he was popular with the citizens of Rome, having stamped out the rampant corruption of Commodus's reign. When he returned from his victory over the Parthians, he erected the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome.
According to Cassius Dio, however, after 197 Severus fell heavily under the influence of his Praetorian Prefect, Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, who came to have almost total control of most branches of the imperial administration. Plautianus's daughter, Fulvia Plautilla, was married to Severus's son, Caracalla. Plautianus’s excessive power came to an end in 205, when he was denounced by the Emperor's dying brother and killed. However, the two following praefecti, including the jurist Aemilius Papinianus, received even larger powers.
Christians were persecuted during the reign of Septimius Severus. Severus allowed the enforcement of policies already long-established, which meant that Roman authorities did not intentionally seek out Christians, but when people were accused of being Christians they would be forced to either curse Jesus and make an offering to Roman gods, or be executed. Furthermore, wishing to strengthen the peace by encouraging religious harmony through syncretism, Severus tried to limit the spread of the two groups who refused to yield to syncretism by outlawing conversions to Christianity or Judaism. Individual officials availed themselves of the laws to proceed with rigor against the Christians. Naturally the emperor, with his strict conception of law, did not hinder such partial persecution, which took place in Egypt and the Thebaid, as well as in Africa proconsularis and the East. Christian martyrs were numerous in Alexandria. No less severe were the persecutions in Africa, which seem to have begun in 197 or 198, and included the Christians known in the Roman martyrology as the martyrs of Madaura. Probably in 202 or 203 Felicitas and Perpetua suffered for their faith. Persecution again raged for a short time under the proconsul Scapula in 211, especially in Numidia and Mauritania. Later accounts also speak of a Gallic persecution, especially at Lyons, under Severus, but historians, based oon archaeological and literary evidence, generally consider these events actually to have taken place under Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
In late 202 Severus launched a campaign in the province of Africa. The legate of Legio III Augusta Quintus Anicius Faustus had been fighting against the Garamantes along the Limes Tripolitanus for five years, capturing several settlements from the enemy such as Cydamus, Gholaia, Garbia, and their capital Garama - over 600 km south of Lepcis Magna. During this time the province of Numidia was also enlarged: the empire annexed the settlements of Vescera, Castellum Dimmidi, Gemellae, Thabudeos, Thubunae, and Zabi. By 203 the entire southern frontier of Roman Africa had been dramatically expanded and re-fortified. Desert nomads could no longer safely raid the region's interior and escape back into the Sahara. Starting from 208 Severus undertook a number of military actions in Roman Britain, reconstructing Hadrian's Wall and campaigning in Scotland.
He reached the area of the Moray Firth in his last campaign in Caledonia, as Scotland was called by the Romans. In 210 he obtained a peace with the Picts that lasted practically until the final withdrawal of the Roman legions from Britain, before falling fatally ill in Eboracum (York).
He is famously said to have given the advice to his sons: "Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, and scorn all other men" before he died at Eboracum (York) on February 4, 211.
Upon his death in 211, Severus was deified by the Senate and succeeded by his sons, Caracalla and Geta, who were advised by his wife Julia Domna. The cameo glass Portland Vase is said to have been excavated in the 16th century from his tomb.
Assessment and legacy
Though his military expenditure was costly to the empire, Severus was the strong, able ruler that Rome needed at the time. He began a tradition of effective emperors elevated solely by the military. His policy of an expanded and better-rewarded army was criticized by his contemporary Dio Cassius and Herodianus: in particular, they pointed out the increasing burden (in the form of taxes and services) the civilian population had to bear to maintain the new army.
Severus was also distinguished for his buildings. Apart from the triumphal arch in the Roman Forum carrying his full name, he also built the Septizodium in Rome and enriched greatly his native city of Leptis Magna (including another triumphal arch on the occasion of his visit of 203). The greater part of the Flavian Palace overlooking the Circus Maximus was undertaken in his reign.
Name: Lucius Septimus Severus
Given Name: Lucius Septimus
Change Date: 18 Oct 2005
Birth: 11 APR 146
Death: 4 SEP 211
Father: Publius Septimus Geta
Mother: Fulvia Pius
Marriage 1 Julia Domna b: ABT 167
Basina Severus b: 183
Forrás / Source:
•Name: Septimus Severus Emperor Of Rome •Sex: M •Title: Emperor Of Rome •Birth: 11 APR 145 in Leptus Magna, Tripoliania, North Africa •Occupation: Emperor Of Rome •Death: York, Province of Britannia 04 FEB 211 in Yorkshire, England
Father: Publius Septimus Geta b: ABT 120 Mother: Pulvia Pia b: ABT 125
Marriage 1 Julia Domna b: 167 Children 1. Bassina of Rome b: ABT 183
Rome was originally the capital of the Roman emperor. Later, it moved to Milan, and then Ravenna (A.D. 402-476). After the fall of Romulus Augustulus, in A.D. 476, Rome continued to have an emperor for almost another millennium, but that Roman emperor ruled from the East.
(31 or) 27 B.C. - 14 A.D. Augustus 14 - 37 Tiberius 37 - 41 Caligula 41 - 54 Claudius 54 - 68 Nero Year of the 4 Emperors
(ends with Vespasian) 68 - 69 Galba 69 Otho 69 Vitellius
69 - 79 Vespasian 79 - 81 Titus 81 - 96 Domitian 5 Good Emperors
96 - 98 Nerva 98 - 117 Trajan 117 - 138 Hadrian 138 - 161 Antoninus Pius 161 - 180 Marcus Aurelius (161 - 169 Lucius Verus)
(The next cluster of emperors is not part of a specific dynasty or other common grouping, but includes 4 from the year of the 5 emperors, 193.) 177/180 - 192 Commodus 193 Pertinax 193 Didius Julianus 193 - 194 Pescennius Niger 193 - 197 Clodius Albinus
193 - 211 Septimius Severus 198/212 - 217 Caracalla 217 - 218 Macrinus 218 - 222 Elagabalus 222 - 235 Severus Alexander (More emperors without a dynastic label, although it includes the year of the 6 emperors, 238.) For more on this age of chaos, read Brian Campbell's excellent synopsis in The Romans and Their World.
235 - 238 Maximinus 238 Gordian I and II 238 Balbinus and Pupienus 238 - 244 Gordian III 244 - 249 Philip the Arab 249 - 251 Decius 251 - 253 Gallus 253 - 260 Valerian 254 - 268 Gallienus 268 - 270 Claudius Gothicus 270 - 275 Aurelian 275 - 276 Tacitus 276 - 282 Probus 282 - 285 Carus Carinus Numerian
285-ca.310 Diocletian 295 L. Domitius Domitianus 297-298 Aurelius Achilleus 303 Eugenius 285-ca.310 Maximianus Herculius 285 Amandus 285 Aelianus Iulianus 286?-297? British Emperors 286/7-293 Carausius 293-296/7 Allectus
293-306 Constantius I Chlorus Dynasty of Constantine
293-311 Galerius 305-313 Maximinus Daia 305-307 Severus II 306-312 Maxentius 308-309 L. Domitius Alexander 308-324 Licinius 314? Valens 324 Martinianus 306-337 Constantinus I 333/334 Calocaerus 337-340 Constantinus II 337-350 Constans I 337-361 Constantius II 350-353 Magnentius 350 Nepotian 350 Vetranio 355 Silvanus 361-363 Julianus 363-364 Jovianus
(More emperors without a dynastic label) 364-375 Valentinianus I 375 Firmus 364-378 Valens 365-366 Procopius 366 Marcellus 367-383 Gratian 375-392 Valentinianus II 378-395 Theodosius I 383-388 Magnus Maximus 384-388 Flavius Victor 392-394 Eugenius
[See: Table of Eastern and Western Emperors]
395-423 Honorius [Division of the Empire - Honorius' brother Arcadius ruled the East 395-408] 407-411 Constantine III usurper 421 Constantius III 423-425 Johannes 425-455 Valentinian III 455 Petronius Maximus 455-456 Avitus 457-461 Majorian 461-465 Libius Severus 467-472 Anthemius 468 Arvandus 470 Romanus 472 Olybrius 473-474 Glycerius 474-475 Julius Nepos 475-476 Romulus Augustulus
Table of Eastern and Western Emperors
Print Resources Chris Scarre: Chronicle of the Roman Emperors Adkins and Adkins: Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome
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Septimus Severus, Roman Emperor's Timeline
April 11, 145
Leptis Magna, Provincia Africa Proconsularis, Imperium Romanorum
April 4, 188
February 7, 189
February 4, 211
Eboracum, Provincia Britannia, Imperium Romanum
Roma, Latium et Campania, Italia, Imperium Romanorum