Septimius Severus

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Septimius Severus
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Image:Septimius Severus busto-Musei Capitolini.jpg
Alabaster bust of Septimius Severus,
at Musei Capitolini, Rome
Reign April 9 193 - February 197 (in competition with others)
February 197-209 (alone); 209 - February 4 211
(with his 2 sons)
Full name Lucius Septimius Severus
Born April 11 146
Leptis Magna
Died February 4 211
Predecessor Didius Julianus
Successor Caracalla and Geta
Wife/wives Julia Domna
Issue Caracalla and Geta
Dynasty Severan
Father A provincial equestrian
<tr><td colspan="2" style="text-align: center; font-size: 90%; border-bottom: 1px solid #aaa;">Image:Severan dynasty - tondo.jpg
The Severan Tondo</td></tr>
Roman imperial dynasties
Severan dynasty
Septimius Severus alone
Septimius Severus, with Geta and Caracalla
Geta and Caracalla
Caracalla alone
Interlude, Macrinus
   Alexander Severus, adoptive
Alexander Severus

Lucius Septimius Severus (b. Leptis Magna, April 11 146 - d. York, February 4 211) was a Roman general, and Roman Emperor from April 9 193 to 211. He was the first emperor to be born in Africa.


[edit] Life

[edit] Rise to power

Lucius Septimius Severus was born at Leptis Magna (southeast of Carthage, in present day Libya), on the coast of North Africa.

Although Severus' family was of equestrian rank, in 172 he was made a Senator by then emperor Marcus Aurelius. In 190 Severus became consul, and in the following year received from the emperor Commodus (successor to Marcus Aurelius) the command of the legions in Pannonia.

On the murder of Pertinax by the troops in 193, they proclaimed Severus Emperor at Carnuntum, whereupon he hurried to Italy. The former emperor, Didius Iulianus, was condemned to death by the Senate and killed, and Severus took possession of Rome without opposition.

The legions of Syria, however, had proclaimed Pescennius Niger emperor.

At the same time, Severus felt 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 its rearguard safe, he moved to the East and crushed Niger's forces at the Battle of Issus. The following year was devoted to suppress Mesopotamia and other Parthian vassals who had backed Niger. When afterwords 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 19 February 197, in the Battle of Lugdunum, with an army of 100,000 men, mostly composed of Illyrian, Moesian and Dacian legions, Severus defeated and killed Clodius Albinus, securing his full control over the Empire.

[edit] Emperor

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 retailiation 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. He also disbanded the Praetorian Guard and replaced it with one of his own, made up 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 augmented from 25/30 to 33, and also increased the number of auxiliary corps (numerii), especially with troops coming from the Eastern borders. The soldiers' wage was augmented from 300 to 500 denarii a year.

Although his actions turned Rome into a military dictatorship, he was popular with the citizens of Rome, having stamped out the moral degeneration and rampant corruption of the reign of Commodus, which endeared him to his subjects. When he returned from his victory over the Parthians, he erected the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome.

According to the sources, however, after 197 Severus was under the heavy influence of his prefect of praetorium, Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, who came to have the almost total control of most branches of the imperial administration. Plautianus's daughter, Flavia Plautilla, was married to Severus's son, Caracalla. His excessive power came to an end in 205, when he was denounced by the Emperor's dying brother and killed. The two following praefecti, including the jurist Aemilius Papinianus, received however even larger powers.

Starting from 208 Severus undertook a number of military actions in defence of Roman Britain against barbarian incursions and undertook reconstruction of Hadrian's Wall before falling severely ill in Eburacum (York). He died there on 4 February 211.

Upon his death in 211, Severus was deified by the Senate and succeeded by his two quarrelsome sons, Caracalla and Geta, who were advised by his wife Julia Domna. The stability Severus had provided the Empire was soon gone.

[edit] Accomplishments

Though his military leanings were costly to the empire, Severus was a strong, able ruler that Rome much needed at the time. He began a line of military emperors that would carry on for the following few rulers. However, although necessary from some point of view, his politics of expansion of the army's benefit were criticized by his contemporary Dio Cassius and Herodianus: in particular, they pointed out the increasing burden (in the form of taxes and vessations) the civilian population had to bear to maintain the new army.

Severus was also distinguished by 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 in occasion of his visit of 203).

Image:Aureus Septimius Severus-193-leg XIIII GMV.jpg
Aureus minted in 193 by Septimius Severus, to celebrate XIIII Gemina Martia Victrix, the legion that proclaimed him emperor.

[edit] Severus and Christianity

The reign of Severus provides an interesting example of the persecution meted out to Christians under the Roman Empire. Septimius made few laws against Christians, but allowed the enforcement of laws already long-established. There is no evidence of systematic persecution, and there is much evidence that not only was the Emperor not personally hostile to the Christians, but he even protected them against the populace. There were doubtless Christians in his own household, and in his reign the Church at Rome had almost absolute peace. On the other hand, 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 (cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, ii. 20; Eusebius, Church History, V., xxvi., VI., i.). No less severe were the persecutions in Africa, which seem to have begun in 197 or 198 (cf. Tertullian's Ad martyres), 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 of a Gallic persecution, especially at Lyon, are legendary. In general it may thus be said that the position of the Christians under Septimius Severus was the same as under the Antonines; but the law of this Emperor at least shows clearly that the rescript of Trajan had failed to execute its purpose.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] Secondary Sources

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Didius Julianus
Roman Emperor
with Caracalla (197–211)
and Geta (208–211)
Succeeded by:
Caracalla and Geta
Preceded by:
Didius Julianus
Year of the Five Emperors
in competition with
Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Severan Dynasty
with Caracalla (197–211)
and Geta (208–211)
Succeeded by:
Caracalla and Geta
ar:سيبتيموس سيفيروس

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Septimius Severus

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