Septimius Severus

Septimius Severus

Overview
Septimius Severus also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna also known as Lectis Magna , also called Lpqy, Neapolis, Lebida or Lebda to modern-day residents of Libya, was a prominent city of the Roman Empire. Its ruins are located in Khoms, Libya, east of Tripoli, on the coast where the Wadi Lebda meets the sea...

 in the province of Africa
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus
Commodus
Commodus , was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded...

. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax
Pertinax
Pertinax , was Roman Emperor for three months in 193. He is known as the first emperor of the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors. A high ranking military and Senatorial figure, he tried to restore discipline in the Praetorian Guards, whereupon they rebelled and killed him...

 in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors
Year of the Five Emperors
The Year of the Five Emperors refers to the year 193 AD, in which there were five claimants for the title of Roman Emperor. The five were Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus and Septimius Severus....

. After deposing and killing the incumbent emperor Didius Julianus
Didius Julianus
Didius Julianus , was Roman Emperor for three months during the year 193. He ascended the throne after buying it from the Praetorian Guard, who had assassinated his predecessor Pertinax. This led to the Roman Civil War of 193–197...

, Severus fought his rival claimants, the generals Pescennius Niger
Pescennius Niger
Pescennius Niger was a Roman usurper from 193 to 194 during the Year of the Five Emperors. He claimed the imperial throne in response to the murder of Pertinax and the elevation of Didius Julianus, but was defeated by a rival claimant, Septimius Severus and killed while attempting to flee from...

 and Clodius Albinus
Clodius Albinus
Clodius Albinus was a Roman usurper proclaimed emperor by the legions in Britain and Hispania upon the murder of Pertinax in 193.-Life:...

.
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Septimius Severus also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna also known as Lectis Magna , also called Lpqy, Neapolis, Lebida or Lebda to modern-day residents of Libya, was a prominent city of the Roman Empire. Its ruins are located in Khoms, Libya, east of Tripoli, on the coast where the Wadi Lebda meets the sea...

 in the province of Africa
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus
Commodus
Commodus , was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded...

. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax
Pertinax
Pertinax , was Roman Emperor for three months in 193. He is known as the first emperor of the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors. A high ranking military and Senatorial figure, he tried to restore discipline in the Praetorian Guards, whereupon they rebelled and killed him...

 in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors
Year of the Five Emperors
The Year of the Five Emperors refers to the year 193 AD, in which there were five claimants for the title of Roman Emperor. The five were Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus and Septimius Severus....

. After deposing and killing the incumbent emperor Didius Julianus
Didius Julianus
Didius Julianus , was Roman Emperor for three months during the year 193. He ascended the throne after buying it from the Praetorian Guard, who had assassinated his predecessor Pertinax. This led to the Roman Civil War of 193–197...

, Severus fought his rival claimants, the generals Pescennius Niger
Pescennius Niger
Pescennius Niger was a Roman usurper from 193 to 194 during the Year of the Five Emperors. He claimed the imperial throne in response to the murder of Pertinax and the elevation of Didius Julianus, but was defeated by a rival claimant, Septimius Severus and killed while attempting to flee from...

 and Clodius Albinus
Clodius Albinus
Clodius Albinus was a Roman usurper proclaimed emperor by the legions in Britain and Hispania upon the murder of Pertinax in 193.-Life:...

. Niger was defeated in 194 at the Battle of Issus
Battle of Issus (194)
The Battle of Issus was the third major battle, following the Battle of Nicaea, in 194 between the forces of Emperor Septimus Severus and his rival, Pescennius Niger, part of the Year of the Five Emperors. Pescennius Niger was the Roman governor of Syria who had been acclaimed Emperor by his...

 in Cilicia. Later that year Severus waged a short punitive campaign beyond the eastern frontier, annexing the Kingdom of Osroene
Osroene
Osroene, also spelled Osrohene and Osrhoene and sometimes known by the name of its capital city, Edessa , was a historic Syriac kingdom located in Mesopotamia, which enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 244.It was a Syriac-speaking kingdom.Osroene, or...

 as a new province. Severus defeated Albinus three years later at the Battle of Lugdunum
Battle of Lugdunum
The Battle of Lugdunum, also called the Battle of Lyon, was fought on 19 February 197 at Lugdunum , between the armies of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus and of the Roman usurper Clodius Albinus...

 in Gaul
Roman Gaul
Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for less than 500 years....

.

After solidifying his rule over the western provinces, Severus waged another brief, more successful war in the east against the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

, sacking their capital Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 in 197 and expanding the eastern frontier to the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

. Furthermore, he enlarged and fortified the Limes Arabicus
Limes Arabicus
The Limes Arabicus was a desert frontier of the Roman Empire, in the province of Arabia Petraea. It ran -at its biggest extension- for about 1,500 km, from Northern Syria to Southern Palestine and northern Arabia, forming part of the wider Roman limes system...

in Arabia Petraea
Arabia Petraea
Arabia Petraea, also called Provincia Arabia or simply Arabia, was a frontier province of the Roman Empire beginning in the 2nd century; it consisted of the former Nabataean kingdom in modern Jordan, southern modern Syria, the Sinai Peninsula and northwestern Saudi Arabia. Its capital was Petra...

. In 202, he campaigned in Africa
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

 and Mauretania
Mauretania
Mauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...

 against the Garamantes
Garamantes
The Garamantes were a Saharan people who used an elaborate underground irrigation system, and founded a prosperous Berber kingdom in the Fezzan area of modern-day Libya, in the Sahara desert. They were a local power in the Sahara between 500 BC and 700 AD.There is little textual information about...

; capturing their capital Garama
Germa
Germa, known in ancient times as Garama, is an archaeological site in Libya and was the capital of the Garamantes.The Garamantes were a Berber people living in the Fezzan in the northeastern Sahara, originating from the Sahara's Tibesti region. Garamantian power climaxed during the 2nd and the 3rd...

 and expanding the Limes Tripolitanus
Limes Tripolitanus
The Limes Tripolitanus was a frontier zone of defence of the Roman Empire, built in the south of what is now Tunisia and the northwest of Libya. It was primarily intended as a protection for the tripolitanian cities of Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Oea in Roman Libya.-History:The Limes Tripolitanus...

along the southern frontier of the empire. Late in his reign he traveled to Britain
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

, strengthening Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall was a defensive fortification in Roman Britain. Begun in AD 122, during the rule of emperor Hadrian, it was the first of two fortifications built across Great Britain, the second being the Antonine Wall, lesser known of the two because its physical remains are less evident today.The...

 and reoccupying the Antonine Wall
Antonine Wall
The Antonine Wall is a stone and turf fortification built by the Romans across what is now the Central Belt of Scotland, between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. Representing the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire, it spanned approximately 39 miles and was about ten feet ...

. In 208 he began the conquest of Caledonia
Caledonia
Caledonia is the Latinised form and name given by the Romans to the land in today's Scotland north of their province of Britannia, beyond the frontier of their empire...

 (modern Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

), but his ambitions were cut short when he fell fatally ill in late 210. Severus died in early 211 at Eboracum
Eboracum
Eboracum was a fort and city in Roman Britain. The settlement evolved into York, located in North Yorkshire, England.-Etymology:The first known recorded mention of Eboracum by name is dated circa 95-104 AD and is an address containing the Latin form of the settlement's name, "Eburaci", on a wooden...

, succeeded by his sons Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 and Geta
Publius Septimius Geta
Geta , was a Roman Emperor co-ruling with his father Septimius Severus and his older brother Caracalla from 209 to his death.-Early life:Geta was the younger son of Septimius Severus by his second wife Julia Domna...

. With the succession of his sons, Severus founded the Severan dynasty
Severan dynasty
The Severan dynasty was a Roman imperial dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 193 and 235. The dynasty was founded by the Roman general Septimius Severus, who rose to power during the civil war of 193, known as the Year of the Five Emperors....

, the last dynasty of the empire before the Crisis of the Third Century
Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression...

.

Family and education


Septimius Severus was born on 11 April 145 at Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna also known as Lectis Magna , also called Lpqy, Neapolis, Lebida or Lebda to modern-day residents of Libya, was a prominent city of the Roman Empire. Its ruins are located in Khoms, Libya, east of Tripoli, on the coast where the Wadi Lebda meets the sea...

 (in modern Libya), son of Publius Septimius Geta
Publius Septimius Geta (father of Septimius Severus)
Publius Septimius Geta was the father of Lucius Septimius Severus, father-in-law of the Roman empress Julia Domna and the paternal grandfather of Roman emperors Caracalla and Geta. His name was found as an inscription in Cirta, Africa.Geta was of Libyco-Punic origin...

 and Fulvia Pia. Severus came from a wealthy, distinguished family of equestrian
Equestrian (Roman)
The Roman equestrian order constituted the lower of the two aristocratic classes of ancient Rome, ranking below the patricians , a hereditary caste that monopolised political power during the regal era and during the early Republic . A member of the equestrian order was known as an eques...

 rank. He was of Italian Roman ancestry on his mother's side and of Punic or Libyan
Ancient Libya
The Latin name Libya referred to the region west of the Nile Valley, generally corresponding to modern Northwest Africa. Climate changes affected the locations of the settlements....

-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
Antoninus Pius
Antoninus Pius , also known as Antoninus, was Roman Emperor from 138 to 161. He was a member of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty and the Aurelii. He did not possess the sobriquet "Pius" until after his accession to the throne...

. His mother's ancestors had moved from Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 to North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

: they belonged to the gens Fulvia
Fulvius
Fulvius was the nomen of the gens Fulvia, a patrician gens of ancient Rome that originally came from Tusculum. They were originally a plebeian family but were upgraded to patricians soon after the Roman Republic was formed...

, an Italian patrician family that originated in Tusculum
Tusculum
Tusculum is a ruined Roman city in the Alban Hills, in the Latium region of Italy.-Location:Tusculum is one of the largest Roman cities in Alban Hills. The ruins of Tusculum are located on Tuscolo hill—more specifically on the northern edge of the outer crater ring of the Alban volcano...

. Severus' siblings were an older brother, Publius Septimius Geta
Publius Septimius Geta (brother of Septimius Severus)
Publius Septimius Geta was the second son to the elder Publius Septimius Geta and wife Fulvia Pia. He was born and raised in Leptis Magna . He was of Berber, Libyco-Punic and Roman ancestry.This Geta was more politically active than his father...

, and a younger sister, Septimia Octavilla. Severus’s maternal cousin was Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect was the title of a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides...

 and consul Gaius Fulvius Plautianus
Gaius Fulvius Plautianus
Gaius or Lucius Fulvius Plautianus was a member of the Roman gens Fulvius, a family of the patrician status which had been active in politics since the Roman Republic....

.

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
Oratory
Oratory is a type of public speaking.Oratory may also refer to:* Oratory , a power metal band* Oratory , a place of worship* a religious order such as** Oratory of Saint Philip Neri ** Oratory of Jesus...

, and at age 17, he gave his first public speech.

Public service


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
Cursus honorum
The cursus honorum was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in both the Roman Republic and the early Empire. It was designed for men of senatorial rank. The cursus honorum comprised a mixture of military and political administration posts. Each office had a minimum...

, 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
Vigintisexviri
The Vigintisexviri was a college of minor magistrates in the Roman Republic; the name literally means "Twenty-Six Men"...

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
Military tribune
A military tribune was an officer of the Roman army who ranked below the legate and above the centurion...

 from the cursus honorum and was forced to delay his quaestor
Quaestor
A Quaestor was a type of public official in the "Cursus honorum" system who supervised financial affairs. In the Roman Republic a quaestor was an elected official whereas, with the autocratic government of the Roman Empire, quaestors were simply appointed....

ship until he had reached the required minimum age of 25. To make matters worse, the Antonine Plague
Antonine Plague
The Antonine Plague, AD 165–180, also known as the Plague of Galen, who described it, was an ancient pandemic, either of smallpox or measles, brought back to the Roman Empire by troops returning from campaigns in the Near East...

 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
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

.

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
Antonine Plague
The Antonine Plague, AD 165–180, also known as the Plague of Galen, who described it, was an ancient pandemic, either of smallpox or measles, brought back to the Roman Empire by troops returning from campaigns in the Near East...

 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
Hispania Baetica
Hispania Baetica was one of three Imperial Roman provinces in Hispania, . Hispania Baetica was bordered to the west by Lusitania, and to the northeast by Hispania Tarraconensis. Baetica was part of Al-Andalus under the Moors in the 8th century and approximately corresponds to modern Andalucia...

 (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
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 tribesmen invaded southern Spain. Control of the province was handed over to the Emperor, while the Senate gained temporary control of Sardinia
Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

 as compensation
Senatorial province
A senatorial province was a Roman province where the Roman Senate had the right to appoint the governor . These provinces were away from the Empire's borders and free from the likelihood of rebellion, and so had few if any legions stationed in them...

. 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
Proconsul
A proconsul was a governor of a province in the Roman Republic appointed for one year by the senate. In modern usage, the title has been used for a person from one country ruling another country or bluntly interfering in another country's internal affairs.-Ancient Rome:In the Roman Republic, a...

 of the Africa Province. The elder Severus chose his cousin as one of his two legati pro praetore
Legatus
A legatus was a general in the Roman army, equivalent to a modern general officer. Being of senatorial rank, his immediate superior was the dux, and he outranked all military tribunes...

. Following the end of this term, Septimius Severus travelled back to Rome, taking up office as tribune
Tribune
Tribune was a title shared by elected officials in the Roman Republic. Tribunes had the power to convene the Plebeian Council and to act as its president, which also gave them the right to propose legislation before it. They were sacrosanct, in the sense that any assault on their person was...

 of the plebs, with the distinction of being candidatus
Candidatus
Candidatus is in scientific classification a component of the taxonomic name for a bacterium that cannot be maintained in a Bacteriology Culture Collection. It is an interim taxonomic status for noncultivable organisms. An example would be "Candidatus Phytoplasma allocasuarinae"...

of the emperor.

Marriages



Septimius Severus was already in his early thirties at the time of his first marriage. In about 175, he married a woman from Leptis Magna named Paccia Marciana. It is likely that he met her during his tenure as legate
Legatus
A legatus was a general in the Roman army, equivalent to a modern general officer. Being of senatorial rank, his immediate superior was the dux, and he outranked all military tribunes...

 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 noble Arab woman named Julia Domna
Julia Domna
Julia Domna was a member of the Severan dynasty of the Roman Empire. Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus and mother of Emperors Geta and Caracalla, Julia was among the most important women ever to exercise power behind the throne in the Roman Empire.- Family background...

. Her father, Julius Bassianus
Julius Bassianus
Gaius Julius Bassianus or Bassus, also known as Julius Bassianus was a Syrian, who lived in the 2nd century and 3rd century. Bassianus was a high priest for the Temple of the Sun, which was adored in a shape of a black stone. The Aramaean Sun God in Aramaic is El-Gabal. Bassianus was a member of...

, descended from the royal house of Samsigeramus and Sohaemus
Royal Family of Emesa
The royal family of Emesa, also known as the Emesani Dynasty or the Sempsigerami of Emesa , sometimes known as The Sampsiceramids were a ruling Roman client dynasty of priest-kings in Emesa, Syria Province...

, and served as a high priest to the local cult of the sun god Elagabal. Domna's older sister was Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa was a Roman citizen and daughter of Julius Bassianus, priest of the sun god Heliogabalus, the patron god of Emesa in the Roman province of Syria...

, later grandmother to the future emperors Elagabalus
Elagabalus
Elagabalus , also known as Heliogabalus, was Roman Emperor from 218 to 222. A member of the Severan Dynasty, he was Syrian on his mother's side, the son of Julia Soaemias and Sextus Varius Marcellus. Early in his youth he served as a priest of the god El-Gabal at his hometown, Emesa...

 and Alexander Severus
Alexander Severus
Severus Alexander was Roman Emperor from 222 to 235. Alexander was the last emperor of the Severan dynasty. He succeeded his cousin Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222, and was ultimately assassinated himself, marking the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century — nearly fifty...

.

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
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 (later nicknamed Caracalla, b. 4 April 188) and Publius Septimius Geta
Publius Septimius Geta
Geta , was a Roman Emperor co-ruling with his father Septimius Severus and his older brother Caracalla from 209 to his death.-Early life:Geta was the younger son of Septimius Severus by his second wife Julia Domna...

 (b. 7 March 189).

Rise to power



Assassination of Commodus


In 191 Severus received from the Emperor Commodus
Commodus
Commodus , was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded...

 the command of the legions
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

 in Pannonia
Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

.

The Year of the Five Emperors



On the murder of Pertinax
Pertinax
Pertinax , was Roman Emperor for three months in 193. He is known as the first emperor of the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors. A high ranking military and Senatorial figure, he tried to restore discipline in the Praetorian Guards, whereupon they rebelled and killed him...

 by the Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

 in 193, Severus' troops proclaimed him Emperor at Carnuntum
Carnuntum
Carnuntum was a Roman army camp on the Danube in the Noricum province and after the 1st century the capital of the Upper Pannonia province...

, whereupon he hurried to Italy. The former emperor, Didius Julianus
Didius Julianus
Didius Julianus , was Roman Emperor for three months during the year 193. He ascended the throne after buying it from the Praetorian Guard, who had assassinated his predecessor Pertinax. This led to the Roman Civil War of 193–197...

, 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
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

, populating its ranks with loyal troops from his own legions.

The legions of Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

, however, had proclaimed Pescennius Niger
Pescennius Niger
Pescennius Niger was a Roman usurper from 193 to 194 during the Year of the Five Emperors. He claimed the imperial throne in response to the murder of Pertinax and the elevation of Didius Julianus, but was defeated by a rival claimant, Septimius Severus and killed while attempting to flee from...

 emperor. At the same time, Severus felt it was reasonable to offer Clodius Albinus
Clodius Albinus
Clodius Albinus was a Roman usurper proclaimed emperor by the legions in Britain and Hispania upon the murder of Pertinax in 193.-Life:...

, the powerful governor of Britannia who had probably supported Didius against him, the rank of Caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

, 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
Battle of Issus (194)
The Battle of Issus was the third major battle, following the Battle of Nicaea, in 194 between the forces of Emperor Septimus Severus and his rival, Pescennius Niger, part of the Year of the Five Emperors. Pescennius Niger was the Roman governor of Syria who had been acclaimed Emperor by his...

. The following year was devoted to suppressing Mesopotamia and other Parthian vassals who had backed Niger. When afterwards Severus declared openly his son Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 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
Battle of Lugdunum
The Battle of Lugdunum, also called the Battle of Lyon, was fought on 19 February 197 at Lugdunum , between the armies of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus and of the Roman usurper Clodius Albinus...

, with an army of about 75,000 men, mostly composed of Illyria
Illyria
In classical antiquity, Illyria was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians....

n, Moesia
Moesia
Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans, along the south bank of the Danube River. It included territories of modern-day Southern Serbia , Northern Republic of Macedonia, Northern Bulgaria, Romanian Dobrudja, Southern Moldova, and Budjak .-History:In ancient...

n and Dacia
Dacia
In ancient geography, especially in Roman sources, Dacia was the land inhabited by the Dacians or Getae as they were known by the Greeks—the branch of the Thracians north of the Haemus range...

n legions, Severus defeated and killed Clodius Albinus, securing his full control over the Empire.

War against Parthia



In early 197 he departed Rome and travelled to the east by sea. He embarked at Brundisium and probably landed at the port of Aegeae in Cilicia
Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

, traveling to Syria by land. He immediately gathered his army and crossed the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

. Abgar IX, King of Osroene but essentially only the ruler of Edessa
Edessa
Edessa may refer to:*Edessa, Greece*Edessa, Mesopotamia, now Şanlıurfa, Turkey*County of Edessa, a crusader state*Osroene, an ancient kingdom and province of the Roman Empire...

 since the annexation of his kingdom as a Roman province, handed over his children as hostages and assisted Severus' expedition by providing archers. At this time Tiridates II, King of Armenia, also sent hostages, money and gifts. Severus traveled onwards to Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

, which his general Julius Laetus had prevented from falling into enemy hands. Afterwards, Severus returned to Syria for a time to plan a much more ambitious campaign.

The following year he led another, more successful campaign against the Parthian Empire, reportedly in retaliation for the support given to Pescennius Niger. The Parthian capital Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 was sacked by the legions and the northern half of Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 was annexed to the Empire. However, like Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

 over a century before, he was unable to capture the fortress of Hatra
Hatra
Hatra is an ancient city in the Ninawa Governorate and al-Jazira region of Iraq. It is currently known as al-Hadr, a name which appears once in ancient inscriptions, and it was in the ancient Iranian province of Khvarvaran. The city lies northwest of Baghdad and southwest of Mosul.-History:Hatra...

 even after two lengthy sieges. During his time in the east he also expanded the Limes Arabicus
Limes Arabicus
The Limes Arabicus was a desert frontier of the Roman Empire, in the province of Arabia Petraea. It ran -at its biggest extension- for about 1,500 km, from Northern Syria to Southern Palestine and northern Arabia, forming part of the wider Roman limes system...

, building new fortifications in the Arabian Desert
Arabian Desert
The Arabian Desert is a vast desert wilderness stretching from Yemen to the Persian Gulf and Oman to Jordan and Iraq. It occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula, with an area of...

 from Basie
Qasr Azraq
Qasr al-Azraq is a large fortress located in present-day eastern Jordan. It is one of the desert castles, located on the outskirts of present-day Azraq, roughly east of Amman....

 to Dumata
Dumat Al-Jandal
Dumat al-Jundal , is the name for an ancient city of ruins located in North Western Saudi Arabia in the Al Jawf province its located 37KM away from Sakakah. The name Dumat al-Jandal means literally "Dumah of the Stone", since this was the territory of Dumah, one of the twelve sons of Ishmael...

.

His relations with the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 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
Conspiracy (political)
In a political sense, conspiracy refers to a group of persons united in the goal of usurping or overthrowing an established political power. Typically, the final goal is to gain power through a revolutionary coup d'état or through assassination....

 against him, replacing them with his own favorites.

Upon his arrival at Rome in 193, he discharged the Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

 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
Albano Laziale
Albano Laziale is a comune in the province of Rome, on the Alban Hills, in Latium, central Italy. It is also a suburb of Rome, which is 25 km distant. It is bounded by other communes of Castel Gandolfo, Rocca di Papa, Ariccia and Ardea. Located in the Castelli Romani area of Lazio...

, 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
Denarius
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

.

Although his actions turned Rome into a military dictatorship
Dictatorship
A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. It has three possible meanings:...

, 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
Arch of Septimius Severus
The white marble Arch of Septimius Severus at the northwest end of the Roman Forum is a triumphal arch dedicated in AD 203 to commemorate the Parthian victories of Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, in the two campaigns against the Parthians of 194/195 and...

 in Rome.
According to Cassius Dio, however, after 197 Severus fell heavily under the influence of his Praetorian Prefect, Gaius Fulvius Plautianus
Gaius Fulvius Plautianus
Gaius or Lucius Fulvius Plautianus was a member of the Roman gens Fulvius, a family of the patrician status which had been active in politics since the Roman Republic....

, who came to have almost total control of most branches of the imperial administration. Plautianus's daughter, Fulvia Plautilla
Fulvia Plautilla
Publia Fulvia Plautilla, Fulvia Plautilla or Plautilla was a Roman Princess, briefly Roman Empress and the only wife to Roman Emperor Caracalla. Caracalla was her paternal second cousin.-Birth and family:...

, 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
Aemilius Papinianus
Aemilius Papinianus , also known as Papinian, was a celebrated Roman jurist, magister libellorum and, after the death of Gaius Fulvius Plautianus in 205, praetorian prefect.-Life:...

, received even larger powers.

Religious matters


Christians were persecuted
Persecution
Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another group. The most common forms are religious persecution, ethnic persecution, and political persecution, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms. The inflicting of suffering, harassment, isolation,...

 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
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 and make an offering to Roman gods, or be executed. Furthermore, wishing to strengthen the peace by encouraging religious harmony through syncretism
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

, Severus tried to limit the spread of the two groups who refused to yield to syncretism by outlawing conversions
Religious conversion
Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the convert's previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion is usually described as reaffiliation rather than conversion.People convert to a different religion for various reasons,...

 to Christianity or Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

. 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
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and the Thebaid
Thebaid
The Thebaid or Thebais is the region of ancient Egypt containing the thirteen southernmost nomes of Upper Egypt, from Abydos to Aswan. It acquired its name from its proximity to the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes....

, as well as in Africa proconsularis and the East. Christian martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

s were numerous in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

. 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
Roman Martyrology
The Roman Martyrology is the official martyrology of the Roman Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. It provides an extensive but not exhaustive list of the saints recognized by the Church.-History:...

as the martyrs of Madaura
Madaurus
M'Daourouch is a municipality in Souk Ahras Province, Algeria, occupying the site of the former Roman town of Madauras, Madaure, or Madaura which is now a Roman Catholic titular see in the former Roman province of Numidia....

. Probably in 202 or 203 Felicitas and Perpetua suffered for their faith. Persecution again raged for a short time under the proconsul Scapula
Scapula
In anatomy, the scapula , omo, or shoulder blade, is the bone that connects the humerus with the clavicle ....

 in 211, especially in Numidia
Numidia
Numidia was an ancient Berber kingdom in part of present-day Eastern Algeria and Western Tunisia in North Africa. It is known today as the Chawi-land, the land of the Chawi people , the direct descendants of the historical Numidians or the Massyles The kingdom began as a sovereign state and later...

 and Mauritania
Mauritania
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

. Later accounts also speak of a Gallic
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 persecution, especially at Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

s, under Severus, but historians, based on archaeological and literary evidence, generally consider these events actually to have taken place under Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Military activity



In late 202 Severus launched a campaign in the province of Africa
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

. The legate
Legatus
A legatus was a general in the Roman army, equivalent to a modern general officer. Being of senatorial rank, his immediate superior was the dux, and he outranked all military tribunes...

 of Legio III Augusta
Legio III Augusta
Legio tertia Augusta was raised in the year 43 BCE most likely by the consul Gaius Vibius Pansa and the emperor Augustus who served the Roman Empire in North Africa until at least the late 4th century CE. It is possible that it fought in the battle of Philippi against the murderers of Caesar...

 Quintus Anicius Faustus
Quintus Anicius Faustus
- Biography :Native of Africa Province, between 197 and 201 he was appointed legatus of the Legio III Augusta by the African emperor Septimius Severus. Faustus built several defensive forts of the Limes Tripolitanus, in southern Numidia and in Tripolitania, in order to protect the province from the...

 had been fighting against the Garamantes
Garamantes
The Garamantes were a Saharan people who used an elaborate underground irrigation system, and founded a prosperous Berber kingdom in the Fezzan area of modern-day Libya, in the Sahara desert. They were a local power in the Sahara between 500 BC and 700 AD.There is little textual information about...

 along the Limes Tripolitanus
Limes Tripolitanus
The Limes Tripolitanus was a frontier zone of defence of the Roman Empire, built in the south of what is now Tunisia and the northwest of Libya. It was primarily intended as a protection for the tripolitanian cities of Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Oea in Roman Libya.-History:The Limes Tripolitanus...

for five years, capturing several settlements from the enemy such as Cydamus
Ghadames
Ghadames or Ghadamis is an oasis town in the Nalut District of the Fezzan region in southwestern Libya.-Geography:Ghadames lies roughly to the southwest of Tripoli, near the borders with Algeria and Tunisia. Ghadames borders Illizi Province, Algeria and Tataouine Governorate, Tunisia.The oasis...

, Gholaia, Garbia, and their capital Garama
Germa
Germa, known in ancient times as Garama, is an archaeological site in Libya and was the capital of the Garamantes.The Garamantes were a Berber people living in the Fezzan in the northeastern Sahara, originating from the Sahara's Tibesti region. Garamantian power climaxed during the 2nd and the 3rd...

 - over 600 km south of Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna also known as Lectis Magna , also called Lpqy, Neapolis, Lebida or Lebda to modern-day residents of Libya, was a prominent city of the Roman Empire. Its ruins are located in Khoms, Libya, east of Tripoli, on the coast where the Wadi Lebda meets the sea...

. During this time the province of Numidia
Numidia
Numidia was an ancient Berber kingdom in part of present-day Eastern Algeria and Western Tunisia in North Africa. It is known today as the Chawi-land, the land of the Chawi people , the direct descendants of the historical Numidians or the Massyles The kingdom began as a sovereign state and later...

 was also enlarged: the empire annexed the settlements of Vescera
Biskra
Biskra is the capital city of Biskra province, Algeria. In 2007, its population was recorded as 207,987.During Roman times the town was called Vescera, though this may have been simply a Latin transliteration of the native name. Around 200 AD under Septimius Severus' reign, it was seized by the...

, Castellum Dimmidi, Gemellae
M'Lili
M'Lili is a town and commune in Biskra Province, Algeria. According to the 1998 census it has a population of 5,151. During Roman times a large military settlement near the town was called Gemellae, though this may merely have been the Latin transliteration of the native name...

, 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
Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

.

In 208 Severus traveled to Britain with the intention of conquering Caledonia
Caledonia
Caledonia is the Latinised form and name given by the Romans to the land in today's Scotland north of their province of Britannia, beyond the frontier of their empire...

. Modern archaeological discoveries have made the scope and direction of his northern campaign better understood. Severus likely arrived in Britain possessing an army over 40,000, considering some of the camps constructed during his campaign could house this number. He strengthened Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall was a defensive fortification in Roman Britain. Begun in AD 122, during the rule of emperor Hadrian, it was the first of two fortifications built across Great Britain, the second being the Antonine Wall, lesser known of the two because its physical remains are less evident today.The...

 and reconquered the Southern Uplands
Southern Uplands
The Southern Uplands are the southernmost and least populous of mainland Scotland's three major geographic areas . The term is used both to describe the geographical region and to collectively denote the various ranges of hills within this region...

 up to the Antonine Wall
Antonine Wall
The Antonine Wall is a stone and turf fortification built by the Romans across what is now the Central Belt of Scotland, between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. Representing the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire, it spanned approximately 39 miles and was about ten feet ...

, which was also enhanced. Severus built a 165 acre camp south of the Antonine Wall at Trimontium
Trimontium
Trimontium is the name of a Roman fort at Newstead, near Melrose, Borders, Scotland, close under the three Eildon Hills . It was an advance post of the Romans in the Roman province of Valentia. The fort was identified by Ptolomy in his Geography. Trimontium was occupied by the Romans intermittently...

, likely assembling his forces there. Severus then thrust north with his army across the wall into enemy territory. Retracing the steps of Agricola
Gnaeus Julius Agricola
Gnaeus Julius Agricola was a Roman general responsible for much of the Roman conquest of Britain. His biography, the De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae, was the first published work of his son-in-law, the historian Tacitus, and is the source for most of what is known about him.Born to a noted...

 over a century previously, Severus rebuilt and garrisoned many abandoned Roman forts along the east coast, including Carpow
Carpow
Carpow is a diffuse hamlet in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. It is situated immediately to the east of the confluence of the River Tay and River Earn, 2 km north east of Abernethy.Carpow is most notable for its archaeological remains...

 which could house up to 40,000 soldiers.

An interesting story from around this time is when Severus' wife, Julia Domna, criticised the sexual morals of the Caledonian women, the wife of Caledonian chief Argentocoxos replied: "We fulfill the demands of nature in a much better way than do you Roman women; for we consort openly with the best men, whereas you let yourselves be debauched in secret by the vilest".

Cassius Dio's account of the invasion reads "Severus, accordingly, desiring to subjugate the whole of it, invaded Caledonia. But as he advanced through the country he experienced countless hardships in cutting down the forests, levelling the heights, filling up the swamps, and bridging the rivers; 2 but he fought no battle and beheld no enemy in battle array. The enemy purposely put sheep and cattle in front of the soldiers for them to seize, in order that they might be lured on still further until they were worn out; for in fact the water caused great suffering to the Romans, and when they became scattered, they would be attacked. Then, unable to walk, they would be slain by their own men, in order to avoid capture, so that a full fifty thousand died. 3 But Severus did not desist until he approached the extremity of the island. Here he observed most accurately the variation of the sun's motion and the length of the days and the nights in summer and winter respectively. 4 Having thus been conveyed through practically the whole of the hostile country (for he actually was conveyed in a covered litter most of the way, on account of his infirmity), he returned to the friendly portion, after he had forced the Britons to come to terms, on the condition that they should abandon a large part of their territory."

By 210, Severus' campaigning had made significant gains, despite Caledonian guerrilla tactics and purportedly heavy Roman casualties. The Caledonians sued for peace, which Severus granted on condition they relinquish control of the Central Lowlands. This is evidenced by extensive Severan era fortifications in the Central Lowlands. The Caledonians, short on supplies and feeling their position becoming desperate, revolted later that year along with the Maeatae
Maeatae
The Maeatae were a confederation of tribes who lived probably beyond the Antonine Wall in Roman Britain. The historical sources are vague as to the exact region they inhabited....

. Severus prepared for another protracted campaign within Caledonia. He was now intent on exterminating the Caledonians, telling his soldiers: “Let no one escape sheer destruction, No one our hands, not even the babe in the womb of the mother, If it be male; let it nevertheless not escape sheer destruction.”

Severus' campaign was cut short when he fell fatally ill. He withdrew to Eboracum and died there in 211. Although his son Caracalla continued campaigning the following year, he soon settled for peace. The Romans never campaigned deep into Caledonia again: they soon withdrew south permanently to Hadrian's Wall.

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
Imperial cult (ancient Rome)
The Imperial cult of ancient Rome identified emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority of the Roman State...

 by the Senate and succeeded by his sons, Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 and Geta
Publius Septimius Geta
Geta , was a Roman Emperor co-ruling with his father Septimius Severus and his older brother Caracalla from 209 to his death.-Early life:Geta was the younger son of Septimius Severus by his second wife Julia Domna...

, who were advised by his wife Julia Domna
Julia Domna
Julia Domna was a member of the Severan dynasty of the Roman Empire. Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus and mother of Emperors Geta and Caracalla, Julia was among the most important women ever to exercise power behind the throne in the Roman Empire.- Family background...

. The cameo glass
Cameo Glass
Cameo glass is a luxury form of glass art produced by etching and carving through fused layers of differently colored glass to produce designs, usually with white opaque glass figures and motifs on a dark-colored background...

 Portland Vase
Portland Vase
The Portland Vase is a Roman cameo glass vase, currently dated to between AD 5 and AD 25, which served as an inspiration to many glass and porcelain makers from about the beginning of the 18th century onwards. Since 1810 the vase has been kept almost continuously in the British Museum in London...

 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. His enlargement of the Limes Tripolitanus
Limes Tripolitanus
The Limes Tripolitanus was a frontier zone of defence of the Roman Empire, built in the south of what is now Tunisia and the northwest of Libya. It was primarily intended as a protection for the tripolitanian cities of Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Oea in Roman Libya.-History:The Limes Tripolitanus...

 secured Africa
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

, the agricultural base of the empire. His victory over Parthia
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

 was total, establishing a new status quo in the east which secured Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

 and Singara
Singara
Singara was a strongly fortified post at the northern extremity of Mesopotamia, which for a while, as appears from many coins still extant, was occupied by the Romans as an advanced colony against the Persians...

 for the Empire. His policy of an expanded and better-rewarded army was criticized by his contemporary Dio Cassius
Dio Cassius
Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus , known in English as Cassius Dio, Dio Cassius, or Dio was a Roman consul and a noted historian writing in Greek...

 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.

In order to maintain his enlarged military he debased the Roman currency
Roman currency
The Roman currency during most of the Roman Republic and the western half of the Roman Empire consisted of coins including the aureus , the denarius , the sestertius , the dupondius , and the as...

 drastically. Upon his accession he decreased the silver purity of the denarius
Denarius
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

 from 81.5% to 78.5%. However, the silver weight actually increased, rising from 2.40 grams to 2.46 grams. Nevertheless the following year he debased the denarius substantially because of rising military expenditures. The silver purity decreased from 78.5% to 64.5% — the silver weight dropping from 2.46 grams to 1.98 grams. In 196 he reduced the purity and silver weight of the denarius again, to 54% and 1.82 grams respectively. Severus' currency debasement
Debasement
Debasement is the practice of lowering the value of currency. It is particularly used in connection with commodity money such as gold or silver coins...

 was the largest since the reign of Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

, compromising the long-term strength of the economy. However, Severus minted a much higher volume of denarii than his predecessors, alleviating some of the negative effects of debasement.

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
Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna also known as Lectis Magna , also called Lpqy, Neapolis, Lebida or Lebda to modern-day residents of Libya, was a prominent city of the Roman Empire. Its ruins are located in Khoms, Libya, east of Tripoli, on the coast where the Wadi Lebda meets the sea...

 (including another triumphal arch on the occasion of his visit of 203). The greater part of the Flavian Palace
Flavian Palace
The Flavian Palace, also known as Domus Flavia, is a part of the vast residential complex of the Roman Emperors on the Palatine Hill in Rome...

 overlooking the Circus Maximus
Circus Maximus
The Circus Maximus is an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located in Rome, Italy. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire...

 was undertaken in his reign.

See also

  • Septimia (gens)
    Septimia (gens)
    The gens Septimia was a plebeian family at Rome. The gens first appears in history towards the close of the Republic, and they did not achieve much importance until the latter half of the 2nd century, when Lucius Septimius Severus obtained the imperial dignity.-Origin of the gens:The nomen...

  • Arcus Argentariorum
    Arcus Argentariorum
    The Arcus Argentariorum , is an arch that was partly incorporated in the 7th century into the western wall of the nearby church of San Giorgio al Velabro in Rome, Italy....

     dedicated by the money changers of Rome to the Severan family.

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