Family of Septimius Severus

Family of Septimius Severus

Severan Tondo

The Severan Tondo or Berlin Tondo from circa 200 AD, is one of the few preserved examples of panel painting from Classical Antiquity, depicting the first two generations of the imperial Severan dynasty, whose members ruled the Roman Empire in the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries. It depicts the Roman emperor Septimius Severus ( r . 193–211 ) with his family: his wife, the augusta Julia Domna, and their two sons and co-augusti Caracalla ( r . 198–217 ) and Geta ( r . 209–211 ). The face of one of the two brothers has been deliberately erased, very likely as part of damnatio memoriae. [1]

The Severan Tondo
Year2nd century AD
Dimensions30.5 cm diameter (12.0 in)
LocationAntikensammlung, Altes Museum, Berlin

On the viewer's right is Septimius Severus, and to the left Julia Domna. In front of them are the boys Caracalla and Geta, probably the figure with the erased face on the viewer's left and slightly to the rear of the other boy. All wear jewelled gold wreaths and imperial insignia, some details of which have been lost. Having emerged from the antiquities trade, the wooden tondo's provenance is unknown before entering the Antikensammlung Berlin (inventory number 31329) in the 20th century. It is now in the Altes Museum.

Genesis of the African Emperor: Septimius Severus’ Rise to Power

Septimius Severus was born into a prominent and wealthy family of olive oil magnates in Leptis Magna in what is now Libya in 145 AD. Visitors to the Roman remains at Leptis Magna can admire the Arch of Septimius Severus which is still standing today and is a UNESCO protected monument. His hunger for success led him from Africa to Rome in 161, where his contacts gave him access to the powerful senatorial ranks.

Septimius was to eventually die in 211 AD in York (known at the time as Eboracum), the capital city of Britannia, the northern Roman province.

It was his relative, Gaius Septimius Severus who had spoken and recommended him to the then Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius when he first arrived in Rome. Severus rose quickly through various offices of state, known as the cursus honorum , and by the year 170 he had gained the political power he so desired by being admitted to the Senate. He was appointed as a Legatus, a senior position within the Roman Legion , as well as a mark of his class.

His first wife Paccia Marciana also came from the same city of Leptis Magna, and their marriage lasted for over ten years, until she suddenly died in 186 of natural causes.

Septimius Severus was a believer in the art of astrology and took great care to follow any portents and omens from the spirit world. After hearing a prophesy, Septimius Severus married Julia Domna in 187, a wealthy aristocrat born in Emesa in Syria, while serving as the Roman Governor in Gaul at the city today known as Lyon in France. Together they had two sons, Caracalla and Geta, which assured Severus of his legacy and the beginning of the Severn Dynasty.

Septimius Severus with his wife Julia Domna, and his two sons, Geta and Caracalla. Note that the face of Geta has been destroyed. ( José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro )

Rome's Pivotal Emperors

After the assassination of Commodus in 192 AD, the governor of Upper Pannonia, Lucius Septimius Severus waited for the right opportunity to make his bid for power.

Early in the following year he marched on Rome, on the pretext of vengeance for the short lived emperor Pertinax, who had been elevated then eliminated by the Praetorian guard. On arriving in Rome, Severus disbanded the Praetorians and recruited his own men into a new guard. Next, he set about winning over the Senate and the people, and overcoming his main rivals: Clodius Albinus (declared emperor in Britain) and Pescennius Niger, (proclaimed by the eastern troops).

The civil wars were over by 197 AD, when Severus turned his attention to the army. All emperors knew very well that the true source of their power lay in the support of the troops, because with armed support they could quell all opposition. Without it, they could be very easily removed. Severus was the first to admit openly that the army shored up his imperial power, and he rewarded the soldiers accordingly .

He gave them a pay rise - the first for many decades - and allowed them more privileges. He knew that service in the army must be made more attractive. Another innovation was to distance the imperial house from the populace by making himself and his family sacrosanct, setting a precedent that was carried to extremes by Aurelian and Diocletian at the end of the third century.

Ever the realist, on his death bed in York in 211 AD, Severus told his sons to look after the soldiers and to ignore everyone else.

Severus: Rome’s first African Emperor

In AD 193, Lucius Septimius Severus was named ruler of the Roman Empire and in doing so became Rome’s first African Emperor. After emerging victorious from a period of civil war, Severus expanded the border of the empire to new heights, ushered in a period of imperial transformation and founded a dynasty.

Born in AD 145 in the prominent Roman Libyan city of Leptis Magna in Africa, Severus came from a wealthy and prominent local family. In AD 162, Severus went to Rome and was granted entry into the senatorial ranks, after his cousin Gaius Septimius Severus had recommended him to Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Severus rose through the ranks of the cursus honorum (public offices held by aspiring Roman politicians), gaining entry into the Roman Senate in AD 170 and being appointed legatus, a senior position in the Roman Army, in AD 173 after his cousin became proconsul of the Province of Africa.

Two years later he married Paccia Marciana, a woman from his home city of Leptis Magna. The marriage would last a little over ten years before Marciana passed away in AD 186 of natural causes. A year later during his time as governor of Gaul and living in the city of Lugdunum (modern Lyon in France), Severus married Julia Domna from Syria and the pair would have two sons - Lucius Septimius Bassianus (later nicknamed Caracalla after the Gallic hooded tunic he always wore) and Publius Septimius Geta.

In AD 191, the then emperor Commodus made Severus governor of Pannonia Superor, a province on the Danube frontier. The following year Commodus was assassinated and in AD 193 his successor Publius Helvius Pertinax was declared emperor, heralding in the Year of the Five Emperors - a time in which five men claimed the title of Roman Emperor.

Pertinax’s reign would last just 86 days before a disgruntled Praetorian Guard (household troops of the Roman Emperors), unhappy with Pertinax’s efforts to enforce stricter discipline within their ranks, assassinated him.

The Praetorian Guard then did something remarkable and auctioned off the emperorship to the highest bidder. The wealthy senator Didius Julianus offered the most money for their support and subsequently secured the job.

How Julianus had brought his way to the top made him very unpopular in Rome and as such, three candidates emerged as rivals to the imperial throne – Clodius Albinus (governor of Britain), Pescennius Niger (governor of Syria) and Severus (governor of Gaul). By commanding the largest army closest to Rome, Severus had the upper hand. He secured the support of Albinus by offering him the title of Caesar, thus guaranteeing him a place in the imperial succession if Severus were to be successful.

In June 193, Severus marched on Rome declaring himself the avenger of Pertinax and before he’d even entered the city was declared emperor by the Senate. Julianus was executed in the palace after ruling for a mere 66 days.

Severus quickly secured his power within Rome by dissolving the current Praetorian Guard and filling its ranks with soldiers loyal to him, as well as raising three new legions. In AD 194, Severus looked to quell any threat from Niger in Syria and defeated him at the Battle of Issus. While in the East, Severus turned his forces against those Parthian vassals who had backed Niger.

His next move saw him come into conflict with his short time ally Albinus. Hoping to secure a family dynasty, Severus declared his eldest son Caracalla as Caesar, effectively severing ties with Albinus and quashing any successional hopes the governor of Britain might have had. Albinus subsequently marched into Gaul and the forces of the two men clashed in AD 197 at the hard-fought battle of Lugdunum - a fight said to be the largest and bloodiest of all clashes between Roman forces. Severus emerged victorious and secured full control over the Roman Empire.

He then carried out a purge of the Roman Senate, executing any who had opposed him or shown favour to Albinus. Severus then waged a successful campaign against the Parthian Empire in the East, supposedly in retaliation for their support of Niger. His forces sacked the Parthian capital city of Ctesiphon and added the northern half of Mesopotamia to the empire. For his efforts, a Triumphal Arch was erected in Severus’s honour in the Roman Forum.

Be good to one another, enrich the soldiers, and damn the rest.

Severus enlarged the Roman Empire further with campaigns in Africa and Britain. He made significant gains in Caledonia (modern Scotland) and strengthened Hadrian’s Wall but fell short of his ultimate goal of bringing the whole British island under his rule.

It was in Roman Britain that Severus would see his final days. Ill health, most likely caused by gout, took a toll on the Emperor who passed away in AD 211 at the age of 65. On his deathbed, he was said to give the following advice to his sons, ‘Be good to one another, enrich the soldiers, and damn the rest.’ It was his treatment of the soldiers that did indeed secure Severus’s reign. His military reforms saw wage increases for soldiers along with the removal of the marriage ban, allowing military men to have wives. His treatment of the army would become a model that future emperors would emulate.

Severus had also been popular amongst the Roman people, having brought stability after the vices and corruption of Commodus’s reign. He also left behind an empire spanning some 5 million square kilometres, the largest it had ever been.

His two sons Caracalla and Geta jointly inherited the throne and sued for peace with the Caledonians a short while later and the Roman frontier was brought back to behind Hadrian’s Wall. Rome would never campaign so far into Caledonia again.

Ignoring their father’s advice to be civil with one another, the relationship between the two brother’s descended to the point that members of the Praetorian Guard loyal to Caracalla assassinated Geta most likely at the command of Caracalla himself. After a wide-scale purge of all those loyal to Geta, said to be around 20,000 people killed, Caracalla assumed total control of the emperorship in AD 212.

He did, however, heed his father's words regarding the treatment of soldiers, raising annual wages further and often portraying himself as one of them whilst out on campaign.

His campaign against the Alemanni (Germanic tribes on the Upper Rhine River) had some success whilst his Parthian campaign in the East achieved little. His most notable act was the introduction of the Constitutio Antoniniana (Antonine Constitution), which granted citizenship to all free inhabitants across the Roman Empire.

In the end, Caracalla died at the age of just 29, falling victim to assassination by a Praetorian Guard. The ancient sources portray him as one of the evilest men to have ascended to the imperial throne, ruling savagely and conducting himself like a tyrant.

SCHILLER. Gesch. der rom. Kaiserzeit, I (Gotha, 1883) REVILLE, La religion a Rome sous les Sereres (Paris, 1886) NEUMANN, Der romische Staat und die allgemeine Kirche, I (Leipzig, 1890) DE CAVALIERI, La Passio SS. Perpetuae et Felicitatis (Rome, 1896) VON DOMASZEWSKI, Gesch. der römischen Kaiser (Leipzig, 1909) DURUY, Hist. of Rome, tr. RIPLEY (Boston, 1894).

APA citation. Hoeber, K. (1912). Septimius Severus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Hoeber, Karl. "Septimius Severus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph E. O'Connor.

Lepcis Magna, Severan Basilica

Lepcis Magna: Phoenician colony, later part of the Carthaginian empire, the kingdom of Massinissa, and the Roman empire. Its most famous son was the emperor Septimius Severus (r.193-211).

Severan Basilica

The Severan Basilica is perhaps Lepcis' most famous monument, after the Arch of Severus. The two monuments belong together. The arch was offered to the emperor Septimius Severus (r.193-211) on the occasion of his visit in 203 CE, and the emperor responded by offering the basilica, which was part of a larger project of urban renewal that is, frankly, a bit unimaginative, although the decorated columns in the basilica are splendid.

The basilica, which is inspired on the Basilica Ulpia in Rome, belongs to the Severan Forum, which in the southwest was closed by a Temple to the Septimius family, and in the northeast by the Severan Basilica. The basilica was about 95 meters long and 35 wide, and was divided into three naves, separated from each other by rows of columns made of Egyptian purple granite. At the two ends were apses, which had slightly raised platforms that may have been used by magistrates. This suggests that the basilica was used for (among other activities) legal hearings.

The little griffin on the photo below is a remarkable addition to a typical column, as it is placed between the capital and the architrave.


The inscription on the architrave (IRT 428) describes how Septimius Severus started to build the basilica. This part of the text is remarkable because many of the common abbreviations, like IMP, and numerals are spelled out in full. The second part mentions how Severus' son and successor Caracalla (r.211-217) finished the building.

Lepcis, Severan Basilica, northern apse, griffin

Lepcis Magna, Severan basilica, inscription

Lepcis Magna, Severan basilica, inscription

Lepcis Magna, Severan basilica, inscription

At first sight, the inscription appears to date the beginning of the building to Septimius' last year, because his title Britannicus Maximus and his eighteenth year if tribunicial powers are mentioned, but the text was in fact written after his death, and the makers used the emperor's fullest titulature. The long title of Caracalla can be summarized to "completed in 216", but misses the point: in an age in which people could not read silently, someone reading the inscription would mention all titles of the emperor - showing of that he was capable of reading, and effectively legitimating Caracalla's rule.


In 533, the Byzantine general Belisarius ordered the basilica of Septimius Severus to be restored. It was converted into a church, dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. The pulpit, which was made from an old capital, as if to show that the old gods were powerless. There was also a baptistery, in the shape of a cross, but we forgot to make photos of it.


The decoration of two columns in the basilica is particularly fine. One of them contains representations of Hercules, the other one of Dionysus. Since Phoenician times, they had been the city's protectors, although back then, they were called Melk'ashtart and Shadrapa.

The column of Dionysus, or, as the Lepcitanians often called him, Liber Pater ("Father Freedom"), is decorated with all kinds of vines and garlands, but we can also discern, among many other dionysiac themes, centaurs, and the god Pan. Silenus, Bacchantes, panthers, and a drunk god are of course not missing.

The column of Hercules showed several scenes from his life. These include the Twelve Labors, but also other scenes. It is interesting to notice that famous ancient sculptures, like Lysippus' statue of a very musclar demigod (known as the "Farnese Hercules"), have been included too.

Lepcis, Severan Basilica, Column of Dionysus, bottom

Lepcis, Severan Basilica, Column of Dionysus, center

Lepcis, Severan Basilica, Column of Dionysus, top

Lepcis, Severan Basilica, Column of Hercules, capital

Lepcis, Severan Basilica, Column of Hercules, Hercules and a centaur

Lepcis, Severan Basilica, Column of Hercules, Hercules and Iolaus

Lepcis, Severan Basilica, Column of Hercules, Hercules resting on his club

Family of Septimius Severus - History

The Historia Augusta was probably composed in the late 4th century AD by a single historian (manufacturing the names of 6 earlier historians to seem more reliable). The lives from Trajan to Elagabulus are considered far more trustworthy than the later lives, though all fall short of the standard of Suetonius' Lives of the Caesars upon which they are apparently modelled. Nevertheless this life represents the only full narrative of the career of Septimius upon which modern historians must rely heavily.

AFTER the murder of Didius Julianus, Severus, a native of Africa, gained the empire. His home town was Lepcis Magna, his father was Geta and his ancestors had been Roman knights before citizenship had been given to all. His mother was Fulvia Pia, his uncles were Aper and Severus, ex-consuls, his paternal grandfather was Macer and his maternal grandfather was Fulvius Pius. He himself was born on the third day before the Ides of April, when Erucius Clarus, for the second time, and Severus were the consuls [11 April A.D.146] In his earliest boyhood, before he became steeped in Latin and Greek litera ture, in which he was highly educated, the only game he played with other boys was 'Judges'. In this game the fasces and axes would be carried before him and, with a council of boys stand ing around him, he would sit and give judgement. In his eight eenth year he gave a formal speech in public, after which he came to Rome to pursue his studies, and applied for and received the broad stripe from the deified Marcus, with the backing of his kinsman Septimius Severus, who had already been consul twice.

On his arrival at Rome he chanced upon an innkeeper who was reading the Life of the emperor Hadrian at that very time. This he seized upon as an omen of future good fortune. He also had another omen that he was to be emperor. When invited to an imperial banquet he had come wearing a Greek mantle instead of the toga he should have worn, and he was given the emperor's own official toga to put on. The same night he dreamed he was sucking the teats of a she-wolf, like Remus or Romulus. Further, he sat in the imperial chair, which had been put in the wrong place by an attendant, being unaware that it was not permitted. Another time, when he was sleeping in a tavern, a snake wound itself round his head, and when his friends were alarmed and shouted out, the creature went away without harming him.

He did a lot of wild things in his youth, not all of them innocent. He was sued for adultery and spoke in his own defence, being acquitted by the proconsul Julianus. (He succeeded Julianus in the proconsulship, was his colleague in the consulship and also succeeded him as emperor.) His quaestorship he held with diligence, having omitted the military tribunate. After his quaestorship he received Baetica by lot and then set out for Africa to settle affairs at home, as his father had died. But while he was in Africa he was assigned to Sardinia instead of Baetica, because the Moors were ravaging Baetica. After completing his Sardinian quaestorship, then, he took the post of legate to the proconsul of Africa. During this legate ship, when he was walking along preceded by the fasces, one of his fellow-townsmen, a man of Lepcis and a plebeian, embraced him as an old comrade. Severus gave the man a beating with cudgels, while his herald proclaimed: 'Let no plebeian embrace a legate of the Roman people with impunity.' The result of this incident was that legates too rode in a carriage, whereas previously they used to go on foot.

At that time, in a certain African town, he had anxiously consulted an astrologer. When his horoscope had been cast, he saw a tremendous future ahead of him, and the astrologer said to him: 'Give me your own horoscope not another man's.' Severus swore that it was his, and the man foretold everything that afterwards came to pass. He gained the tribunate of the plebs on the recommendation of the emperor Marcus, and carried it out with great strictness and energy. At that time he married Marciana,about whom he was silent in his own account of his life as a private citizen. Subsequendy, during his reign, he set up statues to her. He was designated praetor by Marcus, not as a candidate ofthe emperor but as one of a crowd of competitors, in his thirty-second year. Then, after he had been sent to Spain, he dreamed first that he was told to restore the temple of Augustus at Tarraco, which was by then in a state of decay. After this he dreamed that from the peak of a very high mountain he was looking down on dhe whole world, and on Rome, and the provinces were singing together to the accompaniment of the lyre or flute. After his departure for Spain he put on public games in absentia. Then he was placed in command of the legion IV Scythica, near Massias. After this post he made for Athens, both to pursue his studies and for religious reasons, and in order to see the public buildings and antiquities. While there, he was offended in various ways by the Athenians, as a result of which he became hostile to them and took his revenge, after becoming emperor, by reducing their privileges. Next he was appointed legate of Lugdunensis. When he wished to marry a second time, after losing his wife, he investigated the horoscopes of potential brides, being very skilled in astrology himself, and since he had heard that there was a certain woman in Syria whose horoscope forecast that she would marry a king, he sought her hand. It was of courseJulia, and he gained her as his bride through the mediation offriends. She at once made him a father.! 3 He was loved as no other by the Gauls for his strictness, honourable conduct and restraint. Next he ruled the Pannonias with proconsular power. After this he gained the proconsular province of Sicily in the lot and he was given another son, at Rome.

In Sicily he was placed on trial on a charge of consulting soothsayers or astrologers about the imperial position. The prefects of the guard who were assigned to hear his case acquitted him - Commodus was already becoming hated - and the false accuser was crucified. He held his first consulship with Apuleius Rufinus, as one of a very large number that Commodus designated. After this consulship he was without official duties for about a year and then, on the recommendation of Laetus, he was put in command of the German army.On his departure to the German armies he purchased spacious pleasuregrounds, whereas previously he had owned only a very small house at Rome and one farm in the territory of Veii. He was eating a modest dinner Iying on the ground in these gardens, with his sons, and his elder son, then aged five, was dividing out with a rather lavish hand among his childish playmates the fruit that was placed nearby his father said, reproving him: 'Share it out more sparingly, for you do not possess royal wealth,' and the boy replied 'But I will possess it.' After his departure to Germany he conducted himself in such a way in his governorship as to increase his reputation, which had already become noteworthy.

Up to this point his military activity was as a private citizen. But then, after it had been learned that Commodus had been murdered and, moreover, that Julianus held the empire amid universal hatred, he was proclaimed emperor by the German legions at Carnuntum, on the Ides of August, although he did put up some resistance to the many who urged him on. He gave the soldiers . . . sesterces each. Then, after strengthening the provinces which he was leaving in his rear, he marched on Rome. All yielded to him wherever he went, while the armies of Illyricum and Gaul, under the pressure of their generals, had alreadysworn allegiance to him - for he was received by everyone as the avenger of Pertinax. At the same time, on the instigation of Julianus, Septimius Severus was declared a public enemy, and envoys were sent to the army who were to order the soldiers to desert him, on the instructions of the Senate. At first, when Severus heard that the envoys had been sent by authority of a senatorial decree, he was very frightened. Afterwards, by bribing the envoys, he ensured that they spoke in his favour before the army and crossed to his side. Having learned this,Julianus caused a decree ofthe Senate to be passed regarding his sharing of the empire with Severus. It is uncertain whether or not he did this as a trick, since he had already, before this, dispatched certain men, well known for their assassinations of generals, who were to kill Severus. Similarly he had sent men to assassinate Pescennius Niger, who had also assumed the position of emperor in opposition to him, on the instigation of the Syrian armies. But Severus escaped the hands of those that Julianus had sent to murder him and sent a letter to the praetorian guard, giving them the signal either to desertJulianus or to kill him. He was obeyed at once Julianus was killed in the palace and Severus was invited to Rome. Thus Severus became the victor merely at will - something that had never happened to anyone - and hastened to Rome under arms.

After Julianus had been killed, Severus still remained in camp and under canvas, as if moving through enemy territory, and the Senate sent a deputation to him of a hundred senators, to congratulate him and to beg his favour. They met him at Interamna [Terni], and after their clothes had been shaken in case they were carrying any weapons, they greeted him, armed as he was, with armed men standing around. On the following day, when all the palace household had presented itself, he gave the members of the senatorial deputation seven hundred and twenty gold pieces each, and sent them ahead of him, having given any who wished the opportunity of remaining and returning to Rome with him. He also appointed as prefect of the guard Flavius Juvenalis, whom Julianus had taken as his own third prefect.

Meanwhile at Rome there was immense trepidation among soldiers and civilians, for they knew that Severus, in arms, was now coming against them - and they had declared him a public enemy. Added to this, Severus learned that Pescennius Niger had been proclaimed emperor by the Syrian legions, but he intercepted Niger's edicts and letters to the people and the Senate, through the messengers, to prevent them from being put before the people or read in the Senate House. At the same time he also thought of making Clodius Albinus his deputy, to whom the power of a Caesar had already been decreed by Commodus. But being very nervous of these same men, about whom his opinion was correct, he sent Heraclitus to take control ofthe British provinces and Plautianus to seize Niger's children. When Severus reached Rome, he ordered the guard to meet him unarmed, clad only in the clothes that are worn under the armour. He summoned them thus to his tribunal, with armed men placed around on all sides.

Then, entering Rome under arms, with armed soldiers, he ascended the Capitol. From there, in the same attire, he proceeded to the Palatine, with the standards which he had taken from the guard carried before him, held downwards not on high. Then, all over the city, soldiers took up their station, in the temples, in the porticoes and in the palace, treating them as their quarters and the entry of Severus aroused hatred and terror, for the soldiers snatched goods without payment, threatening to plunder the city. On the next day, tightly surrounded by armed men - not only soldiers but his friends as well - he came to the Senate. In the Senate House he rendered an explanation of his assumption of the imperial position and gave it as his pretext that Julianus had sent men known for their assassinations of generals to murder him. He also compelled the passage of a senatorial decree that it-should not be lawful for the emperor to kill a senator without the consent ofthe Senate. But while he was in the Senate, the soldiers, in a state of mutiny, demanded ten thousand sesterces a man, on the precedent of those who had conducted Octavianus Augustus to Rome and had received such a great sum. Severus wanted to restrain them and was unable to, but he sent them away mollified by an additional bounty.

He then held a state funeral, with an effigy of Pertinax, and consecrated him as one of the deified emperors, adding a Helvian flamen and sodales, who had previously been Marcian. He also ordered that he himself should take the name of Pertinax, although later he wanted that name to be abolished as if it were an omen. Then he paid offhis friends' debts. Hc gave his daughters, with dowries, in marriage to Probus and Actius. He offered his son-in-law Probus the prefecture of thc city, but he refused, saying that to be prefect seemed a lesser thing than to be the emperor's son-in-law. Moreover he straightaway made each of his sons-in-law consul, and each of them he enriched. On the next day he came to the Senate, and after making accusations against them, proscribed and executed the friends of Julianus. He heard a great many lawsuits, and punished severely magistrates who had been accused by provincials, when the charges against them were proved. He took such care over the grain- supply, which he had found to bc very low, that when he died he was to leave the Roman people a surplus amounting to seven years' tribute.

He left Rome to settle the eastern situation, saying nothing publicly about Niger as yet. However, he sent legions to Africa to prevent Niger from moving through Egypt and Libya to occupy it, and causing hardship to the Roman people by cutting off the grain-supply. He left Domitius Dexter as prefect ofthe city in place of Bassus, and departed within thirty days of his arrival at Rome. Having moved out from the city to Saxa Rubra he had to endure a serious outbreak of mutiny on the part of the army, on account of the place chosen for pitching camp. His brother Geta came to meet him at once, and was instructed to govern the province entrusted to him, although he was hoping for something else. The children of Niger, who were brought to him, he treated with the same respect as his own. He had indeed sent ahead a legion to take possession of Greece and Thrace, to prevent Pescennius from occupying them but Niger was already holding Byzantium and, wishing to seize Perinthus as well, killed a great many men from this force. He was therefore declared a public enemy, together with Aemilianus. Niger invited Severusto share the empire, but he was treated with contempt. Severus did, to be sure, promise him a safe exile, if he wanted it, but he did not pardon Aemilianus. Then Aemilianus was defeated in the Hellespont by the generals of Severus, and fled first to Cyzicus and then to another city, where he was killed on their orders. Niger's own forces were also put to flight by the same generals. When he had heard these things, Severus sent a letter to the Senate, as if everything had been dealt with. Then he fought with Niger and killed him at Cyzicus, and carried his head round on a spear. After this he sent Niger's `children, whom he had treated on an equal basis to his own, into exile with their mother. He sent a letter to the Senate concerning the victory and he did not inflict punishmcnt on any of the senators who had belonged to Niger's party, except for one.

He was more angry with the people of Antioch, for two reasons: they had made fun of him when he was serving in the east and they had helped Niger even when he had been defeated. Eventually he took away many of their privileges from them. He also deprived the people of Neapolis [Nablus] in Palestine of their citizenship, because they were in arms on behalf of Niger for a long time. He took savage reprisals against many who had followed Niger, other than members of thc senatorial order. He inflicted penalties and indemnities on many cities ofthe same party too. He put to death those senators who had served in Niger's army with the rank of general or tribune. Then he undertook a great deal in the region of Arabia, bringing the Parthians back under Roman authority, and the Adiabenians too, all of whom, indeed, had taken the side of Pescennius. On account of this, when he returned, a triumph was offered him, and he was named Arabicus Adiabenicus Parthicus. But he rejected the triumph, so as not to seem to be triumphing for a victory in civil war. He also declined the name of Parthicus, so as not to provoke the Parthians. While he was actually on his way back to Rome, after the civil war with Niger, another civil war, with Clodius Albinus who rebelled in Gaul, was announced to him. For this reason his sons were later put to death, together with their mother. He therefore at once declared Albinus a public enemy, together with those who had written to Albinus, or had replied to his Ictters, in favourable terms. At Viminacium, on his march against Albinus, he nominated his elder son Bassianus, who had been given the name Aurelius Antoninus, as Caesar. This was in order to destroy the hopes which Severus' brother Geta had conceived of gaining the imperial position. The reason why he gave his son the name Antoninus was that he had dreamed that an Antoninus would succeed him. Hence some think that Geta pus younger son] was also called Antoninus, so that he too might succeed him as emperor. Some think that Bassianus was called Antoninus because Severus himself wanted to pass over into the family of Marcus.

At first, indeed, the generals of Severus were defeated by those of Albinus. Severus, in his anxiety, then consulted Pannonian augurs, from whom he learned that he would be the victor, but that his adversary would neither fall into his power nor escape, but would perish beside the water. Many friends of Albinus at once deserted and came to Severus, and many of Albinus' generals were captured, and punished by Severus. Meanwhile, after many varying encounters, Severus fought against Albinus successfully in Gaul for the first time at Tinurtium. It was then that he came into extreme peril by a fall from his horse he was believed to have died from a lead ball, and the army was on the point of choosing another man as emperor.At that time, Severus read in the senatorial minutes a motion congratulating Clodius Celsinus, a Hadrumetine and a kinsman of Albinus. Severus was enraged with the Senate, as though it had recogruzed Albinus by this act. He therefore decreed that Commodus should be enrolled among the de)fied emperors, as though in this way he would be able to revenge himself on the Senate. He proclaimed the de)fication of Commodus before the soldiers first, and then announced thc fact in a letter to the Senate, with the addition of a victory speech. Next, he ordered that the bodies of the senators who had been killed in the war should be torn limb from limb. Then he ordered that the head of Albinus, whose body had been brought to him half alive, should be cut o_and sent to Rome, and he accompanied it with a letter. Albinus was defeated on the eleventh day before the Kalends of March [9 February A.D. 197]. Moreover, Severus ordered that the remains of Albinus' corpse should be exposed before his own house and should lie there for a long time. Besides this, he himself rode on horseback over the corpse of Albinus, and admonished his horse when it took fright and even loosened its reins so that it might trample boldly. Others add that he ordered the man's corpse to be thrown into the Rhone - and the bodies of his wife and children at the same time. Countless members of Albinus' party were put to death, in cluding many leading men in the state and many distinguished women the property of all of them was confiscated and swelled the state treasury. Many of the Spanish and Gallic notables were also killed at this time. Finally, he gave the soldiers a rate of pay that none of the emperors had reached. To his sons, too, he left an inheritance from this proscription greater than any of the emperors had left, since he had made a large part of the gold throughout Gaul, Spain and Italy. This was the time when the procuratorship of the Privy Purse was first established. Of course, many who remained loyal to Albinus after his death were defeated in battle by Severus. At that time, more over, the legion of Arabia was reported to have defected to Albinus.

Therefore, having taken a heavy vengeance on the desertion ofthe Albinians by putting a great many of them to death, and also wiping out Albinus' family, he came to Rome, angry with both the people and the Senate. He praised Commodus in the Senate and at an assembly of the people, declared him to be a god and said that it was tbe depraved with whom he had been unpopular. It was apparent that Severus was quite openly in a rage. After this he dealt with the subject of his own clemency, although he was.exceedingly cruel and killed the senators listed below. He did in fact kill, without any hearing of their case, these nobles:

Mummius Secundinus, Asellius Claudianus, Claudius Rufus,
Vitalius Victor, Papius Faustus, Aelius Celsus, Julius Rufus,
Lollius Professus, Aurunculeius Cornelianus, Antonius
Balbus, Posturnius Severus, Sergius Lustralis, Fabius Paulinus,
Nonius Gracchus, Masticius Fabianus, Casperius Agrippinus,
Ceionius Albinus, Claudius Sulpicianus, Memmius Rufinus,
Casperius Aemilianus, Cocceius Verus, Erucius Clarus,
Julius Solon, Clodius Rufinus, Egnatuleius Honoratus,
Petronius Junior, the Pescennii (Festus and Veratianus and
Aurelianus and Materianus and Julianus and Albinus), the
Cerellii (Macrinus and Faustinianus andJulianus), Herennius
Nepos, Sulpius Canus, Valerius Catullinus, Novius Rufus,
Claudius Arabianus, Marcius Asellio.

Yet the murderer ofthese men, so many and so distinguished - for many among them were consulars, many praetorian in rank, all certainly of high degree - is regarded by the Africans as a god! He falsely accused Cincius Severus of making an attempt on his life with poison, and for this reason pUt him tO death. Then he cast to the lions Narcissus, the man who strangled Commodus. Besides this, he put to death many persons of lowly status, not counting those whom the fury of battle had consumed.

After this, since he wanted to make himself popular with people, he transferred the posting service from private individuals to the imperial treasury. Then he caused his son Bassianus Antoninus to be named Caesar by the Senate, and the imperial insignia were granted him by decree. A rumour then arose of a Parthian war.

He set up statues to his father, mother, grandfather and first wife. Plautianus had been a very close friend, but when Severus learned of his way of life he held him in such hatred that he declared him a public enemy, had his statues throughout the world overthrown, and made him famous for the severity of his punishment. Severus was particularly angered that Plautianus had set up his own statue among the likenesses of Severus' relatives and kinsmen. He revoked the penalty imposed on the Palestinians for supporting Niger. Afterwards Severus returned to his friendship with Plautianus, and after entering the city as though celebrating an ovation, he came to the Capitol. However, he killed him eventually. He gave his younger son Geta the toga of manhood andjoined the daughter of Plautianus in marriage with his elder son. Those who hat called Plautianus a public enemy were deported. Thus there is always change in everything, as if by a law of nature. Then he designated his sons to the consulship. He buried his brother Geta.

Then he set out for the Parthian war, having put on a gladiatorial show and given largess to the people. In the meantime he killed many people on charges that were either genuine or faked. A great many were condemned for making jokes, others because they kept silene, others for making a lot of contrived remarks, such as: Behold an emperor true to his name, a true Pertinax, a true Severus It was certainly commonly said that Septimius Severus' motive for the Parthian war was a desire for glory, and that it was not launched out of any necessity. At any rate, having taken the army across from Brundisium he came to Syria without breaking his joumey and drove offthe Parehians. After this he resumed to Syria so as to prepare himself and take the offensive against the Parehians. In the meantime on the instigation of Plautianus he hunted down the remnants of Pescennius' following, to the extent that he even laid hold on some of his own friends as conspirators against his life. He also killed many for allegedly consulting astrologers or seers about his healeh, especially each and every person suitable for the imperial office, since he himselfhad sons who were still small boys, and he either believed, or heard, that this was being said by those who were predicting the position of emperor for themselves. In the end, when not a few had been killed, Severus made excuses for himself, and after their death denied that he had ordered what had been done. This applied particularly to Laetus, according to Marius Maximus. When his sister, a woman of Lepcis, had come to him, scarcely able to speak Latin, and the emperor was very embarrassed about her, he gave the broad stripe to her son and many gifts to her, and told the woman to return to her home town - with her son as well, who died shortly afterwards.

When the summer was already ending, therefore, he invaded Parthia, defeated the king, came to Ceesiphon, and took it. It was almost winter for in those regions wars are better carried out in winter, although the soldiers live on the roots of grasses and contract diseases and sickness as a result. Therefore, when he was unable to proceed farther, because the Parthians were making a stand, and the soldiers' bowels were loosened on account ofthe unfamiliar diet, he nonetheless persisted and took the town, put the king to flight, killed a great number of men and earned the title Parthicus. Because of these things, also, the soldiers hailed his son Bassianus Aneoninus, then in his thirteeneh year and already with the title Caesar, as co-emperor. They called Geta his younger son Caesar also, naming him Aneoninus as well, according to most writers.He gave the soldiers a very generous donative on account of these titles, and all the bogey of the Parthian town was handed over to them. Then he returned into Syria, as a conqueror and as Parthicus. The senators offered him a triumph, but he refused, the reason being that his arthritis made it impossible for him to stand up in the chariot. He did, to be sure, allow his son to triumph - the Senate had decreed him a triumph over the Jews, because of successes achieved in Syria by Severus. Then, when he had crossed to Antioch, he bestowed the toga of manhood on his elder son and designated him as consul, as colleague to himself and they at once entered on their consulship, while seill in Syria.

After this, he gave the soldiers an increase in their pay and then set out for Alexandria. On the journey he established many laws for the Palestinians. He prohibited conversion to Judaism under heavy penalties, and laid down the same penalty in the case of Christians too. Then he gave the Alexandrians the right to have town-councillors - up till that time they used to live without a public authority just as they had under their kings, content with the single magistrate whom Caesar had appointed. Besides this he changed many of their laws. This tour was pleasant for him - as Severus himself subsequently always made clear - because of his devotion to the god Sarapis, because he became acquaineed with the antiquities and because he saw rare animals and strange places. For he diligently inspected Memphis and Memnon, the pyramids and the labyrinth.

But since it is tedious to follow up minor details, this man's great deeds were the following when Julianus had been conquered and killed, he dismissed the praetorian cohorts, enrolled Pertinax among the gods contrary to the will of the soldiers, and ordered that the decrees of Salvius Julianus should be abolished here, however, he was unsuccessful. Then he appears to have had the surname of Pertinax not so much ae his own wish as on account of his parsimonious characeer. In fact, through the unlimited slaughter of many he was regarded as somewhat cruel. When a certain man from the enemy had surrendered to him as a suppliant and had asked, what would Severus have done in his place, he was not softened by the good sense of such a question, and ordered the man to be put to death. Besides this, his fervent aim was to liquidate opposing factions, and there was almost no encounter from which he did not emerge the victor. He subdued Abgarus, king of the Persians.

He received the submission of the Arabs. He compelled the Adiabeni to pay tribute. He fortified Britain - and this was the greatest glory of his reign - with a wall led across the island to the Ocean at each end in recognition of this he also received the title Britannicus. He rendered Tripolitania, from whence he sprang, completely safe, having battered the most warlike tribes and he donated to the Roman people in perpetuity a free and lavish daily supply of olive oil.

The same emperor, although implacable towards offences, likewise displayed singular judiciousness in encouraging all hard-working persons. He was quite interested in philosophy and the practice of rhetoric, and enthusiastic about learning in general. He took some measures against brigands everywhere. He composed a convincing autobiography dealing with both his private and his public life, making excuses only for the vice of cruelty. With regard to this, the Senate pronounced that either he ought not to have been born or that he ought not to die, since he appeared to be both excessively cruel and excessively useful to the republic. However, as concerns his family he was less careful, retaining his wife Julia who was notorious for her adulteries and was also guilty of conspiracy.

Once, this emperor, when crippled in his feet, was delaying a war, and the soldiers in their anxiety made his son Bassianus, who was there with him, Augustus. Severus had himself lifted up and was carried to the tribunal, and then summoned all the tribunes, centurions,generals and cohorts responsible for the deed Finally, he ordered that his son, who had accepted the name of Auguseus, should appear before him. He ordered that all those responsible for the deed should be punished except for his son, and all of them, prostrate before the tribunal, begged for pardon. Then he couched his head with his hand and said. 'At last you realize that it is the head that rules and not the feet.' It was he that said, when fortune had led him from a humble status through pursuits of study and military posts to the imperial power, through many stages: 'I have been everything - and gained nothing.

He died at Eboracum [York] in Britain, having subdued the tribes which appeared hostile to Britain, in the eighteeneh year of his reign, stricken by a very grave illness, now an old man.

He left two sons, Antoninus Bassianus, and Geta, to whom he had given the same name, in honour of Marcus Antoninus. He was laid in the sepulchre of Marcus Antoninus, whom of all the emperors he so greatly revered that he even deified Commodus, and thought it right that the name of Aneoninus should be added to the name of all future emperors use like the name Auguseus. He himself was enrolled among the deified emperors by the Senate, on the motion of his sons, who gave him a splendid funeral.

His outstanding public buildings now extant are the Septizodium (A three-storied building nearly 100 feet high and over 300 feet long, erected in A.D.203 at the south-eastern corner of the Palatine Hill.) and the Severan Baths (the precise location of these baths is unknown and they were perhaps incorporated in the Baths of Caracalla) and his too are the doors in the Transtiberine region, next to the gate that bears his name. Their frame collapsed at once, interfering with their use by the public.

The universal judgement on him after his death was thee he was great, especially because for a long while no benefit came to the republic from his sons, while subsequenely, with many usurpations, the Roman state was a prey to plunderers.

This emperor wore such meagre clothing that even his tunic scarcely had any purple, while he covered his shoulders with a shaggy cloak. He ate sparingly, being very addicted to his native vegetable, sometimes fond of wine, often abstaining from meat. His person was handsome, he was of huge size,(Dio Cassius, who knew Severus personally, says that he was small) with a long beard and curly white hair. His face inspired reverence, his voice was resonant but with a trace of an African accent right up to his old age. He was equally beloved after his death, when envy, or the fear of his cruelty, had disappeared.

I recall that I have read in Aelius Maurus(the author apparently made up this name to give credence to the following fictions), a freedman of Hadrian's Phlegon, that when he was dying Septimius Severus rejoiced quite unrestrainedly because he was leaving the republic two Antonines with equal power, after the example of Pius, who left the republic Verus and Marcus Antoninus, his sons by adoption. He was doing better than this because Pius left sons by adoption and he was giving dhe Roman republic rulers begotten by himself Antoninus - Bassianus that is - was of course born to him from his first marriage and he had Geta by Julia. But his hope greatly deceived him, for fratricide made the one hateful to the republic and his own character dhe other, and the name of Antoninus did not long remain sanctified in any instance. Indeed, when I reflect on the matter, Diocletian Augustus, it is sufficiendy clear that no great man has left a son who is excellent and useful. For such men either die widhout children or for dhe most part have children of such a kind chat it would have been better for dhe human race if they had died without descendants. To begin from Romulus: he left no children, and Numa Pompilius left none chat could be of use to the republic. What of Camillus? He surely did not have children like himself? What of Scipio? What of the Catos, who were such great men? And then, what shall I say about Homer, Demosthenes, Virgil, Crispus Sallust and Terence, Plautus and all the rest? What about Caesar? What about Tullius [Cicero], for whom especially it would have been better not to have had children? What about Augustus, who did not even have a good son by adoption, although he had the power of choosing from all men? Trajan himself, also, made a mistake in choosing his fellow-townsman and nephew. But to omit adoptive sons, lest the Antonines, Pius and Marcus, divine spirits of the republic, occur to us, let us turn to real sons. What would have been more fortunate for Marcus, than not to have Commodus as his heir? What more fortunate for Severus Septimius, than not to have Bassianus? - who straightaway destroyed his brother, supposed to have designed a conspiracy against himself, a fratricidal contrivance who took his stepmother - and what stepmother? rather she was his mother! - to wife,(i.e. Caracalla marrying his mother Julia Domna which we will discuss when we read Dio Cassius on Julia) in whose bosom he had killed her son Geta who killed Papinianus, sanctuary of the law and treasury of legal learning, and who was prefect (so that a man great in himself and through his knowledge might not be lacking in rank). Finally, to omit other things, I think it was because of Bassianus' character that Severus, a somewhat harsh man in every way, indeed somewhat cruel also, was held to be righteous and worthy of the altars of the gods. He at any rate, labouring under his disease, is said to have sent his elder son the god-like speech of Sallust, in which Micipsa urged his sons to peace. But that was in vain . . . and so great a man, in ill health . . .(the manuscripts have a blank spot here). Antoninus lived on then, hated by the people for a long time, and that hallowed name was for a long time less beloved, although he both gave clothes to the people, whence he was called Caracallus, and built most magnificent baths. There survives of course at Rome a portico of Severus portraying his deeds, set up by his son, according to most accounts.

The signs of his death were these: he himself dreamed that he was dragged up into the sky by four eagles and a jewelled chariot, while some kind of huge creature of human shape flew in front and while he was being carried away, he counted out numbers up to eighty-nine, beyond which number of years he did not live even a single one,(62) for he came-to the imperial position as an old man and when he had been placed in a huge circle of air, for a long while he stood solitary and set apart then when he began to be afraid that he might fall headlong, he saw himself being called by Jupiter and placed among the Antonines. On the day of the circus games, three little plaster Victories had been set up, in the usual fashion, holding palms. The middle one, which carried a globe inscribed with his own name, was struck by the wind and fell down upright from the podium, and stayed on the ground the one which was inscribed with the name of Geta collapsed and shattered completely but the one which carried the inscription of Bassianus, though it lost its palm in the gust of wind, managed to remain standing, although only just. After giving a Moor his discharge from the army, on the Wall, he was resuming to the nearest halting-place (mansio), not merely as victor but having established etemal peace. He was turning over in his mind what sort of man should meet him, when a certain 'Ethiopian' [black man] from the military unit (numerus), with a famous reputation among the jesters and whose jokes were always much quoted, met him with a wreath made of cypress. Enraged, Severus instructed that the man should be removed from his sight, being nettled by the ominous colour and wreath and the man is recorded to have said, as a joke: 'You have overthrown all things, you have conquered all things, now be a conquering god!' Coming to the town, he wanted to make sacrifice but first he was led to the temple of Bellona by a mistake on the part of the rustic soothsayer, and then the sacrificial victims provided were black. He rejected them and was on his way back to the palace, when through the attendants' carelessness the black sacrificial victims followed the emperor, right up to the threshold of the imperial residence.

There are in many cities outstanding building works of his. There was indeed magnanimity in his graciousness, in that he restored all the public buildings at Rome that were falling into disrepair from the effects of time, and virtually nowhere had his own name inscribed on them, the inscriptions of the original builders being preserved. On his death he left enough grain for seven years supply to be weighed out at a daily rate of 75,000 pecks and so much olive oil, in fact, that for five years there was sufficient not only for the use of the city but also for the whole of Italy which needed oil.

His last words are said to have been the following: 'I took over the republic in a disturbed condition everywhere, and I leave it pacified even among the Britons. Now an old man crippled in the feet, I bequeath to my Antonines, a stable empire if they will bc good, a weak one if bad.' Then he ordered the watchword 'tot us work' to be given to the tribune, because Pertinax when he was admitted to the imperial position had given the watchword 'Let us be soldiers'. He had intended next that the royal image of Fortune, who customarilyaccompanies the emperors and is placed in their bed- chambers, should be duplicated, sothat he might leave that most sacred figureto each of his sons but when he saw that the hour of death was pressing strongly upon him, he is supposed to have ordered that Fortune should be placed on alternate days in the bed- chambers of his sons the emperors. Bassianus ignored this - and then committed fratricide.

His body was carried from Britain as far as Rome, greatly revered by the provincials although some say that it was only a golden urn containing the remains of Severus, and that this was laid in the sepulchre of the Antonines, since Septimius had been cremated in the place where he died.

Emperor Septimius Severus dies at York

Richard Cavendish remembers the death of Emperor Septimius Severus on February 4th, AD 211.

Edward Gibbon thought that the decline of the Roman Empire began with Severus (b. AD 145). He came from Leptis Magna, a thriving port with a fine natural harbour in what is now Libya, near Tripoli. His mother belonged to an influential Roman family, but his father was Carthaginian. The future emperor grew up speaking Latin with a provincial accent and his biographer Anthony Birley called him Rome’s ‘first truly provincial emperor’. He went to Rome in his teens and his mother’s family helped him on his ambitious way up until in 191 he was made governor of Upper Pannonia, covering parts of today’s Hungary, Austria and Bosnia. In 193, at his suggestion and promises of reward, his troops proclaimed him emperor after the murder of the Emperor Pertinax by the Praetorian Guard. Severus led his army swiftly to Italy, took Rome and over the next four years crushed the rival claimants.

He ruled Rome as a military dictator, with his sons Caracalla and Geta as Caesars. At substantial expense he beautified his native city of Leptis Magna, whose ruins are considered the most impressive in Roman Africa and include a triumphal arch in his honour as well as an arena that seats 50,000 spectators. He built a new forum as well as the ‘hunting baths’ decorated with scenes including a leopard hunt.

After successful campaigns in the Near East and Africa, in 208 he took Caracalla and Geta with him to Britain. Though by this time suffering agonies from gout, or perhaps arthritis, he led an invasion of Caledonia (Scotland), whose inhabitants, according to the contemporary historian Dio Cassius, lived naked in tents and had their women in common. The mythical Celtic hero Fingal was afterwards credited with defeating the Romans in battle, but in fact, naked or not, the Caledonians avoided battles. They excelled in guerrilla warfare and they led the Romans a dance all the way up to the Moray Firth or beyond until a temporary peace was organised in 210.

Exhausted, ill and ready to die, Severus returned to York and ordered himself a cremation urn. When he saw it, he told it: ‘You will hold a man that the world could not hold.’

There was a story that Caracalla tried to bribe the doctors to hasten his father’s end. When the emperor did expire, aged 65, the troops acclaimed his two sons as joint emperors. The brothers went back to Rome where Caracalla had Geta murdered the following year.

Publius Septimius Geta

Publius Septimius Geta (fl. 2nd century, c. 110-aft. 198) 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-Berber origin. His ancestry had been based in Leptis Magna (East of Tripoli, Africa, modern Libya, North Africa). His Gens Septimia was originally a Plebeian one. His family were local, wealthy and distinguished in Leptis Magna.

Geta's father Lucius Septimius Severus (c. 70-aft. 110) was a Roman Eques, who may have been the wealthy equestrian that is highly commemorated by the Flavian dynasty poet Statius. Geta's mother Vitoria, born c. 85, was a daughter of Marcus Vitorius Marcellus (c. 60-aft. 105), Consul Suffectus in 105, and wife Hosidia, born c. 65 and daughter of Gaius or Gnaeus Hosidius Geta. Geta's paternal grandparents were Marcus Septimius Aper, born c. 35, and wife Octavia. He also had a sister named Septimia Polla, born c. 110.

Geta had two cousins, both brothers, sons of a Septimius, who served as Consuls under Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. One was Gaius Septimius Severus, Consul Suffectus in July 160 and Governor of Numidia in 173-174 and then again in 177. The other was Publius Septimius Aper, who served as Consul Suffectus in July 153 and was the father of Publius Septimius Aper and grandfather of Lucius Septimius Aper, Consul Suffectus in 160. Another relative of his, Lucius Septimius F. was Consul Suffectus in 183. Another of his relatives, probably a grandson of Publius Septimius Aper, was Gaius Septimius Severus Aper, Consul Ordinarius in 207, who died in 212. Yet another relative of his was Septimius Bassus. He might also have been related to Tertullian.

Geta seems to have held no major political status.

He married Fulvia Pia (c. 125-bef. 198), a woman of Roman descent belonging to the gens Fulvia, an Italian patrician family that originated in Tusculum, daughter of Fulvius Pius, born c. 100, and wife Plautia Octavilla, born c. 110, and aunt of Gaius Fulvius Plautianus. Her paternal grandfather was Fulvius Pius, born c. 100, son of Fulvius Pius, born c. 70, grandson of Fulvius, born c. 40, great-grandson of Fulvius, born c. 10, and great-great-grandson of Marcus Fulvius Saturnius (c. 20 BC-aft. 25), a Nobleman in Leptis Magna. Her paternal grandmother was Plautia Octavilla, born c. 110, daughter of Lucius Plautius Octavianus (c. 90-aft. 150), a Nobleman in Leptis Magna c. 150, and wife Aquilia Blaesilla, born c. 190, in turn daughter of Gaius Aquilius Postumus, born c. 55, and wife Hateria, born c. 70.

Geta and Pia had three children, a son Lucius Septimius Severus, another son a younger Publius Septimius Geta and a daughter Septimia Octavilla.


Although his military expenses were expensive for the empire, Severus was a strong and capable leader. The Roman Empire reached the greatest extent under his rule – more than 5 million square kilometers. His expansion of the Limes Tripolitanus provided to Africa the agricultural base of the Empire. His victory over the Parthian Empire was decisive for some time, protecting the empire from Nisibis and Singara and establishing the status quo of Roman rule in the region until 251.

Severus’s campaign was interrupted when he fell ill. He retired to Eboracum (York) and died there in 211. Although his son Caracalla continued the campaign the following year, he soon agreed to peace. The Romans never again went deep into Caledonia. Soon after, the frontier was forever allotted south to Hadrian’s wall.

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