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Roman Emperor - Septimius Severus

Updated on January 18, 2012

146 AD - 211 AD

Lucius Septimius Severus, Roman emperor from 193 AD to 211 AD. Born in Leptis Magna in North Africa, Tripolitania (now Horns, Libya), 146 AD, and was the only African to become emperor.

After holding various commands under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus he was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in Pannonia and Illyria.

He held a command on the Danube when in 193 the emperor Pertinax was murdered. These troops proclaimed him emperor on the death of Pertinax and he marched at once on Rome. Severus proved an able administrator.

Severus was the victor in the civil wars that followed the death of Emperor Commodus. To ensure army support of his dynasty, Severus liberalized army rules and made it possible for the lowest ranks to achieve military and civil office. Severus spent most of his reign waging war away from Rome, but he added many monuments to the city, including the Arch of Septimius Severus.

Having secured the throne Severus turned against Pescennius Niger, who had been saluted emperor by the legions of the east. Niger was defeated near Issus and put to death soon afterwards (194). Severus next laid siege to Byzantium, which was not taken until 196; meanwhile he made a successful raid (195) against the Arabs east of the Euphrates. After the fall of Byzantium Severus returned to Rome, but set out again almost immediately for Gaul to deal with Clodius Albinus.

Severus was now undisputed master of the Roman world. Between 199 and 202 he was in the east repelling the Parthians, who had overrun Mesopotamia. Returning to Rome in the latter year, he began a persecution of his Christian subjects; but this was not prolonged, and during the next five years Severus proved himself a patron of letters, and did much to restore and improve the capital.

In 208 he went to Britain with his two sons, Caracalla and Geta. He did not return; after nearly three years of successful campaigning and reform he died at Eboracum (York).

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