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Rule of the Severan Dynasty

Severi was a Phoenician (Punic) dynasty of Roman emperors in 193-235. The North created a military-bureaucratic monarchy that protected the interests of broad circles of slave owners. The policy of the North (with the exception of Alexander Sever) was anti-senatorial in nature.

To the North belonged:

The founder of the Severan dynasty in 193 was the victor in the civil war, a native of Africa, Lucius Septimius Severus. He was a cruel and ambitious man, but also a capable administrator and talented military leader. In his policy, Septimius Severus relied solely on the army. Soldiers and officers received a number of privileges under him. In particular, their pay was increased, and they were allowed to have legal families. A legionary received a food ration from the government and a land allotment as a tenant. Thus, professional soldiers gradually became military settlers. Under Severus, the process of "barbarization" of the Roman army accelerated.

The regime created by Severus represented a military-bureaucratic monarchy. The Senate lost its significance, many senators were executed, and their property was confiscated. The emperor's power became absolute. The emperor conveyed his will to the subjects through written decrees, the so-called Constitutions. The main governing body became the Council of Princeps.

Septimius strengthened his administration at the expense of the knights and representatives of provincial elites. At this time, the process of militarization of the administrative apparatus was being carried out. Overall, the number of officials sharply increased under Severus. He also organized the tax system. Evasion from state duties was considered a serious state crime.

The population, crushed by an unbearable financial burden, strove by all truths and untruths to obtain tax immunity, by acquiring Roman citizenship, serving in the army, or joining the civil service. Septimius Severus sought to find the support of the urban plebs, by expanding the policy of "bread and circuses". Severus cared about strengthening the borders of the empire. By his order, powerful fortified areas were built on the Rhine and the Danube.

Emperor Septimius Severus, 3rd century AD

In foreign policy, Severus' main venture was the victorious war with Parthia. In 199 AD, Mesopotamia was declared a Roman province. In return, the Romans transferred part of Armenia to the Parthian king. In honor of this victory, a triumphal arch dedicated to Septimius Severus and his sons was built in the Roman forum in 203. From 208 to 211, Septimius successfully fought against the Caledonian tribes in Britain.

In February 211, at the age of 65, Severus died in the city of Eboracum - present-day York. According to legend, before his death, he advised his sons: "Live in harmony, please your soldiers, you can disregard all the rest." After his death, Severus was deified.

Map of the Empire during the reign of the Severians, early 3rd century AD.

After his death in 211, power was taken over by his sons Antoninus Caracalla and Geta. The stepbrothers fiercely hated each other, and by 212, Caracalla had killed Geta, ordering the massacre of all his supporters. Getting a taste for blood, the cruel tyrant ordered the killing of his own wife, his cousin, and many other wealthy and noble individuals. Fiscal difficulties led to the publication of an edict in the name of Caracalla in 212, declaring all free inhabitants of the Roman Empire to be Roman citizens, but subjecting them to taxation. Immediately, the tax burden sharply increased. Caracalla was hated by the senators but idolized by the legionaries, as he doubled their pay.

In 215, Caracalla orchestrated a bloody massacre of the peaceful population in Alexandria. In 217, at the very beginning of his campaign against the Parthians, Caracalla was assassinated by order of his prefect Macrinus. Macrinus, of Mauri origin, declared himself emperor. However, the following year, Macrinus and his son were killed by rebellious legionaries.

In 218, Caracalla's cousin and nephew, Elagabalus, became emperor. The dissolute and foolish youth, uninterested in state affairs, indulged himself in pleasure. The emperor bathed in extravagant luxury, spreading rose petals across the banquet halls and eating the heels of camels. Eliciting universal hatred, Elagabalus was assassinated in 222. The body of the unworthy ruler was dragged through the streets of Rome, thrown into the sewer, and then tossed from a bridge into the Tiber River.

After his assassination, his cousin Alexander Severus took power. Under his rule, constructive dialogue with the Senate was restored. However, the main political force remained the army. Whenever the government tried to cut expenses on legion maintenance, soldier uprisings quickly followed, often accompanied by violence.

Meanwhile, a financial crisis was looming. The political situation in the East and along the Rhine became increasingly tense. The government of Alexander Severus attempted to buy peace from the Germans by paying enormous sums of money. This shameful deal became known to the legionaries. In March of 235, a spontaneous soldier revolt erupted, during which the emperor was killed. The end of the Severan dynasty marked the entry of the Roman Empire into a period of unprecedented social, military, and political crisis in the third century.

Related topics

Roman Empire, Emperors of Rome, Reign of the Antonine Dynasty, Crisis of the last Antonines, Crisis of the 3rd century in the Roman Empire