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Septimius Severus
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Septimius Severus busto-Musei Capitolini.jpg
Alabaster bust of Septimius Severus
Reign 14 April 193 – 4 February 211
(17 years, 296 days)
Predecessor Didius Julianus
Successor Caracalla and Geta
Born (145-04-11)April 11, 145
Leptis Magna (Libya)
Died February 4, 211(211-02-04) (aged 65)
Eboracum (York)
Wives
  • Paccia Marciana, a Libyan-Punic woman of Roman origin. Severus and Marciana married around 175 and she died before Severus married Domna. They had no children.
  • Julia Domna
Issue Caracalla and Geta
Full name
Lucius Septimius Severus
(from birth to accession);
Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pertinax Augustus
(as emperor)
Dynasty Severan
Father Publius Septimius Geta
Mother Fulvia Pia

Severus (Lucius Septimius Severus, 11 April 145 AD – 4 February 211) was Roman Emperor from 193 AD to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. Severus was an born an African, and some portraits show him as such. In 187 he married Julia Domna, from Syria.

As a young man, Severus advanced under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the so-called Year of the Five Emperors. After deposing the incumbent emperor Didius Julianus in a bloodless coup, Severus fought his rival claimants, the generals Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus. Niger was defeated in 194 at the Battle of Issus, and Albinus three years later at the Battle of Lugdunum.

After solidifying his rule, Severus waged a brief war against the Parthian Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 197. In 202 he campaigned in Africa against the Garamantes, briefly taking their capital Garama and expanding the southern frontier of the empire radically.

Late in his reign he fought the Picts in Caledonia and strengthened Hadrian's Wall in Britain. Severus died in 211 at Eboracum, succeeded by his sons Caracalla and Geta. With the succession of his sons, Severus founded the Severan dynasty, the last dynasty of the empire before the Crisis of the Third Century.

Assessment

Leptis Magna Arch of Septimus Severus
The Arch of Septimius Severus at Leptis Magna

The Roman Empire reached its greatest extent under his reign – over 5 million square kilometres.

According to Gibbon, "his daring ambition was never diverted from its steady course by the allurements of pleasure, the apprehension of danger, or the feelings of humanity".

He secured Africa, the agricultural base of the Empire where he was born. His victory over the Parthian Empire was for a time decisive. His policy of an expanded and better-rewarded army was criticised by his contemporaries Cassius Dio and Herodianus. The large increase in military expenditure caused problems for all of his successors.

Septimusseverustondo
The Severan Tondo, c. 199. Severus, Julia Domna, Caracalla and Geta. Note Severus potrayed more realistically than the marble bust, and Geta's face removed by Caracalla. (Antikensammlung Berlin)
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