Birthday: April 11, 145
Died At Age: 65
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Severus, Lucius Septimius Severus
Born Country: Libya
Born in: Leptis Magna, Libya
Famous as: Roman Emperor
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Julia Domna (m. 187), Paccia Marciana (m. 175)
father: Publius Septimius Geta
mother: Fulvia Pia
children: Caracalla, Geta
Died on: February 4, 211
place of death: Eboracum (today York, England), United Kingdom
Who was Septimius Severus?
Septimius Severus was a Roman emperor who converted the Roman government into a military monarchy and ruled from 193 to 211. He was born into a highly illustrious family of equestrian rank. Septimius’s father held no political position in the royal court, but two of his cousins did. Septimius ventured into a career in public service during his early years and worked during the reign of rulers such as Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. He continued to climb the ladder of success in the official positions over time and soon became interested in becoming the ruler of the Roman Empire. Emperor Pertinax was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the first 3 months of 193, and his death brought the best opportunity for Septimius to get a hold of the throne. That year was known as the “Year of Five Emperors,” as there were five claimants to the throne. Septimius defeated all four of his rivals and became the ruler of the Roman Empire. He was known as a strong ruler, as he sacked the Parthian Empire and the Garamantes Empire. He died in 211, during his expedition set to annex an area that is part of modern-day Scotland. His sons took to the throne, and the Severan Dynasty was formed. It was the last Roman Dynasty before the Crisis of the Third Century took place.
Childhood & Early Life
Septimius Severus was born Lucius Septimius Severus Augustus, on April 11, 145, in Leptis Magna (modern-day Libya), Africa, to Publius Septimius Geta and Fulvia Pia. His father was of African descent, while his mother was of Italian Roman origin. Septimius was the middle child and had an older brother and a younger sister.
Septimius was born into a family with high social standing in the African province of the Roman Empire. His father was a rich and highly respected man but held no strong political standing. His two cousins, however, were consuls in the court of the Roman Empire.
Ever since he was young, Septimius proved himself to be a highly ambitious man. He grew up in his birthtown and spoke the local Punic language fluently. His father made sure he was trained in Latin and Greek.
He was also good at oratory, a skill he had mastered by the time he reached the age of 17. The same year, he delivered his first public speech quite impressively.
During his later teenage years, Septimius hoped to make a career in public service. It was rather easy for him due to the respect his father had earned among the locals for being a member of the equestrian order.
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In 173 AD, he entered the ‘Roman Senate’ due to his excellent skills as an orator. Although he was still considered too young to enter the senate, what made things easy for him was the fact that many of the older senate members had died during the outbreak of the great plague the previous year.
Septimius entered the senate at an extremely bad time, as the Roman Empire was struggling with a mentally unstable ruler back then. Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, was on the throne and was notorious for his anger issues and eccentric behavior. Commodus had gotten many of his aristocrats murdered.
However, Septimius was immune to all this, as he was an extremely intelligent man and moved up the ladder of the senate carefully. He was later made a proconsul of the African province and was given the authority to command three legions. He was also given a senior legislative position in the senate. He later earned the distinction of being a candidatus of the emperor.
In 191, he was appointed as the governor of the Pannonia Superior. The following year, Emperor Commodus was murdered. His successor was also murdered in the quest for power. By then, Septimius had acquired a large army of his own. Septimius ordered his great army to march toward Rome, and he became the emperor in 193.
Emperor of the Roman Empire
In the wake of Septimius becoming the ruler, several aspirants from the Roman Empire waged war on him. Several civil wars took place in 193, which was called the “Year of the Five Emperors.” He defeated claimants such as Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus in battles and hence became the undisputed ruler of Rome. He was the first Roman emperor of African descent.
After becoming the absolute ruler of the great Roman Empire, Septimius installed several reforms, most of them for the army. In 197 AD, Septimius began his expedition to expand the Roman Empire, and the first target he had in mind was Rome’s oldest enemy, Parthia.
He led the invasion of a large part of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). Possessing a great army, he successfully took hold of the Parthian capital. Hence, he permanently annexed Mesopotamia, making it part of the Roman Empire.
In 202, he eyed the prosperous and independent lands in Africa and moved his army into his native land. He attacked the Garamantes Empire in Africa (modern-day Libya). The capital city was occupied quite easily.
He embarked on military operations to annex Numidia and then added more land to the Roman Empire. Simultaneously, he also introduced political reforms. From 202 to 208 AD, he overhauled the imperial administration and empire.
As he himself hailed from a provincial background, he helped many people from such backgrounds and paved ways for them to acquire respectful positions within the government. He reformed many other laws that had not been touched since 100 years. He made both his sons caesars and co-rulers of the empire in a bid to see them on the throne someday.
Septimius had an ordinary background. Thus, he knew that people held the real power, and he did many things to keep people on his sides. He donated graciously and staged games for their entertainment. However, he could never win over the elite society of the Roman Empire. He also had poor diplomatic relations with Italy.
In 208, he embarked on a mission to annex Picts (modern-day Scotland). He moved an extremely large army in order to do so. After a long war, he successfully annexed a great chunk of Scotland. It was a feat that no other Roman ruler had achieved in the past 100 years.
Personal Life & Death
Septimius married for the first time in 175, when he was in his early 30s, to Paccia Marciana. She died a few years later, and Septimius then got married to Julia Domna. They had two sons, Lucius Septimius Bassianus and Publius Septimius Geta,
In late 210, Septimius fell ill. He passed away on February 4, 211. Both his sons ruled as co-emperors following his demise. Thus, the Severan Dynasty came into existence. It was the last Roman dynasty before the notorious Crisis of the Third Century took place.