ROMAN EMPIRE UNDER THE SEVERANS (193–235 A.D.)

SEVERANS

20120224-Severan_dynasty_-_tondo Septime family.jpg
Septimius Severus and family
The Severan dynasty was a Roman imperial dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between A.D. 193 and 235. The dynasty was founded by the general Septimius Severus, who rose to power as the victor of the 193–197 civil war. Although Septimius Severus successfully restored peace following a period of upheaval in the late A.D. 2nd century, the dynasty was characterized by highly unstable family relationships, as well as constant political turmoil that helped produce the Crisis of the Third Century. The Severans were one of the last lineages of the Principate founded by Augustus. [Source: Wikipedia]

Severan Dynasty (193–235 A.D.)
Septimius (193–211 A.D.)
Caracalla (with Geta, 211–12 A.D.) (211–17 A.D.)
Macrinus (217–18 A.D.)
Diadumenianus (218 A.D.)
Elagabalus (218–22 A.D.)
Alexander Severus (222–35 A.D.)

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “In 193 A.D., Septimius Severus seized Rome and established a new dynasty. He rested his authority more overtly on the support of the army and substituted equestrian officers for senators in key administrative positions, thereby broadening imperial power throughout the empire. The Severan dynasty gave rise to the imperial candidates of Syrian background. Caracalla abolished all distinctions between Italians and provincials. Following his reign, however, military anarchy led to a succession of short reigns and eventually the rule of the soldier-emperors (235–84 A.D.). [Source: Christopher Lightfoot, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000, metmuseum.org \^/]

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Severan Dynasty (193–235)

Septimius Severus (ruled A.D. 193-211), the founder of the Severan dynasty, was a senator from Libya who became Rome's first African emperor. With the rise of the African Severan dynasty, many of Rome's senators were from Africa. Septimius Severus was succeeded by Geta (ruled A.D. 209-212, co-emperor with Septimus Severus and Caracallas 209-211) followed by Caracalla alone (211-212)


Baths of Caracalla

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “The Severan dynasty comprised the relatively short reigns of Septimius Severus (r. 193–211 A.D.), Caracalla (r. 211–17 A.D.), Macrinus (r. 217–18 A.D.), Elagabalus (r. 218–22 A.D.), and Alexander Severus (r. 222–35 A.D.).Its founder, Septimius Severus, was a member of a leading native family of Leptis Magna in North Africa who allied himself with a prominent Syrian family by his marriage to Julia Domna. Their union, which gave rise to the imperial candidates of Syrian background, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus, testified to the broad political franchise and economic development of the Roman empire. It was Septimius Severus who erected the famous triumphal arch in the Roman Forum, an important vehicle of political propaganda that proclaimed the legitimacy of the Severan dynasty and celebrated the emperor's victories against Parthia in a lavishly sculpted historical narrative. [Source: Department of Greek and Roman Art, The Severan Dynasty (193–235)", The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000, metmuseum.org \^/]

“As in most artistic achievements under the Severans, the monumental reliefs show a decisive break with classicism that presaged Late Antique and Byzantine works of art. At Leptis Magna, he renovated and embellished a number of monuments and built a grandiose new temple-forum-basilica complex on an unparalleled scale that befitted the birthplace of the new emperor. Septimius cultivated the army with substantial remuneration for total loyalty to the emperor and substituted equestrian officers for senators in key administrative positions. In this way, he successfully broadened the power of the imperial administration throughout the empire. By abolishing the regular standing jury courts of Republican times, he was likewise able to transfer power to the executive branch of the government. \^/

“His son, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, nicknamed Caracalla, obliterated all distinctions between Italians and provincials, and enacted the Constitutio Antoniniana in 212 A.D., which extended Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the empire. Caracalla was also responsible for erecting the famous baths in Rome that bear his name. Their design served as an architectural model for later monumental public buildings. He was assassinated in 217 A.D. by Macrinus, who then became the first emperor who was not a senator. The imperial court, however, was dominated by formidable women who arranged the succession of Elagabalus in 218 A.D., and Alexander Severus, the last of the line, in 222 A.D. In the last phase of the Severan principate, the power of the Senate was finally revived and a number of fiscal reforms were enacted. The fatal flaw of its last emperor, however, was his failure to control the army, eventually leading to mutiny and his assassination. The death of Alexander Severus signaled the age of the soldier-emperors and almost a half-century of civil war and strife. \^/

Roman Empire at the Time of the Severans

It can be argued that the fall of the republic and the establishment of the empire were generally positive things that greatly benefitted to Rome. In place of a century of civil wars and discord which closed the republic, we see more than two centuries of internal peace and tranquillity. Instead of an oppressive and avaricious treatment of the provincials, we see a treatment which is with few exceptions mild and generous. Instead of a government controlled by a proud and selfish oligarchy, we see a government controlled, generally speaking, by a wise and patriotic prince. From the accession of Augustus to the death of Marcus Aurelius (31 B.C. —A.D. 180), a period of two hundred and eleven years, only three emperors who held power for any length of time—Tiberius, Nero, and Domitian—are known as tyrants; and their cruelty was confined almost entirely to the city, and to their own personal enemies. The establishment of the empire, we must therefore believe, marked a stage of progress and not of decline in the history of the Roman people. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]


Roman Empire in AD 210

But in spite of the fact that the empire met the needs of the people better than the old aristocratic republic, it yet contained many elements of weakness, Some say the Roman people themselves possessed the frailties of human nature, and the imperial government was not without the imperfection of all human institutions. The decay of religion and morality, it has been argued, was a fundamental cause of their weakness and ruin, with this including the selfishness of classes; the accumulation of wealth, not as the fruit of legitimate industry, but as the spoils of war an of cupidity; the love of gold and the passion for luxury; the misery of poverty and its attendant vices and crimes; the terrible evils of slave labor; the decrease of the population; and the decline of the patriotic spirit. These were moral diseases, which could hardly be cured by any government. \~\

One of the great defects of the imperial government was that its power rested with the military basis, and not upon the rational will of the people. It is true that many of the emperors were popular and loved by their subjects. But behind their power was the army, which knew its strength, and strongly asserted its claims to the government. The period extending from the death of Marcus Aurelius to the accession of Diocletian (A.D. 180-284) has therefore been aptly called “the period of military despotism.” It was a time when the emperors were set up by the soldiers, and generally cut down by their swords. During this period of one hundred and four years, the imperial title was held by twenty-nine different rulers, some few of whom were able and high-minded men, but a large number of them were weak and despicable. Some of them held their places for only a few months. The history of this time contains for the most part only the dreary records of a declining government. There are few events of importance, except those which illustrate the tyranny of the army and the general tendency toward decay and disintegration. \~\

Inflation and Taxation in Ancient Rome

Bruce Bartlett wrote in the Cato Institute Journal: “As early as the rule of Nero (54—68 AD.) there is evidence that the demand for revenue led to debasement of the coinage. Revenue was needed to pay the increasing costs of defense and a growing bureaucracy. However, rather than raise taxes, Nero and subsequent emperors preferred to debase the currency by reducing the precious metal content of coins. This was, of course, a form of taxation; in this case, a tax on cash balances (Bailey 1956). [Source: Bruce Bartlett, “How Excessive Government Killed Ancient Rome,” Cato Institute Journal 14: 2, Fall 1994, Cato.org /=\]

“Throughout most of the Empire, the basic units of Roman coinage were the gold aureus, the silver denarius, and the copper or bronze sesterce. 5 The aureus was minted at 40—42 to the pound, the denarius at 84 to the pound, and a sesterce was equivalent to one-quarter of a denarius. Twenty-five denarii equaled one aureus and the denarius was considered the basic coin and unit of account. /=\

“The aureus did not circulate widely. Consequently, debasement was mainly limited to the denarius. Nero reduced the silver content of the denarius to 90 percent and slightly reduced the size of the aureus in order to maintain the 25 to 1 ratio. Trajan (98—117 AD.) reduced the silver content to 85 percent, but was able to maintain the ratio because of a large influx of gold. In fact, some historians suggest that he deliberately devalued the denarius precisely in order to maintain the historic ratio. Debasement continued under the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161—180 AD.), who reduced the silver content of the denarius to 75 percent, further reduced by Septimius Severus to 50 percent. By the middle,of the third century A.D., the denarius had a silver content of just 5 percent. /=\



“Interestingly, the continual debasements did not improve the Empire’s fiscal position. This is because of Gresham’s Law (“bad money drives out good”). People would hoard older, high silver content coins and pay their taxes in those with the least silver. Thus the government’s “real” revenues may have actually fallen. As Aurelio Bernardi explains: ‘At the beginning the debasement proved undoubtedly profitable for the state. Nevertheless, in the course of years, this expedient was abused and the century of inflation which had been thus brought about was greatly to the disadvantage of the State’s finances. Prices were rising too rapidly and it became impossible to count on an immediate proportional increase in the fiscal revenue, because of the rigidity of the apparatus of tax collection.’ /=\

“At first, the government could raise additional revenue from the sale of state property. Later, more unscrupulous emperors like Domitian (81—96 AD.) would use trumped-up charges to confiscate the assets of the wealthy. They would also invent excuses to demand tribute from the provinces and the wealthy. Such tribute, called the aurum corinarium, was nominallyvoluntary and paid in gold to commemorate special occasions, such as the accession of a new emperor or a great military victory. Caracalla (198—217 AD.) often reported such dubious “victories” as a way of raising revenue. Rostovtzeff (1957: 417) calls these levies “pure robbery.” Although taxes on ordinary Romans were not raised, citizenship was greatly expanded in order to bring more people into the tax net. Taxes on the wealthy, however, were sharply increased, especially those on inheritances and manumissions (freeing of slaves). /=\

“Occasionally, the tax burden would be moderated by a cancellation of back taxes or other measures. One such occasion occurred under the brief reign of Pertinax (193 A.D.), who replaced the rapacious Commodus (A.D. 176—192). As Edward Gibbon (1932: 88) tells us: ‘Though every measure of injustice and extortion had been adopted, which could collect the property of the subject into the coffers of the prince; the rapaciousness of Commodus had been so very inadequate to his extravagance, that, upon his death, no more than eight thousand pounds were found in the exhausted treasury, to defray the current expenses of government, and to discharge the pressing demand of a liberal donative, which the new emperor had been obliged to promise to the Praetorian guards. Yet under these distressed circumstances, Pertinax had the generous firmness to remit all the oppressive taxes invented by Commodus, and to cancel all the unjust claims of the treasuly; declaring in a decree to the senate, “that he was better satisfied to administer a poor republic with innocence, than to acquire riches by the ways of tyranny and dishonor.’” /=\

Ascension of the Severans (ruled A.D. 193-235)

Emperor Pertinax was murdered in 193 A.D. after only 86 days in office by two of his 12,000 bodyguard. After Pertinax's death no one was sure how to fill the vacant seat. One guard had the bright idea of auctioning off leadership to the world's most powerful empire in the world to the highest bidder. Only two competed in the auction, which was won by a powerful senator by the name of Didius Julianus who paid 300 million sesterces for the privilege. He proved to be unpopular with both the Senate and the public, and after only 66 days in office he was beheaded by the army of a general who was outraged by the auction. [People's Almanac]


Pertinax

The historian William Stearns Davis wrote: “In 193 A.D. the Praetorian Guards (elite army members) murdered the Emperor Pertinax, who had striven to reduce them to discipline. The sale of the purple which followed forms one of the most fearful and dramatic incidents in the history of the Empire, illustrating: 1) how completely the guardsmen had lost all sense of decency, discipline, and patriotism; 2) how the idea that all things were purchasable for money had possessed the men of the Empire. It ought to be said that the Praetorians were an especially pampered corps, and probably the rest of the army was less corrupted. Didius Julianus held his ill-gotten power only from March 28th, 193 A.D., to June 1st of the same year, being deposed and slain when Septimius Severus and the valiant Danube legions marched on Rome to avenge Pertinax. The ringleaders of the Praetorians were executed; the rest of the guardsmen dishonorably discharged and banished from Italy. [Source: William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West]

After the reign of Commodus, the contemptible son of Marcus Aurelius, the soldiers became the real sovereigns of Rome. After Pertinax and Didius Julianus were killed three different armies—in Britain, in Pannonia, and in Syria—each proclaimed its own leader as emperor. Septimius Severus (A.D. 193-211): The commander of the army in the neighboring province of Pannonia was the first to reach Rome; and was thus able to secure the throne against his rivals.

How Didius Julianus Bought the Roman Empire at Auction

On how Didius Julianus bought the Roman Empire at auction, Herodian of Syria (3rd Cent. A.D.) wrote in “History of the Emperors”: “When the report of the murder of the Emperor Pertinax spread among the people, consternation and grief seized all minds, and men ran about beside themselves. An undirected effort possessed the people---they strove to hunt out the doers of the deed, yet could neither find nor punish them. But the Senators were the worst disturbed, for it seemed a public calamity that they had lost a kindly father and a righteous ruler. Also a reign of violence was dreaded, for one could guess that the soldiery would find that much to their liking. When the first and the ensuing days had passed, the people dispersed, each man fearing for himself; men of rank, however, fled to their estates outside the city, in order not to risk themselves in the dangers of a change on the throne. But at last when the soldiers were aware that the people were quiet, and that no one would try to avenge the blood of the Emperor, they nevertheless remained inside their barracks and barred the gates; yet they set such of their comrades as had the loudest voices upon the walls, and had them declare that the Empire was for sale at auction, and promise to him who bid highest that they would give him the power, and set him with the armed hand in the imperial palace. [Source: Herodian of Syria, “History of the Emperors” II.6ff, William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West]


Didius Julianus

“When this proclamation was known, the more honorable and weighty Senators, and all persons of noble origin and property, would not approach the barracks to offer money in so vile a manner for a besmirched sovereignty. However, a certain Julianus---who had held the consulship, and was counted rich---was holding a drinking bout late that evening, at the time the news came of what the soldiers proposed. He was a man notorious for his evil living; and now it was that his wife and daughter and fellow feasters urged him to rise from his banqueting couch and hasten to the barracks, in order to find out what was going on. But on the way they pressed it on him that he might get the sovereignty for himself, and that he ought not to spare the money to outbid any competitors with great gifts to the soldiers.

“When he came to the wall of the camp, he called out to the troops and promised to give them just as much as they desired, for he had ready money and a treasure room full of gold and silver. About the same time too came Sulpicianus, who had also been consul and was prefect of Rome and father-in-law of Pertinax, to try to buy the power also. But the soldiers did not receive him, because they feared lest his connection with Pertinax might lead him to avenge him by some treachery. So they lowered a ladder and brought Julianus into the fortified camp; for they would not open the gates, until they had made sure of the amount of the bounty they expected. When he was admitted he promised first to bring the memory of Commodus again into honor and restore his images in the Senate house, where they had been cast down; and to give the soldiers the same lax discipline they had enjoyed under Commodus. Also he promised the troops as large a sum of money as they could ever expect to require or receive. The payment should be immediate, and he would at once have the cash brought over from his residence. Captivated by such speeches, and with such vast hopes awakened, the soldiers hailed Julianus as Emperor, and demanded that along with his own name he should take that of Commodus. Next they took their standards, adorned them again with the likeness of Commodus and made ready to go with Julianus in procession.

“The latter offered the customary imperial sacrifices in the camp; and then went out with a great escort of the guards. For it was against the will and intention of the populace, and with a shameful and unworthy stain upon the public honor that he had bought the Empire, and not without reason did he fear the people might overthrow him. The guards therefore in full panoply surrounded him for protection. They were formed in a phalanx around him, ready to fight; they had "their Emperor" in their midst; while they swung their shields and lances over his head, so that no missile could hurt him during the march. Thus they brought him to the palace, with no man of the multitude daring to resist; but just as little was there any cheer of welcome, as was usual at the induction of a new Emperor. On the contrary the people stood at a distance and hooted and reviled him as having bought the throne with lucre at an auction.

Septimius Severus


Septimius Severus

Emperor Septimius Severus (ruled A.D. 193 - 211) became emperor after victory in a civil war. His reign is noted for the reforming of the praetorian guard, which Augustus had organized and Tiberius had encamped near the city. In place of the old body of nine thousand soldiers, Septimius organized a Roman garrison of forty thousand troops selected from the best soldiers of the legions. This was intended to give a stronger military support to the government; but in fact it gave to the army a more powerful influence in appointment of the emperors. Septimius destroyed his enemies in the senate, and took away from that body the last vestige of its authority. He was himself an able soldier and made several successful campaigns m the East. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org

Dr Jon Coulston of the University of St. Andrews wrote for the BBC: Septimius Severus’s “reforms were principally designed to strengthen the ruling dynasty's position. He cashiered the old 'Italian' Praetorian Guard, replacing it with men recruited from the Danubian legions which first acclaimed him emperor. He further controlled the city of Rome by stationing a newly-raised legion nearby at Albano. Severus personally led the armies of his defeated rivals against the empire's external enemies in Syria and Britain. As new provinces were established, so were new legions. Large provincial commands with three legions were divided so as to break up legionary concentrations. Military service was made more attractive by raised pay and an end to the ban on soldiers' marrying. |::|

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Septimius Severus “was a member of a leading native family of Leptis Magna in North Africa who allied himself with a prominent Syrian family by his marriage to Julia Domna. Their union, which gave rise to the imperial candidates of Syrian background, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus, testified to the broad political franchise and economic development of the Roman empire. It was Septimius Severus who erected the famous triumphal arch in the Roman Forum, an important vehicle of political propaganda that proclaimed the legitimacy of the Severan dynasty and celebrated the emperor's victories against Parthia in a lavishly sculpted historical narrative. [Source: Department of Greek and Roman Art, The Severan Dynasty (193–235), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000, metmuseum.org \^/]

“As in most artistic achievements under the Severans, the monumental reliefs show a decisive break with classicism that presaged Late Antique and Byzantine works of art. At Leptis Magna, he renovated and embellished a number of monuments and built a grandiose new temple-forum-basilica complex on an unparalleled scale that befitted the birthplace of the new emperor. Septimius cultivated the army with substantial remuneration for total loyalty to the emperor and substituted equestrian officers for senators in key administrative positions. In this way, he successfully broadened the power of the imperial administration throughout the empire. By abolishing the regular standing jury courts of Republican times, he was likewise able to transfer power to the executive branch of the government. \^/

Deification of Emperor Septimius Severus in A.D. 211


Septimus Severus

Describing the deification of Emperor Septimius Severus in A.D. 211, the Greek historian Herodian wrote: "It is a Roman custom to give divine status to those emperors who die with heirs to succeed them. This ceremony is called deification. Public mourning, with a mixture of festive and religious ritual, is proclaimed throughout the city, and the body of the dead is buried in the normal way with a costly funeral.

"Then they make an exact wax replica of the man, which they put on a huge ivory bed strewn with gold-threaded coverings, raised high up in the entrance to the palace. This image, in the deathly palace, rests there like a sick man...the whole Senate sitting on the left, dressed in black, while on the right are all women who can claim special honors...This continues for seven days, during each of which doctors came and approach the bed, take a look at the supposed invalid and announce a daily deterioration in his condition."

“When at last the news is given that he is dead, the end of the bier is raised on the shoulders of the noblest members of Equestrian Order and chosen young Senators, carried along the Sacred Way, and placed in the Forum Romanum...a chorus of children from the noblest and most respected families stands facing a body of women selected on merit. Each group sings hymns and songs."

“After this the bier is raised and carried outside the city walls to a square structure filled with firewood and "covered with golden garments, ivory decorations and rich pictures." On top of the structure are five more structures that are progressively smaller. “The whole thing was often five or six stories tall."

"When the bier has been taken to the second story and put inside, aromatic herbs and incense of every kind produced on earth, together with flowers, grasses and juices collected for their smell, and brought and poured in heaps...When the pile of aromatic material is very high and the whole space filled...The whole equestrian Order rides round...Chariots also circle in the same formation, the charioteers dressed in purple and carrying images with the masks of famous Roman generals and emperors."

"The heir to the throne takes a brand and sets it to every building . All the spectators crowd in and add to the flame. Everything is very easily and readily consumed...From the highest and smallest story...an eagle is released and carried up into the sky with the flames. The Romans believe the bird bears the soul of the emperor from earth to heaven. Thereafter the dead emperor is worshipped with the rest of the gods."

Caraculla


Geta and Caracalla

Septimius Severus’s son and heir, the Afro-Syrian warrior Caraculla (ruled A.D. 198 - 217 ) left behind a "trail or massacre and murder" and made some noteworthy reforms. After he killed his brother Geta in a struggle for the throne, he granted citizenship and raised pay in A.D. 212 to all free (non-slave) members of the empire's population, thus requiring them to pay certain citizen taxes, and thereby strengthening the army's financial base. He built the great Baths of Caracalla, which covered 26 acres, initiated cruel proscriptions and murdered Papinian, the greatest of the Roman jurists, who refused to defend his crimes.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, nicknamed Caracalla, obliterated all distinctions between Italians and provincials, and enacted the Constitutio Antoniniana in 212 A.D., which extended Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the empire. Caracalla was also responsible for erecting the famous baths in Rome that bear his name. Their design served as an architectural model for later monumental public buildings. [Source: Department of Greek and Roman Art, The Severan Dynasty (193–235)", The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000, metmuseum.org \^/]

The Baths of Caracalla (on a hill not far from the Circus Maximus in Rome) was the largest baths built by the Romans. Opened in A.D. 216 and covering 26 acres, more than six time the space in St. Paul's Cathedral in London, this massive marble and brick complex could accommodate 1,600 bathersand contained playing, fields, shops, offices, gardens, fountains, mosaics, changing rooms, exercise courts, a tepidarium (warm-water bathing hall), caldarium (hot-water bathing hall), frigidarium (cold-water bathing hall), and natatio (unheated swimming pool). Shelley wrote much of “Prometheus Bound” while sitting among the ruins at Caracalla.

With the Constitutio Antoniniana, or Edict of Caracalla (A.D. 212), the Roman franchise, which had been gradually extended by the previous emperors, was now conferred to all the free inhabitants of the Roman world. The edict was issued primarily to increase tax revenue. Even so, the edict was in the line of earlier reforms and effaced the last distinction between Romans and provincials. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

20120224-Elagabalus.JPG
Elagabulus
Caracalla was assassinated in 217 A.D. by Macrinus ((ruled A.D. 217-218), who then became the first emperor who was not a senator. After his death the emperorship was passed on to the in-laws of the late Septimius Severus.

Elagabulus and Ostrich-Brain Pies

After Macrinus, the imperial court was dominated by formidable women who arranged the succession of Elagabalus in A.D. 218. Under the youthful Elagabulus (ruled A.D. 218-222), regarded by some as the worst Roman Emperor, and Severus Alexander (ruled A.D. 222-235), the Roman Empire was for all intents and purposes run by their grandmother Julia Maesa and their mothers.

Elagabulus started dressing in drag shortly after he was named emperor. He enjoyed pretending he was a woman so much that he ordered the senate to address him as the "Empress of Rome." He once ordered 600 ostriches killed so his cooks could make him ostrich-brain pies. He made appointments by choosing men with the largest penises.

As a teenage emperor Elagabulus hosted a famous feast which featured camels feet; honeyed dormice; the brains of 600 ostriches; conger eels fattened on Christian slaves; and caviar from fish caught with emperor's private fishing fleet. Guest were also given a dish with a sauce made by a chef who had to eat nothing but that sauce if the emperor didn't like it.

Elagabulus reportedly came to the banquet on a chariot pulled by naked women and is said to have liked to mix gold and pearls with peas and rice. He ate and drank from bejeweled gold plates and goblets. Guests to his banquets were given free slaves and homes and live versions of the animals they had just eaten. His idea of practical jokes was to play a game and give the winner a prize of dead flies and drug guests wine and have them wake in a room filled with lions and leopards. These excesses exhausted Rome's treasury and Elagabulus met his end, assassinated in a latrine.

Alexander Severus


Alexander Severus

After the brief reign of Macrinus, and the longer reign of the monster Elagabalus, the most repulsive of all the emperors, the throne was occupied by Alexander Severus (A.D. 222-235), generally regarded as an able leader. In a corrupt age, he stood out as a voice of reason and goodness. It is said that he set up in his private chapel the images of those whom he regarded as the greatest teachers of mankind, including Abraham and Jesus Christ. He tried as best he could to follow the example of the best of the emperors. He selected as his advisers the great jurists, Ulpian and Paullus. The most important event of his reign was his successful resistance to the Persians, who had just established a new monarchy on the ruins of the Parthian kingdom (A.D. 226). The Severan Dynasty ended when Severus Alexander was murdered. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “In the last phase of the Severan principate, the power of the Senate was finally revived and a number of fiscal reforms were enacted. The fatal flaw of its last emperor, however, was his failure to control the army, eventually leading to mutiny and his assassination. The death of Alexander Severus signaled the age of the soldier-emperors and almost a half-century of civil war and strife. [Source: Department of Greek and Roman Art, The Severan Dynasty (193–235)", The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000, metmuseum.org \^/]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.