Severan dynasty  

14 April 193 - 18/19 March 235

14 April 193 - 4 February 211

Septimius Severus

Musée du Louvre

Severus, the successor of Didius, having overcome Niger and Albinus, his competitors for the empire, took the reins of government, uniting great vigor with the most refined policy.

Severus is celebrated for his wit, learning and prudence; but equally blamed for perfidy and cruelty.

He loaded his soldiers with rewards and honors, giving them such privileges as strengthened his own power. Being secure of his army, he resolved to give way to his natural turn for conquest, and to oppose his arms against the Parthians, who were then invading the empire.

He forced the king of Armenia to submission, destroyed several cities in Arabia Felix, landed on the Parthian coasts, took and plundered the famous city of Ctesiphon, marched back through Palestine and Egypt, and returned to Rome in triumph.

After this he undertook an expedition into Britain, where the Romans were in danger of being destroyed. He appointed his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, joint successors in the empire, and taking them with him he landed in Britain.

Upon his progress into the country, his army suffered great hardships, in pursuing the enemy; they were obliged to hew their way through intricate forests, to drain extensive marshes, and form bridges over rapid rivers; so that he lost 50000 men by fatigue and sickness. He supported all these inconveniences with unrelenting bravery, and prosecuted his successes with such vigor that he compelled the enemy to beg for peace : which they obtained with the surrender of a part of their country. He did not long survive his successes, but died at York in the sixtysixth year of his age, after an active, though cruel reign of about eighteen years.

198 - 8 April 217

Caracalla and Geta

Caracalla and Geta, the sons of Severus, being acknowledged as emperors by the army, began to show a mutual hatred of each other, as soon as their father was dead. But this opposition was of no long continuance : for Caracalla being resolved to govern alone, entered Geta's apartment, followed by ruffians, and slew him in his mother's arms.

Caracalla went on to mark his course with blood. His tyrannies at length excited the resentment of Macrinus the commander of the forces in Mesopotamia, who employed one Martial, a centurion of the guards, to despatch him; Caracalla was stabbed by this man, and died immediately, after a reign of six years.

11 April 217 - 8 June 218

Interlude : Macrinus

The soldiers after a suspense of two days, fixed upon Macrinus for emperor, who took all possible methods to conceal his being privy to Caracalla's murder. The senate confirmed their choice, and likewise that of his son Diadumenus, whom he took as a partner in the empire.

Macrinus was fiftythree year old when he entered upon the government of the empire. He was of obscure parent age, and by the mere rotation of office, being made first praefect of the the praetorian bands, was now by treason and accident called to the throne. He was opposed by the intrigue of Mosa and her grandson Heliogabalus; and being defeated by some seditious legions of his own army, he fled to Chalcedon, where those who were sent in pursuit, over took him and put him to death, together with his son Diadumenus, after a short reign of one year and two months.

16 May 218 - 11 March 222

Elagabalus or Heliogabalus

Musei Capitolini - Rome

The senate and citizens of Rome, being obliged to submit to the appointment of the army, Heliogabalus ascended the throne at the age of fourteen, A. D. 218.

The short life of this emperor was but a tissue of effeminacy, lust, and extravagance. He married, in the space of four years, six wives, and divorced them all. He was so fond of the sex, that he carried his mother to the senate house, and demanded that she should always be present, when matters of importance were debated. He went so far as to build a senate house for women, with suitable orders, habits, and distinctions, of which his mother was made president.

They met several times : all their debates turning upon the fashions of the day, and the different formalities to be used at giving and receiving visits. To these follies he added great cruelties and prodigalities, so that he was heard to say that such dishes as were cheaply obtained were scarcely worth eating; it is even said he strove to foretell what was to happen, by inspecting the entrails of young men sacrificed, and that he chose the most beautiful youths throughout Italy to be slain for that horrid purpose.

Finally the soldiers mutinied and put him to death. His body was dragged through the streets and thrown into the Tiber.

Such was the ignominious end of Heliogabalus, in theeighteenth year of his age, after a reign of four years.

11 March 222 - 18/19 March 235

Severus Alexander

To Heliogabalus succeeded Alexander, his cousin, who without opposition was declared emperor. The senate, with their usual adulation, were for conferring new titles upon him : but he declined them all.

To the most rigid justice Alexander added the greatest humanity. He loved the good, and was a severe reprover of the infamous. His accomplishments were equal to his virtues. He was an excellent mathematician, geometrician, and musician; he was equally skilful in painting and sculpture : and in poetry few of his time could equal him. Such were his talents, at sixteen years of age.

About the thirteenth year of his reign, the Upper Germans, and other northern nations, began to pour down in immense swarms upon the southern parts of the empire. They passed the Rhine and the Danube with such fury, that all Italy was thrown into consternation. The emperor, ever ready to expose his person for the safety of the people, marched to repress these incursions, which he effected. It was in the course of his successes, that he was cut off by a mutiny among his own soldiers. He died in the thirtyninth year of his age, after a prosperous reign of thirteen years.

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