Friday, May 21, 2004

Roman Empire In Turmoil 180-285

Roman Empire In Turmoil 180-285 Overview the imperial reigns of the Severan emperors as part of a bigger work chronicling the Roman empire in turmoil from 180-285 AD.

From the site:

Pescennius Niger, the Roman governor in Syria, was urged by those in Asia to assume the throne, and Julianus ordered him killed. Septimius Severus, commanding in Pannonia, shrewdly sent a letter to Britain governor Clodius Albinus, declaring him Caesar, and marched for Rome. Julianus got the Senate to declare Severus a public enemy and fortified the palace, putting to death Laetus and Marcia. Meanwhile Severus not only won over most of Europe, he even persuaded those sent by Julianus to kill him. The desperate Julianus tried to share the throne with Severus; but the Senate sentenced Julianus to death, declared Severus Emperor, and bestowed divine honors on Pertinax. Julianus was executed in the palace after reigning 66 days.

Severus executed the praetorians, who had murdered Pertinax, and dismissed the guards, who had failed to prevent this. Severus also promised not to execute senators; but he was the first to violate this law by murdering Julius Solon, the senator who framed it. Severus was blamed for making Rome turbulent with many non-Italian troops and excessive expenditures on the army, though he was popular as the avenger of Pertinax. Severus was born in Africa on April 11 in 145 and rose in a military career. He punished magistrates proved guilty by provincials and secured the grain supply. Severus led his army against the forces of Niger and Aemilianus in a brief civil war. His generals defeated and killed Aemilianus in the Hellespont; then they besieged Byzantium. Severus defeated Niger at Issus, where 20,000 Romans died according to Dio Cassius; Niger was killed retreating from Antioch to the Euphrates. Severus punished supporters of Niger, crossed the Euphrates, and in 195 brought the Parthians and Adiabenians under Roman authority, though Dio Cassius complained this military conquest cost more than it gained. Byzantium was starved into surrender after three years. Its magistrates and soldiers were put to death; its walls were demolished, and its privileges were suppressed as it was subjected to nearby Perinthus.

Suspecting Albinus, Severus had his army in Mesopotamia declare him a public enemy and headed for Rome. Though both Albinus and Severus were born in Africa, Severus was only an equestrian, and Albinus was educated in the school of Marcus Aurelius. Yet Severus got the Senate in Rome to denounce Albinus, who had crossed the channel from Britain with three legions and auxiliaries, defeating Roman forces led by Lupus. This civil war was won by the army of Severus at Lugdunum (Lyons), where according to Dio 150,000 from each side fought. Albinus committed suicide, and the city was sacked and burned in 197. Severus returned to Rome and executed 29 senators who had supported Albinus. Severus had his son Antoninus (later called Caracalla) confirmed as Caesar. When Parthian king Vologases besieged Nisibis, Severus launched another campaign against the Parthians, relieved Nisibis, took Seleucia and Babylon, and plundered Ctesiphon (enslaving perhaps 100,000); but he failed to capture Hatra. In 199 Severus visited Egypt.

Severus returned to Rome, where Praetorian Prefect Plautianus was exercising great power over finances and even laws. In 203 Severus visited his native Leptis Magna in Africa, promoting municipal and cultural activities there. Severus returned to Rome to celebrate secular games the next year, spending a record 200,000,000 sesterces on the people. The coinage was debased, as the denarius was now less than half silver. Severus gained popularity by moving the postal service from private individuals to the imperial government. Plautianus was accused of plotting against the Emperor and was killed by an attendant of Caracalla. The eminent lawyer Papinian became praetorian prefect in 203 until 212 and was known for equity and humaneness. Caracalla and his brother Geta felt free to indulge in women and boys, embezzle money, and associate with gladiators. Dio described how for two years 600 bandits led by Bulla robbed travelers on Italian roads. Before being thrown to wild beasts, Bulla observed his band was large, because slaves were mistreated, and freedmen were underpaid. Severus paid soldiers well and relaxed discipline, allowing them to live with their wives and expect frequent donatives. Severus added two legions in Mesopotamia and one in Italy, and he put provincials in the praetorian guard.

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