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Septimius Severus, a native of Leptis Magna, Africa was proclaimed emperor by his troops after the murder of Pertinax. He is at the same time credited for strengthening and reviving an empire facing imminent decline and, through the same policies that saved it, causing its eventual fall. Severus eliminated the dangerous praetorians, unified the empire after turmoil and civil war, strengthened the army, defeated Rome's most powerful enemy, and founded a successful dynasty. His pay increases for the army, however, established a severe burden on Rome. Future emperor's were expected increase pay as well. These raises resulted in ever increasing taxes that damaged the economy. Some historians believe high taxes, initiated by Severus policies, played a significant role in Rome's long-term decline. In 208 A.D., he travelled to Britain to embarked on revitalization after a disastrous barbarian invasion. He died in York in 211 A.D and was succeeded by his sons, Caracalla and Geta.
Banti, A. & L. Simonetti. Corpus Nummorum Romanorum. (Florence, 1972-1979).
Bickford-Smith, R. "The imperial mints in the east for Septimius Severus: it is time to begin a thorough reconsideration" in RIN XCVI (1994/1995), pp. 53-71.
Calicó, E. The Roman Avrei, Vol. II: From Didius Julianus to Constantius I, 193 AD - 335 AD. (Barcelona, 2003).
Cayón, J. Los Sestercios del Imperio Romano, Vol. III: De Marco Aurelio a Caracalla (Del 161 d.C. al 217 d.C.). (Madrid, 1984).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 4: Septimius Severus to Maximinus Thrax. (Paris, 1884).
Mattingly, H., E. Sydenham & C. Sutherland. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. IV: From Pertinax to Uranius Antoninus. (London, 1986).
Mattingly, H. & R. Carson. Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, Vol. 5: Pertinax to Elagabalus. (London, 1950).
Robinson, A. Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, University of Glasgow, Vol. III. Pertinax to Aemilian. (Oxford, 1977).
Seaby, H. & Sear, D. Roman Silver Coins, Vol. III, Pertinax to Balbinus and Pupienus. (London, 1982).
Sear, D. Roman Coins and Their Values, Vol. II: The Accession of Nerva to the Overthrow of the Severan Dynasty AD 96 - AD 235. (London, 2002).
Vagi, D. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. (Sidney, 1999).
by Alexandru Marian
1023. Silver denarius, RIC 265, C 205, S 1753, Choice gVF, 3.50g, 18.2mm, 180°, Rome mint, 201-210 A.D.; obverse SEVERVS PIVS AVG, laureate head right; reverse FVNDATOR PACIS, Severus standing left holding olive branch.
Septimius Severus is at the same time credited for strengthening and reviving an empire facing imminent decline and, through the same policies that saved it, causing its eventual fall. Severus eliminated the dangerous praetorians, unified the empire after a period of turmoil and civil war, strengthened the army, defeated Rome's most powerful enemy, and founded a successful dynasty. His pay increases for the army, however, established a trend that placed a severe burden on the Roman state. Future emperor's were expected to follow suite and increase pay as well. The cost of these pay raises resulted in ever increasing taxation that damaged the economy. Some historians believe the high taxes, initiated by Severus policies, played a significant role in Rome's long-term decline.
Silver denarius, RIC 207a, RSC 493b, BMC 530, VF, 3.96g, 19.5mm,180, Rome mint, 207 A.D.; obverse SEVERS PIVS AVG, laureate head right; reverse P M TR P XV COS III P P, Africa standing tight, wearing elephant skin headdress, holding out drapery with fruits in the fold, lion at her feet; rare. Severus was born in Leptis Magna, Africa in 146 A.D.
Lucius Septimius Severus was born in 146 A.D. in the African city Leptis Magna. He came from a distinguished family and helped by his talent and good connections had a very successful career in the Roman army and government. After receiving a good education, finished in Athens, he moved on to Rome where he served as a treasury lawyer. Later he joined the army, where he first served as legion commander. He was a senator under Marcus Aurelius and consul under Commodus in 190. In 191 he was appointed as Governor of Pannonia Superior and, as such, commander of the Pannonian legions.
In 193 the emperor Pertinax was assassinated by the praetorian guard, who then auctioned of the empire to the highest bidder, Didius Julianus. Didius had offered 25,000 sestertii per guard. Incensed by the praetorian's activities, Severus legions hailed him as Augustus at Carnuntum on 9 April 193. Severus, who had been a supporter of Pertinax, posed as the avenger of the late Emperor and marched on Rome with the support of no less than 15 legions. At the same time he secured the aid of Clodius Albinus, the governor of Britannia, by appointing him as Caesar. The praetorians betrayed Didius Julianus as quickly as they supported him and he was executed. The Senate and praetorians had little option but to accept Severus as Emperor. Severus quickly replaced the untrustworthy praetorians with his own men.
Meanwhile another commander, Pescennius Niger, had also been declared Augustus by his troops. Severus left Rome to challenge Niger and solidify his rule. In several battles he defeated Niger and then pursued and executed Niger's followers. He used their wealth to strengthen his finances.
3693. Silver denarius, RIC 64, RSC 50, VF, 3.46g, 17.2mm, 180°, Rome mint, 195-196 A.D.; obverse L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP VII, laureate head right; reverse ARAB ADIAB COS II P P, Victory advancing left holding wreath and trophy. This coin refers to victory over Niger - to obscure the fact that this was a civil war, phrased as victory over Arabs and Adiabenians, who aided Niger's cause.
In 195, Severus betrayed his ally Clodius Albinus. Severus appointed his elder son Caesar under the name of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, later known as Caracalla, and declared Albinus a public enemy. In 197 Severus engaged in civil war with Albinus. A final battle at Lugdunum was a bloodbath after which Severus was the uncontested ruler of Rome.
Upon returning to the capitol, Severus executed many of Albinus' supporters and a number of senators. He shocked the Senate by proclaiming himself the son of Marcus Aurelius and by restoring the memory of Commodus, now his brother. On his coins, Severus is depicted with a long beard to resemble the popular emperor Marcus Aurelius. This was, however, only propaganda. Ancient sources report he actually wore his beard neatly trimmed.
2204. Silver denarius, RIC 240, RSC 539, aVF, frosty surfaces, 2.6g, 19mm, 0°, 210-211 A.D.; obverse SEVERVS PIVS AVG, laureate head right; reverse P M TR P XVIII COS III P P, Jupiter standing between Caracalla and Geta, naked except for cloak on left shoulder, holding thunderbolt and scepter.
In 196 Severus raised Caracalla to the rank of Augustus, and his younger son Geta to the rank of Caesar. The two boys, according to ancient writers (Cassius Dio, Herodian) were no good. Caracalla being the worst. Besides doing all sort of shameful deeds, the two hated each other and were competing in everything. In 205 and 208 he made them joint consuls, hoping they would learn to get along. Geta was raised to Augustus in 209.
Severus wished to pass the Empire to his two sons, for them to jointly rule. Shortly before his death on 4 February 211, Severus advised his sons, "Agree with each other, give money to the soldiers and scorn all other men." His dream never came true. Upon his death, the rivalry between Caracalla and Geta became public. The two Emperors lived in separate palaces and each had their own guard. In December 211, Caracalla convinced their mother, Julia Domna, to call Geta for a reconciliation meeting in her residence. It was a trick. In his mother's house Caracalla's soldiers attacked Geta and Geta died in their mother's arms. She was not allowed to mourn for her killed son. A massacre of Geta's supporters followed, and Cassius Dio tells us that 20,000 people were killed.
By Jim Phelps
|193||TRP||COS||IMP, IMP II||AVGVSTVS|
|194||TRP II||COS II||IMP III, IIII||PM, PP|
|195||TRP III||IMP V, VI, VII||PARTHICVS ARABICVS, PARTHICVS ADIABENICVS||
|196||TRP IIII||IMP VIII|
|197||TRP V||IMP VIIII, X|
|198||TRP VI||XI||PART MAX|
|202||TRP X||COS III|