Roman emperor Septimius Severus dies at York

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Roman emperor Septimius Severus dies at York

York, North Yorkshire The 4th of February 211 AD

It is proof of the importance of Rome’s possessions in Britain, and of the unceasing annoyance to the Empire of the unconquered tribes north of Hadrians Wall , that an emperor should have been based in York from 208AD to his death in 211AD.

Septimius Severus is one of the more interesting and successful Roman Emperors. Interesting in that his origins were in present day Libya, and that he was of Berber descent, the first African Emperor. He is said to have retained a love of the cooking of his homeland throughout his life. Successful in that he reigned for 18 years, and left his mark on the Roman state in great buildings and in the development of the legal system.

Severus was born in Lepcis Magna in 146AD, and though he received a good education and had some family connections – two cousins of his father were consuls – his rise is testimony to his personal abilities and daring.

A senator under Marcus Aurelius in 172AD at the tender age of 26, Septimius rose to prominence as a soldier. In 190AD he became consul.

In a period of particular instability Severus seized power, and his rule began in 193AD. He defeated rival Pescennius Niger in the East, then when former supporter Clodius Albinus, governor of Britain, rose against him he too was defeated in a battle at Lyon, the aftermath establishing Severus’s reputation for cruelty – the wife and sons of Albinus were executed, as were many of his backers and their wives. Similarly he cleared out his enemies in the senate by finding them guilty of corruption and having them killed.

Under Severus, however, the rule of law was cemented both by his power as a ruler and his reliance on trained lawyers in his administration.

Severus knew his power came from the army, however, and he increased its size considerably, lodged his personal guard close to Rome rather than trusting the Praetorians, and increased the pay of a soldier significantly.

Severus went to Britain in 208AD with his two sons, partly to secure that territory, partly to occupy his feuding offspring. The tribes in Scotland were attacked, but the campaigns were never decisive. Hadrian’s Wall was improved and strengthened – throughout his reign Severus was noted as a great builder – to keep the barbarians out if they could not be crushed.

In his sixties when he lived in York, Severus was already suffering from gout and other ailments when he arrived. He died in the city on February 4th 211, aged 64, probably of pneumonia.

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Comment

From Saome Brunner on 13th July 2010
This is realy solid history.I grew up and went to school in England. And as a black person growing up in England inthe sixties and seventies as student them one was not exposed to this kind of informations. Iam sure as black children growing up in England this kind of black history would have played well on the selfasteem.

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