Severus Alexander

Severus Alexander (/səˈvɪərəs/; Latin: Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander Augustus;[1] c. 208 – 19 March 235) was Roman Emperor from 222 to 235 and the last emperor of the Severan dynasty. He succeeded his cousin Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222. His own assassination marked the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century—nearly 50 years of civil wars, foreign invasion, and collapse of the monetary economy, though this last part is now disputed.

Alexander was the heir to his cousin, the 18-year-old Emperor who had been murdered along with his mother Julia Soaemias, by his own guards, who, as a mark of contempt, had their remains cast into the Tiber river.[2] He and his cousin were both grandsons of the influential and powerful Julia Maesa, who had arranged for Elagabalus' acclamation as emperor by the famous Third Gallic Legion. It was the rumor of Alexander's death that triggered the assassination of Elagabalus and his mother.[3] His 13-year reign was the longest reign of a sole emperor since Antoninus Pius.[4] He was also the second-youngest ever sole legal Roman Emperor during the existence of the united empire, the youngest being Gordian III.

As emperor, Alexander's peacetime reign was prosperous. However, Rome was militarily confronted with the rising Sassanid Empire and growing incursions from the tribes of Germania. He managed to check the threat of the Sassanids. But when campaigning against Germanic tribes, Alexander attempted to bring peace by engaging in diplomacy and bribery. This alienated many in the Roman Army and led to a conspiracy to assassinate and replace him.

Severus Alexander
Alexander Severus Musei Capitolini MC471
Bust of Severus Alexander, Musei Capitolini
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign11 March 222 – 18/19 March 235
SuccessorMaximinus Thrax
Bornc. 208
Arca Caesarea, Syria Phoenicia Province (modern Akkar, Lebanon)
Died19 March 235 (aged around 27)
Moguntiacum, Germania Superior
SpouseSallustia Orbiana
Sulpicia Memmia
Full name
Marcus Julius Gessius Bassianus Alexianus
(from birth to adoption);
Caesar Marcus Aurelius Alexander (from adoption to accession)
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander Augustus
Imperial DynastySeveran
FatherMarcus Julius Gessius Marcianus
MotherJulia Avita Mamaea

Early reign

Born between around 207 or 208 [5] Severus Alexander became emperor when he was around 14 years old, making him the youngest emperor in Rome's history, until the ascension of Gordian III. Alexander's grandmother believed that he had more potential to rule than her other grandson, the increasingly unpopular emperor Elagabalus. Thus, to preserve her own position, she had Elagabalus adopt the young Alexander and then arranged for Elagabalus' assassination, securing the throne for Alexander.[6] The Roman army hailed Alexander as emperor on 13 March 222, immediately conferring on him the titles of Augustus, pater patriae and pontifex maximus.

Throughout his life, Alexander relied heavily on guidance from his grandmother, Maesa, and mother, Julia Mamaea. Maesa died in 223, leaving Mamaea as the sole influence upon Alexander's actions. As a young, immature, and inexperienced adolescent, Alexander knew little about government, warcraft, or the role of ruling over an empire. Because of this, throughout his entire reign he was a puppet of his mother's advice and entirely under her jurisdiction, a state of affairs that was not popular with the soldiers.

Domestic achievements

Bust Alexander Severus Louvre Ma1051 n1
Bust of Alexander Severus, Louvre

Under the influence of his mother, Alexander did much to improve the morals and condition of the people, and to enhance the dignity of the state.[7] He employed noted jurists to oversee the administration of justice, such as the famous jurist Ulpian. His advisers were men like the senator and historian Cassius Dio, and it is claimed that he created a select board of 16 senators,[8] although this claim is disputed.[9] He also created a municipal council of 14 who assisted the urban prefect in administering the affairs of the 14 districts of Rome.[10] Excessive luxury and extravagance at the imperial court were diminished,[11] and he restored the Baths of Nero in 227 or 229; consequently, they are sometimes also known as the Baths of Alexander after him.

Upon his accession he reduced the silver purity of the denarius from 46.5% to 43%—the actual silver weight dropped from 1.41 grams to 1.30 grams; however, in 229 he revalued the denarius, increasing the silver purity and weight to 45% and 1.46 grams. The following year he decreased the amount of base metal in the denarius while adding more silver, raising the silver purity and weight again to 50.5% and 1.50 grams.[12] Additionally, during his reign taxes were lightened; literature, art and science were encouraged;[13] and, for the convenience of the people, loan offices were instituted for lending money at a moderate rate of interest.[14]

In religious matters, Alexander preserved an open mind. According to the Historia Augusta, he wished to erect a temple to Jesus but was dissuaded by the pagan priests; however, much of this book is full of falsifications and modern scholars deem it almost completely untrustworthy.[15]livius He allowed a synagogue to be built in Rome, and he gave as a gift to this synagogue a scroll of the Torah known as the Severus Scroll.[16]

In legal matters, Alexander did much to aid the rights of his soldiers. He confirmed that soldiers could name anyone as heirs in their will, whereas civilians had strict restrictions over who could become heirs or receive a legacy.[17] He also confirmed that soldiers could free their slaves in their wills,[18] protected the rights of soldiers to their property when they were on campaign,[19] and reasserted that a soldier's property acquired in or because of military service (his castrense peculium) could be claimed by no-one else, not even the soldier's father.[20]

Persian War

On the whole, Alexander's reign was prosperous until the rise, in the east, of the Sassanids[21] under Ardashir I.[22] In 231 AD, Ardeshir invaded the Roman provinces of the east, overrunning Mesopotamia and penetrating possibly as far as Syria and Cappadocia, forcing from the young Alexander a vigorous response.[23] Of the war that followed there are various accounts. According to the most detailed authority, Herodian, the Roman armies suffered a number of humiliating setbacks and defeats,[24] while according to the Historia Augusta[25] as well as Alexander's own dispatch to the Roman Senate, he gained great victories.[26] Making Antioch his base, he organized in 233 a three-fold invasion of the Sassanian Empire; at the head of the main body he himself advanced to recapture northern Mesopotamia, while another army invaded Media through the mountains of Armenia, and a third advanced from the south in the direction of Babylon. The northernmost army gained some success, fighting in mountainous territory favorable to the Roman infantry, but the southern army was surrounded and destroyed by Ardashir's skilful horse-archers, and Alexander himself retreated after an indecisive campaign, his army wracked by indiscipline and disease.[27][28] Further losses were incurred by the retreating northern army in the inclement cold of Armenia as it retired into winter quarters, due to an incompetent failure to establish adequate supply lines.[29][30] Still, Mesopotamia was retaken, and Ardashir was not thereafter able to extend his conquests, though his son, Shapur, would obtain some success later in the century.[31]

Although the Sassanids were checked for the time,[26] the conduct of the Roman army showed an extraordinary lack of discipline. In 232, there was a mutiny in the Syrian legion, which proclaimed Taurinus emperor.[32] Alexander managed to suppress the uprising, and Taurinus drowned while attempting to flee across the Euphrates. The emperor returned to Rome and celebrated a triumph in 233.[26]

Military discipline

Denarii of Severus Alexander

Severus alexander
Denarius of Severus Alexander (YORYM 2001 200) obverse

Alexander's reign was also characterized by a significant breakdown of military discipline.[33] In 223, the Praetorian Guard murdered their prefect, Ulpian,[33] in Alexander's presence. Alexander could not openly punish the ringleader of the riot, and instead removed him to nominal post of honor in Egypt and then Crete, where he was "quietly put out of the way" sometime after the excitement had abated.[34] The soldiers then fought a three-day battle against the populace of Rome, and this battle ended after several parts of the city were set on fire.[35]

Dio was among those who gave a highly critical account of military discipline during the time, saying that the soldiers would rather just surrender to the enemy.[35] Different reasons are given for this issue; Campbell points to

"...the decline in the prestige of the Severan dynasty, the feeble nature of Alexander himself, who appeared to be no soldier and to be completely dominated by his mother's advice, and lack of real military success at a time during which the empire was coming under increasing pressure."[35]

Herodian, on the other hand, was convinced that "the emperor's miserliness (partly the result of his mother's greed) and slowness to bestow donatives" were instrumental in the fall of military discipline under Alexander.[35]

Germanic War

After the Persian war, Alexander returned to Antioch with the famous Origen, one of the greatest Fathers of the Christian Church. Alexander's mother, Julia Mamaea, asked for Origen to tutor Alexander in Christianity.

While Alexander was being educated in the Christian doctrines, the northern portion of his empire was being invaded by Germanic and Sarmatian tribes. A new and menacing enemy started to emerge directly after Alexander's success in the Persian war. In 234, the barbarians crossed the Rhine and Danube in hordes that caused alarm as far as Rome. The soldiers serving under Alexander, already demoralized after their costly war against the Persians, were further discontented with their emperor when their homes were destroyed by the barbarian invaders.[36]

As word of the invasion spread, the Emperor took the front line and went to battle against the Germanic invaders. The Romans prepared heavily for the war, building a fleet to carry the entire army across. However, at this point in Alexander's career, he still knew little about being a general. Because of this, he hoped the mere threat of his armies would be sufficient to persuade the hostile tribes to surrender.[37] Severus enforced a strict military discipline in his men that sparked a rebellion among his legions.[38] Due to incurring heavy losses against the Persians, and on the advice of his mother, Alexander attempted to buy the Germanic tribes off, so as to gain time.

It was this decision that resulted in the legionaries looking down upon Alexander. They considered him dishonorable and feared he was unfit to be Emperor. Under these circumstances the army swiftly looked to replace Alexander.

Gaius Iulius Verus Maximinus was the next best option. He was a soldier from Thrace who had a golden reputation and was working hard to increase his military status.[38] He was also a man with superior personal strength, who rose to his present position from a peasant background. With the Thracian's hailing came the end of the Severan Dynasty,[39] and, with the growing animosity of Severus' army towards him, the path for his assassination was paved.


Alexander was forced to face his German enemies in the early months of 235. By the time he and his mother arrived, the situation had settled, and so his mother convinced him that to avoid violence, trying to bribe the German army to surrender was the more sensible course of action. According to historians, it was this tactic combined with insubordination from his own men that destroyed his reputation and popularity. Pusillanimity was responsible for the revolt of Alexander's army, resulting in Severus falling victim to the swords of his own men,[40] following the nomination of Maximinus as emperor.

Alexander was assassinated on 19 March 235, together with his mother, in a mutiny of the Legio XXII Primigenia at Moguntiacum (Mainz) while at a meeting with his generals.[41] These assassinations secured the throne for Maximinus.[7]

Lampridius documents two theories that elaborate on Severus's assassination. The first claims that the disaffection of Mamaea was the main motive behind the homicide. However, Lampridius makes it clear that he is more supportive of an alternative theory, that Alexander was murdered in Sicilia (located in Britain).

This theory has it that, in an open tent after his lunch, Alexander was consulting with his insubordinate troops, who compared him to his cousin Elagabalus, the divisive and unpopular Emperor whose own assassination paved the way for Alexander's reign. A German servant entered the tent and initiated the call for Alexander's assassination, at which point many of the troops joined in the attack. Alexander's attendants fought against the other troops but could not hold off the combined might of those seeking the Emperor's assassination. Within minutes, Alexander was dead. His mother Julia Mamaea was in the same tent with Alexander and soon fell victim to the same group of assassins.[40]


Medaglione con effigie di alessandro severo, 1490 ca
15th century depiction of Severus Alexander

Alexander's death marked the end of the Severan dynasty. He was the last of the Syrian emperors and the first emperor to be overthrown by military discontent on a wide scale.[42] After his death his economic policies were completely discarded, and the Roman currency was devalued; this signaled the beginning of the chaotic period known as the Crisis of the Third Century, which brought the empire to the brink of collapse.[39]

Alexander's death at the hands of his troops can also be seen as the heralding of a new role for Roman emperors. Though they were not yet expected to personally fight in battle during Alexander's time, emperors were increasingly expected to display general competence in military affairs.[43] Thus, Alexander's taking of his mother's advice to not get involved in battle, his dishonorable and unsoldierly methods of dealing with the Germanic threat, and the relative failure of his military campaign against the Persians were all deemed highly unacceptable by the soldiers.[43] Indeed, Maximinus was able to overthrow Alexander by "harping on his own military excellence in contrast to that feeble coward".[43] Yet by arrogating the power to dethrone their emperor, the legions paved the way for a half-century of widespread chaos and instability.

Although the Senate declared the emperor and his rule damned upon the report of his death and the ascension of a replacement emperor, Alexander was deified after the death of Maximinus in 238.[44] His damnatio memoriae was also reversed after Maximinus's death.

Personal life

Orbiana Denarius
Denarius of Sallustia Orbiana

Alexander was married three times. His most famous wife was Sallustia Orbiana, Augusta, whom he married in 225 when she was 16 years old. Their marriage was arranged by Alexander's mother, Mamaea. However, as soon as Orbiana received the title of Augusta, Mamaea became increasingly jealous and resentful of Alexander's wife due to Mamaea's excessive desire of all regal female titles.[7] Alexander divorced and exiled Orbiana in 227, after her father, Seius Sallustius, was executed after being accused of attempting to assassinate the emperor.

Alexander's second wife was Sulpicia Memmia, a member of one of the most ancient Patrician families in Rome. Her father was a man of consular rank; her grandfather's name was Catulus.[45]

The identity of Alexander's third wife is unknown. Alexander did not father children with any of his wives.

According to the Augustan History, a late Roman work containing biographies of emperors and others, and considered by scholars to be a work of very dubious historical reliability,[46] Alexander prayed every morning in his private chapel. He was extremely tolerant of Jews and Christians alike. He continued all privileges towards Jews during his reign,[47][48] and the Augustan History relates that Alexander placed images of Abraham and Jesus in his oratory, along with other Roman deities and classical figures.[49][50]


Ancestors of Severus Alexander
2. Marcus Julius Gessius Marcianus
1. Severus Alexander
6. Julius Avitus Alexianus
3. Julia Avita Mamaea
14. Julius Bassianus
7. Julia Maesa

See also


  1. ^ In Classical Latin, Alexander's name would be inscribed as MARCVS AVRELIVS SEVERVS ALEXANDER AVGVSTVS.
  2. ^ Dio, 60:20:2
  3. ^ Herodian, 5:8:5
  4. ^ A handful of emperors since Antoninus Pius reigned for longer than 13 years, but for some or most of their reign they were co-emperors with others and therefore they were sole emperor for less than 13 years.
  5. ^ The life of Severus Alexander: "The presumption therefore is that he was born in 207 or 208"
  6. ^ Wells, pg. 266
  7. ^ a b c Benario, Alexander Severus
  8. ^ Southern, p. 60
  9. ^ from the chapter entitled Administrative Strategies of the Emperor Severus Alexander and his Advisers, written by Lukas de Blois in the book Herrschaftsstrukturen und Herrschaftspraxis, chapter by
  10. ^ Historia Augusta, Life of Severus Alexander, 33:1
  11. ^ Historia Augusta, Life of Severus Alexander, 15:1
  12. ^ Tulane University "Roman Currency of the Principate"
  13. ^ Historia Augusta, Life of Severus Alexander, 21:6
  14. ^ Historia Augusta, Life of Severus Alexander, 21:2
  15. ^ Historia Augusta, Life of Severus Alexander, 43:6–7
  16. ^ 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia article "Alexander Severus"
  17. ^ Campbell, p. 221
  18. ^ Campbell, p. 224
  19. ^ Campbell, p. 239
  20. ^ Campbell, p. 234
  21. ^ Southern, p. 61
  22. ^ "Severus Alexander". Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  23. ^ Arthur E.R. Boak, A History Of Rome To 565 A.D., (The Macmillan Company, 1921, New York), chap. XVIII., p. 258
  24. ^ Herodian, 6:5–6:6
  25. ^ Historia Augusta, Life of Severus Alexander, 55:1–3
  26. ^ a b c Southern, p. 62
  27. ^ Edward Gibbon, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, (The Modern Library, 1932), chap. VIII., p. 182
  28. ^ Herodian, 6:5:10
  29. ^ Herodian, 6:6:3
  30. ^ Gibbon, Ibid.
  31. ^ Gibbon, Ibid.
  32. ^ Victor, 24:2
  33. ^ a b Campbell, p. 196
  34. ^ Ledlie, James Crawford (1903). "Ulpian". Journal of the Society of Comparative Legislation. 5 (1): 19. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  35. ^ a b c d Campbell, p. 197
  36. ^ Campbell, 54
  37. ^ "Alexander Severus". Capitoline Museums.
  38. ^ a b Library of World History: Containing a Record of the Human Race from the Earliest Historical Period to the Present Time; Embracing a General Survey of the Progress of Mankind in National and Social Life, Civil Government, Religion, Literature, Science and Art, Volume 3. New York Public Library: Western Press Association. p. 1442.
  39. ^ a b "Severus Alexander (222–235 AD): The Calm before the Storm" (PDF). The Saylor Foundation.
  40. ^ a b Valentine Nind Hopkins, Sir Richard. The Life of Alexander Severus. Princeton University: The University Press. p. 240.
  41. ^ Southern, p. 63
  42. ^ Campbell, p. 55
  43. ^ a b c Campbell, p. 69
  44. ^ "Severus Alexander". Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  45. ^ Historia Augusta, Life of Severus Alexander, 20:3
  46. ^ Browning, Robert (1983). The Cambridge History of Classical Literature: Volume 2, Latin Literature, Part 5, The Later Principat. Cambridge University Press. pp. 41–50. ISBN 978-0-521-27371-8.
  47. ^ "Alexander Severus". Jewish Encyclopedia.
  48. ^ Grant, Michael (1973). Jews In The Roman World. Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0684133409.
  49. ^ "Alexander Severus". Catholic Encyclopedia.
  50. ^ Novak, Ralph Martin (2001). Christianity and the Roman Empire: Background Texts. Bloomsbury T&T Clark;. ISBN 978-1563383472.




  • Birley, A.R., Septimius Severus: The African Emperor, Routledge, 2002
  • Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, Routledge, 2001
  • Benario, Herbert W., Alexander Severus (A.D. 222–235), De Imperatoribus Romanis (2001)
  • Gibbon. Edward Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire (1888)
  • Campbell, J.B., The Emperor and the Roman Army 31 BC – AD 235, Clarenden, 1984
  • Wells, Colin, The Roman Empire, Harvard University Press, 1997
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alexander Severus" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 567. Although a few phrases appear to be copied from this encyclopedia, all of them are attributed here to primary sources.

External links

Media related to Severus Alexander at Wikimedia Commons

Severus Alexander
Born: c. 208 Died: 19 March 235
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Roman Emperor
Succeeded by
Maximinus I (Thrax)
Political offices
Preceded by
Gaius Vettius Gratus Sabinianus,
Marcus Flavius Vitellius Seleucus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Elagabalus
Succeeded by
Marius Maximus,
Luscius Roscius Aelianus Paculus Salvius Julianus
Preceded by
Tiberius Manilius Fuscus,
Servius Calpurnius Domitius Dexter
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Gaius Aufidius Marcellus
Succeeded by
Marcus Nummius Senecio Albinus,
Marcus Laelius Fulvius Maximus Aemilianus
Preceded by
Quintus Aiacius Modestus Crescentianus,
Marcus Pomponius Maecius Probus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Cassius Dio
Succeeded by
Lucius Virius Agricola,
Sextus Catius Clementinus Priscillianus
3rd century

The 3rd century was the period from 201 to 300 A.D. or C.E.

In this century, the Roman Empire saw a crisis, starting with the assassination of the Roman Emperor Severus Alexander in 235, plunging the empire into a period of economic troubles, barbarian incursions, political upheavals, civil wars, and the split of the Roman Empire through the Gallic Empire in the west and the Palmyrene Empire in the east, which all together threatened to destroy the Roman Empire in its entirety, but the reconquests of the seceded territories by Emperor Aurelian and the stabilization period under Emperor Diocletian due to the administrative strengthening of the empire caused an end to the crisis by 284. This crisis would also mark the beginning of Late Antiquity.

In Persia, the Parthian Empire was succeeded by the Sassanid Empire in 224 after Ardashir I defeated and killed Artabanus V during the Battle of Hormozdgan. The Sassanids then went on to subjugate many of the western portions of the declining Kushan Empire.

In China, the chaos that had been raging since 189 would ultimately continue to persist with the decisive defeat of Cao Cao at the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208, which would increasingly end the hopes of unification and lead to the tripartite division of China into three main empires; Shu, Wu, and Wei, colloquially known as the Three Kingdoms period, which started in 220 with the formal abdication of Emperor Xian of Han to Cao Cao's son, Cao Pi, thereby founding Wei, which would go on to conquer Shu in 263, but would ultimately be united again under the Jin dynasty, headed by the Sima clan, who would usurp Wei in 266, and conquer Wu in 280.

In India, the Gupta Empire was on the rise towards the end of the century.

Korea was ruled by the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Japan entered the Kofun period. The Xiongnu formed the Tiefu state under Liu Qubei. The Southeast Asian mainland was mostly dominated by Funan; the first kingdom of the Khmer people (Cambodians).

At about this time in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Bantu expansion reached Southern Africa.

In Pre-Columbian America, the Adena culture of the Ohio River valley declined in favor of the Hopewell culture. The Maya civilization entered its Classic Era.

Akkar District

Akkar District (Arabic: قضاء عكار‎) is the only district in Akkar Governorate, Lebanon. It is coextensive with the governorate and covers an area of 788 km2 (304 sq mi). The UNHCR estimated the population of the district to be 389,899 in 2015, including 106,935 registered refugees of the Syrian Civil War and 19,404 Palestinian refugees. The capital is at Halba.

The district is characterized by the presence of a relatively large coastal plain, with high mountains to the east. The largest cities in Akkar are Halba, Bire Akkar and Al-Qoubaiyat.

Akkar has many important Roman and Arabic archaeological sites. One of the most famous archaeological sites and the birthplace of the Roman emperor Severus Alexander (d.235) is the Tell of Arqa near the town of Miniara. Several prehistoric sites were found in the Akkar plain foothills that were suggested to have been used by the Heavy Neolithic Qaraoun culture at the dawn of the Neolithic Revolution.Akkar can be divided into 7 parts: Qaitea (القيطع), Jouma (الجومة), Dreib (الدريب), Jabal Akroum (جبل أكروم), Wadi Khaled (وادي خالد), Cheft (الشفت) and As-sahel (السهل).

Apollonis (Lydia)

Apollonis (Ancient Greek: Ἀπολλωνίς), also known as Apollonia (Ἀπολλωνία), Apollones (Ἀπολλώνης), and Apollonias (Ἀπολλωνίας), was a city in ancient Lydia. It was located south of Apollonia in Mysia, where there is a ridge of hills, after crossing which the road to Sardis had on the left Thyatira, and on the right Apollonis, which was 300 stadia from Pergamum, and the same distance from Sardis. It was named after the queen Apollonis, the mother of Eumenes II and Attalus II of Pergamum, in the place of an older city; possibly Doidye. It was mentioned by Cicero. It was destroyed in 17 CE by the great earthquake that destroyed twelve cities of Asia Minor. Tiberius rebuilt the city. It issued coins; those from Marcus Aurelius to Severus Alexander are extant. Apollonis is a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church.The site of Apollonis is located near Palamut Kalesi, Mecidiye.

Aqua Alexandrina

The Aqua Alexandrina (Italian: Acquedotto alessandrino) was a Roman aqueduct located in the city of Rome. The 22.4 km long aqueduct carried water from Pantano Borghese to the Baths of Alexander on the Campus Martius. It remained in use from the 3rd to the 8th century AD.

Aulus Platorius Nepos

Aulus Platorius Nepos was a Roman senator who held a number of appointments in the imperial service. He was suffect consul succeeding the consul posterior Publius Dasumius Rusticus as the colleague of the emperor Hadrian for March–April 119.Anthony Birley notes that Nepos' career "in two important respects was an unusual one for a governor of Britain. In the first place, it is the only example recorded before the time of Severus Alexander of a man who had begun his career in the least favored post in the vigintivirate, the tresviri capitales, later receiving an emperor's backing in his candidature for a higher post.... Secondly, this is only one of three known instances (the others being those of L. Flavius Silva (ord. 81) and C. Bruttius Praesens (II ord. 139) of such men proceeding to the consulship after a single senior praetorian appointment."

Byzantine Empire under the Amorian dynasty

The Byzantine Empire was ruled by the Amorian or Phrygian dynasty from 820 to 867. The Amorian dynasty continued the policy of restored iconoclasm (the "Second Iconoclasm") started by the previous non-dynastic emperor Leo V in 813, until its abolishment by Empress Theodora with the help of Patriarch Methodios in 842. The continued iconoclasm further worsened relations between the East and the West, which were already bad following the papal coronations of a rival line of "Roman Emperors" beginning with Charlemagne in 800. Relations worsened even further during the so-called Photian Schism, when Pope Nicholas I challenged Photios' elevation to the patriarchate.

During the Second Iconoclasm, the Empire began to see systems resembling feudalism being put in place, with large and local landholders becoming increasingly prominent, receiving lands in return for military service to the central government. Similar systems had been in place in the Roman Empire ever since the reign of Severus Alexander during the third century, when Roman soldiers and their heirs were granted lands on the condition of service to the Emperor.

Calvisius Rufus

Calvisius Rufus was a governor of Britannia Inferior, a province of Roman Britain during the reign of Severus Alexander (AD 222 and 235). It is unclear whether his governorship precedes or succeeds those of Claudius Apellinus and Valerius Crescens Fulvianus. Little else is known of him, although an inscription records his remodeling of a building at Old Penrith.


Elagabalus (), also known as Heliogabalus (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; c. 204 – 11 March 222), was Roman emperor from 218 to 222. A member of the Severan dynasty, he was Syrian, the second son of Julia Soaemias and Sextus Varius Marcellus. In his early youth he served the god Elagabalus as a priest in Emesa, the hometown of his mother's family. As a private citizen, he was probably named Sextus Varius Avitus Bassianus. Upon becoming emperor he took the name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus. He was called Elagabalus only after his death.In 217, the emperor Caracalla was assassinated and replaced by his Praetorian prefect, Marcus Opellius Macrinus. Caracalla's maternal aunt, Julia Maesa, successfully instigated a revolt among the Third Legion to have her eldest grandson (and Caracalla's cousin), Elagabalus, declared emperor in his place. Macrinus was defeated on 8 June 218 at the Battle of Antioch. Elagabalus, barely 14 years old, became emperor, initiating a reign remembered mainly for sex scandals and religious controversy.

Later historians suggest Elagabalus showed a disregard for Roman religious traditions and sexual taboos. He replaced the traditional head of the Roman pantheon, Jupiter, with the deity Elagabalus, of whom he had been high priest. He forced leading members of Rome's government to participate in religious rites celebrating this deity, over which he personally presided. Elagabalus was supposedly "married" as many as five times, lavishing favours on male courtiers popularly thought to have been his lovers, and was reported to have prostituted himself in the imperial palace. His behavior estranged the Praetorian Guard, the Senate, and the common people alike. Amidst growing opposition, Elagabalus, just 18 years old, was assassinated and replaced by his cousin Severus Alexander on 11 March 222, who ruled for 13 years before his own assassination, which marked the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century. The assassination plot against Elagabalus was devised by his grandmother, Julia Maesa, and carried out by disaffected members of the Praetorian Guard.

Elagabalus developed a reputation among his contemporaries for extreme eccentricity, decadence, and zealotry. This tradition has persisted, and with writers of the early modern age he suffers one of the worst reputations among Roman emperors. Edward Gibbon, for example, wrote that Elagabalus "abandoned himself to the grossest pleasures and ungoverned fury". According to Barthold Georg Niebuhr, "The name Elagabalus is branded in history above all others" because of his "unspeakably disgusting life".

Feriale Duranum

The Feriale Duranum is a calendar of religious observances for a Roman military garrison at Dura-Europos on the Euphrates, Roman Syria, under the reign of Severus Alexander (224–235 AD). The small papyrus roll was discovered among the documents of an auxiliary cohort, the Cohors XX Palmyrenorum (Twentieth Cohort of Palmyrenes), in the Temple of Azzanathkona. The calendar, written in Latin, is arranged in four columns, with some gaps. It offers important evidence for the religious life of the Roman military and the role of Imperial cult in promoting loyalty to the Roman emperor, and for the coexistence of Roman state religion and local religious traditions.Festivals named include Quinquatria (a purification of arms), the birthday of Rome, Neptunalia and two Rosaliae at which the military standards were adorned with roses. The calendar prescribes sacrifices for deities of traditional Roman religion such as the Capitoline triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, as well as Mars and Vesta. About twenty members of the imperial family are honored as divi, divinized mortals, including six women and Germanicus, who was never an emperor. Twenty-seven of the forty-three entries that remain legible pertain to Imperial cult. No Eastern mystery religions, which were widely celebrated in the Empire during this period, nor local cults are recorded as an official observance of the army, but the feriale was found in the temple with a dipinto depicting a Roman officer offering incense to the local deity Iarḥibol, and Romans, including a standard-bearer with the cohort's vexillum, standing before the altar of the Syrian gods Iarḥibol, Aglibol and Arṣu. It has also been argued that the three gods represent the emperors Pupienus, Balbinus, and Gordian III. A copy of the calendar may have been issued to each unit throughout the Empire to further military cohesion as well as Roman identity among troops from other cultures.The cache of documents was discovered by a team of archaeologists from Yale University working at Dura-Europos in 1931–32. It was first published by R. O. Fink, A. S. Hooey, and W. S. Snyder (1940), "The Feriale Duranum," Yale Classical Studies 7: 1–222.In 2011, a facsimile of the partial document was part of the Dura-Europos exhibition at Boston College, and it contained the following translation:

March 19, Quinquatria, a supplication; until March 23, supplicationsApril 4, for the birthday of Antonius Magnus, an oxApril 9, for the accession of the deified Pius Severus, an oxApril 11, for the birthday of Pius Severus, an oxApril 21, for the birthday of the Eternal City of Rome, a cowApril 26, for the birthday of Marcus Antoninus, an oxMay 7, for the birthday of the deified Julia Maesa, a supplicationMay 10 (?), for the Rose-festival of the Standards, a supplicationMay 12, for the circus-races in honor of Mars, to Mars Ultor, a bullMay 21, because the deified Pius Severus was saluted as "imperator"May 24, for the birthday of Germanicus Caesar, a supplicationMay 31, for the Rose-festival of the Standards, a supplicationJune 9, for the Vestalia, to Vesta Mater, a supplicationJune 26, because our lord Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander was named Caesar, a bullJuly 1, because our lord Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander our Augustus was designated consul for the first time, a supplicationJuly 4, for the birthday of the deified Matidia, a supplicationJuly 10, for the succession of the deified Antoninus Pius, an oxJuly 12, for the birthday of the deified Julius, an oxJuly 23, for the day of the Neptunalia, a supplication and a sacrificeAug 1, for the birthday of the deified Claudius and the deified Pertinax, an ox and an oxAug 5, for the circus-races in honor of Salus, a cow.Aug [14-29], for the birthday of Mamaea Augustus, mother of Augustus, a cowAug [15-30], for the birthday of the deified Marciana, a supplication

Julia Maesa

Julia Maesa (7 May before 160 AD - c. 224 AD) was a 3rd century Augusta (empress) of the Roman Empire and a powerful, prominent and influential figure in the empire's politics during the rule of the Severan dynasty. Born in Emesa, Syria (modern day Homs), Maesa was the daughter of the high priest of Emesa's Temple of the Sun, and the elder sister of future Roman empress Julia Domna.

Through her sister's marriage, she became sister-in law to the emperor Septimius Severus and later the aunt of emperors Caracalla and Geta. She herself married fellow Syrian Julius Avitus, who was of consular rank. She bore him two daughters, Julia Soaemias and Julia Mamaea, who would later became mothers of emperors Elagabalus and Severus Alexander respectively.The Severan dynasty of ancient Rome was dominated by powerful women, one of which was Julia Maesa. Politically able and ruthless, she contended for political power after her sister's suicide. She is best known for her plotting and scheming which resulted in the restoration of the Severan dynasty to the Roman throne after the assassination of Caracalla and the usurpation of the Roman throne by Macrinus, after which she continued to shape and dominate the politics of the Roman Empire for well over two decades, being the major power behind the Roman throne in the subsequent reigns of Elagabalus and Severus Alexander until her death.Julia Maesa died in Rome at an uncertain date between 223 and 226, and was later deified in Syria along with her sister.

Legio II Parthica

Legio secunda Parthica ("Parthian-conquering Second Legion") was a legion of the Imperial Roman army founded in AD 197 by the emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193-211), for his campaign against the Parthian Empire, hence the cognomen Parthica. The legion was still active in the beginning of the 5th century. The legion's symbol were a bull and centaur.

Magnus (usurper)

Gaius Petronius Magnus (died 235) was a senator of consular rank and a Roman usurper. After the death of Emperor Severus Alexander there was much ill-feeling in the Senate about the elevation of Maximinus Thrax to the throne. A group of officers and senators under the leadership of Magnus plotted to overthrow Maximinus. Their plan was to have soldiers destroy the bridge over the river Rhine, after Maximinus had brought the army across during his campaign against the Germans. Maximinus would be left stranded on the north bank of the Rhine, at the mercy of the Germans. Before it was realized, the plan was discovered and all conspirators executed.

Maximinus Thrax

Maximinus Thrax (Latin: Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus Augustus; c. 173 – May 238), also known as Maximinus I, was Roman Emperor from 235 to 238.

A Thraco-Roman of low birth, Maximinus was the commander of the Legio IV Italica when Severus Alexander was assassinated by his own troops in 235. The Praetorian Guard then elected Maximinus emperor.

In the year 238 (which came to be known as the Year of the Six Emperors), a senatorial revolt broke out, leading to the successive proclamation of Gordian I, Gordian II, Pupienus, Balbinus and Gordian III as emperors in opposition to Maximinus. Maximinus advanced on Rome to put down the revolt, but was halted at Aquileia, where he was assassinated by disaffected elements of the Legio II Parthica.

Maximinus is described by several ancient sources, though none are contemporary except Herodian's Roman History. He was a so-called barracks emperor of the 3rd century; his rule is often considered to mark the beginning of the Crisis of the Third Century. Maximinus was the first emperor who hailed neither from the senatorial class nor from the equestrian class.

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 77

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 77 (P. Oxy. 77) is a letter to Aurelius Ammonius, prytanis and gymnasiarch, written in Greek. The manuscript was written on papyrus in the form of a sheet. It was discovered by Grenfell and Hunt in 1897 in Oxyrhynchus. The document was written on 19 May 223. Currently it is housed in the library of the Trinity College (Pap. D 2) in Dublin. The text was published by Grenfell and Hunt in 1898.The letter was written by Julia Dionysia in response to Aurelius's inquiry as to whether Julia or her husband, Aurelius Sarapiacus, owned a particular house. In the letter, Julia makes a declaration on her oath that "by the fortune of Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander the lord Caesar that the house in question and all its contents belong to me, Julia Dionysia." The measurements of the fragment are 222 by 76 mm.


Princeps (plural: principes) is a Latin word meaning "first in time or order; the first, foremost, chief, the most eminent, distinguished, or noble; the first man, first person". As a title, "princeps" originated in the Roman Republic wherein the leading member of the Senate was designated princeps senatus. It is primarily associated with the Roman emperors as an unofficial title first adopted by Augustus in 23 BC. Its use in this context continued until the reign of Diocletian at the end of the third century. He preferred the title of dominus, meaning "lord" or "master". As a result, the Roman Empire from Augustus to Diocletian is termed the "principate" (principatus) and from Diocletian onwards as the "dominate" (dominatus). Other historians define the reign of Augustus to Severus Alexander as the Principate, and the period afterwards as the "Autocracy".The medieval title "Prince" is a derivative of princeps.

Quiriacus of Ostia

Quiriacus was Bishop of Ostia, and suffered martyrdom during the reign of Emperor Severus Alexander. Quiriacus was martyred along with Maximus, his priest, and Archelaus, a deacon.

Sallustia Orbiana

Gnaea Seia Herennia Sallustia Barbia Orbiana (fl. 220s), usually known as Sallustia Orbiana, was a third century Roman empress, with the title of Augusta as the wife of Severus Alexander from AD 225 to 227. She was known for her beauty, which was captured in multiple works of art. A victim of the jealousy of Julia Mamaea, the emperor's mother, Orbiana was divorced and exiled to Libya in 227.

Siege of Nisibis (235)

In 224 AD, Ardashir defeated the Parthian empire and replaced it with the Sasanian Empire. He began to raid Roman territory almost immediately after he had taken power at Ctesiphon. When Severus Alexander launched a massive invasion of Persian empire in the early 230s, the Persian forces drove it back inflicting heavy casualties on the Roman army. The Sasanians then besieged the Roman city of Nisibis in 235 or 237 and eventually conquered it.


Taurinius (also called Taurinus) was a Roman usurper who revolted against Severus Alexander in 232 AD. He was declared emperor by the legions stationed in Mesopotamia when they rebelled, due to the invasion of the Sassanids in 229 AD. His revolt was swiftly crushed by Alexander, in late summer of 232 AD, and he drowned in the Euphrates while attempting to flee to Sassanid territory.

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