This Month in History
The Death of Septimius Severus
4th February 211 AD
Born in Lepcis Magna, modern day Libya, Severus rose through the ranks of the Roman army, becoming governor of Pannonia Superior in the reign of Commodus. With that emperor’s assassination in 193, and the auctioning of the emperorship by the Praetorian Guard, Severus marched on Italy and entered Rome unopposed. After defeating his rival Pescennius Niger in the east, and then campaigning against Clodius Albinus in Gaul, Severus had become sole Emperor by 197. Following the example of Trajan, Severus spent nearly his entire reign campaigning on the frontiers of the empire. After defeating the Parthians, sacking Ctesiphon and annexing Northern Mesopotamia, he campaigned in Mauretania (Morocco) in 202, and Britain from 208. It was while on campaign in Caledonia, north of Hadrian’s Wall, that the emperor fell ill and died at York (Eboracum) in 211.
His style of rule can be summed up in the advice to his son, which Cassius Dio records: “enrich the soldiers and detest the rest.” Severus was responsible for expanding the army, increasing their pay and relaxing military discipline. His constant campaigning had financially drained the empire and he encouraged debasement of coinage. His successors would continue these trends, leading to the crisis of the third century.