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UNIVERSAL DICTIONARY OF KNOWLEDGE.
LUCIUS SEPTIMIUS SEVERU S.
FROM A. D. 193 to 211.
From A. D.
Se of the Inese
Biograplay. THE Sceptre, which was wrested from the dying the advantages that the ambition of one class of citizens, Lucius hands of Pertinax, passed for a short time into those of and the timidity of the rest, encouraged them to expect. Septimius
Severus. Didius Julianus; an individual who had no recom- Having fortified their Camp, and thereby precluded all
mendation, besides his great riches, to the power and direct communication, either with the Senate or the 193.
From rank which were thereby conferred upon him. But, as People, they instructed one of their number to mount
A. D. the few occurrences which took place in his reign upon the rampart, and proclaim that the vacant Throne 211,
193. respected the movements of his successor rather than was immediately to be exposed to sale, and would be his own plans for conducting the Government, we have given to him who should make the most liberal offer.
Sulpicianus, a Member of the Senate, and Præfect of
which supplied to the Roman People the most melan- donation by which he meant to gratify the cupidity of
choly evidence that their liberty no longer existed, even the Soldiers, when a formidable competitor appeared in
suggested, at the same time, that were his rival exalted
to the extravagant terms on which he had consented to
Prætorians in favour of his claim. The gates of the
From A. D.
Biography. Camp were immediately thrown open to the successful he had recourse to all the means by which he might Lucius
candidate ; where, with loud acclamations, he was escape reflection on the past, and repel the numerous Septimius From declared Emperor, and received the allegiance of its fears and anxieties which could not but connect them
Severus, turbulent inhabitants. At the request of the latter, he selves with every prospect into the future. 193.
appointed as their Commanders, Julius Flavius Genealis But Spartian refuses his belief to this account, as
and Tullius Crispinus, and promised to forget, or to being founded entirely on false report, maliciously cir211.
193. forgive, the competition which he had sustained at the culated by the enemies of Didius: asserting, that the hands of Sulpicianus.* new Prince did not taste food in the Palace until the
211. Indignation The transactions now described, are said to have body of Pertinax had been carefully removed; that he of the Peo- taken place within a few hours after the murder of displayed a thoughtful, and even melancholy, frame of ple.
Pertinax. Sorrow and indignation continued to fill the mind throughout the whole evening; and that, so far
Didius. eager to preserve the life of Julianus, at least until ashamed of the Prince whom their avarice had induced he should fulfil the conditions upon which he had them to elect; nor was there a citizen who did not been raised to the Empire, surrounded him with their regard his elevation with disgust, as an indelible stain shields, and at length placed him in safety in the midst on the Roman character. The higher Orders, whose of the trembling and degraded Senate. This obse- conspicuous station and ample possessions exacted the quious assembly was compelled to express its ap- strictest caution, dissembled their sentiments, and met probation of every thing which had been done ; to the affected civility of their new Sovereign with smiles confirm the election of the Camp; and even to con. of complacency, and expressions of duty. We comgratulate the Country on the happy event which had posed our looks, says Dion Cassius, and endeavoured called it together. They conferred upon Didius all to appear joyful, whilst our hearts were torn with grief the offices and dignities which belonged to the Imperial and rage. But the People at large, who were not estate ; enrolled his Family in the order of Patricians; influenced by similar motives, gave the freest vent to and, finally, bestowed upon his wife and daughters the their passions. When Didius, on the following day, highest titles that were ever used by the female issued forth from the Palace, they loaded him with the members of a reigning House."
coarsest invectives. They invoked upon his head the Character of Our only authorities for the Life of Julianus are wrath of the Gods; prayed that the sacrifice which he Julianus, Dion Cassius, Herodian, and Spartian. The first of was about to offer up might be blasted under his hands; and discre- these Historians was a personal enemy of the Emperor; and concluded by rejecting the largess by which Historians
whose character and motives he uniformly represents in he hoped to conciliate their esteem, or bribe their
to give the successor of Pertinax entered the Palace, the first Roman People first reached the banks of the Danube, them aid object which struck his eyes was the mutilated body of where Severus commanded an active and devoted against the that Sovereign; which, instead of treating with the army; and was soon afterwards conveyed to the shores Prætorians. decent honours which belonged to the remains of a of Syria and of Britain, where Pescennius Niger and friend and of a Prince, he passed by with neglect, or Clodius Albinus exercised, respectively, a similar power. spurned with derision. He viewed, with equal con- The intelligence that the Throne of the Cæsars had tempt, the plain dishes which had been prepared for the been disposed of by public auction, drove the three Imperial table, and gave orders that an entertainment armies to a simultaneous revolt; while the Generals, of great expense and delicacy should forthwith be got more eager, perhaps, to occupy the place of Pertinax ready, as more suitable to his station, his wealth, and than to punish his murderers, resolved, without delay, his refinement. It is added, that he played at dice to conduct their forces into Italy, where alone they while the corpse of his predecessor lay unburied under could effectually redress the grievances of their countrythe same roof; that he issued instructions for the acting men.
Julianus, who had not the slightest apprehension
Spartian. c. 3. Dion Cassius, lib. Ixxii. Ne Sulpiciano aliquid * Dion Cassius, lib. Ixxiii. p. 835, 836. Herodian. lib. ii. p. 486.
Spartianus quotes the following verse, as expressive of the opinions
Optimus est Fuscus (Niger,) bonus Afer, pessincs. Albus.
Bagraphs. Illyricum, confined all his fears to the Syrian Army fore,” he continued, " judged it proper to consult you, Lucius
under the command of Niger. When, indeed, he heard and to have your opinion as to what is most expedient Septimius Fron
Severus. that Severus was about to take the field against him, to be done, on this critical and very important conjuncA. D.
he proceeded to the Senate in the greatest consterna- ture. I shall now be determined by your advice; and 193.
From tion, and demanded that the Proconsul in Pannonia in pursuing the path which you shall point out, our
should be declared a public enemy, and even that every fortunes will be inseparably linked together. If success 211.
Soldier who after a certain day continued to follow his shall crown our efforts, the glory and happiness resultstandard, should be pronounced to have forfeited his ing from the restoration of our country's honour, will 211. life. Meanwhile, at the head of his corrupted and be enjoyed by you not less than by me. faithless Guards, the feeble Emperor had recourse to This address was received by the Soldiers, as well as His want of such means of defence as suggested themselves to his by the inhabitants of Antioch, with the loudest accla- energy unpractised mind; marching the several Cohorts, amid mations. They proceeded to salute the Proconsul proves his
ruin. the execrations and laughter of the People, from the Emperor and Augustus, and to invest him with the Camp to the ground where they were wont to exercise, Purple and such other badges of supreme authority as and from that ground back again to the Camp.
suited the circumstances under which the election had As the competition of the three Generals, already taken place. The new Monarch, attended by a numenamed for the Sceptre of the Roman Empire, involved rous train, went immediately to the principal Temples that Country once more in the horrors of Civil war, we of the City, to return thanks to the Gods; from shall follow the example which is set before us by Ælius these he was conducted, with the same pageantry, to Spartianus, and give a short account of their character, his house, which he found adorned with branches of their history, and the grounds of their respective pre- laurel, Civic crowns, and all the other emblems of Imtensions.
perial dignity which distinguished the habitation of the
few advantages to birth, the eminence to which he rose completely realized. All the Provinces of Asia Minor,
which he is reported to have taken an active part. Instead of entering into a negociation with the powerHis resola
No sooner had Didius purchased the Throne, ful Armies of the West, whose resolution might decide,
than the voice of the Roman People invited Niger or, at least, must balance, the mighty contest; instead revolt
to assume the Imperial Purple, and to revenge the of advancing, without delay, towards Rome, where his death of Pertinax. The wishes of the Legions coin- presence was impatiently expected; he trifled away, in cided with those of the Citizens ; prompting the waver- the luxury of Antioch, those precious moments which ing General to declare his sentiments, and to receive were diligently improved by the active spirit of his from their hands the insignia of his high office, as rival.t In a word, his security was his ruin, and his Master of the East and of the West. Ascending the confidence of success paved the way to a complete and tribunal, accordingly, he reminded his troops that the irretrievable overthrow; but before we describe the Empire had been shamefully exposed to public sale, and more politic conduct of Severus which led to this result, bought by a man who boasted no distinction besides we shall devote a few sentences to the character and that which arises from the possession of gold: that situation of Clodius Albinus, the Governor of Britain. their countrymen in Italy were calling aloud for ven- This distinguished Commander derived his pedigree History and geance, and had even named the person whom they from some of the most illustrious families of the old character or thought the fittest to remove the disgrace which recent Republic. At a very early period of life, he manifested Clodius occurrences had affixed to their character: and that as a strong inclination for the military profession; and Albinus, such an undertaking, on their part, could have no having received an appointment suitable to his rank, he honour were they not solicited to engage in it by those soon merited the esteem of the Emperor Antoninus. He whose interests were most at stake, so it would betray commanded the Legions in Bithynia at the time when an equal want of courage and of patriotism, were they to reject the prayers of the many thousands of Citizens
* Herodian. lib. ii. p. 501. Dion Cassius, lib. Ixxiii. p. 812. who now implored their assisiance. “I have, there- † Spartiau, in Pescenn. Nis. Herodian. lib. ii. p. 518.
Biography. Avidius Crassus revolted against Marcus Aurelius. On was supposed to cherish, and to the liberal maxims Lucius
this important occasion, his fidelity to his Prince was upon which he professed to reinstate the Government. Septimius From
Severus. the means of preventing a great effusion of blood, as Had he been on the spot, and ready to avail himself of
well as of confining the spirit of disaffection to the the opening affections of the People, he might have 193
From particular Province in which it originated. He likewise mounted, with equal ease and safety, the Throne from
distinguished himself in the reign of Commodus, by which Didius must have been compelled to descend. 211.
193. bringing to a successful issue several battles against But his distance from the seat of power, and the delay the Barbarians on the Rhine and on the Danube. Such inseparable from the transportation of a large Army 211. services entitled him to the honours and confidence of from Britain to the Italian shores, and, above all, the the command which he held when Didius Julianus rapid movements and active vigilance of Severus, renusurped the Empire; and his Civil rank, though not so dered his hopes and his advantages altogether illuclearly ascertained, appears not to have been inferior to that which he had earned as a Soldier. Still, it is diffi- Lucius Septimius Severus, whose plans now demand Biographicult to form a just idea of his true character. Under our attention, was a native of Africa, and was descended cal account
of the the Philosophical cloak of austerity and self-denial, from an Equestrian family. Upon coming to Rome in
Emperor which, in his Age, was sometimes assumed to supply the early life, he received the benefit of a liberal education, Severus. place of virtues which no longer existed, he stands and was subsequently raised to the dignity of a Senator accused of concealing most of the vices that degrade by the favour of Marcus Aurelius. His youth, it is Human nature.* But his accusers, it ought to be said, did not escape untainted by the impurities which remembered, are those venal Biographers whose in- disgraced the Capital; and on one occasion, it is terest led them to decorate the fortune of Severus, and added, he was tried for a flagrant crime at the tribunal to trample upon the ashes of an unfortunate rival. of Didius Julianus, whom he afterwards deposed and Temperance, or, at least, the well-studied appearance murilered. Having held the usual offices which qualiof that quality, recommended him to the good opinion fied a candidate for the Consular chair, Severus was of Aurelius; and it does not appear that the Governor intrusted with several military appointments of great of Britain ever served the son of that Emperor, either honour and importance. He served in Africa, in Spain, as the minister of his cruelties, or as the associate of and in Gaul, and, finally, obtained one of the most his dissipation.
desirable commands in the Empire, that, namely, of the Confidence When employed in Britain, he is said to have re- Legions employed in Pannonia, to defend the banks placed in ceived from the latter Prince a confidential communica- of the Danube against the inroads of the barbarous him by
tion, acquainting him with the treasonable designs Tribes who dwelt beyond it. Commodus.
of some discontented Generals, and authorizing him to When the news was conveyed to him that Julianus His deter-
on the with its production which, in the opinion of several com- of Pannonia, because, in the reign of Marcus Aurelius,
Throne. petent Critics, have rendered its authenticity extremely they had often advanced to victory under the guidance questionable. But it is clear, that Albinus declined the of his standard, and had learned, from his personal condangerous honour, which would have marked him for
duct, the most valuable parts of their profession as the jealousy, or involved him in the approaching ruin, of Roman soldiers. Severus lost no time in taking advanhis Imperial Master. He courted power by nobler, or, at tage of this reverence and affection for their murdered least, by more specious arts. On a premature report of Prince. He painted in the most lively colours the the death of the Emperor, he assembled his Troops; horrid criine which had been committed upon the body and, in an eloquent discourse, deplored the numerous of a distinguished General, as well as upon the Majesty evils of despotism, described the happiness and glory of Rome. He unfolded in his speech the intolerable which their ancestors had enjoyed under the Consular insolence of the Prætorian Guards, their want of prinGovernment, and declared his firm resolution to pro- ciple, and their effeminate weakness; he promised to
once more for the Senate and People their his Soldiers a donative exceeding in amount that with wonted and Constitutional authority. This popular which Julianus purchased the Crown, and he concluded harangue was answered by the loud acclamations of the
by exhorting his willing auditors to assume their arms, Army, and received at Rome with a warm sentiment of and vow a complete revenge. gratitude and hope. Safe, both in the possession of a Less powerful motives than those presented by The rapidity Province, which was removed, by its local situation, Severus, would have been found sufficient to animate of his march from any sudden ebullition of caprice on the part of the the Soldiers of Illyricum to engage in an enterprise
into Italy. Sovereign, and, also, in the attachment of a body of men, which promised to gratify at once their anger and their formidable alike for their discipline and their numbers, avarice. Their ardour carried them to salute their Albinus heard unmoved the chidings of Commodus, Chief on the field by the names of Emperor and maintained towards Pertinax a studied reserve, and Augustus, to which he requested them to add the
declared loudly and firmly against the usurpation of the popular appellation of Pertinax, whose assassins they His Revolt contemptible Julianus. The convulsions which, upon had undertaken to punish. That the warmth of their from Didius this latter event, shook the whole of Italy, gave a zeal might not evaporate by delay, he gave immediate Julianus.
renewed consequence to the patriotic feelings which he orders to prepare for the march; and, calling to mind
* Spartian. in Clod. Albin. Dion Cassius, lib. lxxiii. p. 837. Herodian. lib. ii. p. 513; lib. iii. p. 521.,
• Spartian. in Clod. Albin. c. 2. Dion Cassius, lib. lxxv. p. 851.