2 The Severan Dynasty

Interrupted dynasty – between Caracalla and Elagabalus, there are non-Severans.


DYNASTIC PLANNING


  • Plans
    • Geta 209-11
    • Caracalla 198-217
    • Both share power with their father Septimius before his death
      • In 198 Septimius makes Caracalla co-Augustus
      • Geta is made Caesar at the same time
        • Intended as the spare – younger of the two, exceeded to honours later than his brother
      • Intention for them to share power
      • Both consuls in 205 and 208
      • Geta gets honours equivalent to his brother (co-Augustus)
    • Septimius leaves Empire for joint rule between sons – why?
      • Stability? 
      • Literary sources suggest Septimius was concerned about the behaviour of Caracalla
        • Herodian 3.10.3-4
          • Memory of early contention between two children
          • Later disagreements being read back into their childhood?
  • Practise
    • Brothers did not get on initially - public unity, private enmity
      • Each established independent admin apparatus
    • Dec 25 211 – Caracalla murders Geta
      • Justified by Caracalla as self defence
        • Herodian 4.4.3-6
        • Herodian 4.5.5-6
          • Common practice to include speeches that gave a sense of the sort of thing that would have been appropriate for that character to say in the situation
          • No idea what was actually said
          • Herodian imagining what Caracalla might have said to justify the act
      • Caracalla gets the Praetorian guard on board first – giving a large military bonus
        • Dio 78.3.2 – remembers the actions by which Caracalla went about solidifying his rule
        • Caracalla’s ability to rule is based on getting the military and Praetorians onside 
        • N.B. Septimius Severus’ dying words to his sons – Dio 77.15.2
      • Goes to senate next day
        • Chronology interesting – military first, then ratify with senate
      • Massacre of Geta’s supporters – 20,000? Other claimants 
      • Damnatio memoriae
        • Draws focus to the erased section
        • Deliberate attempt at publicly erasing someone’s identity as a warning


CARACALLA’S REIGN


  • Constitutio Antoniniana
    • Most famous act (of 3rd century) – edict of universal citizenship
    • 212 AD
    • Ulpian – all those who are in the Roman world have been made Roman citizens as a result of the constitution of the emperor Antoninus 
    • Edict exists in fragmentary form 
    • Extraordinary thing for an empire to do 
      • Already unusual for sharing citizenship – not normally what empires do
      • Rome shared citizenship with local elites 
      • Giving citizenship to everybody in the empire was utterly unprecedented
      • Negates the point of having an empire?
      • Empire – rulers and rule, hierarchical relationship
      • If everybody in territory is made a citizen, then nobody is being rule
      • For such a surprising act, it seems to have elicited little surprise in antiquity – sources fairly quiet about it 
    • So why did he do it?
      • Personal recognition – when a roman slave was freed, he took the nomen of his master as his own name – extreme way of establishing a tie between self and large number of people in the empire
      • Financial reasons – increase number of people who need to pay taxes 
        • This is the view of Dio 77.9
        • Seems unlikely though – many different ways of raising income, and could create new taxes when needed, or extract money from provinces 
      • Conspiracy? Establishes a link between sacrificial thanksgiving and the gift of universal citizenship 
      • National identity – victory of the Roman people?
        • Everybody bought into an act of thanksgiving as a way to join people together 
        • Uniting people as a response to the increasing fragmentation of the empire in the late 2nd century
    • Related question – how significant was this?
      • How many people did it actually affect? 
      • Need to know how many people in the empire, and how many are already citizens
        • Incredibly difficult task to do 
      • Is the reason that Dio and Ulpian don’t comment on this that it wasn’t that much of a deal because most people were already citizens?
  • Tyrant?
    • Viewed as a bad emperor in the list of ‘good/bad emperors’
    • Executions?
      • Geta’s supporters – 20,000 
      • 215 AD mass slaughter of citizens in Alexandria
    • Financial mismanagement
      • Dio 78.9.2-7
      • Dio slips into the first person – ‘we’ 
      • Reference to Dio’s own senatorial class 
      • Financial mismanagement was a concern of those particularly hit by it – i.e. the senators and provincial elites 
      • Probably doesn’t reflect the concerns of the masses in the empire
    • Poor foreign policy especially with Parthia
      • Septimius had exploited weak Parthia with unnecessary wars – 194/5 and 197/9
      • Caracalla made things worse – from 213, prepped eastern campaign
        • The ‘red wedding’
      • Parthian frontier had been relatively stable by mutual agreement on the Euphrates from the time of Augustus 
      • Trajan had pushed boundary but given back by Hadrian 
      • By gaining territory, they raise the question of where the border should be
      • All fine when Parthia is weak, but stirs trouble when Parthia becomes more powerful
      • Eastern power suddenly becomes a force to be reckoned with and pushes back
        • Would they have pushed back if Rome did not interfere with border with cheap and easy victories?

DYNASTY INTERRUPTED


  • Death of Caracalla
    • Only emperor to die with his trousers down
    • While on a trip (pilgrimage) in the east, assassinated
    • Done by Martialis – minor soldier
      • Stooge of Macrinus
    • Sort of death the exact thing authors would have wanted to portray for Caracalla
    • KIV parallels with Caligula’s assassination
  • Interlopers
    • First period of usurpation
    • Brief reign of Macrinus 217-218 and his son Diadumenianus 218
    • Macrinus
      • North African equestrian – not an important individual
      • First non-senator to be emperor
      • Career as advocate and legal consultant
    • After death of Caracalla, Macrinus respons cautiously
      • 3 day period without an emperor Dio 79.11
      • 4 days after death (Severus’ birthday) assembles troops
      • Writes to senators - slow to respond? Eventually declared emperor
    • Troops unhappy by assassination
      • He takes Severus’ name
      • Distances himself from assassination
  • Policy
    • Reinforce centralising tendencies
      • Court bureaucracy
    • Trouble with Parthia – new kids in town
      • Artabnus uses instability as excuse to advance
      • 217 battle at Nisibis – Romans defeated
      • Crippling peace settlement to Roman empire – agrees to pay 200 million sesterces
      • 1/8 of annual budget of empire
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