• In general 3rd c very difficult, confusing period: reliiable sources very few
• Two main phases: from Commodus (180) to end of the Severi (235), and then 235 to
• Rome still centre of Empire but power shifting to provincial borders: almost all emperors
• Means more regionalism, disunity all out for themselves
• Period immediately after Commodus' death like that after Nero's death: Chaos!
P. Helvius Pertinax (old senator from Africa took over with praetorians' help, but
murdered after 3 months (didn't pay them promised bonus)
• Praetorians offered throne to highest bidder! Very rich senator, M. Didius Julianus, won!
• Syrian governor (P. Niger) proclaimed. Army in Britain proclaimed C. Albinus; Danubian
army proclaimed Septimius Severus
• After several months of civil war, Septimius Severus seized throne
• Julianus murdered; Niger, Albinus killed later fighting Severus
• New dynasty the Severi (193235)
o S. Severus (193211) from Leptis Magna
Well educated, rose to become governor
• 'Punic Sulla'
• Disabled Praetorian Guard
• Put in 15,000 of own troops
Relations with senate no respect, couldn't care less!
New era: military dictatorship army basis of his authority
Cassius Dio: Severus's dying words "Enrich the army and
despise the rest"
Many reforms: changed character of Principate: from now on,
Senate much less important, role gradually reduced
Emperor relying mainly on his Imperial council
New treasury (res privata principis): from property seized from
enemies so huge that allowed pay increase for army
Imperial countil like supreme court, headed by Praetorian Prefect
Citizens now in two classes: honestiores (senators, qustrians,
magistrates, soldiers) and humiliores (lower classs, plebs, farmers).
Punishmnt different for different classes for same crime
Emperor was only real source of laws senate can only agree
Finances were good emperor had firm control
Great building program, especially in Africa where Severus
Improved army: better pay, allowed marriages between army and
native women, more legions...
Main point: senatorial career now not important, army is way to
the top1 like later 'soldier emperors'
Severus died on campaign in Britain, so…
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (*Caracalla, 211217) Septimius Geta, 211212 (died by Caracalla)
• Caracalla's reign:
Military dictatorship, all opposition quashed
Taxes increased, coinage debased
In 212 Roman citizenship granted to all: Empire all equal and all
could now pay inheritance taxes!
Busy fighting border wars from 213 until death in 217
M Opellius Macrinus now Emperor