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Classical Studies
CLST 201

Anarchy and Recovery • In general 3 century was very difficult, confusing period: very few reliable sources • Two main phases: from Commodus (180) to end of the Severi (235), and then 235 to Diocletian (285) • Rome still centre of Empire but power shifting to provincial borders: almost all emperors from the provinces • Means more regionalism, disunity – everyone out for themselves • Period right after Commodus’ death similar to after Nero’s death = Chaos o P. Helvius Pertinax (senator from Africa) took over with Praetorian’s help, but was murdered after 3 months (didn’t pay them promised bonus) o Praetorians offered throne to highest bidder – rich senator M. Didius Julianus won o But Syrian governor (P. Niger) proclaimed; Army in Britain proclaimed C. Albinus; Danubian army proclaimed Septimius Severus  CIVIL WAR o After months of civil war, Septimius Severus seized the throne  Julianus murderd, Niger and Albanius killed fighting Severus • New dynasty: The Severi (193-235) • S. Severus (193-211) o From Leptis Magna, Africa o Well educated, rose to become governor o Called “Punic Sulla” – due to reforms he put in similar to Sulla o Disbanded Praetorian Guard, but brings in 15,000 of his own troops to serve o Relations with senate – no respect o New era: military dictatorship – army basis of his authority  Cassius Dio: Severus’ dying words “Enrich the army and despise the rest” o Many reforms – changed character of Principate (now known as Dominate)  Senate much less important, role gradually reduced  Emperor relying mainly on his Imperial council  New treasury (res private principis) – from property seized from enemies – so much that he could give army a pay raise  More provincials in official posts, especially Easterners  Praetorian Prefect, commander of army in Italy, heads emperor’s council – so takes charge when emperor is away  Imperial Council like a supreme court, headed by Praetorian Prefect o Citizens now in 2 classes: Honestiores (senators, equestrians, magistrates, soldiers), and Humiliores (lower class) o Emperor only real source of laws – senate can only agree o Finances good – emperor has firm control, new treasury, smart handling money o Great building program, especially in Africa o Improved army: better pay, allowed marriages between army and native women, more legions formed for the border wars o Main point: senatorial career now not important, army is the way to the top – leads to later ‘soldier emperors’ o Severus died on campaign in Britain, had two sons to succeed • Caracalla (211-217) and brother Septimus Geta (211-212) o Took power together o They hated each other – so much so that Caracalla had Geta killed o Caracalla tried to erase his memory, portraits erased and statues of him beheaded o Caracalla’s reign: military dictatorship, all opposition was murdered o War of aggression in East, very costly  Had to increase taxes, coinage debased (reduced value) to fund war  Inflation caused, almost a complete economic collapse o In 212, Roman citizenship granted to all! Empire all equal and all could now pay inheritance taxes o Busy fighting border wars from 213 until death in 217 (murdered) o Plot against Caracalla was led by Praetorian Prefect • M. Opellius Macrinus (PP) now emperor (217-218) o Equestrian, first emperor not to have been a senator first o Eventually murdered when proper heir to the throne appeared o This emperor: Caracalla’s aunt’s grandson: Elagabalus o Maesa claimed he was the son of Caracalla, he w
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