Severan dynasty

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The Severan Tondo, showing Septimius Severus and his sons

The Severan dynasty was a Roman imperial dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 193 and 235. The dynasty was founded by the Roman general Septimius Severus, who rose to power during the civil war of 193, known as the Year of the Five Emperors.

Although Septimius Severus successfully restored peace following the upheaval of the late 2nd century, the dynasty was disturbed by unstable family relationships, and constant political turmoil. It foreshadowed the coming Crisis of the Third Century. It was the last lineage of the Principate founded by Augustus.

Sequence[change | change source]

Dates represent status of Augustus.

  • Septimius Severus (193–211)
  • Caracalla (198–217): eldest son. Cruel and treacherous; murdered his brother. It is said that 20,000 people were killed or proscribed (declared 'enemies of the state') by him.
  • Geta (209–211) younger son; junior co-emperor on his father's death. He was murdered by Caracalla.
  • Macrinus (217–218): Not a relative; he was the Praetorian Prefect who assassinated Caracalla.
  • Elagabalus (Varius Avitus Bassianus, 218–222): a relative, and a teenager (b. ~203/205), rumoured to be transgender and bisexual. Murdered by the Praetorian Guard.
  • Alexander Severus (222–235): cousin of Elagabalus; also a teenager. The best of the later Severids, ruled well with the help of his able mother. Mismanaged a war against Germans invading Gaul, and was overthrown by the soldiers.

The end of the Severids marked the start of the Crisis of the Third Century.