Monday, 22 February 2010

Grooming the Entire Family....

Severus did not stop after announcing himself to be the son of Marcus Aurelius and renaming his son Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. He continued to promote himself and the entire Imperial house as a continuation of the Antonine Dynasty. The adoption played an extremely important part in Severus' propaganda campaign following Albinus' defeat in 198AD and today I will avoid attempting to understand why and instead look solely at how Severus promoted this new idea through his family.

Severus himself did not stop at declaring himself "DIVI M(arcus) PII F(ilii)" he continued to adjust his life to appear more "Antonine". Severus' propaganda machine spread the tale of a dream in which:

"When he was about to marry Julia, Faustina, the wife of Marcus, prepared their nuptial chamber in the temple of Venus near the palace" (Dio 75.3.1)

This is not only significant as Faustina appears to behave as if she has accepted the couple into her family by preparing their nuptial chamber but also due to the temple in which she sets it up. The temple of Venus on the Palatine was particularly significant to Marcus Aurelius and Faustina as silver cult statues were erected in their honor inside (Dio 72.31.1). Therefore by arranging the nuptial chamber inside Faustina was clearly emphasising the family bond.

The dream however could not however serve on its own so Severus promotes other qualities associated with his Aurelian predecessors. In 198AD, following the war with Albinus, Severus embarked on a second Parthian campaign. Many deemed this unnecessary and merely Severus thirsting for glory but he received the title "PARTHICUS MAXIMUS" for his exploits. It appears on his coinage alongside IMP XI from 198AD.

Septimius Severus Denarius. 199 AD. L SEPT SEV AVG IMP XI PART MAX, laureate head right / AEQVITATI AVGG, Aequitas standing left, holding scales & cornucopiae. RIC 122c, RSC 21.

The significance of this is that Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus also received the honour of being Parthicus Maximus for their Parthian campaign in 165-166AD. This was Severus' crown and glory and meant that he could drop the title Pertinax, for he had served his purpose and the impetus was on presenting a direct line from Marcus to Severus. Severus emphasised the link by going on to drop many of his titles to become purely "SEVERUS AVG PART MAX" from 200AD. This clearly showed that Severus was emulating his great "ancestors" actions and was truly a member for the gens Aurelia.

Finally Severus settled upon the title "SEVERUS PIVS AVG" on the obverse of his coinage. A name that not only nominally remind the viewer of the great "ANTONINVS PIVS", Severus' adoptive grandfather, but clearly set Septimius as a man suited to the humble line of "good emperors"

I will continue with the treatment of Julia Domna and Severus' two sons Geta and Caracalla tomorrow.


  1. I've always loved the tondo at the start of your post. The image of Geta (beneath that of Domna on the lower left) has been erased in an act of Damnatio by his elder brother Caracalla after he arranged hi murder after the death of Severus.



  2. I love the tondo it's amazing that it has survived.

    In fact it was in first year during a lecture on the Severan building programme that I first saw it and from that I got the Severan bug.

  3. This is really something new to me. I am not a fond of history but this post is worth reading. Thanks for posting it..