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SEVERUS

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Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 724 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SEVERUS,' LUCIUS SEPTIMIUS (A.D. 146-211), Roman emperor, was born in 146 at Leptis Magna on the coast of Africa. Punic was still the language of this district, and Severus was the first emperor who had learned Latin as a foreign tongue. The origin of his family is obscure. Spartianus, his biographer in the Historia Augusta, doubtless exaggerates his literary culture and his love of learning; but the taste for jurisprudence which he exhibited as emperor was probably instilled into him at an early age. The removal of Severus from Leptis to Rome is attributed by his biographer to the desire for higher education, but was also no doubt due in some degree to ambition. From the emperor Marcus Aurelius he early obtained, by intercession of a consular ancle, the distinction of the broad purple stripe. At twenty-six, that is, almost at the earliest age allowed by law, Severus attained the quaestorship and a seat in the senate, and proceeded as quaestor militaris to the senatorial province of Baetica, in the Peninsula. While Severus was absent in Africa in consequence of the death of his father, the province of Baetica, disordered by Moorish invasions and internal commotion, was taken over by the emperor, who gave the senate Sardinia in exchange. On this Severus became military quaestor of Sardinia. His next office, in 174 or 175, was that of legate to the proconsul of Africa, and soon after he was tribune of the plebs. This magistracy, though far different from what it had been in the days of the republic, was still one of dignity, and brought promotion to a higher grade in the senate. In 178 or 179 Severus became praetor by competition for the suffrages of the senators. Then, probably in the same year, he went to Hispania Citerior as legatus juridicus; after that he commanded a legion in Syria. After the death of Marcus Aurelius he was unemployed for several years, and, according to his biographer, studied at Athens. He became consul about 189. In this time also falls the marriage with his second wife, afterwards famous as Julia Domna, whose acquaintance he had no doubt made when an officer in Syria. Severus was governor in succession of Gallia Lugdunensis, Sicily and Pannonia Superior; but the dates -at which he held these appointments cannot be determined. He was in command of three legions at Carnuntum, the capital of the province last named, when news reached him that Commodus had been murdered by his favourite concubine and his most trusted servants. Up to this moment Severus had not raised himself above the usual official level. He had seen no warfare beyond the petty border frays of frontier provinces. But the storm that now tried all official spirits found his alone powerful enough to brave it. Three imperial dynasties had been ended by assassination. The Flavian line had enjoyed much shorter duration and less prestige than the other two, and the circumstances of its fall had been peculiar in that it was probably planned in the interest of the senate, and the senate reaped the immediate fruits. But the crises which arose on the deaths of Nero and of Commodus were alike. In both cases it was left to the army to determine by a struggle which of the divisional commanders should succeed to the command-in-chief, that is, to the imperial throne. In ' For Marcus Aurelius Alexander Severus, Roman emperor from
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SULPICIUS SEVERUS (c. 363–c. 425)

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