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Alexander Severus
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Alexander Severus Musei Capitolini MC471.jpg
Bust of Alexander Severus
Reign 222 – 18 / 19 March 235
Full name Marcus Julius Gessius Bassianus Alexianus
(from birth to adoption);
Caesar Marcus Aurelius Alexander (from adoption to accession);
Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander Augustus
(as emperor)
Born October 1, 208(208-10-01)
Birthplace Arca Caesarea, Syria Phoenicia Province (modern Akkar, Lebanon)
Died March 18 or 19 235 (aged 26)
Place of death Moguntiacum, Germania Superior
Predecessor Elagabalus
Successor Maximinus Thrax
Consort to Sallustia Orbiana
Royal House Severan
Father Marcus Julius Gessius Marcianus
Mother Julia Mamaea
Roman imperial dynasties
Severan dynasty
Severan dynasty - tondo.jpg
The Severan Tondo
Chronology
Septimius Severus 193198
-with Caracalla 198209
-with Caracalla and Geta 209211
Caracalla and Geta 211211
Caracalla 211217
Interlude: Macrinus 217218
Elagabalus 218222
Alexander Severus 222235
Dynasty
Severan dynasty family tree
Category:Severan Dynasty
Succession
Preceded by
Year of the Five Emperors
Followed by
Crisis of the Third Century

Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander (October 1, 208–March 18, 235 AD), commonly called Alexander Severus, was the last Roman emperor (11 March 222–235) of the Severan dynasty. Alexander Severus succeeded his cousin, Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222 AD, and was ultimately assassinated himself, marking the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century—nearly fifty years of disorder, Roman civil wars, economic chaos, regional rebellions, and external threats that brought the Empire to near-collapse.

Alexander Severus was the heir apparent to his cousin, the eighteen-year-old Emperor who had been murdered along with his mother by his own guards—and as a mark of contempt, had their remains cast into the Tiber river. He and his cousin were both grandsons of the influential and powerful Julia Maesa, who had arranged for Elagabalus' acclamation as Emperor by the famed Third Gallic Legion.

A rumor of Alexander's death circulated, triggering the assassination of Elagabalus.

Alexander's reign was marked by troubles. In military conflict against the rising Sassanid Empire, there are mixed accounts, though the Sassanid threat was checked. However, when campaigning against Germanic tribes of Germania, Alexander Severus apparently alienated his legions by trying diplomacy and bribery, and they assassinated him.

Contents

Life

Alexander was born with the name Marcus Julius Gessius Bassianus Alexianus. Alexander's father, Marcus Julius Gessius Marcianus was a Syrian Promagistrate. His mother Julia Avita Mamaea was the second daughter of Julia Maesa and Syrian noble Julius Avitus and maternal aunt of Emperor Elagabalus. He had an elder sister called Theoclia and little is known about her. Alexander's maternal great-aunt was empress Julia Domna (also Maesa's younger sister) and his great-uncle in marriage was emperor Lucius Septimius Severus. Emperors Caracalla and Publius Septimius Geta, were his mother's maternal cousins. In 221, Alexander's grandmother, Maesa, persuaded the emperor to adopt his cousin as successor and make him Caesar and Bassianus changed his name to Alexander. In the following year, on March 11, Elagabalus was murdered, and Alexander was proclaimed emperor by the Praetorians and accepted by the Senate.

When Alexander became emperor, he was young, amiable, well-meaning, and entirely under the dominion of his mother. Julia Mamaea was a woman of many virtues, and she surrounded the young emperor with wise counsellors. She watched over the development of her son's character and improved the tone of the administration. On the other hand, she was inordinately jealous. She also alienated the army by extreme parsimony, and neither she nor her son were strong enough to impose military discipline. Mutinies became frequent in all parts of the empire; to one of them the life of the jurist and praetorian praefect Ulpian was sacrificed; another compelled the retirement of Cassius Dio from his command.

On the whole, however, the reign of Alexander was prosperous until the rise, in the east, of the Sassanids. Of the war that followed there are various accounts. (Mommsen leans to that which is least favourable to the Romans). According to Alexander's own dispatch to the senate, he gained great victories. At all events, though the Sassanids were checked for the time, the conduct of the Roman army showed an extraordinary lack of discipline. The emperor returned to Rome and celebrated a triumph in 233.

The following year he was called to face German invaders in Gaul, who had breached the Rhine frontier in several places, destroying forts and over-running the countryside. Alexander mustered his forces, bringing legions from the eastern provinces, and crossed the Rhine into Germany on a pontoon bridge. Initially he attempted to buy the German tribes off, so as to gain time. Whether this was a wise policy or not, it caused the Roman legionaries to look down on their emperor as one who was prepared to commit unsoldierly conduct. Herodian says "in their opinion Alexander showed no honourable intention to pursue the war and preferred a life of ease, when he should have marched out to punish the Germans for their previous insolence". These circumstances drove the army to look for a new leader. They chose Gaius Iulius Verus Maximinus, a Thracian soldier who had worked his way up through the ranks.

Following the nomination of Maximinus as emperor, Alexander was slain (on either March 18 or March 19, 235), together with his mother, in a mutiny of the Legio XXII Primigenia. These assassinations secured the throne for Maximinus.

The death of Alexander is considered as the end of the Principate system established by Augustus. Although the Principate continued in theory until the reign of Diocletian, Alexander Severus' death signalled the beginning of the chaotic period known as the Crisis of the Third Century which weakened the empire considerably.

Legacy

Alexander Severus coin, celebrating Artemis and the Flavian colony of Deultum.

Alexander was the last of the Syrian emperors. Under the influence of his mother, he did much to improve the morals and condition of the people. His advisers were men like the famous jurist Ulpian, the historian Cassius Dio and a select board of sixteen senators; a municipal council of fourteen assisted the urban praefect in administering the affairs of the fourteen districts of Rome. The luxury and extravagance that had formerly been so prevalent at the court were put down; the standard of the coinage was raised; taxes were lightened; literature, art and science were encouraged; the lot of the soldiers was improved; and, for the convenience of the people, loan offices were instituted for lending money at a moderate rate of interest.

In religious matters Alexander preserved an open mind. It is said that he was desirous of erecting a temple to the founder of Christianity, but was dissuaded by the pagan priests.

Marriage

Alexander married Sallustia Orbiana Augusta in 225; however, he divorced and exiled her in 227, after her father Seius Sallustius was executed for attempting to assassinate him (Alexander).

See also

External links

References

Alexander Severus
Born: 1 October 208 Died: 18/19 March 235
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Elagabalus
Roman Emperor
222–235
Succeeded by
Maximinus I (Thrax)
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Database error article)

From LoveToKnow 1911

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