THE AFRICAN EMPEROR
Septimius Severus, the African Emperor, was descended from Phoeniciansettlers in Tripolitania, and his reign, AD 193–211, represents a turning pointin Roman history. Anthony R.Birley’s biography explores how ‘Roman’ orotherwise this man was and examines his remarkable background andcareer.In the first part of the biography, Anthony R.Birley explores what was African and what was Roman in Septimius’ background, given that he camefrom an African city, Lepcis Magna, which prospered under Romandomination. In the second part of the book, Septimius’ career as a Romansenator in the age of the Antonines is studied, including his second marriageto the Syrian Julia Domna, then the conspiracy to overthrow the derangedemperor Commodus and the dramatic civil wars of 193–7 which concluded with Septimius as victor. In the final part of the book Anthony R.Birley examines Septimius’ reign, most of which was spent in the provinces.Septimius greatly extended the eastern frontiers and returned in triumph tohis native Africa in 202–3. He died at York after a three-year campaignaimed at reconquering the whole of Scotland.In this well-illustrated and stimulating biography, Anthony R.Birley looks atthe multi-faceted and sometimes conflicting character of this strange andenigmatic emperor. He asks whether Septimius was a ‘typical cosmopolitanbureaucrat’, a ‘new Hannibal on the throne of the Caesars’ or the ‘principalauthor of the decline of the Roman empire’.
is Professor of Ancient History at Heinrich HeineUniversity, Düsseldorf. He previously held a similar post at ManchesterUniversity. His other books include three on Roman Britain as well asbiographies of Marcus Aurelius and Hadrian.