The Antonines and the Severans
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The Antonines and the Severans

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Introductory lecture from the Later Roman Empire module at the University of Liverpool.

Introductory lecture from the Later Roman Empire module at the University of Liverpool.

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  • 1. CLAH266: The Later Roman Empire 28 th September 2012 Dr Jamie Wood
  • 2.  To introduce you to the structure, administration and assessment of the module To introduce you to the main figures and events from the Antonine and Severan dynasties To pick out some key historical themes of this period To raise some questions about the nature of these dynasties To set the scene for the lecture next Friday – the 3rd Century Crisis – putting it in its broader historical context
  • 3.  Administration Themes The Antonines The Severans Summary
  • 4.  Assessment  Essay: 2000 words, 60% of module mark (see handbook, pp. 3-4 for questions and advice)  Exam: 1 gobbet question + one essay question (see handbook, p. 4) Syllabus  Chronological lectures  Thematic lectures  Seminars  (Short-ish) readings will be assigned each week for the following week Bibliography  Primary sources (collections and specific sources, incl. online resources): handbook, pp. 6-8  Secondary sources (textbooks and thematic sections): handbook, pp. 9-18  Note the advice at top of p. 6 and end of p. 18 on how to find resources
  • 5.  Source issues  Lack of ‘reliable’ extended narratives of these reigns  Sources we do have are often problematic (e.g. Historia Augusta; Cassius Dio) Succession = key  Adoption; family ties; co-emperorship used to give best possible chance for secure succession Military = key  Military success key to an emperor’s prestige  Towards the end of period: imp. to have the army on side Elite = key  Need to keep the elite on side; build alliances/ consensus  Towards the end of period: move to sideline Senate Provinces = key
  • 6.  If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honour of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom. (Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1.3.2)
  • 7.  Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius (19 September 86 – 7 March 161) Ruled 138 to 161 From Nemausus (modern Nîmes), southern Gaul – provincial emperor (cf. Hadrian and Trajan from southern Spain) Adopted son of Hadrian Called Pius: possibly because he forced the Senate to deify Hadrian (note: Hadrian’s somewhat strained relations with Senate) "Portrait of the emperor Antoninus Largely governed in continuity with policies Pius [Roman] (33.11.3)". In of Hadrian Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ works-of-art/33.11.3 (October 2006)
  • 8.  Law:  Leniency and humanity in interpreting the law, like Hadrian  E.g. in use of torture  Also repealed some of Hadrian’s harsh laws against Jews  Further development of distinction between upper classes (honestiores) and the rest (humiliores):  E.g. ‘Whoever steals gold or silver from the imperial mines is punished, according to an edict of the Divine Pius, with exile or the mines, depending on his personal status.’ (Digest 48.13.8)  Enforcing rights of property owners  E.g. ‘the power of masters over slaves must remain intact and no man must have his right diminished’ (Digest 1.6.2)  = a social conservative?
  • 9.  Military:  Minimal expansion: e.g. into southern Scotland in 140s  Campaigns conducted by legates rather than emperor in person  Reinforcement of the German limes (frontier) Provinces:  Communications improved  Public works continued  Particular attention to repair and maintenance (continuity) Economy:  Effective/ frugal financial management  Left the treasury with a massive surplus BUT  Last emperor to reside permanently in Rome  Clear move away from cosmopolitanism of Hadrian’s reign
  • 10. • Built by AP to honour his deified wife Faustina (d. 141 ) • After AP died in 161 the temple was rededicated to them both • Now the church of San Lorenzo in MirandaDedicatory inscription:DIVO ANTONINO ET / DIVAE FAUSTINAEEX S(enatus) C(onsulto)To the deified Antoninus and the deifiedFaustina, by decree of the Senate.(ILS 348 = CIL 6.1005)
  • 11. • Stone and turf fortification acrosscentral Scotland• Began in 142 at the order of AP• Possible reasons: Caledonianpressure to north/ military opinion/demonstrate AP’s military credentials• 39 miles (63 km) long; ten feet (3 m)high and fifteen feet (5 m) wide, deepditch on north side• abandoned after only 20 years, andtroops relocated to Hadrians Wall• in 208 Emperor Septimius Severusre-established legions at the wall andordered refortification; abandonedpermanently a few years later
  • 12. Kinneil Seabegs WoodWest of Rough Castle
  • 13.  Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (26 April 121 – 17 March 180) Ruled 161 to 180 Born in Rome, but family origins in southern Spain (cf. provincial origins of previous emperors) Married to Antoninus’s daughter  From 161-169 ruled alongside Lucius Verus, his adoptive brother  MA retained title of Pontifex Maximus but all other offices shared
  • 14.  Verus waged a successful war against Parthia andColumn of Marcus Aurelius captured the capital, Ctesiphon, in 166; but…  Plague brought back by army causes famine  Troops moved east weaken northern frontier  167: mass break through of Danube frontier by Germanic tribes
  • 15.  Marcomannic Wars (167–175 and 177-180) Incessant warfare with the Germanic tribes (Marcommani and Quadi) along Upper Danube frontier  170: massive Roman invasion ends with barbarian counter-invasion of north Italy and breaching of lower Danube frontier; some raiders reach as far as Greece  172: Roman dominated peace treaty, coins proclaim ‘the subjection of Germany’ (GERMANIA SUBACTA)  175: rebellion of governor of Syria leads to peace treaty  177: Quadi and Marcommani again rebel  178-180: series of decisive Roman victories; MA dies in March 180 in camp at Vindobona (modern Vienna)
  • 16.  Victory becomes dominant in official art and coinage Conquests commemorated by triumphal arches and monumental columns in Rome Constant campaigns are a drain on imperial revenues Arch of Constantine – reused reliefs from Arch of Marcus Aurelius: the presentation of a captured enemy chieftain to the emperor; enemy prisoners being led to the emperor A by-product of success? • Effective management of previous emperors makes Rome an attractive target; means it has resources to fight • The result of earlier expansion north of Danube- Dacian conquest OR: The result of short-term Roman weakness: plague etc.?
  • 17.  Wrote his Meditations (original title: ‘To Myself’) in Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement while on campaign Drew heavily on Stoic philosophy and spirituality, especially the Stoic emphasis on duty MA described as a ‘philosopher emperor’  Legal rulings reflect his leniency and humanity (continuing H and AP)  Admired by legal professionals for his skill in the law BUT – worldview essentially conservative:  In law he reinforced class distinctions (continuing AP)  Leniency/ humanity traditional attributes of a good ruler in Graeco-Roman tradition = conservative
  • 18.  Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus (31 August 161-31 December 192) Ruled 180 to 192 Co-emperor with his father from 177-180 Acceded automatically on death of his father, inheriting his administration Things looking good…
  • 19. Or maybe not… Soon abandoned campaigns on Danube frontier , withdrew Roman forces from Germania and returned to Rome - no secure settlement on the frontier Orderly transition from his father’s regime quickly overturned Historia Augusta, 3.1-3: His fathers older attendants he dismissed, and any friends that were advanced in years he cast aside. The son of Salvius Julianus, the commander of the troops, he tried to lead into debauchery, but in vain, and he thereupon plotted against Julianus. He degraded the most honourable either by insulting them directly or giving them offices far below their deserts.
  • 20.  2.6-7: The more honourable of those appointed to supervise his life he could not endure, but the most evil he retained, and, if any were dismissed, he yearned for them even to the point of falling sick. When they were reinstated through his fathers indulgence, he always maintained eating-houses and low resorts for them in the imperial palace. He never showed regard for either decency or expense.
  • 21.  “from a kingdom of gold to one of rust and iron” (Cassius Dio 72.36.4) Alienated Senate and own family Governed by means of favourites – power concentrates in their hands Taxed the senatorial order Identified himself with the semi- divine hero Hercules (tradition among the Antonines but C takes it further) Took part in gladiatorial games, partly to imitate Hercules Bust of Commodus as Hercules, Capitoline Museum, Rome
  • 22.  Historia Augusta  11.10-12: He engaged in gladiatorial combats, and accepted the names usually given to gladiators with as much pleasure as if he had been granted triumphal decorations. He regularly took part in the spectacles, and as often as he did so, ordered the fact to be inscribed in the public records. It is said that he engaged in gladiatorial bouts seven hundred and thirty-five times.  15.3: At gladiatorial shows he would come to watch and stay to fight, covering his bare shoulders with a purple cloth. Cassius Dio, Roman History  73.7.2: […] he used to contend as a gladiator; in doing this at home he managed to kill a man now and then, and in making close passes with others, as if trying to clip off a bit of their hair, he sliced off the noses of some, the ears of others, and sundry features of still others; but in public he refrained from using steel and shedding human blood.
  • 23.  But he was popular with army and people (who don’t write our sources…)  Raised soldiers’ pay; paid donatives to army and distributed funds to people; funded games Relatively peaceful reign, but internal troubles  Devaluation of currency on accession; treasury empty after wars; paying troops and for games is costly  Governs indirectly, e.g. through favourites  Conspiracies throughout reign; e.g. in 182 orchestrated by sister, Lucilla, then praetorian prefects  Rebellions in the provinces, e.g. Britain in 184 – legions refuse to advance into Scotland  Assassinated in 192
  • 24.  Antonine period overall characterised by continuity and conservatism Rulers concerned to establish secure succession Contingent factors can destabilise things rapidly; e.g. invasion/ plague/ war depleting the treasury/ conspiracies Do successes of earlier emperors – e.g. expansion under Trajan – create problems for later ones?  Dealing with systemic and short-term problems pushes military to the fore  Emperors project their military effectiveness symbolically  Soldiers’ pay again becomes a big issue  Emperors who can reward the soldiers do well => emperors raised from the army or provinces with many army units; e.g. Septimius Severus from Pannonia (= Danube frontier)
  • 25.  According to the Historia Augusta,  Why was Clodius Albinus popular?  Why was Severus unpopular? How do the author(s) of the Historia Augusta use other sources in their account of Clodius Albinus? What does this extract tell us about the role of  the Roman Senate in the late second century?  the Roman Emperor in the late second century?  the military in the late second century? You have 15 minutes to work on these questions in small groups
  • 26. • Septimius Severus: 193-211• Caracalla (born Bassianus andrenamed Marcus Aurelius Antoninus):211-217• Macrinus: 217-218• Elagabalus (Varius Avitus Bassianus):218-222• Severus Alexander: 222-235 (nextweek)
  • 27. Instability after theassassination ofCommodusPublius Helvius Pertinax,assassinated 28 March 193Marcus Didius JulianusGains city of Rome afterPertinax’s death Septimiusmarches on Rome in early Junewith support of the PraetorianGuardGaius Pescennius NigerProclaimed emperor in Syria;Uses Byzantium as his base;Killed while fleeing Antioch inLate 193 or January of 194
  • 28. After 5 yearsof civil warin East andWestSeptimiusSeverusbecomesundisputedemperor
  • 29. Septimius Severus(193-211)
  • 30. Who was Septimius Severus?• Reign reflects the broadened political franchise and economic development of the Roman empire in late 2nd C• Born 145, a member of a leading native family of Leptis Magna in North Africa (also known as Leptis Magna and Neapolis; now Al Khums, Libya)• 187: allies himself with a prominent Syrian family by marriage to Julia Domna• 191: given command of legions in Pannonia by Commodus
  • 31. What did he do?• Cultivated army: soldiers’ pay increased by half; allowed to marry while in service; greater promotion opportunities into officer ranks and civil service.• Supported equestrians: equestrian officers replace senators in key administrative positions.• Developed imperial administration throughout empire : abolished standing juries of Republican times, consolidating power of imperial bureaucracy.
  • 32. Severusin theEastTriumphal arch of Septimius Severus, Roman Forum, commemorating victoriesagainst Parthia and its allies in 197-198; reasons for activity in East:+ Syrian legions had supported Pescennius Niger+ shores up his position in the East (both on frontier and in provinces)+ it’s what all great Roman generals do!
  • 33. Arch of Septimius Severus, details Fight near NisibisSurrender ofAbgar VIIISeverus captures Ctesiphon Severus captures Seleucia
  • 34. In ca. 196 CE, Septimius began a reconstruction of Lepcis that was not completed until 216, five years after his death. Theatre at Lepcis Magna, LibyaSeverus inAfrica
  • 35. Satellite image of Lepcis Magna
  • 36. Plan of Lepcis Magna;harbours, forum, palaestra,baths, Severan Arch, theatre,market, decumanusSeverus renovated andembellished numerousmonuments; built agrandiose new temple-forum-basilica complexon an unparalleled scale;the city is re-invented asthe birthplace of anemperor.
  • 37. Palace of Septimius Severus (Domus Severiana) onthe Palatine Hill, Rome
  • 38. SEVERUS AND ROMAN LAW• Severus consolidated emperors position as ultimate appeals judge• Severus brought jurists to greater prominence: • During 2nd C, a career path for legal experts was established • Emperor came to rely heavily on consilium, an advisory panel of experienced jurists• Severus’ reign ushered in the golden age of Roman jurisprudence; his court employed 3 of the greatest Roman lawyers: Papinian, Paul and Ulpian.
  • 39. Julia Domna, wife of Septimius Severus.Early third century A.D. Aureus of Septimius Severus, with portrait of Julia Domna, ca. 193–96 AD
  • 40. Three Coins from Thrace:Continuity in the Severan DynastySeptimius Severus (193-211 A.D.)Geta (198-211 A.D.)Caracalla (198-217 A.D.)
  • 41. On February 4, A.D. 211, Septimus Severus died at York.Geta, son of His sons, CaracallaSeptimius and Geta, were meantSeverus, inthe guise of to share power, butApollo Caracalla murderedRomanmarble his brother and seizedstatue, ca. the throne209-212 CE,from Albano /Albanum
  • 42. A Happy family?Roman tondo, 200CE: portraits of theEmperor SeptimiusSeverus and hisfamily. Geta’s facehas been obliteratedfrom the painting.After his death heseems to have beenthe target ofdamnatio memoriae.
  • 43. Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus): 211-217 • removed all distinctions between Italians and provincials by enacting Constitutio Antoniniana in 212 CE • extended Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the empire • huge impact legally/ in terms of people’s rights • built the Baths of Caracalla in Rome; design served as an modelCaracalla for later public buildings. • assassinated in 217 A.D. by(211-217) Macrinus (praetorian prefect), the first non-senatorial emperor
  • 44. Aerial view of the Baths of Caracalla,begun in 212 AD
  • 45. Varius Avitus Bassianus (Elagabalus): 218-222
  • 46.  Cousin of Caracalla His grandmother, Julia Maesa, instigated a revolt among the Third Legion to have E, in his early teens, replace Macrinus Coin from Sidon, with Julia Maesa and Astarte – chief goddess of Relationship to Caracalla various E. Mediterranean peoples stressed in order to throughout antiquity legitimise rule  Family/ continuity important again
  • 47.  Devalued currency  Decreased silver purity of the denarius from 58% to 46.5%  Took coins (e.g. Antoninianus) out of circulation Raised mother and grandmother to senate  Julia Soaemias: clarissima  Julia Maesa: mater castrorum et Senatus ("Mother of the army camp and of the Senate") Sex scandals  Married and divorced 5 times  Homosexual relationships; including with chariot driver Hierocles  Transgender/ trans-sexual?
  • 48.  Family held hereditary rights to the priesthood of the Syrian sun god Elagabal; role as oriental priest problematic; image is hung over statue of Victoria in the senate; Elagabal raised to main god of Roman pantheon as Sol Invictus; temple built on Palatine Hill to house Elagabal; sacred relics transferred to this Elagabalium (no other god could be worshipped except in company with Elagabal)  Provincial origins/ connections important in being made emperor, but potentially alienating of Roman traditionalists
  • 49.  Key themes: 1. The succession ; stress on family and continuity– vitally important 2. The provinces – emperors come from provinces (provinces make emperors/ intervene in the centre/ receive benefits – a reciprocal relationship) 3. The army – paying troops and being successful militarily 4. The emperor – must live up to traditional expectations  But also see shift in iconography of the emperors, from Antonine ‘beardy Greek philosophers’ to Severan ‘crew-cut Roman soldiers’ (even though they are all military leaders and builders)
  • 50.  The period points out some of the strengths and weaknesses of the imperial system  If (1) succession is clear; (2) there are no accidents (internal or external); and (3) the emperor is ‘good’ [= an effective manager of the system, successful militarily, able to pay the troops] then business can be continued as usual  If any of these conditions do not apply then things get tricky
  • 51. 1. Read the following article  BLOIS, L. DE (2002), “The Crisis of the Third Century A.D. in the Roman Empire: A Modern Myth?” in L. de Blois and J. Rich, eds., The Transformation of Economic Life under the Roman Empire (Leiden: Brill), pp. 204-217.  Available here: http://www.phil-fak.uni- duesseldorf.de/fileadmin/Redaktion/Institute/Historis ches_Seminar/Dateien/Blois__The_crisis_of_the_third_ century.pdf2. Pick out 3 key points that you think the author is making, write them down and bring them to class ready for discussion