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Herodian's Roman History


Marcus Aurelius. Equestrian statue on the Capitol, Rome. Photo Marco Prins.
Herodian (late second, first half third century): Greek historian, author of a History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius (table of contents) in which he describes the reign of Commodus (180-192), the Year of the Five Emperors (193), the age of the Severan dynasty (211-235), and the Year of the Six Emperors (238).

The translation was made by Edward C. Echols (Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire, 1961 Berkeley and Los Angeles) and was put online for the first time by Roger Pearse (Tertullian.Org). The version offered on these pages is hyperlinked and contains notes by Jona Lendering.
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Bust of Septimius Severus. Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki (Greece). Photo Marco Prins.
Bust of Septimius Severus (Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki)

2.14: Severus prepares for war against Niger

[9 June 193] Then Severus entered Rome with all the rest of his army under arms: his presence in the city brought fear and panic to the Romans because of his achievements, so daring and favored by fortune. The people and the Senate, carrying laurel branches, received him, the foremost of men and emperors, who had accomplished great deeds without bloodshed or difficulty.

Everything about the man was extraordinary, but especially outstanding were his shrewd judgment, his endurance of toils, and his spirit of bold optimism in everything he did. Then, after the people had welcomed him with cheers and the senate had saluted him at the city gates, Severus went into the temple of Jupiter and offered sacrifices; after sacrificing in the rest of the shrines in accord with imperial practice, he entered the palace.

[10 June 193] On the following day he went to the Senate and addressed all the senators in a speech that was very mild in tone and full of promises of good things for the future. Greeting them collectively and individually, he told them that he had come to avenge the murder of Pertinax and assured them that his reign would mark the reintroduction of senatorial rule. No man would be put to death or have his property confiscated without a trial; he would not tolerate informers; he would bring unlimited prosperity to his subjects; he intended to imitate Marcus' reign in every way; and he would assume not only the name but also the manner and approach of Pertinax.

By this speech he won a good opinion for himself among most of the senators, and they believed his promises. But some of the older senators knew the true character of the man, and said privately that he was indeed a man of great cunning, who knew how to manage things shrewdly; they further said that he was very skillful at deceit and at feigning anything and everything; and, moreover, he always did what was of benefit and profit to his own interests. The truth of these observations was later demonstrated by what the man actually did.

After spending a short time in Rome, during which he made generous gifts to the people, staged shows, and rewarded his soldiers lavishly, he chose for service in the imperial bodyguard,[1] to replace the praetorians he had dismissed, the best-qualified soldiers from his army. He then set out for the East.

Since Niger was still delaying and wasting time in luxurious living in Antioch, Severus wished to surprise him before he was prepared. He therefore ordered his soldiers to be ready to march, and collected recruits everywhere, calling up the young men from the cities of Italy and enrolling them in the army. All the units of the army he had left behind in Illyricum were directed to march into Thrace and join him there.

He fitted out a naval unit; manning with heavily armed troops all the triremes in Italy, he sent these off too. He got ready a large and powerful force with incredible speed, aware that he would need a large army to operate against Niger and the entire continent lying opposite Europe.



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Note 1:
Until then, the Praetorian Guard had consisted of Italians; the new praetorians were people from Illyricum. Later during his reign, Severus would expand the garrison in Central Italy with a newly-founded legion, II Parthica. In other words, a completely new army, loyal to him personally, was founded.
Online 2007
Revision: 29 June 2007
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