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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)

3.2: Severus in Asia Minor

[January 194] Severus, in the meantime, pressed on with his army at top speed, halting for neither rest nor refreshment. Having learned that Byzantium, which he knew was defended by the strongest of city walls, had been occupied by Niger, Severus ordered his army to march to Cyzicus.

The governor of Asia at that time was the general Aemilianus, to whom Niger had entrusted the military preparations in that province. When he learned that the army of Severus was approaching, Aemilianus marched toward Cyzicus at the head of his entire army, which included both the troops he had enrolled himself and those sent to him by Niger. When the two armies met, savage battles were fought in those regions; the army of Severus conquered, and the soldiers of Niger, put to flight, were routed and slaughtered. Thus the hopes of the East were shattered, while the hopes of the Illyrians soared.

There are those who say that Niger's cause, immediately betrayed by Aemilianus, was doomed from the start, and they cite two reasons for that general's action. Some say that the governor plotted against Niger because he was jealous and angry that his successor as governor of Syria was about to become his superior as emperor and tyrant. Others, however, say that he was forced to betray Niger by his own children, who urgently begged him to do so in order to insure their own safety; for Severus, finding Aemilianus' children at Rome, had seized them and was holding them under guard. Nor was he the first to make use of this extremely foresighted stratagem.

It was Commodus' practice to keep in custody the children of the governors of the provinces in order to have pledges of their loyalty and good will. Severus, familiar with this practice, when he was made emperor and Julianus was still alive, grew anxious about his children. Sending for them in secret, he had them brought to him from Rome to prevent their falling into the hands of someone else.

When he came to Rome, Severus gathered up the children of the governors and those who occupied positions of importance in the East and all Asia and held them in custody; these children he kept so that the governors might be led to betray Niger in fear for the safety of their children, or, if they continued to favor his cause, envisaging the agony they would suffer if their children were killed, they might do something to protect them.

After the defeat at Cyzicus, the troops of Niger scattered far and wide; some fled into the mountains of Armenia, others into Galatia and Asia, hoping to reach the Taurus Mountains before the soldiers of Severus and take refuge behind the fortifications there. Meanwhile the army of Severus pressed on, passing through Cyzicus and advancing into neighboring Bithynia.

When the report of Severus' victory was made public, dissension immediately arose in the cities of all those provinces, not so much because of affection or good will toward the warring emperors but from mutual jealousy, envy, and hatred, together with indignation over the slaughter of their fellow citizens.

This is an ancient failing of the Greeks; the constant organizing of factions against each other and their eagerness to bring about the downfall of those who seem superior to them have ruined Greece. Their ancient quarrels and internal feuds had made them easy prey to the Macedonians and slaves to the Romans, and this curse of jealousy and envy has been handed down to the flourishing Greek cities of our own day.

Immediately after these events in Cyzicus, the Nicomedians in Bithynia announced their support of Severus; they sent envoys to him, welcomed his army, and promised to supply all his needs. The Nicaeans, on the other hand, because they hated the Nicomedians, welcomed the army of Niger, both the fugitives who came to them and the troops sent by Niger to defend Bithynia.

Then the soldiers on each side rushed forth from the two cities as if from regular army camps and crashed together; after a savage struggle, the supporters of Severus won a decisive victory. The adherents of Niger who survived the battle fled from those regions and poured into the Taurus Mountains, where they blocked the passes and held the fortifications under guard. But Niger, leaving a force which he considered adequate for the defense of these barricades, hurried off to Antioch to collect troops and money.



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Online 2007
Revision: 29 June 2007
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