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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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A young Caracalla. Bust from the North Market in Corinth. Photo Marco Prins.
A young Caracalla (bust from the North Market in Corinth)

3.13: Severus and his sons

[After 205] After this time, Severus appointed two praetorian prefects. The emperor passed most of the remainder of his life on the imperial estates near the city and along the coast of Campania, presiding in the courts and attending to imperial affairs. He wished to keep his sons away from the luxury at Rome and wanted them to have the benefits of a wholesome life, especially when he observed that they were taking far more interest in shows than was proper for those of imperial rank.

Because of their enthusiasm for these pastimes and the rivalry which kept them at odds and openly hostile, the brothers were in a constant state of turmoil, strife, and enmity. Caracalla became especially intolerable after he had removed Plautianus. Respect for his father and fear of him kept the youth from taking drastic action, but he plotted death in every form for his wife, Plautianus' daughter. 

Severus, however, sent the girl and her brother to Sicily,[1] providing them with sufficient funds to live in comfort there. In doing this he was following the example of Augustus, who treated Antony's children in this way even though Antony was his enemy. Severus tried constantly to reconcile his sons and persuade them to live in peace and harmony. He kept reminding them of tales and plays of old, telling them time and again of the misfortunes suffered by royal brothers as a result of dissension.


Inscription of the Arch of the Bankers. Photo Jona Lendering.
Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, and Plautianus (right, erazed) on a relief on the Arch of the Bankers, Rome.

He showed them the treasuries and temples, overflowing with riches; he made it clear that they would never have to scheme abroad for money and power; resources at home were so plentiful that they could pay the soldiers with lavish generosity. The garrison at Rome had been quadrupled,[2] and the army encamped before the city was so powerful that there remained no foreign army strong enough to rival it in number of troops, in physical prowess, or in the amount of money available for pay.

He told them, however, that all these were of no advantage to them as long as they remained hostile to each other and friction continued between them. By saying such things at every opportunity, now pleading, now rebuking, Severus tried to keep his sons under control and bring them into agreement. But the youths paid absolutely no attention to him; they rebelled and spent their time in pursuits even more reprehensible.

Since they were vigorous youths and their imperial authority gave them an insatiable appetite for pleasures, each had his own group of loyal followers; these not only gratified the youths' desires and their enthusiasm for disgraceful practices, but they also constantly found new vices to bring pleasure to their favorite and chagrin to his brother. But Severus punished these parasites whenever he caught them performing such services.



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Note 1:
The Aeolioan Isles, to be precise.

Note 2:
An exaggeration: in fact, one legion (II Parthica) had been added.
Online 2007
Revision: 30 June 2007
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