Senate

The death of Septimius Severus. February 4, 211.

By 210, Septimius Severus‘ campaigning had made significant gains in Britain, despite Caledonian guerrilla tactics and heavy Roman casualties. The Caledonians sued for peace, which Severus granted on condition they gave up control of the Central Lowlands. The Caledonians, short on supplies and feeling their position was becoming desperate, revolted later that year along with the Maeatae. Severus prepared for another protracted campaign within Caledonia. He was now intent on exterminating the Caledonians, telling his soldiers: “Let no-one escape sheer destruction, no-one our hands, not even the babe in the womb of the mother, if it be male; let it nevertheless not escape sheer destruction”. Severus’ campaign was cut short when he fell fatally ill. He withdrew to Eboracum a...

Crossing the Rubicon. January 10, 49 BC.

During the Roman Republic, the river Rubicon marked the boundary between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the north-west and Italy proper (controlled directly by Rome and its allies) to the south. Exercising imperium when forbidden by the law was a capital offence. Furthermore, obeying the commands of a general who did not legally possess imperium was a capital offence. If a general entered Italy whilst exercising command of an army, both the general and his soldiers became outlaws and were automatically condemned to death. Generals were thus obliged to disband their armies before entering Italy. In 49 BC, perhaps on January 10, Julius Caesar led a single legion, south over the Rubicon from Cisalpine Gaul to Italy to make his way to Rome. In doing so, he deliberately broke the law o...

Caracalla and Geta. December 19, 211 AD.

Caracalla’s father, Septimius Severus, died on 4 February 211 at Eboracum while on campaign in Caledonia, north of the Roman Britannia. Caracalla and his brother, Geta, jointly inherited the throne upon their father’s death. Caracalla and Geta ended the campaign in Caledonia after concluding a peace with the Caledonians that returned the border of Roman Britain to the line demarcated by Hadrian’s Wall. During the journey back to Rome with their father’s ashes, Caracalla and his brother continuously argued with one another, their relations growing increasingly hostile. Caracalla and Geta considered dividing the empire in half along the Bosphorus to make their co-rule less hostile. Caracalla was to rule in the west and Geta was to rule in the east. They were persuaded...

Battle of Pharsalus – August 8, 48 BC

Pharsalus, modern-day Farsala, is a city in central Greece, in southern Thessaly. It was the site of one of the most important Roman battles – the climactic clash between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great, on August 9, 48 BC. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with Legio XIII Gemina, a treasonous act in January of 49 BC, he knew he was declaring war against the Senate and the optimates. Although he was heading from Gaul to Rome with only one legion, it was enough to force Pompey and most of the Senate to flee to Greece. Caesar didn’t have the resources to chase them, so he worked to strengthen his forces and through Spain gained the fleet he needed. Pompey had the backing of most of the Senate and had a far more substantial number of troops to command. However, the army Caesar did have...

Battle of the Margus River – July, 285 AD

The crisis of the Third Century nearly destroyed the Roman Empire through instability of the position of emperor and various rebel breakaway empires. When Probus was murdered in 282 AD, Marcus Aurelius Carus was elevated by the military from his appointed position of prefect of the Praetorian Guard to Augustus, in turn naming his sons Carinus and Numerian as co-Caesari. Also during this time, Diocles rose through the ranks to become commander of the elite cavalry assigned to the Imperial household. Instead of going to Rome, Carus remained on campaign, leaving Carinus in charge of the western part of the empire from Gaul and taking Numerian with him to deal with the Persians. Along the way, Carus and Numerian took back areas lost previously over the years by defeating the Quadi and Sarmatia...

Father of the Country – February 5, 2 BC

The title of Pater Patriae, or Father of the Country, was first given to a Roman general – Marcus Furius Camillus, in 386 BC. It was an honorary title conferred by the Senate, and in the case of Camillus, it was given because of his role after the siege of Rome in the Battle of the Allia by Gallic invaders, when he routed the Senones and was determined to be the second founder of the city, after Romulus. Roman imperial coinage The title would not be used again for over three hundred years, when the Senate would confer it to consul Marcus Tullius Cicero in 63 BC, for his role in the exposing the Second Catalinarian Conspiracy to overthrow the Roman Republic by senator Lucius Sergius Catalina and various members of the senate and equestrian ranks. Cicero intercepted letters the conspirators ...

First Constitutional Settlement – January 13, 27 BC

After the Battle at Actium with Marc Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BC, Octavian remained in Egypt to get everything settled and under control. Once that was completed, he headed to the eastern part of the Rome’s territory to meet with the various leaders and get their support, having defeated Antony, who had set up the previous appointments. Convinced all was well, Octavian returned to Rome in August of 29 BC to participate in celebrations for three consecutive days, given in honor of the triumps in Dalmatia, Actium and Egypt. You will find examples of Octavian coins at the end of this post. Octavian was the last man standing from the Second Triumvirate and held the position of consul from 31 BC until 23 BC. Using what he called “universal consent”, a non-legal term for his dominance of the R...

Claudius Poisioned – October 13, 54 AD

Upon the murder of Caligula by the praetorian guards on January 24, 41 AD, there were only three surviving males in the Julio-Claudian dynasty that had been ruling the Roman Empire – Claudius (50, son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia); Nero (4, son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina Junior); and Brittanicus (1, son of Claudius and Valeria Messalina). While Caligula was being relieved of his mortal coil, Claudius hid behind some curtains in the palace. The praetorians found him and led him to their camp. To his great surprise, he was there elevated to emperor for two likely reasons – the Senate was debating possibly turning from the Empire model and back to the old Republican one; and the praetorians likely expected they could easily control Claudius because of his impaired con...

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