Libius Severus:The Unknown Emperor

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Libius Severus was a Roman aristocrat of very little brain. A rich senator, he had complained to Roman general Ricimer about the 'communism' of emperor Majorian and asked him what he was going to do about it. Severus said Majorian was taxing him unjustly in an attempt to financially re-float what was left of the Western Roman Empire (basically Italy, parts of Gaul, parts of Rhine frontier provinces and not much else). Severus complained, stuffed gold in Ricimer's pockets and told him to 'reason with Majorian'. A few days later Ricimer returned to Rome and said 'problem solved. Congratulations, you are now Caesar Augustus.'


The Severus family were into Roman real estate. Libius Severus claimed his folks were related to the family of Septimius Severus who had held imperial power in the second and third centuries and (mystically), a future ancestor of Severus Snape.

The fifth century was hardly a boom time for aristocrats with the various barbaric tribes interrupting business and sacking cities. However the Severus family seemed to have got ahead of that and had bought 'stressed assets' at knock down prices.

Reasons to be Emperor:I, II and IIIEdit

As related above, Severus's complaints about Majorian led to the latter's untimely death. However Severus's imperial throne was challenged by another candidate, Olybrius who had two assets up his toga: He had married Placidia, daughter of former emperor Valentinian III and that his brother-in-law was the Vandal Genseric.

Offered the choice between a vandal-sponsored claimant and a home grown one promoted by Ricimer, Olybrius lost the contest. The Vandals acted as bad losers and sacked a few more Italian cities to highlight their disfavour with the result.

Things doneEdit


A regular sight in this time period: Romans bravely running away from the Vandals.

Severus had hoped to get support from Roman Emperor Leo I in the east but the latter felt left out about the decision of who his 'colleague' was supposed to be. Despite being separate political entities by now, the fiction that the Roman Empire was still one meant that each ruler was supposed to endorse the legitimacy of the other. Severus didn't receive that from Leo.

The other outstanding issue to deal with was the Visigoths. They had been obliged by Majorian to become Roman allies but now that the later was decaying in an unmarked grave, felt about to declare themselves for all purposes an independent monarchy.

One person Ricimer was really keen to see the back of was Roman general Aegidius who was trying to hold northern Gaul for the empire. Aegidius had been upset with the death of Majorian and hated Ricimer. He had tried to interest the Vandals in a conspiracy to perhaps place Olybrius on the throne but Ricimer got wind of this and dispatched assassins to kill his rival. That was one less enemy but meant the Roman Empire had abandoned Gaul except for Marseilles and Provence.

Things undoneEdit

Since this was all of Ricimer's doing, what Severus himself was doing is unknown. He did finally get an acknowledgement from Leo that he was now a 'work colleague' which pleased the booby. That was about the last officially heard from Severus because in 465 he disappeared from view.

Ricmer put out contradictory stories that Severus had 'died', 'was on holiday' or 'praying for the recovery of the Roman Empire'. Emperor Leo did enquire about his new friend but equally got the brush off. More threatening, Genseric indicated he was planning for a 'return visit to Rome' with Olybrius.


Meet the rest of the dynasty


Severus's vanishing act was little remarked at the time. What he or his family got out of this imperial adventure is equally not known. One writer of the time was convinced Ricmer had Severus 'removed' as he was contemplating an alliance with Leo against Genseric. Since Ricmer had no problem murdering Roman emperors (and would go on to knock off another one later), this seems the most likely fate of Libius Severus.

References Edit

Preceded by:
Roman Emperor
Succeeded by:
Anthemius (in the West)