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Septimius Severus ( full name Septimius Scepticus Severus-Strychninus - at least on his passport) is known as the first African-Roman to become Roman Emperor at a time when the imperial state needed a sharp kick up its Classical backside. He was also adept at debating with (and this dispatching) political rivals. On a lighter note - Septimius was the first Roman Emperor to use the Colosseum as a wedding venue for his eldest son.
Out of Africa
The seventh and youngest son of Gazebo Severus and Julia Scepticus, Septimius grew up in the African city of Leprosy Magnum - home of the Roman ice cream industry with real finger flakes - in around 140 AD. This meant by the time he became Roman Emperor, Septimius had lived a little , debauched a bit and now had a weight problem. His father Gazebo ( an 'Intermission Entertainment Actor' ) appears to have been a bit of a spendthrift and died when he was trampled to death by an elephant in Carthage. Septimius's mother Julia hid her grief by becoming a priestess of Isis and moved to Antioch to learn the 'Revolting Arts'.
Unlike his siblings Uno, Doozie, Trinity, Quarterback, V ('Vee') and Sextus - who were happy to sell ice creams, Goat Twizzlers and Roasted Vulture Nuts around the Leprosy Magnum amphitheatre - Septimius was determined to leave North Africa and seek his 'fortuna' somewhere else.
Taxi ! Taxi !!
Septimius eventually ended up in Rome as a taxi driver but he was keen to improve his mind. So he applied to learn the usual liberal subjects like Rhetoric, Bluster , Taxation, Taxonomy , Lying ..etc but had the misfortune to go to the wrong school . There the self proclaimed Roman Pagan School of Conservative Arts taught him 'Rubbishotic, Illogic, Choleric Conversationalism, Credulity and learning how to dismantle a rival's argument by throwing you out of a classroom. Still Septimius kept this up until one night he was ripped off by a pair of greedy Roman senators and thrown out of the Taxi Guild. Septimius needed another job - and could only find one cleaning out the disgusting latrines of the Praetorian Guard's barracks.
Flush Out and Scrub Up
Septimius really worked up from the bottom - starting off removing the waste with the pimply arses of the Roman military elite to finally becoming a Roman officer in 168 AD. He was spotted by Marcus Aurelius who was surprised that the otherwise rough looking Septimius could read and argue - even it it was in an idiosyncratic way.
Given command of the troublesome IIII or IV legion (blood was spilled on the correct name for them ) - also known as the 'Extra Hard Bastards Legion' - Septimius soon cut his teeth - and toenails - on the corpses of Rome's many enemies. He and his legion were posted all over the empire and soon gained a deserved reputation for being the 'Psycho's Psychos' to paraphrase the Greek historian Hylades Hystericus.
Rome Calling To The Bastards of Death
Whilst the Roman Empire was buckling at the knees like a drunk on a Friday night under the rule of the Roman Emperors Commodus, Pertinax and Didius Julianus, Septimius decided to bide his time. He married his first wife Pansy Pachydermnus in Carthage and when she died of natural causes (found strangled by a drunk python) - Septimius then married a woman who reminded him of his mother - Julia Dominatrix who claimed she was related to Angie 'Dominatrix - the whip cracking girlfriend of Emperor Domitian in the previous century. In between periods of dominance - the couple produced two sons - Bassianus later to be known as Caracalla (after his fondness for his 'Chavifella' Chav cloak ) and Geta ( Gaius Go-Go-Go Gettius).
When the rich money bags emperor Didius Julianus became emperor in 193 AD something snapped inside Septimius's head. Perhaps he had remembered the night a young Didius and his friend Pertinax has once paid him in useless Persian luncheon vouchers instead of a denarii one night as he was picking up fares outside Pompey's Theatre. Well what ever the reason was ,Septimius persuaded his 'Bastards' that they deserved a visit to Rome so his legion marched on the Eternal City and proclaimed him emperor.
We're All Antonines Now !
The newly enthroned emperor made his speech from Rostrum in the Roman Forum where announced a new tough financial package to restore the Roman World to financial stability.
My Fellow Romans...Jupiter and all the Gods in Olympus have asked me to explain my actions before I commence with the slaughter...the financial rescue plan that has seen bankers and financiers fleece the good plebians of Rome. I have only one answer...do you know what it is fair people...?
The response was :-
Crucify them ! Flay them !! throw the financiers to the lions !!!
Bowing to the general will - bankers, investment specialists, money merchants and many others were all dragged to the Colosseum to be entertaining lion food that night. Septimius also took the opportunity to 'threw in a few Roman senators' into the mix who had been deeply involved in the conspiracy to kill the former Emperor Commodus. To emphasise the point - Septimius said he was not the son of failed entertainment artist Gazebo - but that he was actually the long lost adopted son of Marcus Aurelius . He said the old emperor had told him that 'Septimius' was like a back-up Emperor-in-Waiting in case Commodus fucked up.
At first Septimius thought he could be a Nice Emperor and was even prepared to look kindly on the Praetorian Guard for their previous antics. However they were still devising a new method to make themselves the final arbiters as to who became Emperor (their latest wheeze was to buy the game format to 'Deal or No Deal' ). So Septimius had a number of Praetorians publicly disbanded and disassembled starting out with their sinews and hamstrings and then moving onto muscles..well you get the picture..in a particularly grisly show at the Colosseum . The crowds still loved it though which was all that was important to the emperor.
In the meantime Septimius hadn't forgotten that two other Roman generals had made a claim on the imperial laurel leaves. He first sent a letter to Clodhopperus Albino in Britannia giving him the job of Deputy Emperor or 'Caesar-in-Waiting'. This left Septimius free to deal with General Precious 'Nigel' Nitrate in Syria. He had been busy sending letters all around the Roman world asking people with bank accounts to see if they would take money from him in exchange for their details. This was called the 'Nigel Sting' in his dubious honour .
Gathering his troops , Septimius headed east to tackle Nitrate and quickly prevailed. Fearing that they had backed a loser , the local Antioch bigwigs had Nitrate assassinated and proclaimed Septimius the victor. Short of funds, the Emperor fined them all for their rebellion and took the loot back to Rome where he decided it was time for a monument to mark his achievements so far .
Another Ruddy Arch in Rome
To celebrate his victories - the Romans asked the Emperor what he wanted as as monument. Septimius suggested he quite fancied an arch and that his plan was to turn the city into an 18 hole golf course. He had picked up the sport once when he was posted to Hadrian's Wall and played 'Pict and Putt' with the locals up there. Now Septimius wanted to honour this sport in the Imperial city
The usually craven/supine/lickspittaling senators agreed and said it was the most wonderful plan they had heard since Commodus plans to make Rome into the Las Vegas of the Ancient World . Once it was built - Septimius climbed the stairs and teed off - his ball hitting the Temple of the Ultimate Castor and Bollux before dropping into a hole near the Vestal Virgins sanctuary.
Keep It In The Family
Septimius hadn't forgotten Clodhopperus in Britannia so he decided to disturb his unwelcome colleague by making his own son Caracalla co-emperor. This upset Clodhopperus Albino who cleverly deduced that he had to make a move on Rome before Septimius turned up in Londinium. So he decided to cross over the Channel and recruit an army of thinly Romanised Gauls to help him. Unfortunately there was a bit of a cultural misunderstanding between Clodhopperus's British legions and the Gauls which ended in a pitched battle in a chariot car park in Calais. The Brits lost and Clodhopperus's noggin was sealed in a jiffy bag and dispatched to Rome with the label 'For Emperor Septimius Keep :Contents Fresh.Will pong a bit if you open this indoors. Amour Les Nouveaux Asterixes'.
Shortly after this, Septimius felt free to return to his home city of Leprosy Magnum. He gave jobs to his surviving siblings though only Sextus showed much promise . Septimius gave him job of Cultural Ambassador to Parthia . The emperor also took the chance to make Leprosy Magnum really 'modern' and rebuilt the city in the new Post Roman Neo-Pagan Style which seems to have meant a lot of buildings were left half finished.
It was also around this time that Septimius married his son Caracalla to Plautilla a.k.a 'Plauty the Naughty' who was the the daughter of his best friend Plautianus . It was decided to commemorate the nuptials with a naval send off so the Colosseum was flooded with galleys full of condemned slaves to fight to the death. The scene of blood, rose petals and dying sailors was said to be worthy of an epic poem by a new Homer ( Doh ! Doh !! Doh !!!!.. Marge ??).
However - like the unlucky slaves - the marriage was dead in the water. Caracalla really wasn't into his girls - he took his sexual preferences from Trajan and Hadrian or instead liked to walk around Rome at night in his funny cloak. Plauty the Naughty was told to clear off and Plautianus was sacked and executed by an embarrassed Septimius.
Classical Roman Economy
Septimius's answer to the poor state of the Roman Empire was to put more people in the Roman army and employ more lawyers to prevent his administration being sued by anyone who preferred to stay at home philosophising instead. It was very effective until about 235 AD.
Takes a Holiday in Britain and Dies
By 210 AD - Septimius Severus was keen to take a family holiday in Britannia and to improve his golf handicap. He had by now elevated his younger son Geta as 'Emperor Number Three' alongside his brother Caracalla. However there was no brotherly love between the pair and they would each try to kill the other if left alone in the same room. This saddened Septimius so he thought a lot of walking and golf playing around Hadrian's Wall would make them 'more of a family'.
They had only got as far as Eboracum (York to you) when Septimius unwisely tried out some of the local British beer whilst walking with his caddies on a golf course. His body wasn't used to the warm beer they served in these semi-barbaric lands and dropped down dead at 16th hole.
Septimius Severus's achievements in reaching the heights of Roman political ambition are not so well known now. He was a tough Roman in a tough Roman world - and though he too liked killing people who got in his way or were rich - Septimius's seems to have kept his common touch . Sadly his dream of a golf course in Rome was neglected by his successors who thought the 'game' was only suitable for Posh Parvenu Picts on the make. But in Scotland today Septimius is still fondly remembered for his attachment to the 'Auld Sport'.
- Dio Casio wrote a lot about Septimius Severus until the batteries on his watch died.
- Other historians dispute Septimius Severus's claim to be a Roman citizen. They claim he was actually born on volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
- The elephant's name is not recorded.
- It is still hard to get a taxi in the Roman forum today.
- See the entry on Caracalla for more on the derivation of his nickname.
- Septimius later had the head of the Taxi Guild tickled to death for this insult.
- Leprosy Magnum ice cream was still on sale when the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410 AD.
- Plauty the Naughty was later killed by Caracalla as she knew too much about him and his very funny ways.
- It seems Septimius had also found a set of golf clubs belonging to ex-Emperor Didius Julianus to take on his trip to Britannia.
- A quote from the Roman poet Turgid (Titus Turgidius Turgid).Advisable to read his works only after ingesting a copious amount of caffeine.
- Septimius also had a half brother named Septemberius. That's all...thought you might be interested. Liked ice cream and pederasty until the local Christians objected and had him castrated.
Caracalla and Geta