Arch of Septimius Severus

Tag: Arch of Septimius Severus

History of Roman Arches

The arch was first used in the Mediterranean world by those in Mesopotamia, Greece, Persia, and ancient Italy. While these cultures had the arch, they rarely used it except for underground tunnels and drainage systems, where the force of the earth around it provided natural buttressing, or reinforcement. The Romans learned the arch from the Etruscans of Tuscany and were the first people in the world to really figure out how to use it. Romans in the first centuries BC discovered how to use arches in the construction of bridges, aqueducts and buildings. The Roman arch is largely responsible for the expansion of infrastructure across the Roman Empire. The Roman arch became a foundational aspect of Western architecture and generated new systems of building across Europe.

Basic Construction of Arches

An arch is an architectural form that controls the pressure from the weight of a building in a specific way. The arch directs pressure downwards and outwards, creating a strong passage underneath it that has the ability to support heavy structures. This is called compressive stress, because the pressure of the weight is compressed by the shape of the arch. Because the stress is directed both down and outwards, walls or other structures were often required to reinforce the arch. The arch allowed ancient builders to make larger, more complex buildings that could hold more space and people. The central feature of an arch is the keystone, or the wedge-shaped stone at the very top of the arch. It is the last stone placed during construction, and it locks all the other stones of the arch into position. The keystone bears almost no weight, but is the center of redirecting the weight of the structure down and outwards. The Romans used arches with circular tops, called rounded arches, which were made of stone. A series of rounded arches side by side is called an arcade.

Arch’s construction.

Use by the Romans

  • Bridges and Aqueducts, one of the foremost uses of the arch in building was for bridges and aqueducts. When roads or pipes needed to cross an area without level terrain, say a valley or river, an arcade of arches gave them the support they needed to sustain their weight off the ground. This was extremely important in the development of Rome. Without bridges to connect their roads, the Roman army would not have been able to march across Europe, expanding the Empire.

Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome.

  • Theatres & Amphitheatres, the Roman theatre was of course inspired by the Greek version, but the orchestra was made semicircular and the whole made using stone. The Romans also added a highly decorative stage building (scaenae frons) which incorporated different levels of columns, projections, pediments, and statues. Amphitheatres were used for various types of public events. Ancient Roman amphitheatres were circular or oval in shape, and used for events such as gladiator combats, chariot races, venationes (animal slayings) and executions. About 230 Roman amphitheatres have been found across the area of the Roman Empire. The earliest Roman amphitheatres date from the middle of the first century BC, but most were built under Imperial rule, from the Augustan period (27 BC-14 AD) onwards. Imperial amphitheatres were built throughout the Roman empire the largest could accommodate 40,000-60,000 spectators. The best-known amphitheatre in the world is the Roman Colosseum, which is more correctly termed the Flavian amphitheatre (Amphitheatrum Flavium), after the Flavian dynasty who had it built.

Theatre of Marcellus, Rome.

  • Triumphal Arches, the triumphal arch, with a single, double, or triple entrance, had no practical function other than to commemorate in sculpture and inscription significant events such as military victories. Early examples stood over thoroughfares – the earliest being the two arches set up by L.Stertinius in Rome (196 BCE) – but later examples were often protected by steps. Topped by a bronze four-horse chariot, they became imposing stone monuments to Roman vanity. The Arch of Constantine (c. 315 CE) in Rome is the largest surviving example and is perhaps the last great monument of Imperial Rome.

The Round Arch in the world

The Romans were undoubtedly the first people to build large and lasting bridges. Testament of the building techniques of Ancient Rome can be witnessed even today with hundreds bridges still standing.


Family and education [ edit | edit source ]

Septimius Severus was born on 11 April 145 at Leptis Magna (in present-day Libya), son of Publius Septimius Geta and Fulvia Pia. Ώ] Severus came from a wealthy, distinguished family of equestrian rank. He was of Italian Roman ancestry on his mother's side and Punic ancestry on his father's side. ⎗]

Severus' father was an obscure provincial who held no major political status, but he had two cousins, Publius Septimius Aper and Gaius Septimius Severus, who served as consuls under emperor Antoninus Pius. His mother's ancestors had moved from Italy to North Africa: they belonged to the gens Fulvia, an Italian patrician family that originated in Tusculum. ⎘] Severus' siblings were an older brother, Publius Septimius Geta, and a younger sister, Septimia Octavilla. Severus's maternal cousin was Praetorian prefect and consul Gaius Fulvius Plautianus. ⎗]

Septimius Severus was brought up at his home town of Leptis Magna. He spoke the local Punic language fluently but he was also educated in Latin and Greek, which he spoke with a slight accent. Little else is known of the young Severus' education but according to Cassius Dio, the boy had been eager for more education than he had actually got. Presumably, Severus received lessons in oratory, and at age 17, he gave his first public speech. ⎙]

Public service [ edit | edit source ]

Sometime around 162, Septimius Severus set out for Rome seeking a public career. By recommendation of his "uncle", Gaius Septimius Severus, he was granted entry into the senatorial ranks by emperor Marcus Aurelius. ⎚] Membership of the senatorial order was a prerequisite to attain positions within the cursus honorum, and to gain entry into the Roman Senate. Nevertheless, it appears that Severus' career during the 160s was beset with some difficulties. ⎛]

It is likely that he served as a vigintivir in Rome, overseeing road maintenance in or near the city, and he may have appeared in court as an advocate. ⎛] However, he omitted the military tribunate from the cursus honorum and was forced to delay his quaestorship until he had reached the required minimum age of 25. ⎛] To make matters worse, the Antonine Plague swept through the capital in 166. ⎜]

With his career at a halt, Severus decided to temporarily return to Leptis, where the climate was healthier. ⎜] According to the Historia Augusta, a usually unreliable source, he was prosecuted for adultery during this time but the case was ultimately dismissed. At the end of 169, Severus was of the required age to become a quaestor and journeyed back to Rome. On 5 December, he took office and was officially enrolled in the Roman Senate. ⎝]

Between 170 and 180 the activities of Septimius Severus went largely unrecorded, in spite of the fact that he occupied an impressive number of posts in quick succession. The Antonine Plague had severely thinned the senatorial ranks and with capable men now in short supply, Severus' career advanced more steadily than it otherwise might have. After his first term as quaestor, he was ordered to serve a second term at Baetica (southern Spain), ⎞] but circumstances prevented Severus from taking up the appointment.

The sudden death of his father necessitated a return to Leptis Magna to settle family affairs. Before he was able to leave Africa, Moorish tribesmen invaded southern Spain. Control of the province was handed over to the Emperor, while the Senate gained temporary control of Sardinia as compensation. Thus, Septimius Severus spent the remainder of his second term as quaestor on the island. ⎟]

In 173, Severus' kinsman Gaius Septimius Severus was appointed proconsul of the Africa Province. The elder Severus chose his cousin as one of his two legati pro praetore. ⎠] Following the end of this term, Septimius Severus travelled back to Rome, taking up office as tribune of the plebs, with the distinction of being candidatus of the emperor. ⎛]

Marriages [ edit | edit source ]

Aureus with Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, Caracalla and Geta

Septimius Severus was already in his early thirties at the time of his first marriage. In about 175, he married a woman from Leptis Magna named Paccia Marciana. ⎛] It is likely that he met her during his tenure as legate under his uncle. Marciana's name reveals that she was of Punic or Libyan origin but virtually nothing else is known of her. Septimius Severus does not mention her in his autobiography, though he later commemorated her with statues when he became Emperor. The Historia Augusta claims that Marciana and Severus had two daughters but their existence is nowhere else attested. It appears that the marriage produced no children, despite lasting for more than ten years. ⎛]

Marciana died of natural causes around 186. ⎛] Septimius Severus was now in his forties and still childless. Eager to remarry, he began enquiring into the horoscopes of prospective brides. The Historia Augusta relates that he heard of a woman in Syria who had been foretold that she would marry a king, and therefore Severus sought her as his wife. ⎛]

This woman was an Emesan Syrian woman named Julia Domna. Her father, Julius Bassianus, descended from the royal house of Samsigeramus and Sohaemus, and served as a high priest to the local cult of the sun god Elagabal. ⎛] Domna's older sister was Julia Maesa, later grandmother to the future emperors Elagabalus and Alexander Severus.

Bassianus accepted Severus' marriage proposal in early 187, and the following summer he and Julia were married. ⎛] The marriage proved to be a happy one and Severus cherished his wife and her political opinions, since she was very well-read and keen on philosophy. Together, they had two sons, Lucius Septimius Bassianus (later nicknamed Caracalla, b. 4 April 188) and Publius Septimius Geta (b. 7 March 189). ⎛]


The Roman Empire reached its greatest extent under his reign – over 5 million square kilometres. Ώ] ΐ]

According to Gibbon, "his daring ambition was never diverted from its steady course by the allurements of pleasure, the apprehension of danger, or the feelings of humanity". Α]

He secured Africa, the agricultural base of the Empire where he was born. Β] His victory over the Parthian Empire was for a time decisive. Γ] His policy of an expanded and better-rewarded army was criticised by his contemporaries Cassius Dio and Herodianus. Δ] Ε] The large increase in military expenditure caused problems for all of his successors. ΐ]

Rome, The Eternal City

Legend has it that twin brothers were left on a bank of the Tiber River and were rescued by a she-wolf. When Romulus and Remus were grown, they decided to build a city in their own honor, but they could not agree on a location. In a most unsatisfactory way Romulus settled the disagreement by killing his brother and naming the city Rome.

Have you noticed how often stories of fratricide have fidgeted their way into history? In the Bible we read of the first murder when Cain killed his brother Abel. In successive cultures, such as the Roman, Persian, Ottoman, and Mughal empires there are similar accounts or legends.

Two well-known examples remind us of the commonality of murder: Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when Claudius kills the elder Hamlet and marries his wife to take the throne, and in the animated Disney film The Lion King, Scar commits fratricide on Mufasa by casting him off a cliff.

These stories border on gruesome, but where do they fit into history? And is the crime always brother killing? Could the offense be a crime against humanity?

Upon examination of a “List of Roman Emperors” the scholar will fine 70 names. Their reigns began in 27 BC when Augustus began work on the 16 th of January (a calculated date). He served more than 40 years. Afterward, some emperors served only a few days and others lasted decades. It is generally agreed that the end of the empire was when Romulus Augustus left power on September 4, 476 AD (also a calculated date). Of all of them the three we will examine here are the ones to whom triumphal arches are dedicated.

The Arch of Titus

Titus was born in 39, the son of Vespasian. Upon the death of his father in 79 when Titus was but forty years old, he seized power and served until his own death in September of 81.

Before becoming emperor, Titus gained fame as a military leader with his father. Together they fought in Judea, but when Nero died in 68 Vespasian quit the war to make a bid for Imperial Power. Success was his. He was declared emperor in 69 and that left Titus in charge of ending what was known as the Jewish Rebellion. A year later, nearly a decade before he, himself became emperor Titus was awarded his prize, the Arch of Titus.

Today the Titus arch sits in Rome’s ancient ruins, near the mid-city center, only a few hundred yards from the legendary Colosseum. The arch is oriented mostly east-west, where it stands 50 feet tall, 44 feet wide and 15 feet deep. The decorative motif, entitled the Spoils of Jerusalem, is one of military might and absolute power bestowed on Romans for use in world domination.

The inscription on the east side is:
VESPASIANO·AVGVSTO, which when translated means “The Senate and the Roman people (dedicate this) to the deified Titus Vespasian Augustus, son of the deified Vespasian.”

One very peculiar feature of the Titus arch is its keystone. On one side the keystone is adorned with the figure of a female, but on the other side of the keystone the figure is male.

The Arch of Lucius Septimius Severus

Lucius Septimius Severus was a Roman emperor for almost 18 years, starting in 193 when the Senate ordered the execution of his predecessor Marcus Didius Julianus who had been emperor for only nine weeks. Severus was proclaimed emperor by the Pannonian legions he was 48 years old and thought to be what we call today, beyond it! He surprised many by living another 17+ years and he died of natural causes – quite an unusual way of dying among this lot.

The Arch of Septimius Severus stands at the northwest corner of the Roman forum just behind the Church of Saint Lucy and Saint Martina. It was built with white marble one of the first pieces of public architecture to use the blue-grey Carrara marble quarried in the province of Liguria. When completed and dedicated in 203 to honor Septimius Severus and his two sons Carcalla and Geta, it was the largest memorial arch in the world. Larger in height by 25 feet and nearly double the width of the Titus arch and appropriately so for it honor three favorite sons of Rome.

After the death of Septimius Severus, his sons Caracalla and Geta were initially joint emperors, but here we go again, Caracalla arranged to have Geta murdered in 212, after which all memories of Geta were removed from public view.

The Arch of Constantine

Kōnstantînos was born in a part of the Roman Empire once known as Naissus. It is now in Serbia. The date of his birth is unknown but thought to be around 272.

Constantine became the emperor in 306 when his father Constantius died. His father had served the Empire as an Illyrian army officer who became one of the four emperors of the Tetrarchy. His mother, Helena, was Greek, but was as they said, “of low birth.”

After considerable service in the eastern provinces against barbarians and Persians, Constantine was recalled around 305 to join his father in the wars in Britain. When his father died Constantine was acclaimed emperor by the army at Eboracum (later to become York).

The reign of Constantine is often considered a time of relative peace, but the facts are, in that era, peace meant that only fewer people were murdered, executed, or assassinated in the pursuit of imperial power. Constantine emerged victorious in the civil wars against his several rival emperors, namely Maxentius and Licinius. When Licinius was defeated, deposed, and put to death by Constantine it was only then that he became sole ruler of the Roman Empire until his death on May 22, 337. He was 65 and another of the few who died of natural causes. His reign as an emperor lasted nearly 32 years

The arch of Constantine stands alone in the midst of traffic at the south-west corner of the Piazza del Colosseo. Less than 100 yards from the Colosseum. It is a mighty site, although since the protective fences have been added the aura of antiquity is much diminished.

The decorative motif is much like other arches. “Military power preserves the peace.”

To recap, you who are among the most determined readers will surely observe that the arches of Septimius Severus and Constantine have three portals. If you care to participate in the “Higher Examination” in Roman Arches, please render your remarks in the comments section below. Thank you, N&S.

Lepcis Magna, Arch of Septimius Severus

Lepcis Magna: Phoenician colony, later part of the Carthaginian empire, the kingdom of Massinissa, and the Roman empire. Its most famous son was the emperor Septimius Severus (r.193-211).

Arch of Septimius Severus

This is the Arch of Septimius Severus, seen here from the southwest, as one would have seen it when one approached the city of Lepcis Magna from the countryside. You are looking along the Cardo to the northeast the arch in the distance was dedicated to the emperor Trajan. Severus' arch was erected for Lepcis' most famous son, the man who was emperor of the Roman Empire from 193 to 211.

Southwest: Concordia

The monument cannot be dated precisely, but it is likely that the citizens of Lepcis Magna started the construction as soon as possible: immediately after their fellow citizen had become emperor and had stabilized the Empire after the wars of the Year of the Five Emperors (193). This is confirmed by the fact that the defeated enemies, so common on an honorific arch, are Parthians, who had been defeated twice by Severus at the beginning of his reign.

Had the arch been erected later, we would have seen African Garamantes, who were pacified in 201/202 and against whom the Limes Tripolitanus was built. (The forts at Bu Njem, Gheriat el-Garbia, and Ghadames were built at this time.) This photo shows the southwest face ("frieze D"), which represents a familiar theme from the imperial propaganda: Concordia.

The central scene shows the friendship (concordia) within the imperial family: the emperor is shown shaking hands with his sons, Caracalla and Geta (the head is a replica the original was stolen by an allied soldier during the Second World War). To the left we can see the empress, Julia Domna, and to the far left is the goddess Roma. The two men to the right are the praetorian prefect, Plautianus (headless, in a military costume), and the emperor's brother Publius Septimius Geta.

Caracalla is shown as a tall young man, not quite grown-up, and this offers a clue for the moment of completion of the arch: in the early 200s, when he was about sixteen or seventeen years old. This coincides with the emperor's visit to Lepcis Magna in 202-203, when he rebuilt many monuments in his hometown, like the Severan Forum, the Severan Basilica, the Temple of the Septimians, and the Port.

If we assume that constructing the arch lasted from 194 to 202, we cannot be very far from the truth. Eight years, however, is a long time, especially when we take into account that the core of the four piers was already there. This can be deduced from the fact that it is made of local limestone, found at Ras el-Hamman. The quarries, however, were closed by the age of Septimius Severus, and we must therefore assume that the inner structure is older, and was merely redecorated. This is confirmed by the fact that the limestone was measured in Punic cubits, which had been replaced by Roman feet before the age of Severus. Perhaps, the work was interrupted, and hurriedly completed when the emperor announced his visit.

This may also explain the different quality of artwork. Several reliefs are beautifully carved, like the barbarians on the pictures below and the broken pediment (more below), while other parts of the decoration look like routine work by artists who were certainly talented but no geniuses. However, many details will for some time remain unclear, because the arch as we see it today is essentially a reconstruction. The foundations and part of the structure were excavated in the 1920s, but many parts the decoration were found elsewhere in the city. It is likely that the missing parts are still buried somewhere. So, for the time being, our understanding of this monument is incomplete and the exact chronology of its construction remains unclear.

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SW, barbarian (left)

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SW, frieze: citizens

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SW, frieze: soldiers

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SW, barbarian (right)

The overall design is daringly baroque, although it is not completely novel. In the first place, it faces four directions (quadrifrons), and not two. This is not unique but rare, although a similar arch, dedicated to Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius, can be found in the nearby city of Oea (modern Tripoli). There is also a parallel in Rome: the Arch of Janus Quadrifrons, which is about a century younger than the arch in Lepcis.

As always, we can see captive barbarians (dressed like Parthians) on the pedestals, trophies on the pier itself and Victories in the spandrels. However, the broken pediment in the upper part is very unusual, and so is the extensive (but poorly preserved) decoration underneath the groin vault, which matches the frieze in the attic.

Another aspect of the decoration is the use vines and grapes. The latter is an extremely common motif in Lepcis Magna, because one of the city's two protective deities was Shadrapa, a Phoenician healing god who was usually associated with Dionysus or Liber Pater, gods associated with the cult of wine. The other protective god was Milkashtart, a hypostasis of the macho god Melqart associated with the goddess of love, Astarte. The Greeks and Romans believed that Melqart was identical to Hercules, and he figures on the arch of Septimius Severus as well.

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SW, capital

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SW, Victoria (left)

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SW, Victoria (right)

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SW, trophee

Above the female captive, one can discern this trophy, the ancient Greek system for victory. We can see a helmet, two shields, two tunics, and greaves. The hexagonal shields are not Parthian they were popular among the tribal warriors from Germania. As we have already seen, there is a striking disparity in quality, and the core of the four piers is older than the decoration. It is possible, but far-fetched, that the arch was originally designed to celebrate the Parthian victory of Lucius Verus (r.161-169) and the Germanic wars of his co-ruler Marcus Aurelius (r.161-180).

In the spandrels, we can see the winged Victories that are part of almost any Roman triumphal arch (an exception is the arch of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus in Tripoli, which is decorated with griffins). The Victories carry laurel wreaths and palm branches. The combination of conventional themes and unusual, almost rococo elements like the broken pediment suggest that the designer was born somewhere in the eastern provinces of the empire, where this type of decoration was less uncommon than in Italy.

Northwest: Virtus

Like the arch at Oea, the corners of the monument at Lepcis Magna were directed to the four corners of the compass. The groin vault to which the four gates gave access, covered the crossroads of the main streets of the city, the Cardo (which leads from the center out of town) and the ecumanus, the road along the coast that started in Alexandria in Egypt and continued to Carthage and beyond. In other words, this was the point where all roads from Lepcis Magna began, and distances were measured from the arch. Indeed, there is a milestone at a stone's throw from the arch.

The northwest face of the arch was directed to Oea (modern Tripoli), the great rival city of Lepcis. The theme of this part of the monument is military virtus: the makers wanted to stress Septimius Severus' qualities as a general. And indeed, he was a great conqueror, who had added Mesopotamia to the Empire.

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, NW, frieze (copy)

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, NW, frieze

Arch of Septimius Severus, NW frieze, central scene

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, NW, frieze

Several large fragments have survived of what is called "frieze A". Above, we see a group of mounted men, dressed in the toga. They must be important people, perhaps senators or knights, or the elite of Lepcis Magna. Alternatively, they are soldiers in civil dress - after all, the two men in the background carry military standards. This is high quality work.

The central scene of this frieze, the third photo above, shows the emperor and his two sons Caracalla and Geta in his triumphal chariot, entering his hometown. On the chariot itself you can see a Victory and Tyche (Fortune) crowning the two protective gods of Lepcis Magna, Liber Pater and Hercules. Among the faceless people in the background, we can perhaps discern the emperor's right-hand man Plautianus and the emperor's brother Publius Septimius Geta. The young man cannot be identified. Elsewhere on the relief, we can can see the lighthouse of Lepcis Magna, which proves that this frieze represents an actual procession.

The arch must have boasted a long inscription, but we can find it on none of the four faces, except for the words on one of the photos below. The first one, divo "to the deified", and the third one, divae (which has the same meaning but refers to a woman) suggests that the arch was dedicated to the emperor and his wife after their deaths in 211 and 217, which is a bit strange.

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, NW, inscription

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, inside, eagle

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, inside, relief of war

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, NW, Victoria

As we have already seen, the Arch of Septimius Severus was built over the crossroads of the Cardo and Decumanus. Essentially, it is a dome - although a very low one - placed on a groin vault. To make the transition of the vault to the dome smooth and beautiful, the pendentives were decorated with imperial eagles.

On the piers (the two photo to the right), reliefs are shown that match the arch's northwestern face. So, if "frieze A" is dedicated to the emperor's martial prowess, the reliefs on the piers have the same theme: war. Unfortunately, this part of the monument is not only made by a second-class sculptor, but is also badly damaged. Some art historians believe this is a copy of a scene from the Arch of Septimius Severus on the Roman Forum, and perhaps there is indeed some similarity to the left-hand relief of the eastern face of the Roman arch, which represent the liberation of Rome's ally Nisibis in 195 (more. ). However, both reliefs are very damaged, and we had better not jump to conclusions.

Northeast: Pietas

Let's turn to the arch, seen from the city itself. The road is the cardo, which appears to have been lowered a bit to to ensure that the arch really dominated the street. This side of the monument, the northeast face, is decorated with "frieze B". It represents the emperor's pietas, his exemplary religious behavior. This was very important, because as the empire's pontifex maximus (high priest), Septimius Severus was responsible for the pax deorum, "peace with the gods", which ensured that the harvests were plentiful, the rivers kept their course, the earth did not move, and rain fell when it had to. Severus had little patience with dissidents. During his stay in Lepcis Magna in 203, a young Christian named Perpetua was tortured to death in Carthage.

"Frieze B", now in the National Archaeological Museum in Tripoli, shows the imperial family (from left to right, Julia Domna, a long-haired Geta, a damaged and headless representation of the Empire, the emperor himself, Caracalla, and the emperor's brother Geta, attending the sacrifice of a bull, presided by the praetorian prefect, Plautianus.

The reliefs on the piers match frieze B: again, we see the emperor in a religious act, presiding a sacrifice. The representation is split into two registers: the imperial family in the upper register, the sacrifice itself in the lower.

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, inner decoration NW

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, inner decoration NW

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, inner decoration NW, upper register

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, inner decoration NW, lower register

The upper part shows the emperor, presiding the sacrifice. Standing behind him are Hercules, one of the two protective deities of Lepcis, and Caracalla. In the background, you can see a very large temple. The lower register shows an altar and the arrival of two bulls, who are about to be slaughtered.

Southeast: Felicitas

If someone arrived in Lepcis Magna from the southeast, he might have seen the arch like it is shown on the photo to the right. As you can see, to the left and right of the road, the Decumanus, the site has remained unexcavated, and we may hope that one day, missing parts of the Arch of Septimius Severus will be recovered.

This part of the relief, "frieze C", was not of the highest quality (the figures are too long) and is also badly damaged (only four pieces have been recovered so far) but it apparently celebrated the emperor's domestic successes, felicitas. Here we have some mounted senators, knights, or soldiers in civil dress. The bald man in front cannot be a soldier: he is too old.

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SE, frieze: soldiers dressed as civilians

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SE, frieze: Julia Domna and Mars

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SE, frieze: POWs sold as slaves

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SE, frieze: POWs to be sold as slaves

On the second photo above, Julia Domna can be recognized, together with Mars, one of the founder-deities of Rome. From the empress' presence, we may deduce that elsewhere on this frieze, the emperor himself was represented.

Finally, some other sculpture from the arch of Septimius Severus. To the left, a Victoria from the southeast face. In the center, two reliefs of the twelve Olympian gods. The lower register shows a/o Juno and Jupiter (modeled on Phidias' Zeus at Olympia), but it is not hard to see that Juno and Jupiter are dressed like Julia Domna and Septimius Severus. As always on a Roman triumphal arch, the conqueror is shown as equal to the gods.

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, SE, Victoria

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, inside, Twelve Olympian gods, upper register

Lepcis, Arch of Septimius Severus, inside, Twelve Olympian gods, lower register

Tour of the Roman Forum- Notable Monuments and Buildings

There are so many incredible buildings and monuments in the Roman Forum that it’s almost overwhelming. In addition to being a great place to see Roman ruins, the Roman Forum is also one of the best places to learn about Rome’s history.

These are a few highlights that stood out for me during my tour of the Roman Forum.

Arco di Settimio Severo (Arch of Septimius Severus)

Built in AD 203, this 68 foot high arch was erected in honour of Emperor Severus and his two sons Caracalla and Geta. It commemorates their two victories against the Parthians and is regarded as one of Italy’s major triumphal arches.

On both sides of the arch there is a dedication to Emperor Severus and Caracalla. The name of Septimius’ other son, Geta, was removed after he was assassinated by his own brother, Caracalla, in his quest to be sole Emperor after their father’s death.

Beside the arch is the umbilicus urbis, a stone which marks the symbolic centre of ancient Rome and to which all distances in Rome were measured.

Here you can see Winged Victories carved into the spandrels (the space between the arch and rectangular enclosure). I love how detailed the arch is!

Temple of Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was the first Roman resident to be officially deified by the Senate. After his assassination, he was granted the title Divine Julius and in 29 BC, Augustus had a temple dedicated in his honour. The temple was built on the site where Caesar’s body was cremated and Mark Antony read his famous speech. Today, all that remains of the temple is the altar.

Flowers rest on the remains of the altar.

Basilica Aemilia

This civil basilica was a two-storey portico, 100 metres long and lined with shops. Destroyed and rebuilt several times, it was almost completely plundered for its precious marbles during the Renaissance.

Remnants of the Basilica Aemilia.

Temple of Castor and Pollux

Castor and Pollux were twin brothers, the sons of Zeus and Leda. Together they are known as the Dioscuri, also the twins of Gemini. As legend holds, these Heavenly Twins astoundingly appeared to Roman troops during an important battle against the Tarquins.

The last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, waged war against the young Roman Republic in an attempt to regain his throne after being exiled. Roman dictator, Aulus Postumius Albus, promised to build a temple to the Dioscuri if Rome were victorious in the battle. On the battlefield, Castor and Pollux appeared as two horseman and aided the Romans to victory. Afterwards, the twins appeared again at the Roman Forum to announce the victory.

Holding true to promise, a temple was built to honour Castor and Pollux on the site of their appearance in the Roman Forum.

Three Corinthian columns are the only remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

Temple of Saturn

The Temple of Saturn is one of the most important ancient Roman temples. Established in 497 BC, the temple was used as the state treasury. During Caesar’s rule, large reserves of gold and silver were stored here, along with the official scale for weighing metals, and the state archives. All that remains of this grand building are eight columns and the partially preserved pediment.

Even in ruins, the Temple of Saturn is still impressive!

Column of Phocas

This column was built to honour Eastern Roman Emperor Phocus, who had generously donated the Pantheon to the Church. The Column of Phocas was the last monument built at the Roman Forum.

The Column of Phocas rising in front of the Arch of Septimius Severus.


体制を固めたセウェルスはより大胆な外征を計画、パルティア戦争で敵国の首都クテシフォンを占領するなど大勝を得て、ティグリス川沿いまで領土を拡張した [5] 。同時に属州アラビア・ペトラエアに建設されていた城壁「リーメス・アラビクス」の補強を進め、東方属州の拡大と強化に熱意を注いだ [6] 。自らの故郷である属州アフリカでも外征を行い、ガラマンテス族を破って「リメス・トリポリタヌス」を南の砂漠地帯にまで広げた [7] 。

治世後半も戦いに明け暮れる日々を過ごし、北方はブリタンニアでピクト族との戦争に従事しつつハドリアヌスの長城を補修した [8] 。セウェルスの死もそうした戦いの最中で起き、ブリタニア遠征中にエボラクムで病没した [9] 。死後は二人の息子カラカラとゲタが継承した為、新たな王朝としてセウェルス朝が成立した。

生い立ち 編集

母フルウィアはイタリア本土出身の由緒正しい血筋であった [11] 。恐らく彼女はローマの古参氏族で、帝政時代にはプレブス階級に没落していたフルウィウス氏族の末裔であると見られており、親類に近衛隊長や執政官を務めたガイウス・フルウィウス・プラウティアヌスがいる [12] (プラウティアヌスはセウェルスのいとこ(母方の叔父の息子)である)。

公職時代 編集

170年から180年にかけて矢継ぎ早に多くの役職を歴任した事実にも関わらず、セウェルスの元老院時代の記録は殆ど残っていない。「アントニヌスの疫病」は大勢の犠牲者を出し、元老院議員もかなりの議員が病死していた。セウェルスの異例の出世はこうした深刻な人材難による部分が大きかったと見られている。セウェルスは一度目の財務官を終えると今度はヒスパニア・バエティカで職務を継続するように命じられた [17] 。父の急死によりレプティス・マグナへ帰省している間にバエティカで動乱が起きて一時的に元老院から皇帝に同地の監督権が移ってしまい、セウェルスは任地に赴けないままに時間を費やした [18] 。173年、ガイウス・セプティミウス・セウェルスが属州アフリカの総督に赴任した際、縁者であるセウェルスを自らのレガトゥス・プロ・プラエトル(属州代理官)に指名した [19] 。

結婚と跡継ぎ 編集

セウェルスが結婚したのは当時の慣習より遅い三十代半ばになってからで、175年にパッキア・マルキアナという同郷の女性と結婚した [20] が、彼女はセウェルスとの子を生む事無く亡くなった [20] 。パッキアがいかなる人物であったかは今日全く不明であり、人名から恐らくはポエニ系の一族出身だったのではないかと推測されている程度である。セウェルス自身も後に皇帝となってからはパッキアとの婚歴を公に認めつつも隠すような行動を取った。ローマ皇帝群像はセウェルスにはパッキアとの間に二人の娘がいたと主張しているが、史学上の根拠はない。

186年に結婚から11年目でパッキアが病死すると [21] 、より有力な人物となっていたセウェルスは跡継ぎを欲してすぐに再婚相手を探し始めた(ローマ皇帝群像によればセウェルスは「占いで花嫁を探した」と主張されている [22] )。セウェルスは属州シリアにあるエメサ市で、土着信仰である太陽神ヘリオガバルスを奉じていた神官ユリウス・バッシアヌスの娘ユリア・ドムナと結婚した [23] 。後にセウェルス朝で暗躍するこの一族は地元シリアではかなりの資金と地位を持つ豪族でもあったが、ローマ本国では「ただのプレブスでしかなかった」とカッシウス・ディオは伝えている。

皇帝即位 編集

軍事政策 編集

197年の初めにセウェルスはローマの宮殿を立ってブリンディジへ向かうと海路でキリキアに進み [25] 、そこから陸路で属州シリアへ入った。そしてシリアに辿り着くと軍勢を集め、ユーフラテス川の渡河を開始した [26] 。セウェルス軍の前にオスロエネ王国の王アバガル9世はセウェルスに王子達を人質として差し出し、また弓兵隊を援軍に派遣して恭順の意思を示した [27] 。またアルメニア王ティリダテス2世も人質を送り、貢物を送って協力を示した [28] 。

202年後半、セウェルスは属州アフリカに対する新たな対外戦争を計画した。命令を受けた第3軍団「アウグスタ」の軍団長クィントゥス・アニシウス・ファウストゥスは「リーメス・トリポリタヌス」を巡ってガラマンテス族と戦い続け、レプティス・マグナから600km以上南へ蛮族を追い払った [30] 。また合わせてヌミディア地方でも同じく領域の拡大が進められた [31] 。203年までに、優れた将軍達の活躍で北アフリカにおける南部城壁はいずれも劇的に押し広げられ、砂漠地帯でローマを悩ませていた遊牧民はもはや容易に沿岸都市を攻撃できず、サハラ砂漠へと逃げることもできなくなった。

国内統治 編集

同時代の歴史家カッシウス・ディオによると [35] 、初期の統治を終えた197年頃からセウェルスは古い友人の一人である近衛隊長ガイウス・フルウィウス・プラウティヌスに治世を任せて、自らは外征に専念し内政を省みないようになったという。プラウティヌスは国内行政の殆ど全てを一手に握り、(初期を除けば)セウェルスの政策の多くは彼の手によって差配された。セウェルスはプラウティヌスを寵愛し、彼の娘を帝位継承を約束されていた長男カラカラの后妃として迎えさせた。次期皇帝の養父となり、もはや外戚としてプラウティヌス家の権威は絶対的なものとなった。しかしプラウティヌスの権勢はセウェルスの晩年にあっけなく終わりを迎えた。205年、彼はセウェルスの親族によって暗殺されたという [36] 。その後もセウェルスが直接統治を執り行う事は無く、行政はアエミリウス・パピニアヌスという法律家に一任された。

病没 編集

カッシウス・ディオによれば、211年、遠征地で危篤に陥ったセウェルスは二人の息子達に『共に仲良くせよ。軍を富ませよ。他は無視せよ』と言い遺した [39] 。病没後は直ちに神として神殿に祭られ、後にカラカラとゲタもこれに加わった [40] 。

Arcus Septimii Severi

From Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, rev. Thomas Ashby. Oxford: 1929, p. 43-44.

The arch erected in 203 A.D. in honour of Severus and his sons Geta and Caracalla, at the northwest corner of the forum, in front of the temple of Concord. This information is contained in the dedicatory inscription (CIL VI.1033 cf. 31230) on both sides of the attic of the arch, which is still standing. The original bronze letters of this inscription have disappeared, but their matrices remain, and it can be seen that the name of Geta was chiselled away after his murder, and the space filled up with additional titles of Severus and Caracalla. The arch is triple and built of Pentelic marble on a foundation of travertine, which was concealed by a flight of steps that formed the approach to the arch from the forum side. Later, probably in the fourth century, the level in front of the arch on this side was lowered, the flight of steps lengthened, and the top of the foundation cut away to provide for them (CR 1899, 233 Mitt. 1902, 21-22). The exposed corners of the foundation were then faced with marble. The arch was never traversed by a road until mediaeval times.

Dedicatory inscription

The dedicatory inscription on the arch reads:


Imp(eratori) Caes(ari) Lucio Septimio M(arci) fil(io) Severo Pio Pertinaci Aug(usto) patri patriae Parthico Arabico et Parthico Adiabenico pontific(i) maximo tribunic(ia) potest(ate) XI imp(eratori) XI, co(n)s(uli) III proco(n)s(uli) et imp(eratori) Caes(ari) M(arco) Aurelio L(ucii) fil(io) Antonino Aug(usto) Pio Felici tribunic(ia) potest(ate) VI co(n)s(uli) proco(n)s(uli) (p(atri) p(atriae) optimis fortissimisque principibus) ob rem publicam restitutam imperiumque populi Romani propagatum insignibus virtutibus eorum domi forisque S(enatus) P(opulus) Q(ue) R(omanus). Α]

"To the emperor Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus Parthicus Arabicus Parthicus Adiabenicus, son of Marcus, father of his country, Pontifex Maximus, in the eleventh year of his tribunician power, in the eleventh year of his rule, consul thrice, and proconsul, and to the emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus Pius Felix, son of Lucius, in the sixth year of his tribunician power, consul, and proconsul (fathers of their country, the best and bravest emperors), on account of the restored republic and the rule of the Roman people spread by their outstanding virtues at home and abroad, the Senate and the People of Rome (sc. dedicate this monument)"

Septimius Severus was ruling jointly as emperor with his son Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus) when the arch was dedicated. The parenthesized section in the middle is text that replaced an original reference to his other son Geta, which was chiseled out upon Geta's damnatio memoriae by Caracalla.

Watch the video: Arch of Septimius Severus (January 2022).