Roman Empire, Septimius Severus - Hope for a Dynasty

Article Image

This reverse type neatly shows the hope Severus held for unity and amity between his two sons, and his wish for them to rule together following his death and thus continue the dynasty he had founded. Imperial propaganda presented the image of a happy family that shared the responsibilities of rule: Severus' wife Julia Domna was his trusted counsellor, his older son Caracalla his second in command, and his younger son, appointed Augustus in 209, was entrusted with administrative and bureaucratic duties.

Yet the brothers' disdain for one another is well-attested; Dio Cassius relates that 'the two pretended to love and commend each other, but in all that they did they were diametrically opposed, and anyone could see that something terrible was bound to result from the situation.'

Following Severus' death whilst on campaign in Caledonia in 211, the two brothers returned to Rome from Britannia to their joint rule under the watchful eye of their mother. The brothers argued and fought over every law and every appointment, the situation becoming sufficiently unbearable that by the end of the year during the festival of Saturnalia, Caracalla attempted to have Geta murdered, without success. Later, under the pretext of meeting for a reconciliation, Caracalla had his brother slain in his mother's arms by members of the Praetorian Guard loyal to him.

After a tumultuous and bloodthirsty reign of less than six years, Caracalla was assassinated by an officer of his personal bodyguard while relieving himself at a roadside near Carrhae. Although after a brief interlude the line of Septimius' father Bassianus would continue for some time yet in the form of Elagabalus (Caracalla's first cousin, once removed) and later Severus Alexander, Caracalla's death firmly extinguished Septimius' dream for his sons to continue the Severan dynasty he had laboured to establish.

Septimius Severus, with Caracalla and Geta, AV Aureus. Rome, AD 209. SEVERVS PIVS AVG, laureate head right / CONCORDIA AVGVSTORVM, Caracalla and Geta, both laureate and togate, standing facing one another, supporting between them a globe surmounted by Victory standing left, holding wreath in right hand and palm frond in left. RIC IV 255; Calicó 2435a; Biaggi 1064; BMCRE 312. 7.30g, 21mm, 12h.

Near Mint State. Very Rare.