Posted by: ken98 | October 13, 2009

Chapter 6 – Alexander Severus

Ok, Ken, I think you should put your name first in the “About” section of this blog.  I’m obviously not contributing a lot.  How the Hell do you find the time!  Oh, that’s right you’re currently without gainful employment.

Sorry.  Thank you very much for all the work you’ve done.  I love all the images, maps, etc.  If I can ever figure out how I’ll add some of my own.

Anyway, I wanted to comment on Alexander Severus.  He has always intrigued me as an interesting subject for a historical novel, and because so little is known about him an author would have wide scope for speculation.  I love to entertain “what if” scenarios and explore the lives of dynamic but obscure  political figures who would have made a distinct historical impression but for bad luck and timing.

Gore Vidal’s excellent historical novel, Julian, about the last pagan emperor of the Roman Empire (360 CE – 363 CE) has probably forever barred any writer from tackling the subject again.  That ruler’s failed attempt to organize the multitudinous pagan religions of the Roman Empire into an effective counterforce to Christianity makes him along with the Emperor Hadrian (117 CE – 138 CE) my favorite Roman emperor.  Another worthy candidate for historical fiction is the Emperor Majorian (457 CE – 461 CE) who made the last real effort to save the Western Roman Empire by attempting the re-conquest of Africa from the Vandals and so regain the Western Empire’s primary food source,  but more about him in 200 years.  There is also, of course, the exceptionally distasteful examples of the Emperors Pupienus (April 238 – July 238 CE) and Probus (276 CE – 282 CE) and whether or not they ever met, but I continue to digress.

The Emperor Alexander Severus (222 CE – 235 CE)  ruled for thirteen years almost to the day and with relative wisdom after the assassination of his depraved cousin, the Emperor Elagabalus in 222 CE.  He respected the Senate and attempted to revitalize that political body by restoring much of its former authority.  Though not quite fourteen when he ascended to the Imperium, his mother Julia Mamaea (niece of Emperor Septimius Severus, founder of the Severan Dynasty) had made sure he was well-educated.  He must also have been well-advised by his mother and prominent jurists such as Ulpian.  Given the ruthless rapacity of the army he could not have remained on the throne for so long without some ability.

Except for Septimius, the founder of the dynasty, none of the Severan Emperors seemed particularly interested in procreation, and it is also curious that the Emperor Caracalla styled himself as Alexander which was then imitated by his nephew.  This would be a further topic for exploration in a novel.  Alexander Severus was probably only married once to Orbiana, a Senator’s daughter, but after two years she was banished as punishment for her father’s supposed attempted assassination of the young Emperor Alexander.  Like is his fellow Syrian cousin, Elagabalus, Alexander Severus may have been homosexually inclined.  Such is the fun of fiction.

Like his namesake, Alexander Severus may have been a  reasonably successful general as well because of his defeat or at least containment of the newly emerged Sassanian Empire (224 CE – 651 CE) of Persia.  It seems unlikely that he would have ruled for so long if he were not somewhat capable.  When he was assassinated by his troops in Germany in 235 CE there must have been much more complexity to the situation than, as Eddy G. claims, that he and his mother were parsimonious when paying the troops or that the Emperor’s desire to negotiate with or buy-off the Germans lead to his death.  To reiterate he would make a fascinating subject for a fictional treatment.

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