Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
  • Time Travel Rome

guy

Septimus Severan's ethnicity?

Recommended Posts

Berber? Carthaginian? Libyan / North African? Roman?

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Severan...sty_-_tondo.jpg

 

Thanks in advance,

 

guy also known as gaius

 

P.S.: Septimus Severus was the emperor during the latter period of Galen's life and possibly his patron (along with Commodus and Marcus Aurelius before him).

Edited by guy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some of his ancestors had Phoenician names, so this may give a clue on their origin.

 

On the other hand the Historia Augusta say that his family were Roman Equestrians before citizenship was widespread in the provinces, and he did come from Leptis Magna which was organize as a Roman city, so this probably indicate that some of his ancestors were Italians.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Septimius Severus' African ancestry -

"...the first known Septimius of Lepcis was of Punic origin, a Roman knight in the year 95 or earlier...it seems logical to indentify them (the Septimii Maceri) as the likeliest ancestors of Septimius before the family acquired a Roman style gentilicium and citizenship" . (Septimius Severus By Anthony Richard Birley)

 

About his color - It seems that the Romans did not care...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Septimius Severus' African ancestry -

"...the first known Septimius of Lepcis was of Punic origin, a Roman knight in the year 95 or earlier...it seems logical to indentify them (the Septimii Maceri) as the likeliest ancestors of Septimius before the family acquired a Roman style gentilicium and citizenship" . (Septimius Severus By Anthony Richard Birley)

 

About his color - It seems that the Romans did not care...

Birley is a good example; aside from being presumably born in Africa, what does this author really meant by Punic origin regarding any Equite in 95 AD? This would be like two and a half centuries (ie ten whole generations) after the absolute oblteration of the Carthaginian people and civilization at the end of Punic War III.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Septimius Severus' African ancestry -

"...the first known Septimius of Lepcis was of Punic origin, a Roman knight in the year 95 or earlier...it seems logical to indentify them (the Septimii Maceri) as the likeliest ancestors of Septimius before the family acquired a Roman style gentilicium and citizenship" . (Septimius Severus By Anthony Richard Birley)

 

About his color - It seems that the Romans did not care...

Birley is a good example; aside from being presumably born in Africa, what does this author really meant by Punic origin regarding any Equite in 95 AD? This would be like two and a half centuries (ie ten whole generations) after the absolute oblteration of the Carthaginian people and civilization at the end of Punic War III.

 

 

Birley talks about Punic origin, not Carthaginian . leptis survived the 3rd punic war and remined a Punic community for years to come . Most important is the fact that "The first thing to note about Lepcis during the first century was its conspicuous lack of immigrants. In marked contrast to the rest of Africa, the city did not see the official establishment of a large Italian community in its midst...That Lepcis did not have such a corporation suggests that the native aristocracy retained their importance under Roman rule" (Richard Cawley) . So, with the fact that the Septimii came from Leptis it is logic to assume, like the UNRV's biography of Severus, that among others, he had Punic blood .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Indeed. Carthage might have been destroyed, but Punic culture wasn't.

Elements of it survive well into the empire, and in some places right up to the Arab conquest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Indeed. Carthage might have been destroyed, but Punic culture wasn't.

Elements of it survive well into the empire, and in some places right up to the Arab conquest.

That's an interesting but controversial issue.

"Elements" is an undefined term here and some of them may certainly have survived up to here and now, but that's quite far from the survival of a culture.

Even if Augustine might still have read some punic books by the early fifth century, such laguage seems to have been effectively dead (no new native speakers) from a couple of generations after Punic War III.

What would we be rightly able to call a "punic culture" under the Roman empire?

 

Controversial it may be, and I used 'elements' deliberately as a vague term.

But there are lots of Punic inscriptions covering most of the imperial period, though a fair number are written using the Latin alphabet.

There certainly isn't as clean a break as you are suggesting. Here is a summary of a recent thesis on the subject. Interestingly, the African limes you mention seems to have provided many of these Punic inscriptions.

Edited by Maladict

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember reading that Septimius Sever was embarrassed when he was an emperor that his sister spoke Latin with a very strong Punic accent. This may indicate that his mother tongue was Punic.

Some roman cities from North Africa kept Punic organization and titles like while others were organized on the roman model.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have no idea what ethnicity is or was and we can have a lengthy discussion about this fascinating topic.

Ethnicity was by no means critical as he was able to win imperial power, a sign of broad support at least at army level, and one of his opponents was also an "african".

 

Still his African origins and even more important the Syrian origins of his wife played a role and his entire dynasty had an exotic flavor visible in the decorations of Septizonium and the excesses of Elegabal. Maybe even the edict of Caracalla had something to do with a changing definition of what being a roman citizen meant.

 

Being a roman knight and even a roman senator had less to do with "ethnicity" or "mother language" and even religion as we see Jew knights and Greek senators much earlier then the rise of Septimius Sever. The romans were a political nation like the French and the US following the ideas of the XVIII C rather then a ethnically defined nation like the Germans and Italians after Romanticism.

 

Anyway, congrats again for your rapid identification of sources.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've recently published a book about the life of Severus, focusing in detail on the influence of his wife Julia Domna and their two sons.

Severus follows the amazing true story of a rebellious boy who grew up in an African province and became the first Black Caesar of the Roman Empire, the head of a dynasty that would lead Rome through bloody civil wars and rapidly changing times.

As a young man, Severus hates the Romans and conspires to humiliate them. What begins as a childish prank unfurls into a bloodbath that sends Severus careening into his future. Through a tragic love affair, dangerously close battles and threats both internal and external, Severus accrues power — and enemies — in his unlikely rise to become the most powerful man in the ancient world.

There is old world magic and tradition clashing with new world expectations. Severus has political intrigue, romance and familial drama. Treachery from his advisors and his own wife gets closer every day and his son emerges as a ruthless and disturbed emperor-in-waiting.

Even in its ancient setting, the book addresses timely questions of home, family and parenting, immigration and assimilation. What has a man abandoned when he fights against something he used to believe in? Is it growth? Is it betrayal? Who gets to rule and what makes a good leader? There is also the eternal, unanswered question: is history always doomed to repeat itself?

The book is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback format:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07WLNS4W1/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=unrv00-20&linkId=4875ecb7c914a128c502092add617350

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1086355393/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=unrv00-20&linkId=2aaa88b668ed4e62305594374ffef027

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×