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Severus Alexander

Emperor A.D 222 - 235

Even though he was only a fourteen year old boy when he was elevated to the throne, the Senate voted him the title PATER PATRIAE, Latin for "Father of his Country "because they were so relieved to be free of the wanton depravity of his predecessor Elagabalus. The Senate also wished to make it clear that they, and not the powerful Roman legions were in control. Severus Alexander was a peaceful and religious man. He set up a shrine containing statues of his favorite gods and even included one of Jesus Christ. He removed some of the harsh laws discriminating against Christians, and even thought about setting up a temple for Christian worship. The priests of the traditional religion told him, however, that if he did so the old Roman gods would be forgotten because all people would begin to worship Jesus.

The women of the Severan dynasty had always wielded a great deal of power and Alexander's mother, Julia Mamaea, tightly controlled who could see her son. She urged him to govern well and give all his attention to laws and administration. Partly because he was under the control of his mother for so long, he was never popular with the legions. He did lead an army against the Persian king Artaxerxes, but was late in bringing his troops up to the heaviest part of the fighting after there had been many Roman soldiers slaughtered. Though he won that campaign, he was not very popular with the army after that even though he paid his soldiers well and saw that they were well equipped.

In A.D. 235, a popular army officer, Maximinus the Thracian, led a revolt that ended the reign and the life of Severus Alexander. With a group of army officers, he entered Alexander's tent and stabbed him to death. Also killed were Julia Mamaea and other relatives. Any hope that the Senate had of recovering some of the power it had during the days of the Republic vanished as the large, strong, and popular barbarian from Thrace took the place of the gentle young Severus Alexander.


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