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Lucius Septimius Severus was Roman emperor from April 193 to February 211 CE. He was of Libyan descent from Lepcis Magna and came from a locally prominent Punic family who had a history of rising to senatorial as well as consular status.
Severus’ reign witnessed the implementation of reforms in both the provinces and the military which had long term consequences. After the defeat of his rivals, Severus resolved to not have another take power in the fashion that he did. Consequently, he divided the three legion provinces of Pannonia and Syria to discourage future governors to rise up in revolt (Pannonia was divided into the new provinces of Pannonia Superior and Pannonia Inferior; Syria was divided into Syria Coele and Syria Phoenice). Britain was also divided into two provinces (Britannia Superior and Britannia Inferior), although it is debated whether or not Severus or his son and successor Caracalla did this.
Severus is also noted for his reforms of the army. Not only did he greatly increase the size of the army, in order to ensure its loyalty he also raised the annual pay of the soldiers from 300 to 500 denarii (many would have seen this pay rise as overdue, as the last raise in soldiers’ salaries was granted by the emperor Domitian in 84 CE). Severus, to pay for these raises, had to debase the silver coinage. It seems that the long term effects this may have had on inflation were minimal, although Severus set a precedent for future emperors to continuously debase the coinage in order to pay for the army. The historians Dio and Herodian criticized Severus for these pay rises, mainly because it put more financial pressure on the civilian population to maintain a larger army.
Despite emerging victorious from a period of civil war and bringing stability to the empire, Severus’ sense of accomplishment may have been mixed. His last words, according to various historians, seem to imply that he felt he may have left his work unfinished. Aurelius Victor reported that Severus, on his deathbed, despairingly declared ‘I have been all things, and it has profited nothing.’ Dio, who knew Severus personally, wrote that, as the emperor expired, he gasped ‘Come, give it to me, if we have anything to do!’ —