Archive for the ‘Roman History’ Category

Born sometime around 207 AD, Severus succeeded his cousin Elagabalus, when the latter was assassinated. He was 15 years old at the time and this made Severus the youngest of all Roman Emporers at that time.

Severus Alexander (Liverpool Museum)

He was an able administrator and most of his reign was a prosperous time for the empire. He had an open opinion on religion and reformed the rights of soldiers.

In 231, the Sassanids invaded the eastern empire. The accounts of the campaign are contradictory. Herodian records a number of defeats for the Romans, but Historia Augusta and Severus own dispatches record great victories. However, Severus did recover the lost territory and prevent further incursion into the empire, at least for the present. In 234 the German tribes crossed the Rhine and Danube borders. Concerned that his army was not in a fit state to face the invaders, Severus sought a diplomatic solution and if this should fail, bribery.

This didn’t sit well with the legions, who felt such an approach dishonoured them and their abilities. There had been a growing discontent amongst the legions and this was the final straw. He was assassinated by a group of soldiers on 19th March 235 and the legion acclaimed Gaius Lulius Verus Maximus, a soldier from Thrace, as Emporer. Severus had reigned for 13 years and most of these had been prosperous for the empire.

Many historians see the assassination of Severus as the beginning of a crisis in the empire which would last for 50 years. It would be a time of invasion, civil war and economic failure. In the next 50 years, there would be 26 claimants to the throne of the Emporer. It would see the establishment, and subsequent fall, of a number of independent regions within the empire and would only end when Diocletian gained the throne in 284. It is interesting to note that although immediately after his death Severus was condemned by the Senate, within a few years of Maximus’ death in 238, they had deified Severus, recognising, in hindsight, the stability he had bought to the empire.

Roman Emporers: Gaius Caesar

Posted: November 21, 2018 in History, Roman History

In this case a nearly Emporer. Gaius was the Grandson of Augustus Caesar and the son of Marcus Agrippa and was the nominated heir to the purple. He was both a skilled politician and military leader and was an almost ideal candidate to succeed his grandfather, talented and much loved by the Roman people. He led successful military campaigns in Parthia, Arabia and Armenia.

In 2AD, during the Armenian Campaign, the rebel leader sent a message that he wanted to negotiate a truce. Unfortunately it was a trick and when Gaius showed up, he and his attendants were attacked by the rebels. Gaius was wounded. Initially he seemed to recover and his forces went onto defeat the rebels.

Within a year things took a turn for the worse. Long-term effects of his wound began to take their toil. evetually at the age of twenty-three he resigned his commision and retired to Syria. He sent his grandfather a letter in which he told him he wanted to resign from public life. Augustus, no doubt hoping this was a temporary setback and the Gaius would recover, tried to convince him to return to Italy and the court, but Gaius refused. By February of 4 AD, he was dead.

We are told that the whole Empire was shocked and saddened by the death of this much loved leader. He was granted many posthumous honours ny the Roman state.

Both Tacitus and Cassius Deo writing years later suggest that it was not the wound that killed him but that he was poisoned. The main candidate for this was Livia, Gaius’ step-mother, whose son Tiberius became the heir on the death of Gaius.

Marcus Aurelius, Emporer and Philosopher, reigned from 161 to 180 AD. He was born in 121 in the province of Iberia (Modern day Spain) into a patrician family. In 136 Emporer Hadrian adopted Marcus’ father in law as his successor, but he died only 2 years later. The Emporer then appointed Aurelius Antoninus, Marcus’ uncle, as his new heir and Antoninus adopted Marcus and Lucius Verus as his heirs. Hadrian was very sick at this time and only 6 months after making the appointments he died and Antoninus took the Imperial throne in his place. In 139 and 140, Marcus served as Consul, having avoided the normal route of advancement by being the heir of the Emporer. Marcus the consul struggled with the life and duties of court yearning for time for his reading and studies. Antoninus died in 161 and Marcus he became co-Emporer with Lucius Verus, even though the Senate wished him to be sole ruler. Lucius Verus died in 169 and Marcus roled as sole Emporer. During his reign, he defeated the Parthian Empire and was successful in the Marcomanic Wars against the Germanic tribes. But he still found time to write about his philosophical beliefs. In addition to his military and scholastic renown, he was also a good administrator and lawyer. Marcus died in March 180 and was succeeded by his son, Commodus, with whom he had ruled jointly since 177. Marcus Aurelius is regarded as being the last of the 5 Good Emporers and many historians take his death and the ascension of his son as being the start of the decline of the Roman Empire.

Views of York (2)

Posted: September 7, 2018 in History, Roman History, UK, York
Tags: ,

Column from Roman headquarters building (4th century AD)

Column from Roman headquarters building (4th century AD)




The birthplace of Guy Fawkes

The birthplace of Guy Fawkes

York Minster

York Minster

York Minster close

York Minster close

York Minster

The first recorded church on the site was in 627 in a record of the baptism of a King of Northumbria. This church was rebuilt and extended over the years but was finally destroyed by Danish raid in 1075. it was rebuilt in 1080 in the Norman style. The current Gothic cathedral was begun in 1220. Building continued over the next 250 years and it was eventually completed and consecrated in 1472.





Statue of Roman Emperor Constantine, who was proclaimed Emperor by the Army at York whilst he was commanding them in 306. The statue stands outside the Minster as a reminder that Constantine, as well as being proclaimed in York, was the Emperor who made Christianity an official religion in the Roman Empire.


As well as their excellent collection of tombstones and sarcophagi, the GNM has more everyday artefacts found in the local area.



Head of Constantius Chlorus – found in York

Born in 250AD in the Balkans, he first comes to notice during campaigns against Palmyra and subsequently was made governor of  Dalmatia. In 288 he was made Pretorian Prefect to the co-emperor Maximian and campaigned along the Rhine border. In 293 he was appointed Caesar (second in command / vice-Emporeror) of the Western Territories taking command of Hispania (Spain), Gaul (France) and Britannia. This was rather a poisoned chalice since Northern Gaul and Brittainia had been in revolt since 286 and was claimed by the rebel leader Carausius. Constantius defeated both Carausius and Allectus, who had assumed command of the rebels on the former’s death. He set about replacing the rebel administration and introduced the administrative reforms of Diocletian. He continued to divide his time between Britain and the Rhine frontier.

In May 305 he took over from Maximian as Augustus of the West and was joined in Gaul by his son Constantine, who many had expected to be named Cesaer in his father place, but this instead had been given to Severus, a nominee of Galerius, the Augustus of the East. Father and Son crossed over to Britain and campaigned against the Picts north of Hadrians Wall. They retired to York for the winter, but Constantius was taken ill and died. The army, rejecting the Western Cesaer, Severus, acclaimed Constantine as Emporer. In a shrewd political move, Constantine quickly accepted the role of Cesaer to Severus, thus avoiding war and giving him time to prepare for a campaign that would eventually see him control the whole empire.

The Great Northern Museum in Newcastle has a very good collection of Roman tombs and tombstones. Many of these have come from the area of Hadrians Wall and give us an insight into the variety of people serving there and where they originated in the empire.

Some of these give us textual descriptions of the people they commemorate, whilst other also include pictorial representations of the person and their trade.

There also some fine examples of stone sarcophagi.

What a wonderful experience. Visited Vindolanda a couple of years ago – a great site

Stephen Liddell

I’ve been so busy with my tours that I haven’t had a day off since April 16th and so my blog posts are currently a bit shorter than usual.  Even last week when I would be walking for up to 11 hours a day, I still had to start and finish my day with what I call Admin Work.

One of the places I most enjoyed visiting last week was the old Roman site of Vindolanda.Vindolanda is one of Europe’s most important Roman archeological sites and every summer archeologists and volunteers from around the world descend on the place.

IMG_9628One photo can’t capture just how big a site Vindolanda is

The site itself comprises at least 8 successive forts of which several were occupied before Hadrian’s Wall was built.  Regiments from across the Empire were garrisoned here. The visible stone fort dates to the early third century and the impressive…

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originally posted in July 2013

I think one of the most amazing things is the way that things have survived the eruption and which give us a great insight to the lives of everyday Romans