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Alexander “Sissy” Severus

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Aleksander Sever
Aleksander Sever

Aleksander Severus took power in the Roman Empire in 222 CE after the murder of the eccentric Elagabalus, his cousin. Throughout his rule, Alexander was extremely susceptible to the influence of his grandmother and mother, who de facto ruled in his name.

For the first four years of hir rule, Alexander was dominated by his influential and very intelligent grandmother Julia Maesa. After her death in 226 CE she was deified, what was the privilege of only emperors and their spouses – this proves the strong position of grandmother Alexander.

From this year, mother of Alexander – Julia Mammea – started to gain influence. Contemporaries accused her of avarice and greed. It was alleged that she was taking drop from the will, accepting bribes, what she did in public, not caring about opinion.

Throughout his life, Alexander was properly educated so as to remain as much subordinate to his mother and grandmother. During his reign, Alexander was still a nice and polite boy carrying out his mother’s orders and requests. Even the supportive for Alexander historians claimed that the ruler had too much respect for his mother and did not respond to her negative actions. The son protested, but not very skillfully and quickly returned to the mother’s influence.

When Mammea decided that Alexander should have a wife, she herself chose him a candidate. The emperor married in 225 CE Orbiana. Unexpectedly, the Emperor fell in love, which upset the Emperor’s mother, who immediately told him to divorce his new wife. Sallustia Orbiana was exiled to Libya, and to make matters worse her father, Lucius Seius Sallustius, was sentenced to death in 227 CE on charges of attempting to murder the emperor.

Particularly negative opinion soldiers about Alexander in the army was embittered by the stinginess of Mammea. No bonuses were provided and war expenses were kept to a minimum. In addition, Alexander Severus did not have any military experience, what additionally did not strenghten his position among legionaries. In the army, epithets were spreading: “sissy” and “child”.

Soon the war with the Germans broke out, during which the emperor made a fatal mistake: he assumed direct command over the soldiers. Alexander tried to gain time before the faithful legions of the Persian war, enriched with spoils, will reach the Rhine, and he can begin negotiations with the Germans. However, on March 21, 235 CE after the settlement with the barbarians, he was murdered by legionaries who recognized Alexander as unworthy of rule. The death of “sissy” Alexander meant the collapse of the Severan dynasty and the beginning of the great crisis of the third century in the Empire.

  • Koper Sławomir, Życie prywatne i erotyczne w starożytnej Grecji i Rzymie, Warszawa 1998
  • Krawczuk Aleksander, Poczet cesarzy rzymskich, Warszawa 2004

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