|Augustus||25 July 306 – April 307 (in the West)|
Constantine I (Gaul and Britain)
Maxentius, and Maximian
|Caesar||1 May 305 – 25 July 306 (in the West under Constantius)|
Flavius Valerius Severus (also called Severus II), was a Roman emperor from 306 to the moment of his death, in September 307. After failing to besiege Rome, he fled to Ravenna. It is thought that he was killed there or executed near Rome.
Background and early career
Severus was of humble birth, born in Northern Illyria around the middle of the third century AD. He rose to become a senior officer in the Roman army, and as an old friend of Galerius, that emperor nominated Severus as Caesar of the Western Roman Empire. According to Lactantius, Diocletian objected to Galerius's suggestion, saying in response, "What! That dancer, that habitual drunkard who turns night into day and day into night?" Galerius persisted, saying that Severus has served faithfully as paymaster and purveyor of the army. Diocletian acquiesced and Severus succeeded to the post of Caesar on 1 May 305. He thus served as junior emperor to Constantius I (Constantius Chlorus), Augustus of the western half of empire.
On the death of Constantius I in Britain in the summer of 306, Severus was promoted to Augustus by Galerius. This was done as a reaction to the acclamation of Constantine I (Constantius' son) by his own soldiers at York as Augustus. Lactantius reports that Galerius had done this to promote the older man to the higher office, while accepting the imperial symbols of Constantine and bestowing upon him the rank of Caesar.
When Maxentius, the son of the retired emperor Maximian, revolted at Rome, Galerius sent Severus to suppress the rebellion. Severus moved towards Rome from his capital, Mediolanum, at the head of an army previously commanded by Maximian. Fearing the arrival of Severus, Maxentius offered Maximian the co-rule of the empire. Maximian accepted, and when Severus arrived under the walls of Rome and besieged it, his men deserted to Maximian, their old commander. Severus fled to Ravenna, an impregnable position. Maximian offered to spare his life and treat him humanely if he surrendered peaceably, which he did in March or April 307. Despite Maximian's assurance, Severus was nonetheless displayed as a captive and later imprisoned at Tres Tabernae. One belief is that when Galerius himself invaded Italy to suppress Maxentius and Maximian, the former ordered Severus's death, and that he was executed on September 307 at Tres Tabernae, near the current Cisterna di Latina. Lactantius reports that he was permitted to kill himself by opening his veins. Another belief is that Severus II was killed in Ravenna.
Severus was survived by his son Flavius Severianus.
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- Lactantius. Lord Hailes (transl.) (2021) On the Deaths of the Persecutors: A Translation of De Mortibus Persecutorum by Lucius Cæcilius Firmianus Lactantius Evolution Publishing, Merchantville, NJ ISBN 978-1-935228-20-2, p. 47
- Baronio, Annales Ecclesiastici, vol. 1, pp. 769-770
- Works related to The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 1, Chapter XIV at Wikisource
- Media related to Flavius Valerius Severus at Wikimedia Commons