Authentic Ancient Coin of:
Septimius Severus - Roman Emperor: 193-211 A.D. -
Silver Denarius 18mm (2.78 grams) Rome mint, 201 A.D.
Reference: RIC 176, RSC 370
SEVERVS PIVS AVG, laureate head right.
PART MAX P M TR P VIIII, captives seated either side of base of trophy.
This coin celebrates the victories of Septimius Severus over Parthia, complete with the military trophy and captives captured in victorious battle with this enemy.
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A trophy is a reward for a specific achievement, and serves as recognition or evidence of merit.
A tropaion (Greek: τρόπαιον, Latin: tropaeum), whence English "trophy" is an ancient Greek and later Roman monument set up to commemorate a victory over one's foes. Typically this takes the shape of a tree, sometimes with a pair of arm-like branches (or, in later times, a pair of stakes set crosswise) upon which is hung the armour of a defeated and dead foe. The tropaion is then dedicated to a god in thanksgiving for the victory.
A Roman tropaeum from the Dacian Wars (Trajan's Column 113 CE, note the tree trunk with arm-like branches)
In the Greek city-states of the Archaic period, the tropaion would be set up on the battlefield itself, usually at the site of the "turning point" (Gk. tropê) at which the routed enemy's phalanx broke, turned and ran. It would be dressed in the typical hoplite panoply of the period, including (at different times), a helmet, cuirass (either of bronze or linen), and a number of shields,etc, would be piled about the base. It remained on the battlefield until the following season's campaigns (since battles were often fought in the same, relatively few plains amid Greece's numerous mountains), where it might be replaced with a new trophy.
In later eras in the Greek world, these tropaia might be vowed at the battle-site, but in fact erected at pan-Hellenic sanctuaries such as Olympia or Delphi to further increase the prestige of the victorious state.
The significance of the monument is a ritualistic notification of "victory" to the defeated enemies. Since warfare in the Greek world was largely a ritualistic affair in the archaic hoplite-age (see Hanson, The Western Way of War for further elaboration of this idea), the monument is used to reinforce the symbolic capital of the victory in the Greek community.
Ancient sources attest to the great deal of significance that early Greek cities placed upon symbols and ritual as linked to warfare--the story involving the bones of Orestes, for example, in Herodotus 1 which go beyond the ritualistic properties to even magically 'guaranteeing' the Spartan victory, displays the same sort of interest in objects and symbols of power as they relate to military success or failure.
The tropaeum in Rome, on the other hand, would probably not be set up on the battle-site itself, but rather displayed prominently in the city of Rome. Romans were less concerned about impressing foreign powers or military rivals than they were in using military success to further their own political careers inside the city, especially during the later years of the Republic. A tropaeum displayed on the battlefield does not win votes, but one brought back and displayed as part of a triumph can impress the citizens (who might then vote in future elections in favor of the conqueror) or the nobles (with whom most aristocratic Romans of the Republican period were in a constant struggle for prestige).
The symbolism of the tropaeum became so well known that in later eras, Romans began to simply display images of them upon sculpted reliefs (see image and Tropaeum Traiani), to leave a permanent trace of the victory in question rather than the temporary monument of the tropaeum itself.
Originally the word trophy, derived from the Latin tropaion, referred to arms, standards, other property, or human captives and body parts (e.g. headhunting) captured in battle. These war trophies commemorated the military victories of a state, army or individual combatant. In modern warfare trophy taking is discouraged, but this sense of the word is reflected in hunting trophies and human trophy collecting by serial killers.
Trophies have marked victories since ancient times. The word trophy coined in English in 1550, was derived from the French trophée in 1513, "a prize of war", from Old French trophee, from Latin trophaeum, monument to victory, variant of tropaeum, which in turn is the latinisation of the Greek τρόπαιον (tropaion), the neuter of τροπαῖος (tropaios), "of defeat" or "for defeat", but generally "of a turning" or "of a change", from τροπή (tropē), "a turn, a change" and that from the verb τρέπω (trepo), "to turn, to alter".
In ancient Greece, trophies were made on the battlefields of victorious battles, from captured arms and standards, and were hung upon a tree or a large stake made to resemble a warrior. Often, these ancient trophies were inscribed with a story of the battle and were dedicated to various gods. Trophies made about naval victories sometimes consisted of entire ships (or what remained of them) laid out on the beach. To destroy a trophy was considered a sacrilege.
The ancient Romans kept their trophies closer to home. The Romans built magnificent trophies in Rome, including columns and arches atop a foundation. Most of the stone trophies that once adorned huge stone memorials in Rome have been long since stolen
Lucius Septimius Severus (or rarely Severus I) (April 11, 145/146-February 4, 211) was a Roman general, and Roman Emperor from April 14, 193 to 211. He was born in what is now the Berber part of Rome's historic Africa Province.
Septimius Severus was born and raised at Leptis Magna (modern Berber, southeast of Carthage, modern Tunisia). Severus came from a wealthy, distinguished family of equestrian rank. Severus was of Italian Roman ancestry on his mother's side and of Punic or Libyan-Punic ancestry on his father's. Little is known of his father, Publius Septimius Geta, who held no major political status but had two cousins who served as consuls under emperor Antoninus Pius. His mother, Fulvia Pia's family moved from Italy to North Africa and was of the Fulvius gens, an ancient and politically influential clan, which was originally of plebeian status. His siblings were a younger Publius Septimius Geta and Septimia Octavilla. Severus’s maternal cousin was Praetorian Guard and consul Gaius Fulvius Plautianus.
In 172, Severus was made a Senator by the then emperor Marcus Aurelius. In 187 he married secondly Julia Domna. In 190 Severus became consul, and in the following year received from the emperor Commodus (successor to Marcus Aurelius) the command of the legions in Pannonia.
On the murder of Pertinax by the troops in 193, they proclaimed Severus Emperor at Carnuntum, whereupon he hurried to Italy. The former emperor, Didius Julianus, was condemned to death by the Senate and killed, and Severus took possession of Rome without opposition.
The legions of Syria, however, had proclaimed Pescennius Niger emperor. At the same time, Severus felt it was reasonable to offer Clodius Albinus, the powerful governor of Britannia who had probably supported Didius against him, the rank of Caesar, which implied some claim to succession. With his rearguard safe, he moved to the East and crushed Niger's forces at the Battle of Issus. The following year was devoted to suppressing Mesopotamia and other Parthian vassals who had backed Niger. When afterwards Severus declared openly his son Caracalla as successor, Albinus was hailed emperor by his troops and moved to Gallia. Severus, after a short stay in Rome, moved northwards to meet him. On February 19, 197, in the Battle of Lugdunum, with an army of 100,000 men, mostly composed of Illyrian, Moesian and Dacian legions, Severus defeated and killed Clodius Albinus, securing his full control over the Empire.
Severus was at heart a soldier, and sought glory through military exploits. In 197 he waged a brief and successful war against the Parthian Empire in retaliation for the support given to Pescennius Niger. The Parthian capital Ctesiphon was sacked by the legions, and the northern half of Mesopotamia was restored to Rome.
His relations with the Roman Senate were never good. He was unpopular with them from the outset, having seized power with the help of the military, and he returned the sentiment. Severus ordered the execution of dozens of Senators on charges of corruption and conspiracy against him, replacing them with his own favorites.
He also disbanded the Praetorian Guard and replaced it with one of his own, made up of 50,000 loyal soldiers mainly camped at Albanum, near Rome (also probably to grant the emperor a kind of centralized reserve). During his reign the number of legions was also increased from 25/30 to 33. He also increased the number of auxiliary corps (numerii), many of these troops coming from the Eastern borders. Additionally the annual wage for a soldier was raised from 300 to 500 denarii.
Although his actions turned Rome into a military dictatorship, he was popular with the citizens of Rome, having stamped out the rampant corruption of Commodus's reign. When he returned from his victory over the Parthians, he erected the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome.
According to Cassius Dio, however, after 197 Severus fell heavily under the influence of his Praetorian Prefect, Gaius Fulvius Plautianus, who came to have almost total control of most branches of the imperial administration. Plautianus's daughter, Fulvia Plautilla, was married to Severus's son, Caracalla. Plautianus’s excessive power came to an end in 205, when he was denounced by the Emperor's dying brother and killed. The two following praefecti, including the jurist Aemilius Papinianus, received however even larger powers.
Campaigns in Caledonia (Scotland)
Starting from 208 Severus undertook a number of military actions in Roman Britain, reconstructing Hadrian's Wall and campaigning in Scotland.
He reached the area of the Moray Firth in his last campaign in Caledonia, as was called Scotland by the Romans.. In 210 obtained a peace with the Picts that lasted practically until the final withdrawal of the Roman legions from Britain, before falling severely ill in Eboracum (York).
He is famously said to have given the advice to his sons: "Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, and scorn all other men" before he died at Eboracum on February 4, 211. Upon his death in 211, Severus was deified by the Senate and succeeded by his sons, Caracalla and Geta, who were advised by his wife Julia Domna. The stability Severus provided the Empire was soon gone under their reign.
Accomplishments and Record
Though his military expenditure was costly to the empire, Severus was the strong, able ruler that Rome needed at the time. He began a tradition of effective emperors elevated solely by the military. His policy of an expanded and better-rewarded army was criticized by his contemporary Dio Cassius and Herodianus: in particular, they pointed out the increasing burden (in the form of taxes and services) the civilian population had to bear to maintain the new army.
Severus was also distinguished for his buildings. Apart from the triumphal arch in the Roman Forum carrying his full name, he also built the Septizodium in Rome and enriched greatly his native city of Leptis Magna (including another triumphal arch on the occasion of his visit of 203).
Severus and Christianity
Christians were persecuted during the reign of Septimus Severus. Severus allowed the enforcement of policies already long-established, which meant that Roman authorities did not intentionally seek out Christians, but when people were accused of being Christians they could either curse Jesus and make an offering to Roman gods, or be executed. Furthermore, wishing to strengthen the peace by encouraging religious harmony through syncretism, Severus tried to limit the spread of the two quarrelsome groups who refused to yield to syncretism by outlawing conversion to Christianity or Judaism. Individual officials availed themselves of the laws to proceed with rigor against the Christians. Naturally the emperor, with his strict conception of law, did not hinder such partial persecution, which took place in Egypt and the Thebaid, as well as in Africa proconsularis and the East. Christian martyrs were numerous in Alexandria (cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, ii. 20; Eusebius, Church History, V., xxvi., VI., i.). No less severe were the persecutions in Africa, which seem to have begun in 197 or 198 (cf. Tertullian's Ad martyres), and included the Christians known in the Roman martyrology as the martyrs of Madaura. Probably in 202 or 203 Felicitas and Perpetua suffered for their faith. Persecution again raged for a short time under the proconsul Scapula in 211, especially in Numidia and Mauritania. Later accounts of a Gallic persecution, especially at Lyon, are legendary. In general it may thus be said that the position of the Christians under Septimius Severus was the same as under the Antonines; but the law of this Emperor at least shows clearly that the rescript of Trajan[clarification needed] had failed to execute its purpose.
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