Septimius Severus

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Septimius Severus

Postby Quintus Marius Primus on Fri Nov 04, 2005 3:50 pm

There's currently an argument on the BBC History message boards about whether Emporor Septimus Severus was black or not. Anyone got any thoughts, and does anyone know of any contemporary sources that may shed some light on this?

Gratias ago
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Re: Septimus Severus

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Fri Nov 04, 2005 8:38 pm

Quintus Marius Primus wrote:There's currently an argument on the BBC History message boards about whether Emporor Septimus Severus was black or not. Anyone got any thoughts, and does anyone know of any contemporary sources that may shed some light on this?

Gratias ago


Could you post a link to the board in question ?

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Septimius Severus

Postby Aldus Marius on Sat Nov 05, 2005 7:44 am

Avete,

As Roma had no Citizens south of the Sahara (save the occasional beast-catcher), it is more likely--though not certain--that Emperor Severus was of North African descent. These people resembled, but were not, Phoenicians or Arabs more than anything.

OTOH, we *were* doing a brisk business with Ethiopia...

*shrugs*

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Re: Septimius Severus

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sat Nov 05, 2005 8:48 am

Marius Peregrine wrote:Avete,

As Roma had no Citizens south of the Sahara (save the occasional beast-catcher), it is more likely--though not certain--that Emperor Severus was of North African descent. These people resembled, but were not, Phoenicians or Arabs more than anything.

OTOH, we *were* doing a brisk business with Ethiopia...

*shrugs*



Then there's the 'argumentum ex silentio'. As far as I know, there's nothing in the sources - Dio Cassius, Historia Augusta (I couldn't access Herodian to check) - that clearly indicates that Severus was black. I strongly suspect a first black emperor to be something historiographers would've mentioned.

Valete,

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Firsts

Postby Aldus Marius on Sun Nov 06, 2005 12:59 am

Avete iterum...

> I strongly suspect a first black emperor to be something historiographers would've
> mentioned.

Not necessarily, mi Attice; we were never particularly race-conscious in the modern sense. Ethnicity and class, yes (very much so)...but pelage doesn't seem to have determined much, if anything, except maybe on the interpersonal level.

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Re: Firsts

Postby Q Valerius on Tue Nov 08, 2005 2:35 am

Marius Peregrine wrote:Not necessarily, mi Attice; we were never particularly race-conscious in the modern sense. Ethnicity and class, yes (very much so)...but pelage doesn't seem to have determined much, if anything, except maybe on the interpersonal level.

I disagree. When Caesar described the Gauls, he described their racial characteristics - light skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair. A man who seriously departed from the Mediterranean/Near East normal appearance surely would have at least been noted for it. It is true that they weren't as denigrating as we are in modernity, but they weren't absolutely "color-blind".
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Pelage

Postby Aldus Marius on Tue Nov 08, 2005 8:14 am

Salve, mi Scerio...

Yes, the Gauls were certainly considered remarkable in the 50s BC. Would a black man have been considered so in the 220s AD...? Hard to say. A whole lot can change in that amount of time. It could be that, in those 270 years, the definition of 'Mediterranean/Near-East Normal' had expanded quite a bit to include people like Severus, whatever his complexion. Or it could be we haven't recovered that source yet.

Historians note the noteworthy, the same way only non-ordinary stuff gets into the news. If it was a common thing, if it was accepted, no one would have thought to remark upon it. This, of course, is a source of great frustration to us nowadays, as there are any number of little details of, for example, military organization or daily life that we would love to learn; but that have not been passed down to us because, at the time the historians were writing, they were some of those things that "everybody knew"!

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:55 am

Btw, Prime, could you please correct the title of this topic (or if you can't change it anymore, could our aediles ?) ? It should be SeptimIUS Severus (it is a mistake often made, don't worry :wink:).

Vale optime !

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Postby Quintus Marius Primus on Tue Nov 08, 2005 6:40 pm

Btw, Prime, could you please correct the title of this topic (or if you can't change it anymore, could our aediles ?) ? It should be SeptimIUS Severus (it is a mistake often made, don't worry ).


Apologies, but I am unable!
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Postby Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Wed Nov 09, 2005 9:05 am

Quintus Pomponius Atticus wrote:Btw, Prime, could you please correct the title of this topic (or if you can't change it anymore, could our aediles ?) ? It should be SeptimIUS Severus (it is a mistake often made, don't worry :wink:).


Fixed.

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Postby Publius Dionysius Mus on Sun Nov 13, 2005 5:12 pm

Salvete!

"The first black Roman emperor", it could be the title of a new 'book' by Von Däniken...

Some points that we should take in consideration when discussing this matter:

* The original inhabitants (Berbers) of the North African coasts were 'civilized' by Phoenicians from the cities of Tyre and Sidon (Canaanite traders). Around 1000 BC-500 BC even more refugees from these cities came to North Africa, after Assyria had crushed their mother cities. The population of Tripolitania were to become known as Libyphoenicians due to a lot of intermarriage. And to get the current image we have of the population of North Africa one has to add Romans, Vandals, Arabs, French and Italians to that mix.

* When we look at the portraits of Septimius Severus, wo do not see any resemblance to the African race. He was indeed North-African from origin, but the colour of their skin and the way they look is not very different from other people in the Mediterranian (Greeks, Spanish, ...).

I hope I could make myself clear here, I have some difficulties expressing myself on this matter correctly in English...

If someone wants to know more about the man, I can look up alot of things in the works I have about him (I needed those to write my term paper...):
A.R. BIRLEY: Septimius Severus, the African Emperor
A. DAGUET-GAGEY: Septime Sévère
A.M. MCCANN: The portraits of Septimius Severus


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Septimius Severus

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Sat Dec 31, 2005 1:07 am

And also, geography is not necessarily race, viz white (not black) South Africans, or white (not red) North Americans. I forget the immediate circumstances of Severus's birth (if known) but at that time weren't Romans still presiding over North Africa?
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