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Septimius Severus and the Roman Army (Hardback)

Ancient History Rome Military

By Michael Sage
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 1 map
ISBN: 9781526702418
Published: 30th July 2020



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The assassination of Emperor Commodus in 192 sparked a civil war. Septimius Severus emerged as the eventual victor and his dynasty (the Severans) ruled until 235. He fought numerous campaigns, against both internal rivals and external enemies, extending the Empire to the east (adding Mesopotamia), the south (in Africa) and the north (beyond Hadrian's Wall). The military aspects of his reign, including his reforms of the army, are the main focus of this new study.

After discussing his early career and governorship of Pannonia, Michael Sage narrates his war with Pescennius Niger, the siege of Byzantium, and the campaign in northern Mesopotamia that added it as a province. The much more difficult campaign against Clodius Albinus in Gaul is also studied in detail, as is that in North Africa. The narrative concludes with an account of the last campaign in Britain and Severus’ death. The final chapters analyse Septimius’ reforms of the army and assess their impact on events of the next seventy years until the accession of Diocletian. His greatest weakness was his love for his family. Like Marcus Aurelius he loved his children too much. They failed to maintain what he had bequeathed them.

“Sage performs a masterful job putting Severus into a broad strategic overview of the times.”

The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society

Sage provides a well-written and confident potted biography of Severus, in which he picks his way through the various arguments that are closely tied to the sources and their interpretation of events.

Beating Tsundoku

Review by Dr Simon Elliott

Overall, Michael Sage's new work on Septimius Severus and the Roman military is highly recommended to fans of the Roman Empire, and of the Roman Military, old and new alike. It is easily accessible and well written, and it features research of the highest quality.

Ancient Warfare, Vol XIV, Issue 3

Overall this is a good overview of the life and reign of Septimius Severus, portraying him as a successful ruler during his own lifetime, but one whose legacy may have included over-extending the Empire in the east, exposing his successors to a series of clashes with the Persians, and leaving the Empire to his clearly unsuitable sons.

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History of War

I enjoyed this book. I predict that serious military historians and classicists will welcome Septimius Severus and The Roman Army. It will find a place in many academic libraries. But will the general reader enjoy it? Yes, if he or she is an avid student of ancient Rome. It is packed with detail and refers to many original sources, both famous and obscure. It has exemplary Notes, Bibliography and Index.

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

This is a good read that carefully brings together the strategic overview into which the author inserts the critical events that conditioned the actions of Severus. Throughout is the necessary connection between Emperor and his Army and the need to keep the army focused through pay and other benefits. The writing style is clear concise and easy to read.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Michael Sage

Michael Sage is an emeritus professor and former head of the Department of Classics at the University of Cincinnati. He has also taught at the University of Waterloo in Canada and at the University of California at San Diego. He received his B. A. in anthropology and M.A. in history from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Toronto. He has published numerous articles and encyclopedia articles on many aspects of ancient history, including Roman imperial history and biography as well as ancient military history. He has also published books on St. Cyprian, the third century AD bishop of Carthage, on the Roman historian Tacitus and on Greek as well as on Greek and Roman warfare.

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