Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Persecution of Christians by Septimius Severus

Arch of Septimius Severus Libdia, Libya 203 AD
Septimius Severus was the first one of the Soldier Emperors and first native African Emperor.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
In the early third century, during the reign of Septimius Severus, Egypt and Africa became a hotbed of persecution and martyrdom.

In the view of Eusebius, “when Severus was stirring up persecution against the churches, in every place splendid martyrdoms of the athletes of piety were accomplished”. (Hist. Eccl. V1.2.3)

It is unclear, however, whether these persecutions can be tied to Severus himself.

Among those Alexandrians named as martyrs by Eusebius are followers of Origen (martyred ca. 206-211), as well as Origen’s father Leonides (ca. 202).

The famous martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas took place elsewhere in Africa, in Carthage (ca 202-204). The procurator Hilarianus tried to make Perpetua perform a symbolic sacrifice for the sake of her father. Official thinking was that Perpetua could carry out the rituals required to affirm a citizen's loyalty to the emperor and Rome, and remain free to continue any private religious practices of her choice.

Other instances of persecution occurred before the reign of Decius, but there are fewer accounts of them from 215 onward. This may reflect a decrease in hostility toward Christianity, or gaps in the available sources.
Rick Wade writes
Septimius Severus Another emperor under whom Christians suffered terribly was Septimius Severus who ruled from 193-211. Writing during his reign, Clement of Alexandria said, "Many martyrs are daily burned, confined, or beheaded, before our eyes." {Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, Apostolic Christianity: A.D. 1-100 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1910), p. 57.}

In 202 Septimius enacted a law prohibiting the spread of Christianity and Judaism. This was the first universal decree forbidding conversion to Christianity.{38} Violent persecutions broke out in Egypt and North Africa.{39} Leonides, the father of Origen, a Christian apologist, was beheaded. Origen himself was spared because his mother hid his clothes.{40}A young girl was cruelly tortured, then burned in a kettle of burning pitch with her mother.{41} A poignant story of the breaking down of class distinctions in the suffering church comes out of the persecution in Carthage. It is reported that Perpetua, a young noblewoman, and Felicitas, a slave girl, held hands and exchanged a kiss before being thrown to wild animals at a public festival.{42} Persecutions abated somewhat soon after Septimius died, but resumed with a vengeance under Decius Trajan.
 Rick Wade

Septimius Severus
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Spectacular alabaster bust of Septimius Severus
Musei Capitolini, Rome
The alabaster bust in Musei Capitolini may be somewhat idealized as is fit for a ruler considered divine. Cassius Dio met him in person and tells
"He was a small man, but physically strong (although he did become very weak from the gout.) His mind was extremely keen and vigorous. He did not get as much of an education as he wanted, and because of this he was a man of few words, although he had plenty of ideas. He did not forget his friends. His enemies he treated with a very heavy hand. He took a great deal of thought over all his plans; but he never gave a thought to what was said about him. For this reason he raised money from every source - except that he never killed anyone to get their money - and he met all neseccary expenditures unstintingly."
S. Raven 1993: 139-140
The marble bust in the Museum of Djemila, Algeria, looks almost photographic and emphasizes the African features of his head. (photo in Bridgeman Art and culture history)

First wife died without children, second wife Julia Domna from Syria, Balbek, mother of Caracalla and Geta.

According to wikipedia
Septimius Severus (Latin: Lucius Septimius Severus Augustus; 11 April 145 – 4 February 211), also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211.

Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa [Lebida in modern Libya]. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors.

After deposing and killing the incumbent emperor Didius Julianus, Severus fought his rival claimants, the generals Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus. Niger was defeated in 194 at the Battle of Issus in Cilicia. Later that year Severus waged a short punitive campaign beyond the eastern frontier, annexing the Kingdom of Osroene as a new province. Severus defeated Albinus three years later at the Battle of Lugdunum in Gaul.

After solidifying his rule over the western provinces, Severus waged another brief, more successful war in the east against the Parthian Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 197 and expanding the eastern frontier to the Tigris. Furthermore, he enlarged and fortified the Limes Arabicus in Arabia Petraea.

In 202, he campaigned in Africa and Mauretania against the Garamantes; capturing their capital Garama and expanding the Limes Tripolitanus along the southern frontier of the empire.

Late in his reign he traveled to Britain, strengthening Hadrian's Wall and reoccupying the Antonine Wall. In 208 he invaded Caledonia (modern Scotland), but his ambitions were cut short when he fell fatally ill in late 210.

Severus died in early 211 at Eboracum [York, England], succeeded by his sons Caracalla and Geta.

With the succession of his sons, Severus founded the Severan dynasty, the last dynasty of the empire before the Crisis of the Third Century.
Read the entire article from wikipedia

Persecution of Christians and Jews
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
Christians were persecuted during the reign of Septimius 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 would be forced to 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 groups who refused to yield to syncretism by outlawing conversions to Christianity or Judaism.

Individual officials availed themselves of the laws to proceed with rigour 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.

No less severe were the persecutions in Africa, which seem to have begun in 197 or 198, 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 also speak of a Gallic persecution, especially at Lyons, under Severus, but historians, based on archaeological and literary evidence, generally consider these events actually to have taken place under Emperor Marcus Aurelius.]
See also the post on T.D. Barnes' research on the actual evidence for Roman legislation against Christians before Decius.

Was the devotion of Septimius Severus to Serapis the cause of the persecution of 202-3?
Journal of Theological Studies (1954) V(1): 73-76 (link)

Timeline of early persecutions

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