Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Today In History: The problem with dynasties...

On this date in 211, Roman emperor Septimius Severus, having spent the last couple years sorting things out in the north of Britannia, finally succumbed to the pleasant winter weather there and died.

Severus had been a competent general, and had seized the purple by main force after Didius Julianus had bought the crown at a garage sale held by the Praetorian Guard. Although Severus ruled by fiat and pretty much ignored the Senate, he was generally looked upon as an able and, if not "benevolent", then at least "competent" tyrant. His foreign wars were short and victorious, and he spent all his time off engaging in them, which left the citizenry pretty much alone.

Unfortunately, like benevolent tyrants often are, he was also benevolent toward his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, and he left them the empire to rule jointly. You can imagine how well this worked out.

They were not competent nor even faintly benevolent. Geta was a shallow, vain idiot. Caracalla was worse: Not only was he a shallow, vain idiot, he was also thoroughly evil. Rather than playing rock-paper-scissors with his brother over every imperial disagreement, he had him assassinated. In their mom's living room. That's cold.

Caracalla then spent the empire broke, devalued the currency, taxed everything that moved, and sent the economy into an inflationary death spiral. He left them nothing to show for it except a giant L.A. Fitness complex in the middle of Rome, where thousands of people could go take saunas and throw medicine balls at each other simultaneously. This was probably a tough sell to a grain merchant in Egypt. "Sure your taxes are through the roof and it takes a chariotload of sesterces to buy a jug of wine, but you should see the health club they built in Rome!"

He was finally whacked by a disgruntled bodyguard while he was taking a leak by the side of the road, which puts him at number seventeen on the list of History's Most Ignominious Endings.

Remember, history should be a lesson for us. It teaches us important things like "Unless you have an amazing quality control program in place for your offspring, maybe you shouldn't go into the monarching business."

8 comments:

fast richard said...

I'm currently reading Gibbon. Your synopsis is much more entertaining.

Weer'd Beard said...

"He was finally whacked by a disgruntled bodyguard while he was taking a leak by the side of the road,"

Leave the Gun, Take the Canoli?

: ]

rob said...

Where can I get a copy of that list? If he's number 17, I gotta see number one.

jimbob86 said...

I'm with rob..... I would love to see that list......

verword: subsd .... what the bail-out is full of. Just what are they subsidizing? You don't want to know? You should: it's YOUR money they are throwng around.....

Ed Foster said...

Perhaps the quality program should have started with his wife Julia. She was the brains in the family, and, being an Arab, didn't give a hoot about Rome.

While Daddy was off having fun whacking Dacians,Parthians, Brigantes and Parisii, Mommy produced and fine-tuned a proper pair of sociopaths, and used her whip hand to milk the system for all it was worth.

Basically, the entire sad soap opera boiled down to who was going to run the show, Julia or Severus's cousin Plautianus, who ran(owned) the Preatorian Guard. The most popular theory is that Julia whacked her brother-in-law and framed cousin Plautianus for it, with the aid of his successor Aemilius.

Charming people. Now, if we just switched the name Julia for Michelle, and switched genders for the offspring....

Brandon said...

spent the empire broke, devalued the currency, taxed everything that moved, and sent the economy into an inflationary death spiral

Methinks history is about to repeat itself yet again....

Anonymous said...

Oh, Brandon. Don't say it. Not here.

The man was half Berber.

Nathan Brindle said...

Wow, he sounds just like Zero.