Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber

An Unnatural Son

The pretorian guard by this time fancied that they could have things all their own way. They now elected and killed two emperors, Pertinax and Julianus, and finally decided to obey a third, Septimius Severus, who entered Rome as a conqueror, at the head of the legions he had commanded in Illyria.

For the sake of the people, who had loved Pertinax, the new emperor ordered that he should be placed among the gods, and that a ceremony called an Apotheosis should take place for this purpose.

A waxen image of the dead Pertinax lay in state for a whole week upon a golden bed, and was then publicly burned on a huge pyre. When the flames rose up around it, an eagle, purposely hidden in the pyre, was set free, and flew up into the sky in terror. The ignorant spectators were then told that the eagle had carried the soul of Pertinax up to heaven, and that they must henceforth worship him.

Having become master of Rome, and secured the approval of the people, Severus turned all his energies against his two rivals; for both the legions of Britain and Gaul, and those of Syria, had elected emperors at the very time when the legions in Pannonia and Illyria named him for the same office.

Severus first went east to fight Niger, his most dreaded rival. Several battles were fought, ending with the defeat and death of the Syrian leader. Niger's head was then cut off, and flung over the walls of Byzantium, his principal stronghold on the Bosphorus.

When the people beheld this bloody token, they fought even harder than before to defend the city; but, although they made a glorious resistance, Severus at last forced them to surrender. By his order, the city was sacked, the walls razed, and the people reduced to slavery; but, as you will soon see, Byzantium rose again, and soon became the rival of Rome.

As one of his rivals had been killed, Severus now marched westward to meet Albinus, the other. The two armies met in Gaul, near Lyons, and a terrible battle was fought, in which Severus won the victory by his personal bravery in the face of great danger.

The emperor now went back to Rome, where twenty-nine senators were slain by his order, because they had dared to take sides with his rival. Then, to make sure that the empire would not pass out of his family, he made both his sons associate emperors.

Severus, the twentieth emperor of Rome, was very strict in making everybody obey him, and was a stern ruler. He also won much glory as a general, and fought many battles in many lands. His last campaign was in Britain, where he had gone to suppress an insurrection, and where his two sons accompanied him.

We are told that Caracalla, the eldest son, was so eager to be emperor in his turn that he made an attempt to murder his father during this campaign.

Grieved to the heart by such unnatural conduct, Severus privately reproved his son, and even offered him a sword, saying: "There, kill me if you dare!" Although Caracalla did not take advantage of the permission thus given him, he is suspected of having poisoned his father a little later.

Severus died in Britain, at York, and his last words are said to have been the following, addressed to his funeral urn: "Little urn, thou shalt soon contain him for whom the universe seemed too small."


Front Matter

The First Settlers
Escape from the Burning City
The Clever Trick
The Boards Are Eaten
The Wolf and the Twins
Romulus Builds Rome
The Maidens Carried Off
Union of Sabines and Romans
Death of Romulus
Strange Signs of the Romans
The Quarrel with Alba
The Horatii and Curiatii
Tarquin and the Eagle
The Roman Youths
The King Outwitted
The Murder of Tarquin
The Ungrateful Children
The Mysterious Books
Tarquin's Poppies
The Oracle of Delphi
The Death of Lucretia
The Stern Father
A Roman Triumph
A Roman Triumph (Cont.)
Defense of the Bridge
The Burnt Hand
The Twin Gods
The Wrongs of the Poor
Fable of the Stomach
The Story of Coriolanus
The Farmer Hero
The New Laws
Death of Virginia
Plans of a Traitor
A School-Teacher Punished
Invasion of the Gauls
The Sacred Geese
Two Heroes of Rome
Disaster at Caudine Forks
Pyrrhus and His Elephants
The Elephants Routed
Ancient Ships
Regulus and the Snake
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
The Romans Defeated
The Inventor Archimedes
The Roman Conquests
Destruction of Carthage
Roman Amusements
The Jewels of Cornelia
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Caius Gracchus
Jugurtha, King of Numidia
The Barbarians
The Social War
The Flight of Marius
The Proscription Lists
Sertorius and His Doe
Revolt of the Slaves
Pompey's Conquests
Conspiracy of Catiline
Caesar's Conquests
Crossing of the Rubicon
Battle of Pharsalia
The Death of Caesar
The Second Triumvirate
The Vision of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
The Poisonous Snake
The Augustan Age
Death of Augustus
Varus Avenged
Death of Germanicus
Tiberius Smothered
The Wild Caligula
Wicked Wives of Claudius
Nero's First Crimes
Christians Persecuted
Nero's Cruelty
Two Short Reigns
The Siege of Jerusalem
The Buried Cities
The Terrible Banquet
The Emperor's Tablets
The Good Trajan
Trajan's Column
The Great Wall
Hadrian's Death
Antoninus Pius
The Model Pagan
Another Cruel Emperor
An Unnatural Son
The Senate of Women
The Gigantic Emperor
Invasion of the Goths
Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra
A Prophecy Fulfulled
First Christian Emperor
Roman Empire Divided
An Emperor's Penance
Sieges of Rome
End of the Western Empire