“Septimus Severus” or “Septimius Severus”? A false trail

Today I came across an image by Sophie Hay, of the British School of Rome, of an inscription lying near the west gate of Leptis Magna in Libya.  She kindly sent me a hi-res copy, which I have sharpened (click on it to see the full size image):

Libya_2008_Inscription_near_west_gate - sharp

Looking at a section of the lower line, it quite clearly refers to “SEPTIMIO SEVERO”!

septimius_severus_leptis_inscription

I was very excited by this!

But … a look at the freely available and very useful Clauss-Slaby database (which has moved, I note, to here) gives us these details:

Publication: LBIRNA 00257 = AE 1967, 00536         EDCS-ID: EDCS-09800351
Province: Africa proconsularis         Place: Al-Khums / Lebdah / Labdah / Lepcis Magna

Imp(eratori) Caes(ari) M(arco) Aurelio Antonino Aug(usto) Arm(eniaco) Med(ico) Par(thico) Ger(manico) p(ontifici) m(aximo) tr(ibunicia) pot(estate) XXVIII imp(eratori) co(n)s(uli) p(atri) p(atriae) arcus ex HS CXX m(ilibus) n(ummum) ab Avilio Casto in eum et statuas legatis / praeter HS quae de publico adiecta sunt dedicatus C(aio) Septimio Severo procons(ule) L(ucio) Septimio Severo leg(ato) pr(o) pr(aetore)

Which reveals that in fact we are not dealing with a monument erected at Leptis by Septimus Severus, the emperor – whose home town this was, and whose praenomen was Lucius -, but with an earlier monument of the time of Marcus Aurelius, when C. Septimius Severus was proconsul and L. Septimius Severus was propraetor.

Fortunately a search of Clauss-Slaby for “septimio severo” quickly reveals any number of inscriptions which ARE imperial, and do show that spelling.  They also give him the cognomen “Pertinax”, adopted as part of his bid for  imperial power.  No inscriptions with “septimo severo” are found.  So that’s that.

In fact the Leptis monument does testify to the gens of “Septimii Severi” at Leptis, listing both the emperor-to-be and his older cousin, Gaius.

2 Responses to ““Septimus Severus” or “Septimius Severus”? A false trail”


  1. Jona Lendering

    Actually, it _is_ an inscription by the man who was emperor, except that in 174 AD, he was still the assistant (propraetor) of his distant relative, the proconsul.

    http://www.livius.org/se-sg/severus/septimii.html#gss

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thank you for the link to the chart!

    The thing is that this is not of itself evidence of how the emperor spelled his name; we get that from imperial inscriptions. But then we can work out that this inscription is still the same chap. :-)



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