Age of rust. : Court and power in the Severan age (188-238 AD)
Abstract: The Severan age has become known as a time when Syrian empresses brought eastern influences to Rome and transformed the stable principate into an absolutist state ready for the dominate. Every tie to the old principate was broken in a conscious attempt to change the fundamental structure of society. After a thorough examination of the structures of the Severan court, those opinions have here been refuted. The Severan age did see increased importance of both the empresses and the emperor’s other dependants. That, however, was a result of the necessities of rule.At Rome the imperial court developed apart from the city-state, never quite replacing its functions. Empresses and favourites did not necessarily have offices with formal, executive power. Their power came through their influence over the emperor and their control over access to his person. Favourites who held offices still depended upon the emperor and were inextricably parts of his court. Severan emperors generally had a bad relationship with the senate because of their low birth. Nobles were excluded from the administration and the court because the emperors had to avoid dangerous competition and because the senators hesitated to come to his aid. The solution meant increased control over imperial access; favourites to shield them from conflicts and empresses who acted as mediators. It also meant an increased number of offices under the direct control of the court, allowing rule without danger. At the same time, Severan emperors were obsessed with continuity and the traditional structures because of their troubles to achieve legitimacy. Legitimacy could only be had through the old, traditional institutions of the city-state. The result was a time focused on the importance of senate, plebs and soldiers and the preservation of traditional structures. The Severan court was still a court of the principate.
This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.