The Praetorian Guard assassinated Emperor Elagabalus and installed 13-year-old Alexander Severus on the throne. Severus met the same fate as his immediate predecessor. In between the murders, Severus presided over a period of peace and prosperity until international wars shattered the placidity. The German and Persian Wars altered the course of Severus’ administration and led to his demise.
Elagabalus attempted to change Roman religion angering the people. Eventually, the Praetorian Guard had enough and dispatched the emperor in favor of his young cousin Alexander Severus. Severus assumed the throne at age 13. The new emperor had Rome’s best interests at heart and fell under the influence of his domineering mother, Julia Mamaea. She provided solid guidance and surrounded the emperor with the empire’s best and brightest advisors.
Overall, her influence and his upbringing brought peace and prosperity to the empire. Like his predecessors, Severus undertook major construction works. Severus constructed the last Roman aqueduct. In fact, he engaged the last major building operation until Diocletian’s reign fifty years later.
The Severan peace ended with the Sassanid Empire. The upstart empire challenged the Romans from their Persian homeland. Rome suffered setbacks, but eventually blunted the Sassanid threat. However, the Syrian legion revolted forcing Severus to move. The emperor quelled the revolt and returned to Rome a hero in 233.
Severus stopped the Sassanid threat, but faced a Germanic invasion. Barbarians invaded Gaul in 234 laying waste to the countryside. The overrun garrisons requested help from Rome. Severus responded in force, but attempted to bribe the Germans acquiescence to buy time. The legions disapproved of the bribe. They felt the action unworthy and dishonorable.
The disgruntled military began searching for a new emperor. They selected one of their own, Gaius Iulius Verus Maximinus, to rule the empire. Then, the conspirators executed Mamaea and assassinated Severus. Maximinus assumed the throne for three years before the legions and Roman Senate turned on him. This process continued for the next fifty years. Severus death marked the beginning of the Crisis of the Third Century. Diocleatian restored order in 284, but the economy never recovered.
Alexander Severus proved a successful peacetime emperor. He led Rome to peace, prosperity, and continued its traditions. However, his troops questioned his meddle in wartime. Although he successfully blocked the Sassanid threat and stopped a Syrian legions insurrection, Severus’ attempts to bribe the Germans angered the military. They murdered him and replaced him with one of their own. Severus’ death marked the end of the old Roman order and beginning of a fifty year crisis.