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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The building programme of Septimius Severus in the city of Rome Gorrie, Charmaine Lynn


During his reign from 193-211, Septimius Severus was responsible for a significant building programme in the city of Rome. This involved both new buildings and the restoration of existing structures. Previous scholarship, however, has tended to consider specific buildings of the period in isolation instead of analysing Severus' building programme as a whole. The purpose of the present study is to redress this by examining the overall programme in the historical context of Severus' reign through archaeological investigations, studies of art and architectural history, epigraphy, numismatics, and the literary record. A framework for the motivation behind Severus' building programme may be established by relating the types of buildings constructed anew or restored to what is known of his reign through other sources. Severus wished to portray himself as the rightful heir of the Antonines who had been chosen by divine providence to establish a renewed period of peace and prosperity. Through his building activity he exploited important institutions to underline this position and to legitimize his rule. By his concern for the physical fabric of the capital he at the same time reinforced the message that he had restored the prestige of the Empire. The importance attached to this restoration is attested by the numerous inscriptions placed throughout the city on the restored buildings and other structures proudly announcing the attentions of the new emperor. Much of the Severan enhancement and restoration seems to have been geared toward the celebration of the Secular Games in the capital, an event that heralded a new age of renewal and restoration. Severus' intention of establishing a new dynasty was also implicit in the creation of an architectural presence within the heritage of the imperial city. The use of a building programme within the capital to reinforce the policies of the emperor originated with the first emperor, Augustus. While not on the same scale as the Augustan redevelopment of the city, Severus' building activity followed this imperial tradition with a deliberate and concerted building programme that reflected his propagandistic aims.

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