Severus, Septimius°

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SEVERUS, SEPTIMIUS ° (Lucius Septimius Severus ), Roman emperor, 193–211 c.e. Among the rival claimants for the Roman throne whom Severus defeated in the Civil War of 1937 was Pescennius Niger, who had been proclaimed emperor in Syria. In this struggle the Jews of Ereẓ Israel sided with Severus. That they liked him also can be seen from an inscription of the year 197, written in Greek, which was found in Safed. The Samaritans, however, ranged themselves against Severus, and continued to fight until 197. As a punishment, after his victory, the town of Neapolis (Shechem) was deprived of its ius civitatis (Spartianus, Severus, 9:5). In 202 the emperor forbade, under the threat of heavy penalties, conversion to both Judaism and Christianity (ibid., 17:1; "Judaeos fieri sub grave poena vetuit. Idem etiam de Christianis sanxit"), but he was tolerant toward those who were Jewish by birth. The jurists Ulpian and Modestinus report that Jews could be appointed to high public offices, but would be exempt from those formalities (Necessitates) which were contrary to their monotheistic faith (Corpus Iuris Civilis; Digesta 50:2, 3; 27:1–15). Although according to J. Juster this exemption was in force even before the time of Severus, S. Lieberman (in: Annuaire Université Libre de Bruxelles 7) believed that both Christians and Samaritans could not have enjoyed such exemptions because of the oath that had to be taken on assuming public office. (S.W. Baron is more cautious in his conclusions.)


Juster, Juifs, 1 (1914), 258, n. 4, 259, 267; M. Platnauer, The Life and Reign of the Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (1918); Fluss, in: Pauly-Wissowa, pt. 2, 4 (1923), 1940–2002; A. Stein, Der roemische Ritterstand (1927); E. Manni, in: Rivista di Filologia (1947), 211f.; F.-M. Abel, Histoire de la Palestine, 2 (1952), 139–52; M. Avi-Yonah, Bi-Ymei Roma u-Bizantiyyon (19522), 54ff.; Baron, Social2, 2 (1952), index; V. Colorni, Gli Ebrei nel sistema del Diritto Comune (1956), 3–4 (see n. 10); Y.F. Baer, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 7 (1961), 77–149; M.A. Levi, L'Impero Romano, 2 (1967).

[Alfredo Mordechai Rabello]