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The British Expedition of Septimius Severus

  • N. Hodgson (a1)

Abstract

Archaeological evidence has emerged over the last half century which helps shed light on the British expedition (a.d. 208–11) of the emperor Septimius Severus and his sons, famously but meagrely reported by the historians Cassius Dio and Herodian. Excavation at the Severan supply-base at South Shields, full publication of excavations of the 1960s and 1970s at the fortress of Carpow on the Tay, and more recently at Cramond, and recent work on the indigenous societies encountered by the Romans, all offer new perspectives. The archaeological evidence is reviewed in conjunction with the historical. A critical assessment is made of: (1) the widespread belief that personal or political considerations brought Severus to Britain rather than actual need for military intervention; (2) recent claims that the fortress at Carpow was founded earlier under Commodus (a.d. 180s) and abandoned even before the Severan expedition; (3) the widespread assumption that Severus wished to occupy Scotland permanently and thus be the first conqueror of the whole of Britain; (4) the prevailing view that Carpow and Cramond were abandoned and that all Roman activity in Scotland ceased abruptly on Severus’ death in February 211, and that the campaigns brought about a period of peace in third-century Britain.

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