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100 Great Black Britons
I was encouraged and excited to see that the eminent historian Patrick Vernon included the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus on his list of 100 Great Black Britons and that he ended up only 25th on the final list.
Severus died in York in 211 BC and was probably the first black man to set foot on British soil, but he did not come as a slave but as an emperor. Behind this little-known fact lies the incredible story of someone who rose from a rebellious youth to become the most powerful man in the ancient world.
Septimius Severus, the Black Caesar, came from humble beginnings in occupied North Africa, born in the Mediterranean city of Lepcis Magna. He ended his days fighting in Northern Scotland, having expanded the Roman Empire further than any of his illustrious predecessors, from Julius Caesar to his teacher Marcus Aurelius.
As a boy, Severus hated the Romans. He became involved with local freedom fighters and participated in daring sabotage raids against the Empire. But frustrated by this short-lived rebellion and its petty violence, the shrewd Severus embarked on a journey to Rome that brought him into the heart of a power he despised.
Once there, the image changes. Gradually, his stay in Rome begins to change him, and he soon finds himself in an ironic position: as a soldier, he has been sent from Rome to fight against his fellow Africans, who cross the Mediterranean and into Spain. His accidental military career earns him a reputation and powerful friends.
When the much-loved emperor Marcus Aurelius dies and his profligate son Commodus becomes the new ruler, Rome becomes an increasingly dangerous place. After Commodus is assassinated, the Roman veteran Pertinax is hailed as emperor. However, Pertinax manages to keep the throne and head for just sixty-eight days, and his murder plunges Rome into a bloody civil war.
Now in command of one of the largest Roman legions in the Empire, Severus finds himself drawn into a conflict from which he will eventually emerge as emperor.
The peace that Severus’ victory brings is short-lived. The Roman dominion would never remain subdued for long. Betrayal from both his advisors and from within his own family will keep the new emperor watching his back. His unfaithful wife Julia plots his death and his son turns out to be an evil and disturbed young emperor-to-be.
Available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback, SEVERUS: The Black Caesar charts his incredible life in full and is being developed into a TV drama series for HBO/SKY Atlantic starring actor and musician Marlow Simms (aka Septimius the Great) in the main role. .
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