Despite the fact that the year of the four emperors in AD 193 clearly shows the cosmopolitan interconnectedness of the Roman Empire, scholarship called Septimius Severus the ‘African emperor’ and his wife and her family the ‘Syrian empresses’. Equally, the two final emperors of the dynasty, Elagabal and Severus Alexander, are often framed within a narrative of oriental exoticism stressing their Syrian background. Even though there has been considerable scholarly interest in the Severan dynasty in the last 20 years, scholarship has not been able to entirely shake off this ‘narrative of origin’.
The Eastern Roman Empire was, of course, affected by the Severan refashioning of empire – from administrative changes in Egypt and Syria to building activities across the Eastern provinces, the Severans left their mark on a region they should in the logic of the ‘narrative of origin’ have been particularly partial to. But were they? Do administrative measures of the Severan emperors show a particular insight into matters of the Eastern part of the Empire? Could the new dynasty draw on local connections to develop and institute these? Did the communities of the Eastern Empire in their turn profit from the fact that the emperors and empresses hailed from their part of the world? In short – what happened in the Eastern Roman Empire under Severan rule – do we see old connections, new beginnings?