Northern Africa 202: Severus’ African War
Having established himself as emperor, Septimius Severus set about improving the fortifications of the empire’s desert frontiers, most notably in North Africa, which was having troubles with desert raiders. In 202 Severus led a campaign against the Garamantes, advancing deep into the Sahara to capture their capital Garama and bringing Roman power in Northern Africa to its zenith.
? May–9 Jun 193 Severus’ Italian campaign▲
In May 193 Septimius Severus invaded Italy, capturing Ravenna and its fleet without difficulty. Didius Julianus attempted to train the Praetorian Guard in field battles, but they proved unable to stop Severus’ legions and the Senate proclaimed Severus emperor. On 1 June Julianus was assassinated; eight days later Severus formally entered Rome.
31 Mar 194 Second Battle of Issus▲
Following defeat at the hands of Septimius Severus in Thrace and Bithynia in the winter of 193–4, Pescennius Niger withdrew across Anatolia towards Antioch. Niger took his stand at the narrow “Cilician Gates” between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean (near Alexander the Great’s victory at Issus), but was defeated in a major battle at the end of March, losing 20,000 men. His cause now hopeless, Niger attempted to flee to Parthia, only to be overtaken and decapitated on the outskirts of Antioch in late April.
195?–200? ’Alhan Nahfan▲
In the 190s ’Alhan Nahfan succeeded his father as leader of the Banū Hamdān tribe, who were contesting the throne of the Kingdom of Saba’ as the Hamdanid dynasty. He quickly proceeded to gain dominance over the rival Sabaean clans of Gurat and Marib, reuniting all Saba’ by around 200. Under his rule, the old capital of Ma'rib was restored to its former prominence.
198–202 Limes Numidiae▲
In 197 Roman emperor Septimius Severus appointed Quintus Anicius Faustus as imperial governor in Numidia. Between 198 and 202 Faustus dramatically expanded Roman fortification in North Africa, building three great fortified lines to surround the Ouled Naïl mountains and reach the very edge of the Sahara desert. The network presumably defended against nomadic raids, remaining in operation until the late 230s.
200? Expansion of Himyar▲
By c. 200 the Ḥimyarite Kingdom was entering into a period of expansion and gained control of Qatabān, which up until this point was probably still under the rule of Ḥaḑramawt. Whatever the circumstances, the neighboring kingdoms of southern Arabia began to see Ḥimyar as a threat.
200?–208? Monumentum Adulitanum▲
According to the ancient Monumentum Adulitanum inscription, in the early 3rd century the unnamed King of Adulis—sometimes identified with Gadarat of Aksum—expanded the territory of Aksum into the surrounding areas of northeast Africa. Many of the details of these campaigns are uncertain, but the ruler seems to have invaded the occasionally snow-clad Simien Mountains, secured parts of the Red Sea coast, built a road to connect Aksum with Egypt, and campaigned into the African interior, perhaps as far as Lake Tana.
202–203 Severus’ Garamantian Campaign▲
In late 202, while touring his homeland of Africa Proconsularis, Septimius Severus led an expedition against the Garamantes, who had harassing the province’s frontiers, including Severus’ home town of Leptis Magna. The Romans captured the Garamantian capital Garama (Germa), pacifying the desert kingdom. After this Severus had a series of forts constructed along the southern frontier at the desert oases of Cydamus (Ghadames), Garbia, and Golaia (Bu Ngem).