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Pescennius Niger

Emperor A.D 193 - 194

Pescennius Niger was Governor of Syria when the Praetorian Guard murdered Pertinax and auctioned off the Roman Empire to Didius Julianus. The Eastern legions proclaimed him emperor as a result of their indignation at these events. Niger should have marched immediately to Rome and secured the support of the Senate and dealt immediately with the unpopular and ineffective Didius Julianus. Instead, he stayed in Syria, enjoying the life of luxury that his new position as Roman emperor was able to provide him. Meanwhile, Septimius Severus had gotten to Rome ahead of him and gained the endorsement of the Senate. While Pescennius Niger still posed a real threat to Severus' total control, Severus treated him with respect and pledged friendship. Severus then decided to make a treaty with Clodius Albinus, the governor of Britain who was suspected of having a desire to be emperor but who wisely kept his intentions in this matter secret.

Despite all his pledges of friendship, Septimius Severus was known to use treachery as a tool to attain his goals. Severus relied on the treaty with Albinus to guarantee that he would not be attacked from the rear. He placed the city of Byzantium under siege and attacked Niger at Nicaea, defeating him. Niger retreated toward Syria, and was defeated again on the plains of Issus. Severus then pursued his enemy to Antioch. When Pescennius Niger fled the city after it in turn fell to Severus' siege, he was caught by Severus' forces at the Euphrates River and executed in the Autumn of A. D. 194. The citizens of Byzantium still held out against Septimius Severus, who presented them with the severed head of Pescennius Niger. Even this did not persuade them to surrender, and Byzantium did not capitulate until A. D. 196.


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