Marble bust of Alexander Severus. Roman artwork, 222-235 C. E.
Alexander Severus was the Roman emperor, born in 205 AD, the cousin and adopted son of Heliogabalus, whom he succeeded in 222. The excellent education that he received from his mother, Julia Mamaea, rendered him one of the best leaders in an age when virtue in a monarch was reckoned more dangerous than vice. He sought the society of the learned; Paulus and Ulpianus were his counselors; Plato and Cicero were, next to Horace and Virgil, his favorite authors. Although a pagan, he respected the doctrines of Christianity. Well-liked as he was by the citizens on account of his equity, he soon became an object of hatred to the unruly praetorian guards. His first expedition (231–233), against Artaxerxes, king of Persia, was rewarded with a quick victory. But during one which he undertook in 234 against the Germans on the Rhine, to defend the frontiers of the empire from their incursions, an insurrection broke out among his troops, headed by Maximinus, in which Alexander was murdered, along with his mother, not far from Mainz (235).