Marble head of emperor who died in York set to fetch up to £150,000

A marble head of the first African Roman emporer who died in York
A marble head of the first African Roman emporer who died in York
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A MARBLE portrait of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, who died in Eboracum (York), is expected to fetch up to £150,000 at auction.

The work, thought to date to during his reign between 193 and 211, is being sold on April 3 by auction house Bonhams on behalf of a seller who wishes to remain anonymous.

Septimius Severus was the first African Roman Emperor.

He was born in Leptis Magna (present-day Libya) and died in York in February 211, having travelled virtually the entire length of the Roman world.

Having gained power under the Emperor Commodus, he was one of the five claimants for the Imperial throne after the assassination of Commodus in 192. He was proclaimed emperor by his legions, at which point he travelled immediately to Rome and defeated his rivals.

His second wife, Julia Domna, was also born outside of Rome (in the province of Syria) and together they championed eastern cults and invested a great deal in the North African provinces.

During the latter part of his reign, Septimius Severus led a relatively successful campaign in Britain, having landed with an estimated army of over 40,000. He fortified Hadrian’s wall as well as reclaiming land up to the Antonine wall, the northernmost of the two great walls. He faced hardship whilst attempting to conquer all of Caledonia (Scotland).

Forced to retreat due to ill health, he died in 211 at the fortified city Eboracum, later to become York.

Madeleine Perridge, head of antiquities at Bonhams said: “This is an important and striking portrait of a man who was born in relative obscurity in the Roman province of North Africa, but who rose to become Emperor of Rome.”