Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Severus’s Hills, Near York.

Severus’s Hills, Near York.

Septimus Sererus
Methought I saw a scene long pass’d away:
For sixteen stirring centuries since then,
With mighty changes, have pass’d over men,
Each sweeping myriads of the Earth for aye,
As mere gnats in the sun. It was the time 5
When Rome was in its zenith of her power,
And proudly fancied she would ever tower
High over other nations. The sublime
Knowledge that our righteousness can
Truly exalt a nation, she had not 10
E’er learnt, or else too easily forgot
In luxury and violence. Each man—
Be he a Severus or humblest hind—
Will fail who bears not this great truth in mind.
Born ’neath the burning sun of Africa, 15
And train’d from early manhood ’neath the court
Of Pagan Rome, whose nobles all were taught
To plant their feet upon the necks always
Of lowly fellow-men,—this Severus, he
Seems to have firmly grasp’d the imperial crown, 20
When Death—a mightier monarch—mow’d him down
With his unfailing scythe. So may be it
With every tyrant: and I joy’d to see
His legions gather’d here to light the fire
Which then consumed upon the funeral pyre 25
The man who would have held monopoly
Of all the world. Methought I saw him burn,
And his dull ashes placed i’ the funeral urn.
What mockery donned him in martial garb
To place him on the pyre! That powerless arm 30
No more can raise the sword, with fell alarm
To frighten child or woman,—for the barb
Of an unerring archer took as sure aim
At him as he had e’er ta’en at a foe.
Three time around the pyre I saw them go 35
With pomp in full procession. Many a dame
And maiden, and many a man and youth,
Look’d on from Eboracum*—then the scene
Of Roman power and grandeur. Many a Queen
And tributary King methought in sooth 40
Rejoiced; but not a tear did dim one eye,
Or any bosom heave for him in sympathy.

And yet this monarch was not wholly vile;
He had some sense of justice: only power
Uncheck’d with him was cruel in the hour 45
When vengeance seized on his mind meanwhile
His sword was kept unsheathed. To him we owe
That wise Papinian was to Ebor brought—
Rome’s then best jurist, whose mind was fraught
With justice, and whose teachings here did grow, 50
Like seeds well planted, to the goodly tree
Of England’s jurisprudence—him whose blood
Was shed because he bravely had withstood
The murderous Caracalla: and now we
In quiet contemplation here can muse 55
Where ancient Romans did too oft their power abuse.

George Markham Tweddell

* “Eboracum” as PTOLEMY in his Geography termed it, over sixteen
centuries since (a spelling most writers have followed)—or “Eburacum,” as
the best edition of the Itinerary of ANTONIUS and several able antiquarians of
modern days spell it—was the Roman name for the city of York, which in the
reign of the Emperor Septimus Severus, A. D. 206 or 207 to his death on the
fourth of February, A. D. 210, was, as the learned CHARLES WELLBELOVED
remarks, “then the chief city of the North, if not of the whole province of
Britain,” and had probably been one of the strongest fortified towns of the
Brigantes before the arrival of the Romans. See his valuable Eburacum, or
York under the Romans, a copy of which was kindly presented to me by my
dear friend, the late Mark Philips, Esq., one of his pupils. An interesting
account of Severus will also be found in HARGROVE’s History of York.
(Tweddell Notes)
Some addtional background...(Ed)

"Severus died in York in AD 211. His funeral was arguably the biggest state occasion ever to be held here. In accordance with Roman tradition he would have been cremated at the highest point in the city, which was just outside York in Acomb. A huge procession would probably have taken his body there. Today in Acomb there is a place known as “Severus Hill,” held by tradition to be the site of the cremation.

The most enduring legacy of Severus’s visit was the status it brought to York. The prolonged presence of an emperor brought the highest prestige and long after the Roman period, York continued to be the economic, military, religious and political centre for the north of England."

Map shows Acomb in York and Severus Rd and Severus Ave. Presumably Severus Hill is somewhere there.

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