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Severus Alexander (222-235)
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DrEntropy (37)
A military strongman who came to the throne during a period of extreme instability caused by falling birthrates, outbreaks of disease, barbarian unrest, military revolts and hyperinflation. Discerning that the Roman empire could no longer be governed by the benevolent approach of the 2nd Century emperors, Severus effectively declared a state of emergency that would last the next hundred years. He disbanded the Praetorian guard (the elite imperial bodyguard who had effectively governed the country, junta style, under the weak emperors following Marcus Aurelius) replacing them with his own soldiers. His overall policy is best summarized in his own words of advice to his sons: "Be generous to the soldiers, and you won't have to worry about the people." Severus' rule marks the descent of the Roman empire into pure military despotism devoid of any legitimizing principle, surviving only by force and terror until Constantine. Deserves 4 stars only for saving the empire from the otherwise-likely fate of early disintegration, and surviving as long as he did (few of the third-century emperors survived longer than five years, and even fewer died in bed).

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