A Rare Known Factoid …  “Between AD 208 and AD 211 the entire Roman Empire was governed from York.”

The Roman world was governed from wherever the emperor was located. York was privileged to be the heart of the Roman empire note once but twice, each about 100 years apart. Remarkably, both times the Emperor died in the city and both times a battle for succession began here.

Emperor Septimius Severus : AD 208-211

This first time was when the emperor Septimius Severus lived in York between 208-11. Having restored stability to the empire after a period of civil war, he came to Eboracum (Roman York) to lead campaigns against the Caledonians who had been attacking Roman targets in the north of Britain.

Severus was over 60 when he arrived in York. He brought with him his wife, Julia Domna, and their sons Caracalla and Geta along with a huge retinue of civil servants and soldiers, including the Praetorian Guard.

Severus died in York on February 2, 211. As emperors were considered halfway between men and gods he was given a suitably lavish send-off. Soldiers threw gifts as the late emperor’s body clad in military garb was consumed by the flames of the funeral pyre.

Severus had previously named his sons Caracalla and Geta, as co-emperors. Returning to Rome after their father’s death their subsequent rivalry had a bloody end: Caracalla had his brother assassinated.

Emperor Constantius & Constantine : AD 305-306

The second time was when the emperor Constantius came to Britain in 305 AD , bringing with him his son Constantine.

Emperor Constantius died in July the following year in York. The system of succession at the time demanded that another Caesar should become emperor but the soldiers in York immediately proclaimed Constantine their leader. It proved to be a pivotal moment in history.

Constantine went on to be named “Constantine the Great” for some very good reasons…

  1. After nearly 80 years, and 3 generations of political fragmentation, Constantine united the whole of the Roman Empire under one ruler again, restoring stability and security to the Roman world.
  2. Constantine also abandoned Rome as the most important city in the empire, building a new capital modestly named Constantinople (now Istanbul).
  3. In the next two centuries, Rome and Italy became vulnerable to barbarian invasions. The much more easily defensible Constantinople lasted for another thousand years.
  4. Finally, and perhaps most famously, Constantine’s strong support for Christianity had an incalculable impact on European history. He converted to the faith in AD 312 and adopted it as the official religion of the Roman Empire (see our article : “The Tipping Point – The Day Rome Embraced Christianity“)


Constantinople – Where (Middle) East Meets West
The Tipping Point – The Day Rome Embraced Christianity