In 191, on the advice of Quintus Aemilius Laetus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard, emperor Commodus appointed Severus as governor of Pannonia Superior.
The year 193 AD is known as Year of the Five Emperors as five men claimed the title of Roman emperor: Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus, and Septimius Severus.
The year started with the murder of Emperor Commodus who was strangled by his wrestling partner Narcissus in his bath.
Once Commodus was assassinated, Pertinax was named emperor. However, when he attempted to initiate reforms, he faced the opposition of the Praetorian Guard.
They then plotted his assassination, and Pertinax was killed by Praetorian Guard while he was trying to reason with them.
The result of the unrest in Rome saw many regional governors proclaiming themselves Emperor.
Pescennius Niger was proclaimed emperor by the legions in Syria; Septimius Severus by the troops in Illyricum and Pannonia; and Albinus by the armies in Britain and Gaul.
Septimius Severus had originally wanted to take the throne after Commodus’ murder, but the haste with which the assassins named Pertinax emperor prevented that from happening.
However after the murder of Pertinax, Severus’ legion XIV Gemina acclaimed him emperor at Carnuntum.
Nearby legions, such as X Gemina at Vindobona, soon followed suit. Having assembled an army, Severus moved towards Italy.
Pertinax’s successor in Rome was Didius Julianus who won the post of emperor in an auction.
Didius Julianus, who purchased this title from the Praetorian Guard, succeeded Pertinax.
Septimius Severus, the nearest of the generals to Rome, marched on the capital, gathering support along the way.
He defeated the cohorts of the Praetorian Guard sent by Didius Julianus to defeat and kill Septimius Severus.
After the defeat of his cohort, Didius Julianus was abandoned by the Senate and the Praetorian Guard.
Didius Julianus was killed by a soldier in the palace and succeeded by Severus.
Severus took possession of Rome without opposition.
He executed Pertinax’s murderers and dismissed the rest of the Praetorian Guard, filling its ranks with loyal troops from his own legions.
Severus then marched from Rome to the east to defeat Pescennius Niger. He soon defeated the army of Niger.
Niger was captured by emperor Septimius Severus’ troops while attempting to flee to Parthia. Niger was beheaded soon after his capture.
After the defeat and death of Niger in 194, Severus resolved to make himself the absolute master of the Roman Empire.
Albinus, seeing the danger of his position, prepared for resistance. He narrowly escaped being assassinated by a messenger of Severus.
On 19 February 197 Albinus met Severus’ army at the Battle of Lugdunum. After a hard-fought battle, Albinus was defeated and killed. Albinus’ headless body was thrown into the Rhone, together with the corpses of his murdered family.
The death of Albinus ended the civil war.