Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The weird world of Rome on the decline

I have entered a new, unhappy era in my studies of world history.

Pertinax was a good man. It wasn't his fault that the Roman Empire had already begun its long slide into collapse. The golden Julio-Claudian era that brought Augustus and kin was long over, the silver age of the Flavians had also ended and then had come to a close the bronze years of the Antonines, ominously marred with the murder of Marcus Aurelius by barbarians, far from home.

Pertinax had rather humble origins for a Caesar. According to Wikipedia:

"Originally Pertinax made his way as a grammaticus (teacher of grammar), [how about that, Chase?] but he eventually decided to find a more rewarding line of work and through the help of patronage he was commissioned an officer in a cohort. In the Parthian war that followed, he was able to distinguish himself, which resulted in a string of promotions, and after postings in Britain (as military tribune of the Legio VI Victrix) and along the Danube, he served as a procurator in Dacia."

The Roman masses were coming to expect that their Caesars would bribe, amuse and feed them. And when it didn't happen, Caesars didn't live long. Thus, Pertinax, again from Wikipedia:

"On 28 March 193, Pertinax was at his palace when a contingent of some three hundred soldiers of the Praetorian Guard rushed the gates. Ancient sources suggest that they had received only half their promised pay. Neither the guards on duty nor the palace officials chose to resist them. Pertinax sent Laetus to meet them, but he chose to side with the insurgents instead and deserted the emperor.

"Although advised to flee, he then attempted to reason with them, and was almost successful before being struck down by one of the soldiers. Pertinax must have been aware of the danger he faced by assuming the purple, for he refused to use imperial titles for either his wife or son, thus protecting them from the aftermath of his own assassination."

1 comment:

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

We get to read a lot about Rome at its height of glory but I appreciated this little foray into the period of its decline. I know little of but am interested in how the Roman Empire broke up into successor states.