Rome and Its Empire, AD 193-284

Rome and Its Empire, AD 193-284

Rome and Its Empire, AD 193-284

Rome and Its Empire, AD 193-284

Excerpt

When, on 1 January 193, the news started to spread through the city of Rome that the emperor Commodus had been assassinated the previous night, many senators must have been happy. Their relationship with the emperor had been problematic, and they will have hoped that any successor would take their interests more into consideration. They were wrong. The following century would limit senatorial influence beyond what could have been imagined. Almost twenty-five years after Commodus' death, in April 217, the first non-senatorial emperor was proclaimed (Marcus Opellius Macrinus), who reigned for fourteen months but never showed himself in Rome (II 5 8.21). Nearly twenty years later, the first professional soldier, a man of equestrian and not senatorial rank, became emperor (Maximinus Thrax, 235–8), again avoiding Rome throughout his reign (II 5 9.1). Another forty-five years passed before even the last gesture was abandoned. The emperor Carus (282–3) did not even ask for senators to acclaim him – his emperorship was based wholly on the support of his troops. The power to appoint emperors lay wholly with the soldiers, as was famously announced by the fourth-century author Aurelius Victor (II 4 37). Only shortly after did Diocletian (284–305) come to occupy the throne, and change the whole system of emperorship in the process. A new era had started.

Rome and its emperors

From 193 to 284 the Roman Empire knew over twenty-five more or less legitimate rulers, and an approximately equal number of usurpers who managed to take control of parts of the empire for at least some time. To say that there was a lack of dynastic stability is a massive under statement. Still, some chronological demarcations are possible. First, there is the period up to 235. With the accession of Macrinus as an . . .

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