Military Review



For four years Rome endured the wild antics of the emperor Caligula. But there is a limit to everything. And now 24 January, January 41 n. er A group of soldiers of the Praetorian Guard, led by the commander of the palace guards, broke into the palace and killed the cruel emperor. The tortured bodies of Caligula and his household were lying on the stairs filled with blood, and the conspirators rummaged around the palace, not really understanding what to do next. But then a soldier named Grath noticed that someone's legs were sticking out from under the curtains. Grath pulled back the curtain and pulled out a little man shaking with fear. The soldier immediately recognized Claudius, the uncle of Caligula. Claudius, who was a stupid fool, collapsed before Grath on his knees and began to beg for mercy. But he was not going to kill him. On the contrary, having saluted Claudius as emperor, Grath called his comrades. They put half-dead Claudius on a stretcher and dragged him to his camp. The street crowd, seeing Claudius surrounded by armed men, felt sorry for the harmless uncle of the murdered tyrant, believing that he was being dragged to death. And in vain regretted - the soldiers decided to declare Claudius the emperor.

This case was turning into stories Rome: if earlier only senior officers played a prominent role in politics, then henceforth ordinary praetorians undertook to decide the fate of the empire. And soon the praetorians turned into real "workers of Caesars".

Elite war machine

Who are the praetorians? Initially, these are detachments of personal bodyguards of the Roman generals. The “Praetorium” in Latin is a place in the camp for the commander’s tent, hence the name “Praetorian Cohort”. The first Praetorian cohorts were formed from friends and familiar commanders. Many notable young men who sought a military career came here: after all, in battles they fought side by side with those whom they were called to guard, which means that the commander could notice them and advance them in the service. To enroll in the Praetorians, the candidate had to have excellent health, good behavior and come from a decent family. If someone from the outside wanted to enter the guard, he should have submitted a recommendation from an important person. Moreover, the inhabitants of Rome were not taken to Praetorians, they were considered too “spoiled”, but the emigrants from the rest of Italy, who became famous in battle, had a very real chance to get into the Praetorian Guard. Higher officers were recruited from the senatorial and equestrian estates, that is, from people of noble birth.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema. "Grath declares Claudius the emperor"

The Praetorians had many privileges over simple legionnaires: 16-year service life instead of 20-year-old, increased salary and severance pay, the right to wear out-of-service civilian clothes. Their weapons were the same as those of the legionaries, but of much better quality. Each Praetorian had chain mail, reinforced with copper plates, or leather armor with iron plates, a shiny helmet with a magnificent Sultan and an oval shield “scutum” with rich embossing. A gilded embossing also decorated the helmet, breastplate, and Pauldrons and handcuffs. Even on the blades of the swords was engraved.

For all these privileges the guardsmen had to pay with exhausting training. But as a result of daily training, they turned out to be persistent and masterfully trained soldiers. The Praetorians each had two pilum — spears with flexible pins behind the tip, which bent when hit. A spear stuck in the shield, prevented the enemy, stuck in the body - killed. Throwing spears, the praetorians continued to fight with swords. In general, during the heyday of the Empire (1-2 centuries), it was a great operating machine, the core of the army of Rome, the best army of antiquity.

Both guard and police

The main function of the Praetorians was the protection of the Caesars. In 23 AD, during the time of Emperor Tiberius, a camp-fortress was built for the Praetorians in Rome. However, this does not mean that the praetorians were constantly otryilis at the court. No, they actively participated in both civil and external wars. The guardsmen showed themselves well during the Jewish War (66-71), under the emperor of Trajan, the praetorians made a great contribution to the Roman victory over the Dacians - the tribes who lived in the territory of modern Romania, in 169-180. they accompanied Marcus Aurelius in his campaigns against the Germans. The valor of the guard is marked on the military monuments of ancient Rome: on the famous "Column of Trajan" and "Column of Marcus Aurelius."

However, the Praetorians went down in history not only because of their military victories. From the very beginning of 5, the Guard also carried out I police functions. Among the tasks of the Praetorians were political investigation and the arrest of state criminals, their detention before the trial in the prison, which was in the Praetorian camp, and even the execution. All this led to the fact that the praetorians began to feel themselves almost the masters of the Empire. And over time they turned into a haughty, capricious and selling caste.

Participants in the war game reproduce the martial construction of the Praetorian Turtle. In this form, the warriors of the castle from the arrows and the front and top.

The famous "Column of Trajan"

"The nest of rebellion and debauchery"

Already since the time of Emperor Tiberius, the outcome of the struggle for power was largely dependent on the support of the guard. It was the praetorian officers who overthrew Caligula who had put him on the throne before. And when Claudius died, one of the claimants to the throne, Nero, went primarily to the praetorians and promised them generous gifts if they came out in his support. The Praetorians agreed, and Nero became emperor. When Nero was killed, Galba came to power, who said that the soldiers should be recruited, not bought. Of course, such words did not like the greedy Praetorians - they killed Galba and enthroned Otho, who promised them a reward.

It must be said that although the praetorian corps theoretically had to feed on absolute loyalty to Caesar, the Caesars themselves did not have any special illusions about this: they did not particularly believe in the devotion of the guardsmen. So, as early as Augustus, the Germans were used as bodyguards, distinguished by their truly iron fidelity. Not subordinate to the Roman officers, foot and equestrian detachments of the Germans existed under the following emperors, but they could not push out the Praetorians.

Nowadays, in Rome, numerous tourists are shown the "mummers" Praetorians, talk about their weapons and fighting techniques. The inglorious end of the guard is also the theme of these narratives.

Loyalty and discipline were returned to the army in the “golden” times for Rome, during the period of the Antonin dynasty (96-192). But when the last of the Antonins, the bastard Commodus, ascended the throne, the praetorians remembered the old times and killed the dissolute emperor. But they did not like the new Caesar Pertinax either. He tried to curb the praetorians, forbidding them to rob the population. Guardsmen killed Pertinax and shut up in their camp. And then the utter unbecoming began - the praetorians announced from the walls of the camp that they would enthrone the one who paid the most. This “auction” was won by a certain Didyulian - he offered 6250 denarii to the guardsmen and became the emperor. But the treasury was empty, and the praetorians were left with nothing.

The leader of the legions, Septimius, attempted to curb the brazen "bodyguards of the generals" —they drove the Praetorians out of Rome and destroyed their fortress. This exile greatly weakened the Praetorian Guard, but nevertheless, for a good hundred years, the Praetorians actively participated in all troubles, during which all sorts of "soldier emperors" burst with soap bubbles. Finally, in 312, Constantine the Great completely abolished the Praetorian Guard - in his words, "a constant nest of insurrection and debauchery." This is how the most powerful military unit of antiquity, which practically did not know defeats on the battlefield, ended its existence ingloriously!
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  1. tiaman.76
    tiaman.76 28 January 2016 22: 51
    good article