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The Year of the Five Emperors: Intrigue Murder and Imperial Auctions

The Year of the Five Emperors and the Praetorian GuardIn the annals of history, there are moments that capture the imagination and leave an indelible mark on our collective memory. One such period is the Year of the Five Emperors, a time of tumult and intrigue within the Roman Empire.

At the center of this gripping tale is the notorious Praetorian Guard, a group known for its power and influence. In this article, we will delve into the events of this tumultuous year and explore the role played by the Praetorian Guard.

Prepare to be captivated by tales of murder, political manipulation, and the greatest auction the world has ever seen.

Emperor Commodus and the murder by the Praetorian Guard

In the year 192 AD, the Roman Empire witnessed the rise of Emperor Commodus, a ruler who would become infamous for his excesses and brutal reign. However, his time on the imperial throne would be cut short by a shocking act of violence orchestrated by the Praetorian Guard.

On the fateful night of December 31, 192 AD, Commodus found himself the target of a murderous conspiracy.

Emperor Commodus and the murder by the Praetorian Guard

Emperor Commodus, a man known for his eccentricities and erratic behavior, had created numerous enemies within the Roman Empire. His extravagant lifestyle and fondness for gladiatorial combat had strained the treasury and alienated the nobility.

It was against this backdrop of discontent that the Praetorian Guard decided to take matters into their own hands. Led by a trusted member of the Guard, Commodus’ wrestling partner Narcissus, a group of conspirators plotted to poison the emperor.

Their plan was to stage a wrestling match with Commodus and offer him a poisoned drink during the bout. However, fate intervened, and just moments before the match, Commodus was handed a scroll containing the details of the conspiracy.

Outraged, the emperor ordered the execution of Narcissus and anyone remotely connected to the plot. The Praetorian Guard’s power and influence

The Praetorian Guard, originally established as a personal bodyguard for the emperor, had grown to become a force of significant power and influence within the Roman Empire.

Over time, their responsibilities expanded to include the selection and removal of emperors, essentially making them kingmakers. This power often led to corruption and political maneuvering.

Emperors were aware of the Praetorian Guard’s ability to overthrow them, and many sought their favor through bribes and concessions. In this way, the Praetorian Guard became not only the enforcers of the emperor’s will but also a potent political force.

The Greatest Auction the World Has Ever Seen

The assassination of Emperor Commodus led to a power vacuum within the Roman Empire, setting the stage for a chaotic and unprecedented event – a public auction for the throne. This audacious move was orchestrated by the Praetorian Guard and would ultimately result in the elevation of the highest bidder to the imperial throne.

Installation of Pertinax and his assassination

Following the death of Commodus, the Praetorian Guard seized control of the situation and installed their chosen candidate, Pertinax, as emperor. Pertinax was well-respected, known for his military prowess and administrative skills.

However, his reign would be short-lived. Pertinax’s attempts to restore order and discipline within the empire soon brought him into conflict with the Praetorian Guard.

In March of 193 AD, just three months after ascending to the throne, Pertinax was assassinated by disgruntled members of the Praetorian Guard.

The Praetorians organize a public auction for the throne

With the death of Pertinax, the Praetorian Guard saw an opportunity to further enrich themselves. They organized a public auction, with the imperial throne as the prize.

The highest bidder would not only become emperor but also gain control of the vast resources of the empire. News of this audacious undertaking spread like wildfire, and contenders from all walks of life flocked to Rome, eager to seize the opportunity.

Wealthy senators, military commanders, and even members of the imperial family participated in the auction. The sheer scale of the event was unprecedented, with fortunes being wagered and alliances formed overnight.

As the auction progressed, Septimius Severus, a military general stationed in Pannonia, emerged as the victor. Septimius, backed by the loyalty of his legions, outbid his rivals and claimed the title of emperor.

His reign would not only bring stability to the Roman Empire but also mark the end of the Praetorian Guard’s stranglehold on imperial power.


In the Year of the Five Emperors, the Praetorian Guard played a central role in the machinations and power struggles that characterized the Roman Empire during this tumultuous period. From the murder of Emperor Commodus to the audacious public auction for the throne, the Praetorian Guard left an indelible mark on history.

Their power and influence, coupled with their ability to manipulate the course of events, transformed them from mere bodyguards to the puppeteers of the empire. As we look back on this chapter in history, we are reminded of the delicate balance between the wielders of power and those who enforce it.

The Drums of War

Didius Julianus’ precarious position as emperor

In the wake of the assassination of Emperor Pertinax, the Roman Empire plunged into a state of chaos and uncertainty. The Praetorian Guard, seeking to capitalize on the situation, put the imperial throne up for auction, a move that sparked outrage and disbelief amongst the populace.

It was during this tumultuous time that Didius Julianus, a wealthy senator, emerged as the highest bidder and assumed the title of emperor. However, Didius Julianus’ ascension to power was met with widespread disapproval.

The people saw him as a puppet of the Praetorian Guard, a man who had bought his way to the throne rather than earning it through merit. Julianus was keenly aware of the precariousness of his position and sought to consolidate his rule through various means.

He quickly filled key positions in his administration with loyalists, hoping to secure their support and allegiance. Additionally, he embarked on an ambitious campaign of public relations, seeking to win over the hearts and minds of the Roman citizens.

Tax reforms, public spectacles, and generous donations to the needy were employed as tools to legitimize his rule and gain popular support. Revolts and declarations of Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus, and Septimius Severus

Despite his efforts, Julianus soon found himself facing formidable challenges to his rule.

In the eastern provinces, a general named Pescennius Niger declared himself Emperor and garnered significant support from the region. Niger established his base in Antioch, building an army and solidifying his rule over the eastern territories.

Meanwhile, in Britannia, another general named Clodius Albinus made his own bid for the imperial throne. Albinus, the governor of Britannia, had significant military backing and presented a serious threat to Julianus’ already fragile hold on power.

With the empire divided and three contenders vying for the throne, it was clear that the Roman Empire was on the brink of a full-blown civil war. In the midst of this volatile situation, another player emerged – Septimius Severus, the governor of Pannonia.

Recognizing the power vacuum and the weakness of his rivals, Severus seized the opportunity to assert his claim to the imperial throne. He declared himself Emperor and quickly gained the support of his legions, who saw in him a strong and capable leader.

The Last Battle

Septimius Severus’ consolidation of power and alliance with Clodius Albinus

Septimius Severus wasted no time in consolidating his power. He embarked on a campaign to secure the loyalty of his troops, offering them generous rewards and promotions.

His ability to maintain discipline and establish a strong command structure set him apart from his rivals. Realizing the threat posed by Clodius Albinus, Severus sought to form an alliance with the general in order to present a united front against their common enemies.

Negotiations were held, and a pact was forged between the two contenders. Severus promised Albinus the title of Caesar, effectively making him his co-emperor, in exchange for his loyalty and support.

Battle between Severus and Albinus, resulting in Severus’ victory

With a formidable alliance in place, Severus and Albinus embarked on a campaign to eliminate their remaining rivals. Their first target was Pescennius Niger, who had established a strong foothold in the east.

Severus led his forces against Niger, engaging in a series of decisive battles that ultimately led to his victory. Niger was captured and executed, eradicating his threat to Severus’ rule.

Having dealt with Niger, Severus turned his attention to his former ally, Clodius Albinus. What followed was a dramatic and bloody confrontation near Lugdunum (modern-day Lyon) in 197 AD.

It was a battle that would determine the fate of the Roman Empire. Both armies, well-disciplined and battle-hardened, clashed in a brutal struggle for supremacy.

The battle raged on for days, with neither side gaining a clear advantage. However, it was Severus’ tactical brilliance and the loyalty of his troops that ultimately tipped the scales in his favor.

Overwhelmed by Severus’ forces, Albinus was forced to retreat and eventually took his own life to avoid capture. Severus emerged victorious, solidifying his hold on the imperial throne and bringing an end to the Year of the Five Emperors.

His reign would mark a turning point in Roman history, as he embarked on significant military and administrative reforms that would shape the empire for centuries to come.


The Year of the Five Emperors and the role played by the Praetorian Guard have left an indelible mark on Roman history. From the murder of Emperor Commodus to the audacious public auction for the throne, the events of this tumultuous year showcased the power struggles and political maneuvering within the Roman Empire.

Through the rise and fall of various contenders, it was Severus who emerged as the victor, heralding a new era of stability and reform. As we reflect upon this tumultuous period, we are reminded of the fragility of power and the enduring legacy of those who shape the course of history.

The Year of the Five Emperors and the Birth of a New Dynasty

Septimius Severus’ legacy and establishment of a new dynasty

With his victory over Clodius Albinus, Septimius Severus emerged as the undisputed ruler of the Roman Empire, bringing an end to the chaotic period known as the Year of the Five Emperors. Severus’ reign would not only mark a turning point in Roman history but also establish a new dynasty that would leave a lasting impact on the empire.

Severus, known for his strong character and military prowess, sought to solidify his position and ensure the longevity of his rule. To achieve this, he focused on two main objectives – consolidating his power within the empire and securing a clear line of succession.

Severus embarked on a series of campaigns to establish his authority. He waged wars against various rivals and rebellions, both within and outside the borders of the empire, with the aim of asserting Roman dominance and eliminating potential threats to his rule.

His military successes earned him the unwavering loyalty of his troops and the respect of the Roman citizens. In addition to his military achievements, Severus worked diligently to establish a clear line of succession.

He designated his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, as co-emperors, ensuring a smooth transition of power upon his death. This move not only solidified the dynasty but also allowed for a sense of stability and continuity within the empire, which had been sorely lacking during the Year of the Five Emperors.

Influence and repercussions of Severus’ militarization of the Roman Empire

One of the defining characteristics of Severus’ reign was his militarization of the Roman Empire. Aware of the importance of a strong and disciplined military, he implemented a series of reforms that had far-reaching influence and repercussions.

Under Severus’ rule, the army became the backbone of the empire, its influence extending far beyond the borders of Rome. He increased the size of the legions, expanded recruitment efforts, and strengthened the military infrastructure in key provinces.

Severus also raised the pay of soldiers, ensuring their loyalty and commitment to the empire. The militarization of the Roman Empire had significant implications.

The power of the military grew exponentially, and with it, the influence of its leaders. This led to a shift in power dynamics, with the army playing an increasingly prominent role in political affairs.

Emperors had to maintain the support and favor of the military, relying on their loyalty to remain in power. Severus’ militarization efforts also had a profound impact on the empire’s overall stability.

The presence of a powerful military acted as a deterrent to potential rivals and external threats. At the same time, it allowed for the empire to expand its borders and assert its dominance over neighboring territories.

Severus’ military reforms laid the groundwork for the Roman Empire to flourish and maintain its position as a dominant force in the ancient world. However, the militarization of the Roman Empire was not without its downsides.

The increasing influence of the military often led to conflicts and power struggles between different factions within the army. Emperors had to carefully manage their relationships with military leaders, lest they be overthrown or undermined.

This delicate balance between civilian rule and military authority would continue to shape the empire for centuries to come.


The Year of the Five Emperors marked a tumultuous period in Roman history, but it was also a turning point that paved the way for the establishment of a new dynasty. Septimius Severus, with his military prowess and strategic vision, emerged as the victor and brought stability and continuity to the Roman Empire.

Through his militarization efforts, Severus not only consolidated his power but also laid the groundwork for the empire’s future expansion and dominance. As we reflect on the legacy of the Year of the Five Emperors, we are reminded of the lasting impact of the events on the Roman Empire and the birth of a new dynasty under the reign of Septimius Severus.

The Year of the Five Emperors and the role played by the Praetorian Guard mark a pivotal moment in Roman history. From the murder of Emperor Commodus to the audacious public auction for the throne, this tumultuous year showcased the power struggles and political maneuvering within the Roman Empire.

Septimius Severus emerged as the victor, establishing a new dynasty and ushering in an era of stability and military dominance. The militarization of the Roman Empire under Severus had far-reaching influence and repercussions, shaping the empire for centuries.

The events of this year remind us of the delicate balance between power and loyalty, leaving a lasting impact on the legacy of the Roman Empire.

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