ROME-AGE OF THE ANTONINES.
although the caucus was not such as to commend him to public favor. The
Senate was surprised to find one of its own members again named for the
throne, and the praetorians were well satisfied to have their old commander
assigned to the Imperial station. The new Emperor was experienced in the
camp and the campaign, and was also well versed in the affairs of the
state. His civil life, however, was more recent than his military. He had
been a municipal officer under the recent government, so that the loyalty
of the praetorians was remote rather than immediate. Pertinax had,
therefore, deemed it desirable to stimulate the loyalty of the praetorians
by a large donative or bounty on his accession. As a matter of fact the
Praetorian Guard had now become the bete noire of Rome. Every element in
Roman society trembled before the apparition of this passionate,
licentious, half-disciplined soldiery.
The first administrative act of Pertinax was the recall of the exiled
noblemen who had been driven out of the state by Commodus. To them their
estates were returned and such reparation made of their fortune as was
possible under the circumstances. Measures were next silently but firmly
adopted with a view to improving the discipline and subordination of the
praetorians. Under these wise procedures the prosperity of the city
immediately began to revive. Public credit was restored and every thing
promised a quiet and beneficent reign. A specter lurked, however, in the
shadow of the praetorian camp. Laetus, the praefect of the guard, was
offended by want of recognition on the part of him whom he had helped to
raise to power. A. D. 193, in less than three months from the death of
Commodus, the praetorians rose in arms, attacked the basilica, listened for
a moment to the courageous rebuke which Pertinax attempted to deliver, then
fell upon and slew him with fury and indignity. His head was cut off and
carried to the camp. In the audacity of their triumph over law and order,
the praetorians then offered the Empire to him who would pay the largest
donative. Thereupon an aged senator named Sulpicianus, himself the father-
in-law of Pertinax, offered a tempting sum. The bargain was about to be
closed when it occurred to the leaders of the guards that a still greater
sum might be extorted from some one who was burning with the lust of power.
Accordingly they went upon the rampart of the camp and openly offered the
crown of the Roman Empire at public auction to the highest bidder!
Thereupon another Senator named Didius Julianus went boldly to the camp,
out- bid his rival by offering a thousand dollars to each of the twelve
thousand praetorians, and was declared the purchaser by the hilarious
guards! Julianus was accordingly proclaimed and accepted even by the
As soon, however, as the news of these events was carried to the-
provincial armies there was hot indignation among the legionaries. Those
on the Euphrates proclaimed their own commander, Pescennius Niger, as
Emperor. The legions of the Rhine conferred the diadem on their general,
Clodius Aibinus; while the army of the Danube made proclamation of
Septimius Severus. The latter was the ablest of the nominees. He at once
anticipated the movements of his rivals by a hurried march towards Rome.
Drawing near the city, the Senate spoke out in his behalf by proclaiming
Julianus a public enemy. The praetorians, knowing themselves to be no match
for the veteran legions, abandoned Julianus, who was put to death after a
reign of two months.
Thus came Severus to the throne of the Empire. It was a dangerous eminence.
From the far East he was menaced by Niger, and from the Rhine, by Albinus;
while in the city the treacherous and venal praetorians made every thing
insecure. Severus, however, was a man of large abilities and no scruples.
He at once adopted the most vigorous measures for the overthrow of his
enemies. To this end he suddenly turned upon the praetorians,