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Fragile fate of emperor

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman emperor, Claudius, Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Roman emperor, Claudius, Lawrence Alma-Tadema. The painting shows the moment of discovery of Claudius hidden behind a curtain. Then he is proclaimed emperor by the praetorians.

Of the first successors of Octavian Augustus, only Tiberius died a natural death. Caligula was stabbed to death, Claudius was poisoned, and Nero was forced to commit suicide. As it turns out, the emperor’s life was not easy and comfortable.

In 69 CE legionaries / praetorians threw from the throne and placed as many as three emperors on it, sometimes allowing them to reign for only a few months. Sequentially:

  • Galba – murdered by the Praetorian Guard;
  • Othon – committed suicide after defeating Bedriacum;
  • Vitellius – was murdered by Vespasian’s soldiers.

Members of the new Flavian DynastyVespasian and Titus died of natural causes, however, Domitian had already been murdered in a coup d’état.

The Antonine Dynasty (96-192 CE), whose reign is described as the “golden age of the empire”, stood out with particular peace and stability. At that time, out of eight rulers, only Commodus lived to see the murder.

Another ruler of Pertinax – despite his goodwill to try to reform the country – was murdered by the self-ruling Praetorian Guard. His successor Didius Julianus had a similar fate after less than three months of rule, also at the hands of the praetorian guard.

Septimius Severus is an exception to the new dynasty he founded – Severus and practically the entire 3rd century CE. Of the six members of the Severus dynasty, only he was to die a natural death while in office. His successors: Geta, Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus were murdered under various circumstances.

With the death of the last member of the Severus dynasty, the so-called crisis of the 3rd century in the empire, where the rulers on the throne changed practically every now and then. As it is easy to guess then and later in the existence of the Empire, it was difficult to find emperors who died in office in a natural way.

  • Krawczuk Aleksander, Poczet cesarzy rzymskich, Warszawa 2004
  • Markel RIta J. , The Fall of the Roman Empire

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