History : Oct-Nov 2015
the building, but Emperor Caligula (a.d. 37-41) allowed them to stand guard inside as well. Personal Protection Some emperors developed an almost paranoid obsession with their personal safety. Claudius (a.d. 41-54) was afraid to attend banquets un- less he was surrounded by armed guards and insisted that all visitors should be thoroughly searched—with no exceptions. If he visited the sick, he ensured that their bedrooms were carefully examined, including checking the mattresses and shaking out blankets. When Claudius learned of his wife’s adultery with Gaius Silius, he fled and took refuge in the praetorian camp, fearing that Silius was about to overthrow him. Sometimes the emperor’s safety could be seriously compromised. The eccentric Nero (a.d. 54-68) would go on nocturnal wanderings around the streets of Rome. One night he was almost beaten to death by a senator for having taken liberties with the man’s wife. Conse- quently, he was followed at a distance by prae- torian tribunes. A bandit and former soldier called Maternus plotted to kill the emperor Commodus (a.d . 177-192). Maternus’s gang planned to disguise themselves as praetorians during a spring festival, but the plot was be- trayed and Maternus was beheaded. The Praetorian Guard escorted the emperor whenever and wherever he traveled, such as Nero’s journeys through Greece and the fre- quent tours of the provinces made by Hadrian (a.d. 117-138). A detachment always traveled ahead of the imperial cavalcade to clear the way and neutralize threats. On one occasion Tiberius was traveling through Italy when the litter in which he was being carried became entangled in some blackberry bushes. The en- raged emperor threw the scout responsible to the ground and flogged him almost to death. From Bodyguard to Battlefield The praetorians performed a number of cer- emonial duties, including acting as the honor guard at official events, such as victory parades, ambassador receptions, and imperial birthday celebrations. As a final act of loyalty the guard formed the emperor’s funeral cortege. They were also responsible for keeping order in Rome. They helped the vigiles (firemen) put out fires, inves- tigated plots against the emperor, and put down rebellions. Their duties included guarding the prison and carrying out orders of execution. They also stood guard during public entertain- ments such as theatrical performances, gladia- torial games, and chariot races. Sometimes they even took part; once Emperor Claudius ordered praetorian cavalry to fight against African ani- mals in the Circus Maximus. Despite sometimes being mocked for enjoy- ing a more decadent lifestyle, the Praetorian Guard was a real fighting force. Their military equipment was essentially the same as that of the legions, with just a few decorative dif- ferences. Praetorian shields bore special em- blems such as winged lightning, the moon and stars, and the scorpion; their standard-bearers carried banners depicting the emperor and wore a lion’s skin as a hooded cloak instead of A PRAETORIAN REMEMBERED This funerary stela was erected in memory of the praetorian Pomponius Proculus. It shows him dressed in his uniform and fully armed for battle. DEA/AGE FOTOSTOCK THE PRAETORIAN CAMPS THE PRAETORIAN GUARD had a number of camps around Rome. The main camp was the castra praetoria northeast of Rome, near the Viminal Hill. Its 42 acres were encircled by an 11-foot high wall with a string of towers. There was a two-story barracks capable of housing an estimated 12,000 men. Outside the walls was a large training field that was also used for parades and religious ceremonies. MBCREATIVITAT The urban cohorts were responsible for keeping public order in the city of Rome. The Batavians, Germans from the Lower Rhine, were the guards closest to the Emperor. The Equites Singulares Augusti, founded by Trajan, replaced the German Guard dissolved by Vespasian in a.d. 69 .
Dec 2015-Jan 2016