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Was The Position In The Praetorian Guard Or As A Praetorian Prefect A Path To Power?

1884 words - 8 pages

ANCIENT HISTORYInvestigate the role of the Praetorian Guard and Praetorian Prefects under the Julio Claudians. How influential were they? What does this tell you about the nature of the principate?------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Was the position in the Praetorian Guard or as a Praetorian Prefect a path to power, or a dangerous move?The Praetorian Guard and its origin:Originally, a general in the Republic was protected by a guard called the 'Cohors Praetoria," named after the commander's headquarters (praetorium). The Praetorian Guard was named in imitation of the Cohors Praetoria, and when Augustus became the first ruler in 27 BC he decided such a formation was useful certainly not only in war, but also in politics.Augustus transformed the troops into the core of his own elite army at Rome, and also in Italy, which consisted of nine cohorts of 500 to 1000 men. He understood the need to have a protector in the maelstrom of Rome, and was careful to uphold the Republican appearance of his regime, and thus kept only three of the nine cohorts on duty at any given time in the capital. The remaining six were usually distributed in a number of Italian towns.The members of the Praetorian Guard enjoyed superior conditions such as substantially higher amounts of pay than other Roman soldiers, and a shorter length of required service. They also received gifts of money called Donativum, on special occasions from the emperor. Upon retirement, a soldier of the Praetorian Guard is granted with 20,000 sesterces, a gift of land, and a diploma reading "to the warrior, who bravely and faithfully completed his service." Most men who served in the guard were of Italian origin.The Praetorian Guardsmen undertook more intense training than those in the legions, because of the amount of free time available during the period that a cohort was not posted, or not travelling with the emperor.The primary function of the Praetorian Guard was to act as a bodyguard to the princeps and also to serve as a police force in the city. It was hoped that the elite army would deter any conspirators plotting against the princeps.It was recommended to Augustus by Maecenas that he appoint the greatest equestrian to be in command of the Praetorian Guard as well as the remaining soldiers of Italy. He is said to have made this recommendation in a speech to Augustus, to ensure that he always had someone to protect and guard him.The Praetorian Prefect:The title of Praetorian Prefect was given to the commander of the imperial Praetorian Guard. The position was destined to be very influential due to the closeness of the prefect to the centre of power and to the legions of men they commanded. It was this reason that Augustus deemed it wise to assign two prefects instead of one, since a single appointment may concentrate too much power in the hands of one man. It was in 2 BC that Augustus appointed the first pair of Praetorian...

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