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"Foundation of the Praetorian Guard" Topic

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406 hits since 30 Apr 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2018 3:06 p.m. PST

"Octavian turned the praetorians into a regularized, privileged and organized part of his power base as Augustus, Rome's first emperor. The Praetorian Guard enjoyed advantageous pay and conditions, but by dispersing them around Rome and Italy Augustus avoided creating the impression that he ruled at the head of a military dictatorship. Augustus focused far more publicly on his constitutional position and playing down the fact that he had come to power, and remained in power, as the result of naked force. He needed the army and the Guard, and they needed him. This interdependence established a dynamic that would have significant consequences in the centuries to come. The essential post of the praetorian prefect was created, but this involved putting a man, or men, in charge of a potentially very dangerous force. Augustus' attempts to create a dynasty also raised the question of whether the Guard was loyal to the office or to the person of the emperor.

During the civil war after Caesar's death in 44 BC an important principle and concept had been established: a Roman general would equip himself with a bodyguard drawn from his most effective, experienced and reliable troops. Now that he had supreme power, Octavian moved fast to make himself a permanent institution. After the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, Octavian was unchallenged. The permanent Praetorian Guard which he created at this point, made up from both his praetorians and Antony's, emerged before the end of his reign as a far more regularized and coordinated force than anything that had gone before. The praetorians swore an oath of allegiance to Augustus, something that would be transferred to other emperors. In time this would present some praetorians, ordered to carry out killings on behalf of the emperor or confronted by an emperor such as Nero whose behaviour became intolerable, with serious challenges to their loyalty…."
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