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Archives > The Decline: Pertinax (AD 193) - Constantine (AD 337)

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message 1: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (last edited Mar 04, 2010 07:25PM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
The weaknesses of the Roman Imperial system come to fruition during this period. After the good times that preceded this era, why did the system begin to fail?

At the death of Pertinax, what incredible act did the Praetorian Guard initiate and why were they able to get away with it?

Why did Septimius Severus triumph over the other so called four emperors?

What failing did Septimius Severus fall victim to that led to years of unrest?

What was the most important action that Caracalla took during his reign?

Why was the reign of Alexander Severus seen as being as good as it was?

Why did Decius lose to the Goths in the battle of Forum Trebonii and what was the long term result of that defeat?

How were the Western Provinces able to get away with forming the Gallic Empire?

Why did Diocletian divide the Empire into two parts in AD 286?

How was Constantine able to solidify his claim as Augustus and defeat his five rival Emperors?

Why did Constantine set the Roman Capitol up at Byzantium?

Why would Constantine deserve the eponym Great?


message 2: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
Looks like a book I just got from the library (How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower, by Adrian Goldsworthy) relates to this period.

Should be interesting. I'm rather more up on the Republican period and the earlier Empire.


message 3: by Silvana (last edited Apr 13, 2010 03:36AM) (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) Ed wrote: "

At the death of Pertinax, what incredible act did the Praetorian Guard initiate and why were they able to get away with it?"


Besides placing his severed head on a lance and carried it to their camp? Well, they sold the emperor position to the highest bidder. Why did they get away with it? I guess the people were too scared of them. The Praetorian Guard at that time was known to be corrupt, cruel, and lacking discipline. They were able to strike enough terror to the Roman population who actually favored Pertinax. Even Sulpianus, the father in law of Pertinax who was also the governor of Rome could not do anything.

And this answers to the first question: it's mainly because of the Praetorian Guard AND the inability of the civilian govt to control them like the emperors such as Octavian did. He, for example, only placed three cohorts in Rome and disperse the others. Tiberius (due the lengthy peace period) however, bid them back to the capital and gave them permanent housing and all. According to Gibbon, this allowed the praetorian to be able to watch the weaknesses of the civilian govt and perceive their own strength not to mention all the wealth they could have.


message 4: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) I am really dizzy reading the lives of emperors following Pertinax. So many murders here and there, sheesh. So many names as well, that got me even more confused. I guess the Praetorians really did mess everything, they just did what they please, crowning someone as emperor only to assassinate him in the next day.

Alexander Severus seemed to be the most OK compared with Caracalla & Elagabalus but even he couldn't escape the guards.


message 5: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Silvana wrote: "I am really dizzy reading the lives of emperors following Pertinax. So many murders here and there, sheesh. So many names as well, that got me even more confused. I guess the Praetorians really did..."

Always the danger of a large standing "security" force. Think FBI, Homeland Security, CIA. Given the right conditions, it's hard to not try to be a "kingmaker". It could happen here. I don't think it will but it could.


message 6: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
Silvana wrote: "I am really dizzy reading the lives of emperors following Pertinax. So many murders here and there, sheesh. So many names as well, that got me even more confused. I guess the Praetorians really did..."

Just getting through that period in How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower, and dizzy is the word for it!


message 7: by Silvana (last edited Jul 21, 2010 07:46PM) (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) I am currently reading about Diocletian. An interesting fellow with his 'reform'. How could he be so trustful toward the other 3 rulers, esp. Maximian? Secondly, was he the first Roman emperor who resigned? I have never heard any resignation before. Not that it's a bad thing, I actually honor him for that. Too bad there are rumors that his final days weren't good and he committed suicide at the end.


message 8: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
Well... Sulla, though never technically an Emperor, did resign. Can't think of anyone else offhand.


message 9: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Susanna wrote: "Well... Sulla, though never technically an Emperor, did resign. Can't think of anyone else offhand."

I doubt if any of the emperors could resign without losing their heads so to speak. Besides they were all, Gods, theoretically, and as Mr Deity tells us, you can't not be God once you make the grade.


message 10: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (last edited Jul 22, 2010 12:08PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
Yep. Never heard of a retired God!

Sort of like hearing a South Carolina Senator is retiring - very unusual. Fritz Hollings is the first I can think of in a long time that did so. Usually they die in office (Hi, Strom!), or get beat.


message 11: by Silvana (last edited Jul 30, 2010 02:57AM) (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) Does anyone here think Constantine is lucky that Maxentius had an early death? Maxentius had far more troops and still many supporters in Rome at that time.

I just finished reading Gibbon's chapter on Constantine and wondered why he did not include Constantine's fascination over supranatural things, inc. his order for his troops to paint the chi-ro/labarum symbol in their shields.

And I also just found out that he's the one who disband the Praetorian guards. Good riddance. I think they'd been effective only until Marcus Aurelius' reign.


message 12: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Silvana wrote: "Does anyone here think Constantine is lucky that Maxentius had an early death? Maxentius had far more troops and still many supporters in Rome at that time.

I just finished reading Gibbon's chapt..."


I think people wanted to believe that his vision of a cross, that preceded his big victory, was real and not the vision of someone who believed in supernatural events and was looking for a sign.

I believe the Praetorian Guard created malicious mischief from Augutus' death onward. Always the danger with a standing army and an elite unit.


message 13: by S.E. (new)

S.E. Morgan (semorgan) | 7 comments I'm surprised we are stopping at the decline when a lot has been written about the fall. I'm fond of Magnus Maximus, Macsen Wedlig in the Welsh Mabinogion, the senate declared him Damnatio Memoriae, which is partly why he's little known despite him being for three years Emperor of the Western Empire. Needs a new thread I guess as lot's of novels, eg the Theodosian women trilogy by Faith L Justice or Rosemary Sutcliffe's the latern bearers the Attila trilogy etc.


message 14: by M.D. (last edited Sep 05, 2020 10:17AM) (new)

M.D. Missaiel (m_d_missaiel) | 2 comments To piggy back on this discussion, do you think the symptoms of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire were treatable? Do you think they parallel the symptoms of an ailing American Empire today?

That is actually the premise of my debut novel The Alternative History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It is an examination of what our world could have achieved without the fall of the Roman Empire, and what lessons we can learn to prevent a similar fall of the American Empire today.

The Alternative History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by M.D. Missaiel

I would love to hear your thoughts.


message 15: by S.E. (new)

S.E. Morgan (semorgan) | 7 comments Sitting in the UK, as we lose ever more influence in a post-colonial post-empire context, I'd have to say all empires fall.
That said, I really hope Mr. T is simply a Nero and not Gratian/ Valentinan and the Theodosian dynasty. It's internal strife that's destroying you, not the Vandals. The world watches with horror, I'm afraid.
My new novel is free on Kindle this weekend and relates a little of what it may have been like in post Roman Britain, three generations after Maximus left us to our own devices and we fell into the Dark Ages.The King Over the Sea


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