Pertinax

Last updated

Pertinax
Alba Iulia National Museum of the Union 2011 - Possible Statue of Roman Emperor Pertinax Close Up, Apulum.JPG
Possible statue of Pertinax, National Museum of the Union, Alba-Iulia, Romania
Roman emperor
Reign1 January 193 – 28 March 193
Predecessor Commodus
Successor Didius Julianus
Born1 August 126
Alba Pompeia, Italia
Died28 March 193 (aged 66)
Rome, Italia
Burial
Rome
Spouse Flavia Titiana
Full name
Publius Helvius Pertinax
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Publius Helvius Pertinax Augustus [1]
FatherHelvius Successus

Pertinax ( /ˈpɜːrtɪnæks/ ; Publius Helvius Pertinax; 1 August 126 – 28 March 193) was a Roman soldier and politician who ruled as Roman emperor for the first three months of 193. He succeeded Commodus to become the first emperor during the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors.

Contents

Born the son of a freed slave, Pertinax became an officer in the army. He fought in the Roman–Parthian War of 161–166, where his success led him to be promoted to higher-ranking positions in both the military and political spheres. He achieved the rank of provincial governor and urban prefect. He was a member of the Roman Senate, serving at the same time as the historian Cassius Dio.

Following the death of Commodus, Pertinax was acclaimed emperor. He attempted to institute several reform measures, although the short length of his time as emperor prevented the success of those attempts. One of those reforms, the restoration of discipline among the Praetorian Guard, led to conflict that eventually culminated in Pertinax's assassination by the Guard. Pertinax would be deified by the emperor Septimius Severus. His historical reputation has largely been a positive one, in line with Cassius Dio's assessment.

Early life

His career before becoming emperor is documented in the Historia Augusta and confirmed in many places by existing inscriptions. He was born in Alba Pompeia in Italy, [2] the son of freedman Helvius Successus. [3] Pertinax through the help of patronage was commissioned an officer in a cohort. [4]

In the Parthian war that followed, [5] he was able to distinguish himself, which resulted in a string of promotions, and after postings in Britain (as military tribune of the Legio VI Victrix) [6] and along the Danube, he served as a procurator in Dacia. [7] He suffered a setback as a victim of court intrigues during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, but shortly afterwards he was recalled to assist Claudius Pompeianus in the Marcomannic Wars. [2] In 175, he received the honor of a suffect consulship [8] and until 185, Pertinax was governor of the provinces of Upper and Lower Moesia, Dacia, Syria and finally governor of Britain. [6]

During the 180s, Pertinax took a pivotal role in the Roman Senate until the praetorian prefect Sextus Tigidius Perennis forced him out of public life. [9] He was recalled after three years to Britain, where the Roman army was in a state of mutiny. [10] He tried to quell the unruly soldiers there but one legion attacked his bodyguard, leaving Pertinax for dead. [11] When he was forced to resign in 187, the reason given was that the legions had grown hostile to him because of his harsh rule. [12]

He served as proconsul of Africa from 188–189, [13] and followed this term of service with the urban prefecture of Rome, [14] and a second consulship as ordinarius with the emperor Commodus as his colleague. [11]

Emperor

Roman aureus struck under the rule of Pertinax. Inscription: IMP. CAES. P. HELV. PERTIN. AVG. / PROVIDentia DEORum COnSul II Pertinax Providentia Aureus.jpg
Roman aureus struck under the rule of Pertinax. Inscription: IMP. CAES. P. HELV. PERTIN. AVG. / PROVIDentia DEORum COnSul II

When Commodus' behaviour became increasingly erratic throughout the early 190s, a conspiracy led to his assassination on 31 December 192. The plot was carried out by the Praetorian prefect Quintus Aemilius Laetus, Commodus' mistress Marcia, and his chamberlain Eclectus. [15] After the murder had been carried out, Pertinax, who was serving as urban prefect at this time, was hurried to the Praetorian Camp and proclaimed emperor the following morning. [16] [note 1] His short reign (86 days) was an uneasy one. He attempted to emulate the restrained practices of Marcus Aurelius, and made an effort to reform the alimenta but he faced antagonism from many quarters. [18]

Ancient writers detail how the Praetorian Guard expected a generous donativum on his ascension, and when they were disappointed, agitated until he produced the money, selling off Commodus' property, [19] including the concubines and youths Commodus kept for his sexual pleasures. [20] [21] He reformed the Roman currency dramatically, increasing the silver purity of the denarius from 74% to 87% – the actual silver weight increasing from 2.22 grams to 2.75 grams. [22]

Pertinax attempted to impose stricter military discipline upon the pampered Praetorians. [23] In early March he narrowly averted one conspiracy by a group to replace him with the consul Quintus Sosius Falco while he was in Ostia inspecting the arrangements for grain shipments. [24] The plot was betrayed; Falco himself was pardoned but several of the officers behind the coup were executed. [25]

On 28 March 193, Pertinax was at his palace when, according to the Historia Augusta, a contingent of some three hundred soldiers of the Praetorian Guard rushed the gates [26] (two hundred according to Cassius Dio). [27] Ancient sources suggest that they had received only half their promised pay. [24] Neither the guards on duty nor the palace officials chose to resist them. Pertinax sent Laetus to meet them, but he chose to side with the insurgents instead and deserted the emperor. [28]

Although advised to flee, he then attempted to reason with them, and was almost successful before being struck down by one of the soldiers. [29] Pertinax must have been aware of the danger he faced by assuming the purple, for he refused to use imperial titles for either his wife or son, thereby protecting them from the aftermath of his own assassination. [15]

Aftermath

Bust of Septimius Severus, Glyptothek, Munich Septimius Severus Glyptothek Munich 357.jpg
Bust of Septimius Severus, Glyptothek, Munich

After Pertinax's death, the Praetorians auctioned off the imperial title, which was won by the wealthy senator Didius Julianus, whose reign would end on 1 June 193. [30] Julianus was succeeded by Septimius Severus. [31] After his entry to Rome, Septimius recognized Pertinax as a legitimate emperor, executed the soldiers who killed him, and not only pressured the Senate to deify him and provide him a state funeral, [32] but also adopted his cognomen of Pertinax as part of his name. [33] For some time, he held games on the anniversary of Pertinax's ascension and his birthday. [34]

Historical reputation

Pertinax's historical reputation is largely a positive one, beginning with the assessment of Cassius Dio, a historian and senator who was a colleague of Pertinax. Dio refers to him as "an excellent and upright man" [35] who displayed "not only humaneness and integrity in the imperial administrations, but also the most economical management and the most careful consideration for the public welfare." [20]

Dio's approval is not unqualified, however. He acknowledges that while some would call Pertinax's decision to confront the soldiers that would wind up killing him "noble", others would call it "senseless". [27] He is also critical of Pertinax's judgment when it came to the speed with which he tried to reform the excesses of the reign of Commodus, suggesting that a more tempered approach would have been less likely to result in his murder. [36]

Pertinax is discussed in The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli. When discussing the importance of a prince not being hated, Machiavelli provides Pertinax as an example of how it is as easy for a ruler to be hated for good actions as for bad ones. Though describing him as a good man, Machiavelli considered Pertinax's attempt to reform a soldiery that had become "accustomed to live licentiously" a mistake, as it inspired their hatred of him, which led to his overthrow and death. [37]

Pertinax is described by David Hume in his essay Of the Original Contract as an "excellent prince" possessing an implied modesty when, on the arrival of soldiers who had come to proclaim him emperor, he believed that Commodus had ordered his death. [38]

During the debate over ratification of the United States Constitution, Virginia politician John Dawson, at the state's ratifying convention in 1788, spoke of the "atrocious murder" of Pertinax by the Praetorian Guard as an example of the danger of establishing a standing army. [39] [40]

Pertinax was the pseudonym of the French journalist André Géraud (1882–1974). [41]

In Romanitas , a fictional alternate history novel by Sophia McDougall, Pertinax's reign is the point of divergence. In the history as established by the novel, the plot against Pertinax was thwarted, and Pertinax introduced a series of reforms that would consolidate the Roman Empire to such a degree that it would still be a major power in the 21st century. [42]

Notes

  1. Although Commodus was killed on 31 December 192, Pertinax was not acclaimed emperor until 1 January 193. [17]

Related Research Articles

Septimius Severus Roman emperor from 193 to 211

Lucius Septimius Severus was Roman emperor from 193 to 211. He was born in Leptis Magna in the Roman province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors.

Severan dynasty dynasty

The Severan dynasty was a Roman imperial dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 193 and 235. The dynasty was founded by the general Septimius Severus, who rose to power as the victor of the Civil War of 193–197.

The 190s decade ran from January 1, 190, to December 31, 199.

193 Calendar year

Year 193 (CXCIII) was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Sosius and Ericius. The denomination 193 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Commodus Roman emperor, 177–192

Commodus was Roman emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180, and solely until 192. His reign is commonly considered to mark the end of the golden period in the history of the Roman Empire known as the Pax Romana.

Didius Julianus Roman emperor in AD 193

Marcus Didius Julianus was Roman emperor for nine weeks from March to June 193, during the Year of the Five Emperors.

Clodius Albinus Usurper and Caesar of the Roman Empire

Decimus Clodius Albinus was a Roman general, senator and usurper who claimed the imperial title several times between 193 and 197. He was proclaimed emperor by the legions in Britain and Hispania after the murder of Pertinax in 193, and who proclaimed himself emperor again in 196, before his final defeat the following year.

Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus Roman consul and general

Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus was a politician and military commander during the 2nd century in the Roman Empire. A general under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Pompeianus distinguished himself during Rome's wars against the Parthians and the Marcomanni. He was a member of the imperial family due to his marriage to Lucilla, a daughter of Marcus Aurelius, and was a key figure during the emperor's reign. Pompeianus was offered the imperial throne three times, though he refused to claim the title for himself.

Caerellius Priscus is the name given to the man on an inscription recovered at Mogontiacum (Mainz), set up by a governor of Germania Superior who was afterwards governor of Roman Britain in the late 170s.

The office of Roman Emperor went through a complex evolution over the centuries of its existence. During its earliest phase, the Principate, the reality of autocratic rule was masked behind the forms and conventions of oligarchic self-government inherited from the Roman Republic. The emperor had no specific office unless he chose to occupy the Republican office of consul.

The Year of the Five Emperors was 193 AD, in which five men claimed the title of Roman emperor: Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus, and Septimius Severus. This year started a period of civil war when multiple rulers vied for the chance to become caesar.

Cornelius Repentinus was a Roman Senator who was active in the 2nd century AD. He held a number of positions during the reigns of emperors Marcus Aurelius, Commodus and Didius Julianus, which included suffect consul and Urban prefect of Rome.

Annia Cornificia Faustina Minor Ancient Roman noble

Annia Cornificia Faustina Minor was a daughter of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and his wife, Faustina the Younger. She was sister to Lucilla and Commodus. Her maternal grandparents were Antoninus Pius and Faustina the Elder, and her paternal grandparents were Domitia Lucilla and praetor Marcus Annius Verus. She was named in honor of her late paternal aunt Annia Cornificia Faustina.

Marcus Aurelius Cleander, commonly known as Cleander, was a Roman freedman who gained extraordinary power as chamberlain and favourite of the emperor Commodus, rising to command the Praetorian Guard and bringing the principal offices of the Roman state into disrepute by selling them to the highest bidder. His career is narrated by Dio Cassius, Herodian and the Historia Augusta.

Sextus Tigidius Perennis served as Praetorian Prefect under the Roman emperor Commodus. Perennis exercised an outsized influence over Commodus and was the effective ruler of the Roman Empire. In 185, Perennis was implicated in a plot to overthrow the emperor by his political rival, Marcus Aurelius Cleander, and executed on the orders of Commodus.

Publius Atilius Aebutianus was a prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard, during the reign of emperor Commodus, from 185 until his death in 188. Aebutianus acceded to the office upon the execution of his predecessor Sextus Tigidius Perennis.

Quintus Aemilius Laetus was a prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard, from 191 until his death in 193. He acceded to this position upon the deaths of his predecessors Regillus and Lucius Julius Vehilius Gratus Julianus, by appointment of emperor Commodus. His name suggests that his family received Roman citizenship from Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.

The gens Septimia was a minor plebeian family at Rome. The gens first appears in history towards the close of the Republic, and they did not achieve much importance until the latter half of the second century, when Lucius Septimius Severus obtained the imperial dignity.

Titus Flavius Claudius Sulpicianus was a Roman statesman who served as Senator and Consul suffectus. He unsuccessfully attempted to succeed his son-in-law Pertinax as Emperor in 193.

Publius Tarrutenius Paternus was a Roman eques who flourished during the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius. He achieved several military successes, during which he was appointed to praetorian prefect, and led to his adlection into the Roman Senate. Paternus was accused of treason by Aurelius' successor, his son Commodus, and executed.

References

  1. Cooley, Alison E. (2012). The Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy. Cambridge University Press. p. 494. ISBN   978-0-521-84026-2.
  2. 1 2 Dio, 74:3
  3. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 1:1
  4. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 1:6
  5. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 2:1
  6. 1 2 Birley (2005), p. 173.
  7. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 2:4
  8. Meckler (1997).
  9. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 3:3
  10. Dio, 74:4
  11. 1 2 Birley (2005), p. 174.
  12. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 3:10
  13. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 4:1
  14. Victor, 18:2
  15. 1 2 Campbell (2005), p. 1.
  16. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 4:5
  17. Pococke (1853), p. 158.
  18. Gibbon (1788), chapter 4.
  19. Campbell (2005), p. 2.
  20. 1 2 Dio, 74:5
  21. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 7:8
  22. Kenneth W. Harl (1999). "Roman Currency of the Principate". Tulane University. Archived from the original on 1 November 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  23. Zosimus, 1:8
  24. 1 2 Dio, 74:8
  25. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 10:4
  26. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 11:1
  27. 1 2 Dio, 74:9
  28. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 11:7
  29. Dio, 74:10
  30. Glay, Marcel le; Voisin, Jean-Louis; Bohec, Yann le (2001). A History of Rome. Translated by Nevill, Antonia (Third ed.). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 369–372. ISBN   1-4051-1083-X.
  31. Dio, 74:17:4
  32. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 15:1
  33. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 15:2
  34. Historia Augusta, Pertinax, 15:5
  35. Dio, 74:1
  36. Dio, 74:10. "He failed to comprehend, though a man of wide practical experience, that one cannot with safety reform everything at once, and that the restoration of a state, in particular, requires both time and wisdom."
  37. Machiavelli – The Prince, Ch. XIX. Pertinax, Marcus Aurelius and Severus Alexander are described as "men of modest life, lovers of justice, enemies to cruelty, humane, and benignant". However, Machiavelli considers that Roman soldiers, "being accustomed to live licentiously under Commodus, could not endure the honest life to which Pertinax wished to reduce them".
  38. Hume – Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary , II.XII.41
  39. Graham, John Remington (2009). Free, Sovereign, and Independent States: The Intended Meaning of the American Constitution. United States: Pelican Publishing. p. 139. ISBN   9781589805897.
  40. Richard, Carl J. (1994). The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment. United States: Harvard University Press. p. 103. ISBN   0-674-31426-3.
  41. "The Press: Pertinax Goes Home". Time. 15 October 1945. ISSN   0040-781X . Retrieved 26 March 2018.(subscription required)
  42. McDougall, Sophia. "A Short History of the Roman Empire". Romanitas. Retrieved 26 March 2018.

Sources

Primary sources

Secondary sources

Political offices
Preceded by
L. Calpurnius Piso
P. Salvius Julianus
Consul of Rome
175 (suffect)
With: Didius Julianus
Succeeded by
T. Vitrasius Pollio
M. Flavius Aper  II
Preceded by
Ulpius Marcellus
Governor of Britain
c. 185 – 187
Succeeded by
Unknown, then Clodius Albinus
Preceded by
Popilius Pedo Apronianus
M. Valerius Bradua Mauricus
Consul of Rome
192
With: Commodus VII
Succeeded by
Q. Pompeius Sosius Falco
G. Julius Erucius Clarus Vibianus
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Commodus
Roman emperor
193
Succeeded by
Didius Julianus