GREAT ROMAN ASSASSINS
Ruling emperors, despite their dictatorial rights of rule, had many enemies. Discover the emperors whose lives ended in assassination. Discover the assassins who changed Roman history.
Throughout Roman history the assassin was in a sense the ombudsman of the ancient world, sometimes the front man for a politically hungry rival. Many an emperor saw his end at the hands of these paid killers.
The Empire was riddled with intrigue and corruption. Ruling what in one sense was a military dictatorship was undoubtly hard. Each emperor had to face the enormous challenges as he traversed the dangerous world of Roman politics. Discissions about local, national and provincial policies about general life, the military, the borders and frontiers, and even the life of slavery, were not always appealing to those in the Senate or even family members. Worst though was the booty that had to be paid to soldiers and most especially the praetorian guards to keep their loyalty. Many an emperor became unable to maintain the support of his closest men, and in a sense fell victim to the whims of his own administration.
The most famous assassination was by far that of Julius Caesar at the hands of fellow politicians. Even this great general and dictator could not have anticipated how precarious Roman politics could become. In fact it was this very killing that led his nephew and adopted heir, Octavian (Augustus), to form a brotherhood of personal bodyguards, the Praetorian Guard. However, even the Praetorian proved to be loyal at a price. The highest bidder usually became the victor and in some cases, the next emperor.
The following is a list of assassinated emperors and the assassins, named and unnamed, who changed the course of Roman history:
|14 to 37 AD||Tiberius||Gaius Caligula (next emperor)|
|37 to 41 AD||Gaius Caligula||Cassius Chaerea, Prefect Arrecinus Clemens and the Praetorian Guard|
|41 to 51 AD||Claudius||Empress Agrippina the Younger|
|69 AD||Galba||Praetorian Guards|
|69 AD||Vitellius||Vespasian’s soldiers|
|81 to 96 AD||Domitian||Empress Domitia Longina, Stephanus, Petronius Secundus, and chamberlain Norbanus|
|180 to 192 AD||Commodus||Commodus’ mistress Marcia, the athlete Narcissus, chamberlain Eclectus, urban prefect Pertinax (next emperor), and Prefect Quintus Laetus|
|193 AD||Pertinax||Praetorian Guards|
|193 AD||Didius Julianus||Senatorially ordered soldiers|
|211 AD||Geta||Geta’s brother|
|211 to 217 AD||Caracalla||Prefect of the Guard Macrinus and Julius Martialis|
|218 to 222 AD||Elagabalus||murdered in the Castra Praetoria by the Praetorian Guard|
|222 to 235 AD||Severus Alexander||mutinying soldiers during the Danube Wars|
|235 to 238 AD||Maximinus I||dissatisfied soldiers|
|238 AD||Pupienus and Balbinus||Praetorian Guard|
|238 to 244 AD||Gordian III||soldiers under orders from Praetorian Prefect Philip|
|251 to 253 AD||Trebonianus Gallus||Roman soldiers|
|253 AD||Aemilian||Roman soldiers|
|253 to 268 AD||Gallienus||General Aurelian, General Marcianus, General Claudius Gothicus and Prefect Heraclianus|
|260 to 268 AD||Postumus||Roman soldiers|
|270 to 275 AD||Aurelian||Thracian Praetorian Mucapor and other Praetorian officers|
|276 AD||Florian||Roman soldiers|
|276 to 282 AD||Probus||Roman soldiers|
|282 to 283 AD||Carus||cause of death officially registered as lightning, but evidence shows Praetorian Prefect Arrius Aper to be responsible|
|283 to 285 AD||Carinus||Roman imperial officer|
|283 to 284 AD||Numerian||Arrius Aper|
|337 to 350 AD||Constans I||Magnentius’ assassin|
|367 to 383 AD||Gratian||Andragathius, a Roman army officer|
|375 to 392 AD||Valentinian II||Magister Militum Arbogast|
|461 to 465 AD||Libius Severus||Roman soldiers|
|474 to 475 AD||Julius Nepos||Glycerius, Ovida and Viator|
As the Roman Empire drew to a close and corruption, disease and other factors plagued Italy and its provinces, it is not surprising to see that assassinations became a common thing during its last centuries. It is also quite clear that even in the modern world, politics is a dangerous game where even the politically hungry are not above resorting to assassinating world leaders.