The role played by the Praetorian Guard in the events of AD 69, as described by Tacitus in his Historiae

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Abstract

In AD 69 the Praetorian Guard played an important, often crucial role, in both the political and military events of the year. Frequently referred to as the 'Year of the four emperors,' AD 69 was a year of marked political upheaval, assassination and civil war. Three men, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius all ruled briefly as emperor, until Vespasian emerged as the ultimate victor, restoring peace to the Roman world and establishing the Flavian dynasty (AD 69 – 96). Tacitus documented the events of this turbulent year in vivid detail in the surviving books of his Historiae. Fortunately, for the purposes of this study Tacitus' narrative frequently highlights the actions and motivations of not only the Praetorian Prefects, but also the Praetorian officers and the rank and file of the Guard. This thesis intends to bring together the Praetorian Guard, the year AD 69 and the historian Tacitus. It will examine comprehensively the involvement of the Praetorian Guard in the most significant political and military events of the year and will explore the behaviour and motivations of the Praetorian Prefects, the Praetorian officers and the Praetorian soldiers. Although there have been a number of excellent studies on Tacitus' Historiae, no previous survey of this year has focussed exclusively on the Praetorian Guard. While Tacitus' narrative forms the basis for the study the chance survival of three other parallel though briefer accounts – the biographies in Plutarch and Suetonius, and the epitome of Cassius Dio's history – allows some opportunity to assess his historical accuracy. Non-literary sources, such as coins, inscriptions and archaeological remains are also employed for this purpose whenever possible. It will become clear during the course of this thesis that while the actual role played by the Praetorian Guard under each emperor varied considerably, one factor remains constant: their overall importance and contribution to each reign was considerable, though not
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
StateUnpublished - 2009


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