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Herodian's Roman History


Marcus Aurelius. Equestrian statue on the Capitol, Rome. Photo Marco Prins.
Herodian (late second, first half third century): Greek historian, author of a History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius (table of contents) in which he describes the reign of Commodus (180-192), the Year of the Five Emperors (193), the age of the Severan dynasty (211-235), and the Year of the Six Emperors (238).

The translation was made by Edward C. Echols (Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire, 1961 Berkeley and Los Angeles) and was put online for the first time by Roger Pearse (Tertullian.Org). The version offered on these pages is hyperlinked and contains notes by Jona Lendering.
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Coin of Pescennius Niger. Limesmuseum, Aalen (Germany). Photo Marco Prins.
Pescennius Niger (Limesmuseum, Aalen)

2.8: Pescennius Niger proclaimed emperor in Syria

[19? April 193] Aware of their high regard for him, Niger summoned the soldiers from all stations on an appointed day; after the people also had assembled, he mounted the platform erected for the purpose and addressed them as follows:

"The mildness of my disposition and my temperate approach in the important enterprises which I have undertaken are well known to you from of old. Never would I have come before you to discuss these matters if I were motivated solely by personal aims, by unreasonable hopes, or by the desire to realize even greater achievements. But the Romans are calling me and with unceasing cries beg me to extend to them the savior's hand and not allow an empire so illustrious, one made famous by our ancestors from the earliest times, to be brought to disgraceful ruin.

Just as it is rash and hasty to undertake such great projects without good cause and reason, so too is it cowardly and treasonable to hesitate when one is summoned and begged to take action. This has led me to come before you to find out what your attitude is and what you think should be done - in short, to use you as my advisers and associates in the present situation. If the issue should prosper, it will work to our mutual advantage. 

No selfish and self-deluding hopes summon me. The Roman people call me, the Roman people, to whom the gods have given their empire and their mastery over all men. The empire too cries out to me, unsettled as it is and not yet firmly fixed in the hands of any one man. This being the situation, the safety of this course will be obvious, both from the attitude of those who are calling me and from the fact that there is no one to oppose me or stand in my way.

My informants in Rome say that the praetorians, who sold the empire to Julianus, are untrustworthy bodyguards because he did not pay them the money he promised. Come now, reveal to me what your attitude is."

When he had finished speaking, the entire army and all the people there immediately hailed him as emperor and called him Augustus. They robed him in the imperial purple and provided the remaining tokens of imperial rank from whatever was available. They carried the sacred fire before their emperor and, after escorting him to the temples in Antioch, established him in his own residence, treating it no longer as a private home but as the imperial palace, for they decorated the exterior of the house with the imperial insignia.

Niger was exceedingly pleased by these developments, and believed that control of imperial affairs was firmly fixed in his hands by the attitude of the Roman people and by the enthusiasm of the Eastern peoples. When the situation became generally known, all the people on the continent of Asia lying opposite Europe came to him, and every man hastened to submit to him of his own free will; embassies from all those peoples were sent to Niger at Antioch as if he were the recognized Roman emperor.

The rulers and kings beyond the Tigris and Euphrates rivers sent congratulations and promised assistance if it should be needed.[1] In return, Niger sent these rulers lavish gifts and thanked them for their support and their offers, but he assured them that he did not lack for allies. He told them that the empire was his beyond any doubt and that he intended to rule without bloodshed.

Elated by these hopes, Niger now grew negligent in attending to matters at hand. Spending his time in luxurious living, he reveled with the people of Antioch, devoting himself to shows and spectacles, and postponed his departure for  Rome when he should have hurried to the city at top speed.

It was imperative that he visit the cities in Illyricum at the earliest possible moment and win their support before someone else did. He did not, however, release in Illyricum any report of what had happened, hoping that the army there, when it learned of these developments, would be in agreement with the entreaties of the Roman people and the attitude of the Eastern armies.


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Note 1:
Beyond the Euphrates were Osrhoene (capital Edessa), Nisibis, and Hatra. Beyond the Tigris, and south of Hatra, the Parthian Empire; north of Nisibis, Armenia. For Septimius Severus, their help to Niger was a cause for war.
Online 2007
Revision: 28 June 2007
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