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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 Didius Julianus. Limesmuseum, Aalen (Germany). Photo Marco Prins.
Didius Julianus (Limesmuseum, Aalen)

2.12: Chaos in Rome

[Early May 211] While Julianus' troops were delaying and preparing for battle, word came that Severus was approaching. Dividing most of his army into small bands, Severus ordered them to slip into the city unnoticed. Spreading out along all the roads into Rome, many by day, but even more by night, entered the city unobserved, in civilian disguise, with their weapons concealed.

The enemy was thus already in the city while Julianus was hesitating, unaware of what was happening. When the people learned of these developments, they were in complete confusion; fearing the army of Severus, they pretended to support his cause, charging Julianus with cowardice and Niger with hesitation and sloth. But when they heard that Severus was in Rome, the people were thunderstruck.[1]

Julianus, dumb and witless, did not know how to handle the situation. Ordering the Senate to convene, he sent a letter to Severus in which he proposed peace and, proclaiming him emperor, made him his colleague in governing the empire. The Senate voted its approval of these proposals; but when it was obvious that Julianus was terror-stricken and in despair, all the senators immediately abandoned him for Severus. 

After two or three days had passed, the senators, aware that Severus was in Rome, contemptuous of Julianus, entered the Senate house at the order of the consuls, the officials who took charge at Rome when the affairs of the empire were in confusion. 

After convening, the senate consulted about what should be done in the present emergency. Meanwhile, Julianus was still in the imperial palace bewailing the disaster that had befallen him and pleading to be allowed to resign as emperor and turn the entire power over to Severus.

When the Senate learned that Julianus was cowering in fear and that the Praetorian Guard had deserted him in terror of Severus, that body voted to take the empire from Julianus and proclaim Severus sole emperor. They therefore sent to Severus an embassy made up of the chief officials and the most distinguished senators to hand over to him all the imperial honors.[2]

A [military] tribune was sent to kill Julianus, that cowardly and wretched old man who had in this way purchased with his own money his miserable death.

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Note 1:
And rightly so. Less than a month had passed, and Severus' men had covered no less than thousand kilometer. The conqueror himself entered the city on 9 June.

Note 2:
It consisted of no less than hundred men, and reached Severus in Interamna.
Online 2007
Revision: 29 June 2007
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