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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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Bust of Macrinus. Musei Capitolini, Roma (Italy). Photo Marco Prins.
Bust of Macrinus (Musei Capitolini, Rome)

5.2: Macrinus and the army

[Summer 217] After they heard this message, the cheering Senate voted Macrinus all the imperial honors. The fact is, however, that they rejoiced not so much at Macrinus' succession as at their own deliverance from Caracalla. Every man, but especially those who had any claim to merit or distinction, felt that he had escaped a sword suspended over his head.

All informers and all slaves who had betrayed their masters were crucified; the city of Rome and virtually the entire Roman empire were purged of these scoundrels. Some were killed, others exiled; any who managed to escape, prudently laid low. As a result, men lived in complete security and in a semblance of freedom during the single year in which Macrinus was emperor.

But he made a great mistake in not immediately disbanding the armies, sending the soldiers back to their regular stations, and hurrying off to a Rome eager to welcome him, where the people were shouting for him on every occasion. [Winter 217/218] Instead, he loitered at Antioch, cultivating his beard. He moved with greater deliberation than was necessary, and to those who approached him he made replies that were very slow, difficult to understand, and often inaudible because of the softness of his voice. 

In doing all this he was imitating Marcus, but he failed to follow that emperor's example in other respects; he indulged in endless luxuries and devoted his time to dancing shows, recitals of every kind of music, and exhibitions of pantomime, while neglecting the administration of the empire. He appeared in public resplendent in brooches and wearing a stomacher lavishly adorned with gold and precious gems, extravagances of which the Roman soldiers did not approve because such ornaments seemed more appropriate to barbarians and women.

The soldiers were not at all pleased by what they saw; they disapproved of his way of life as too dissolute for a military man. When they contrasted it with their recollection of Caracalla's daily routine, which, being soldierly and austere, was the exact opposite, they had only contempt for Macrinus' extravagant behavior.

Other circumstances increased their irritation; still living in tents and sometimes short of supplies in a foreign land, even though a state of peace seemed to exist, they longed to return to their regular stations. When they saw Macrinus' luxury and laxity, they rebelled and spoke bitterly about him, praying for even a flimsy excuse to rid themselves of this annoyance.



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Online 2007
Revision: 3 July 2007
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