The name 'Praetorian Guard'
originated from the 'Praetoria Cohors' who were the troops
who guarded the Praetor and then the Consuls who served as
commanders in a military capacity.
Legion of Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard
were a large entity mirroring the structure and number of
soldiers in a legion. There were ten cohorts consisting of
about 500 soldiers in each. Emperor Augustus stationed three
of the cohorts in Rome and the other cohorts of the
Praetorian guard were stationed in Italy but outside the cit
of Rome. Near enough to call upon if necessary and far
enough away so as not to alarm the Romans with the numbers
involved in the Emperors personal military force. Their
number was increased by the
to sixteen cohorts. The commanders of the Praetorian Guard
were called praefectus praetorio.
The Role of the Praetorian Guard
Members of the Praetorian
Guard served for sixteen years, afforded various privileges
and were paid a higher salary than that of ordinary
soldiers. The job of a soldier in the Praetorian Guard was
therefore a sought after position. The role of the
Praetorian Guard was as follows:
Bodyguard of the Emperor
The palace guard
As the only military
force allowed in the city of Rome
To quell any riots in
As intelligence units
awaiting trial before the Emperor
The Power of the Praetorian Guard
The power of Praetorian Guard
was immense. These were the best and bravest soldiers. Well
paid and able to reside in the palaces of the emperor they
were the elite members of the military. Their power led to
corruption. Leading members of the Praetorian Guard
gradually began to exercise their political power. Roman
Emperors were raised and deposed at their will. There are
several examples of the extent of their power.
Nero was finally
dethroned by the Praetorian Guards. The
was raised to the throne by the Praetorian Guard.
Pupienus were assassinated on the same day by soldiers
of the Praetorian guard. They proclaimed
Marcus Aurelius Carus,
commander of the Praetorian Guard, as the new emperor and
put the previous emperor
Probus to death
in September A.D. 282. The Praetorian guard murdered the
and then proclaimed from the ramparts of their camp that the
throne of the world would be sold at auction to the highest
Didius Julianus, offered about a huge bribe to each man
for the possession of the prize and was declared emperor.
Sejanus and the Praetorian Guard
created the Praetorian Camp (Castra Praetoria) located in
the eastern suburbs of Rome. Tiberius appointed Lucius
Aelius Sejanus commander of the Praetorian Guard (praefectus
praetorio). Tiberius trusted Sejanus who became so powerful
that he was left to govern Rome. Eventually Tiberius
realised that Sejanus and his terror tactics had become so powerful that he himself
was at risk. Tiberius denounced Sejanus as a traitor.
Sejanus was flung into the Mamertine Prison and there he was
strangled in 31AD.
End of the Praetorian Guard
The Emperor Constantine the Great disbanded the Praetorian
Guards and their role was never revived again.