Pertinax was a sixty-six year old man when he was proclaimed emperor on New Year' Day, A. D. 193. He was very popular amongst the army, the people, and the Senate. It was Laetus, who had been Commodus praetorian prefect and had organized the plot to murder him who suggested to the soldiers that they elevate Pertinax.
The new emperor immediately set out to repair some of the damage Commodus and his corrupt ministers had done to the government. He got rid of corrupt officials and confiscated their illegally gotten wealth. He promoted trade and increased tax revenues by actually reducing customs duties. He gave a substantial tax break to farmers who were willing to take a chance cultivating poor land.
Pertinax also started a program to improve military discipline. This move, however, was very unpopular with the Praetorian Guard who were accustomed to their privileges, comfortable life style, and the power they wielded in the Roman government. The same Laetus who had been the key conspirator in the murder of Commodus now incited a band of mutinous soldiers to murder Pertinax in turn on March 28, A. D. 193. The good old emperor' head was contemptuously flung into the streets of Rome by the insolent, mutinous praetorian guardsmen.
Then, these arrogant soldiers and their corrupt, opportunistic prefect committed one of the most shameful deeds in the history of the Roman Empire. They actually put the empire up for auction! The animated bidding between City Prefect Titus Flavius Sulpicianus and a rich senator named Didius Julianus was carried on in the Praetorian Camp. Soldiers wildly egged each bidder on until Didius Julianus promised each man 25,000 sestertii and was quickly proclaimed emperor. This event firmly reinforced in everyone' mind that the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard had the power in its hands to set up and pull down an emperor of Rome anytime they felt like it, making the Praetorian Prefect the most powerful man in the empire. The Praetorian Guard was to murder and replace its own puppets on the throne many times in the next ninety years, making it one of the darkest periods in Roman history for those who loved a stable and fair government. brothers, enrich the soldiers, and forget about everybody else."
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