Contents - Previous Article - Next Article


Roman Emperor A. D. 283 - 284

Numerianus was elevated to the imperial purple by the legions after the death of his father Carus by a bolt of lightning. The army, superstitious and fearful of the wrath of the gods after the lightning stroke, insisted that Numerianus abandon the victorious Persian campaign and lead them home. They were so unsettled by the freakish event that they willingly abandoned all prospects of sacking and plundering Persian cities.

He was well liked by the Roman people and Senate, being an educated and gentle man who was fond of poetry, literature, and oratory. It was these qualities that allowed Numerianus to be controlled by the praetorian prefect who would eventually murder him.

Numerianus was returning with his army from the war with Persia when he was murdered in his litter. Nobody had heard from the emperor for four days, and only investigated when suspicious smells started to emanate from the imperial litter. There, the soldiers found Numerianus murdered and his corpse in a highly offensive and rotting condition, stinking badly after four days in the heat of Mesopotamia. His Praetorian Prefect, Arrius Aper, was accused of his murder when it had been discovered that Numerianus was dead and the army had not been told of the death of their emperor. Aper, whose name means &quotThe Boar", was taken as a prisoner in chains to be tried for the murder. The army soon chose Diocletian, the COMES DOMESTICORVM or &quotCommander of the Domestics" as emperor to replace Numerian. An prophecy had been given to Diocletian in his youth that he would become emperor, but not until he had &quotKilled the boar", Having killed many wild boars in hunting, and still a soldier but not an emperor, Diocletian had forgotten the prophecy. Soon, however, Aper was found guilty of Numerianus' murder by the army tribunal. Diocletian quickly killed the treacherous assassin and fulfilled the prophecy that he would kill the boar.

Go to next article on Emperor Carausius
Go back to previous article on Emperor Carinus

Return to Roman Emperors Table of Contents