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Praetorian Guard
Equites Singulares
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Scholae Palatinae
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The Praetorian Guard

    The Cohortes Praetoriae were the regular military bodyguard of the Emperor, their mission to act as the guarantors of his security -- though all too frequently, the Guard proved fickle in the loyalty of their commanders and soldiers.  While prone to violently unmake as well as make emperors based on personal considerations such as service benefits and monetary recompense, the Guard linked their fortunes to the survival of the imperial office.  As for the Emperor himself, the Praetorians were loyal as long as he did not threaten their interests.

    Ultimately, the partisan tendency of the Guard proved to be their downfall.  In 306 CE, the Praetorians threw their weight behind Maxentius, acclaiming him Emperor despite the marginally more legitimate claim of the previous Emperor's son, Constantine.  A civil war followed that was finally decided in 312 CE at the Milvian Bridge outside the city of Rome, where Maxentius drowned while fleeing after his Praetorian troops broke in battle.  The victor Constantine, who became the first Christian emperor, exacted revenge on the Praetorians for their loyalty to his enemy by disbanding the Guard entirely.  In their place as the Emperor's bodyguard, Constantine established the Scholae Palatinae, composed of his own trustworthy troops, mostly of Germanic origin.

    The legacy of the Praetorian Guard, as elite but unscrupulous guardians of an imperial regime, survives into our own modern age as a paragon of military amorality.  Not bound by ethics, the Guard and their commanders, the Praetorian Prefects, regularly abused their power and access to the emperor in order to extort concessions, to murder with impunity, and to repress dissent.  For more than three hundred years, the corps of Praetorians protected even the most venal of rulers without question, so long as their greed and ambition were served.   

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The Equites Singulares

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Foreign Bodyguard Troops 

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The Scholae Palatinae

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Sources & References

Bishop, M. C. and Coulston, J.C.N.  Roman Military Equipment.  London: Batsford, 1993.

Campbell, J. Brian.  The Roman Army, 31 BC - AD 337: a Sourcebook.  London: Routledge, 1996.

Connolly, Peter.  Greece and Rome at War.  London: Macdonald, 1988.

Durry, Marcel.  Les cohortes praetoriennes.  Paris, 1938.

Howe, L.  The Praetorian Prefecture from Commodus to Diocletian.  Chicago, 1942.

Kennedy, David.  "Some observations on the Praetorian Guard," Ancient Society 9 (1978), pp 275-301.

Keppie, Lawrence.  The Making of the Roman Army.  London: Batsford, 1984.

Passerini, Alfredo.  Le coorti pretorie.  Rome, 1939.

Rankov, Boris.  The Praetorian Guard.  Osprey Elite Series, No. 50, editor Lee Johnson.  London: Osprey, 1994.

Robinson, H. Russell.  The Armour of Imperial Rome.  New York: Scribner, 1975.

Speidel, Michael.  Riding for Caesar: the Roman Emperors' Horse Guards.  Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1994.

Syme, R.  "Guard prefects of Trajan and Hadrian," Journal of Roman Studies 70 (1980), pp 64-80.



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