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(prētôr`ēənz), bodyguard of the ancient Roman emperors. Growing out of an early troop that served as bodyguard to the general commanding in Rome, they were formally organized in the time of Augustus. The number of cohorts (from 500 to 1,000 men each) forming the guard varied, but in the days of the later empire it was 10. The Praetorians under a prefectprefect
or praefect
, in ancient Rome, various military and civil officers. Under the empire some prefects were very important. The Praetorian prefects (first appointed 2 B.C.) usually numbered two; they commanded the powerful Praetorians. From the 2d cent. A.D.
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 attended the emperor wherever he went. They had special privileges and, in the period when the empire declined, held almost unchallenged authority. Constantine I disbanded them in 312.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(praetorian cohorts), a privileged military unit in ancient Rome.

Originally, the bodyguards of Roman commanders were called praetorians and were recruited from Rome’s allies. From the second century B.C., they were chosen from the ranks of Roman equites. The imperial guard created under Augustus was called the praetorian guard and consisted of nine cohorts of 1,000 men each. Composed only of Italians, praetorians served for a shorter term than legionnaires and received higher pay. They were headed by the praetorian prefect. Gradually the praetorians were recruited from inhabitants of the provinces, and they lost their previous importance. Under Emperor Constantine the Great in the early fourth century they were replaced by palace units known as domestici.

In the figurative sense, the term designates mercenaries who buttress an authority based on brute force.


Durry, M. Les Cohortes prétoriennes. [Paris] 1938.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
These soldiers masquerading as citizens were known as the Praetorian Guard.
This illustrated survey of the three-hundred-year history of the Praetorian Guard offers a fairly meticulously annotated examination of the evidence (literary, epigraphical, and archaeological) for this private military force alongside a valuable reappraisal of several aspects of Roman military life and the nature of the imperial bodyguard.
Although disguised in civilian clothing, Burma's "praetorian guard" still maintains control.
In Iraq it includes, among other elements, the continued training of something akin to an elite counter-terrorism Praetorian Guard to protect senior officials while also advancing efforts against a growing Salafist presence in the country, linked to resurgent Sunni terrorism that is attempting to weaken the government of Nouri al-Maliki.
These are the Majlis, or parliament, 260 of whose 290 members pledged allegiance to Khamenei in February; the judiciary; and, possibly most importantly, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), or Pasdaran, the regime's praetorian guard formed by Khomeini to be the ideological protectors of the religious rule he installed.
This was particularly true of the Interior Ministry, which Ben Ali manipulated as a personal praetorian guard. Consequently, mechanisms for efficiency, transparency and communication had atrophied long before the revolution.
The most puzzling event in the brief reign of the emperor Nerva was surely the mutiny of the praetorian guard in AD 97.
I was safe, however, surrounded on the playground by a veritable Praetorian Guard of those I'd ghostwritten letters for.
When Mugabe unleashed his praetorian guard, the Ndebele had nowhere to flee to.
But what is perhaps most significant is the generals' longing to emulate the old Turkish model of the army as the secular constitutional order's Praetorian Guard. The irony, of course, is that this model is now being discarded in Turkey.
Elite fighting forces; from the Praetorian Guard to the Green Berets.
In 193, at his suggestion and promises of reward, his troops proclaimed him emperor after the murder of the Emperor Pertinax by the Praetorian Guard. Severus led his army swiftly to Italy, took Rome and over the next four years crushed the rival claimants.