Praetorians


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Praetorians

(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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Praetorians

 

(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.

REFERENCE

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 ?
A recent review of Praetorian in the London Review of Books suggested that there is simply not enough material on the praetorian guard of Imperial Rome to write an entire book on the unit.
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AD 14, the first deliberate execution of a rival for the succession; AD 41, the first military coup d'etat by the Praetorians; AD 68, the first successful bid for power by an imperial legate; and so forth.
Just as the comparison with the Parthian forces the reader to recognise that the praetorians view their legal ruler as an enemy of the state, thereby answering the question Otho had put to them in his speech (37.1) and drawing attention to their disloyalty, so the pathetic details Tacitus provides--as Rademacher has said--illustrate the guardsmen's utter lack of misericordia, for Galba's situation, and for the civilians through whom they must charge to reach their target.(48) The second purpose of these subordinate clauses, therefore, is yet again to comment adversely on the behaviour of Otho and his hirelings.
What we know of the most famous individual praetorians (Sejanus under Tiberius, Tigellinus under Nero) is juxtaposed with the rhythm of routine of the members of the individual cohorts of the Guard.