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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.



(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.
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