How did the Praetorian Guard shape Roman History?

Praetorian Guards depicted in a relief from the 1st Century AD


The Praetorian Guard was critical in the politics and government of Imperial Rome for approximately 300 years. This military unit was unique and wielded power and influence in Rome. They were the guardians of the Emperors and sometimes their masters. This article will examine the role of the Guards in Roman history. It will demonstrate that they had the power to remove weak Emperors and became important power brokers in the Empire.

For most of their history, they were the loyal protectors of the leader of the Roman World. The Guards were also an important military unit that played a significant role in maintaining peace and security in Rome and Italy. The guards also played a meaningful role in the administration and policing of the capital of the Empire and Italy.

The Praetorian Guards were an elite unit in the Imperial Army. Their role was to protect the Emperor’s person, a task they shared with the Imperial German bodyguard.[1] They were the only army unit allowed to bear arms in Rome, but out of respect to Republican sensibilities, they never wore armor in the city’s precincts. The Guards were divided into some cohorts that numbered several hundred men typically. The various cohorts were composed of infantry and cavalry. For the first few centuries, they were mainly recruited from central Italy, and many were able to secure admission because of family or political connections.[2]

Over time more and more experienced legionnaires joined the Guards. The Praetorians were organized under a Praetorian Prefect, who became a vital military and political figure. The Prefect was eventually to command not only the guard but the urban militia of Rome. The individual cohorts were under the command of a tribune. Those who served in the Guards had better pay, conditions, and a shorter service than regular legionnaires.

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Categories: Roman History

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