Warning. The following segment features acts of a violent nature. (It is
history, after all).
I, Claudius viewers will remember some of First Century Rome's less
charming ladies and gentlemen. Movers and shakers such as Nero, Agrippina
and Caligula. These ignoble Romans and their activities made for interesting,
but treacherous and toxic, times.
Two centuries later, Rome may have changed in many ways. But notoriety is
still a two-edged gift. (Still is today, come to think of it. Being emperor
is the most dangerous gift. Few, at least until the beginning of the reign
of Diocletan in 284, will die of natural causes. If your relatives don't
get you, your own troops will.
Our lethal litany begins in 211 with the death of Emperor Lucius Septimius
Severus, in Britain. After making peace with the Scotish tribes, his sons
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caracalla and Publius Septimus Geta return to
Rome, to become co-emperors. The following year Caracalla, perhaps feeling
that someone with only three names instead of four is unfit to exist, has
his brother assassinated, in their mother's arms. He goes on to reign for
five more years, until Macrinus, prefect of his Guard has him stabbed to
death while on campaign in Parthia and proclaims himself emperor. A year
later, in 218, the fickle army abandons him and Julia Maesa, maternal aunt
of Caracalla and Geta, has her 14-year-old grandson Varius Avitus (nicknamed
Heliogabalus) named emperor. His grandmother, of course, retains the real
power. He lasts until 222, when he's murdered in a latrine and his cousin
Alexander Servus steps in. He's murdered.
Our imperial role call continues, as murder begets murder. Maximinus Thrax.
Gordianus Africanus (a do-it-yourself-er, he commits suicide). Pupienus
Maximus. Gordianus III. Philip the Arabian. etc. etc. etc.
By this time the imperial feeling seems to be - let's distract the populace
(and our enemies) and murder some Christians. In 250 the new emperor Decius
begins it. He's killed in battle the following year. Several emperors later
Valerian revives the custom in 257.
Claudius III is still doing it in 269. It's in this year that two Christians
with the same name, Valentine of Rome, and Valentine of Terni are martyred.
We celebrate them this month.
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.
© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte
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