Biography of Roman Emperor Didius Julianus Part 2

About the Roman senator turned Emperor Didius Julianus who bought his way into power when the Empire was for auction, his biography and 66 days in office.


Roman Emperor.

Besides Didius Julianus, the only other bidder was Sulpicianus, father-in-law of the murdered Pertinax, who made the 1st offer. Immediately, Julianus countered, and soon the bidding became intense. According to historian Dio Cassius, "Guards kept reporting to Julianus, 'Sulpicianus offers so much; now how much will you add to that?' And again to Sulpicianus, 'Julianus offers so much, how much will you raise it?'" At last, Sulpicianus made his final bid, offering the guard 240 million sesterces, or the equivalent of $800 to each of the 12,000 soldiers of the guard. Instantly, Julianus made his winning bid "with a great shout, indicating the amount likewise on his fingers." This bid was 300 million sesterces or $1,000 to each soldier of the guard. In a moment, the Roman Empire was going, going, gone.

The 1st act of the new ruler, that very night, was to assemble the hostile Senate. As Dio Cassius, who was present, reports it, Julianus sat down comfortably in the traditional Emperor's chair of the Senate and delivered to his recent pro-Pertinax peers the following address:

"Perceiving, O venerable fathers, that the throne is vacant, I must tell you that I think nobody more worthy to fill it than myself. I shall not take up much of your time by praising myself, or putting you in mind of my virtues, for I believe none of you are ignorant of them.

"I am persuaded you all know me very well, so without giving you further trouble, I beg to inform you that the Army has thought proper to choose me Emperor, and I come hither that you may confirm their choice."

The embittered Senate, intimidated by the proximity of the armed Praetorian guardsmen, promptly confirmed Didius Julianus as Emperor of Rome.

Protected from the enraged and stone-throwing citizenry by the phalanx of his private bodyguard, Emperor Julianus was led to his new home, the royal palace. "A magnificent feast was prepared by his order," wrote Gibbon, "and he amused himself till a very late hour, with dice, and the performances of Pylades, a celebrated dancer. Yet it was observed that, after the crowd of flatterers dispersed, and left him to darkness, solitude, and terrible reflection, he passed a sleepless night; revolving most probably in his mind his own rash folly, the fate of his virtuous predecessor, and the doubtful and dangerous tenure of an empire, which had not been acquired by merit, but purchased by money."

But although Didius Julianus was suffering 2nd thoughts in the dark night, he did not know that his fate was already being decided.

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