Biography of Roman Emperor Didius Julianus Part 3
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.
DIDIUS JULIANUS (132-193).
A group of rebellious citizens of Rome had already dispatched messengers to the combat units of the Roman legions in far corners of the Empire. In the outposts in Britain, Syria, Pannonia, and Dalmatia, powerful Roman generals received the news of the infamous auction. Only one, Septimius Severus, a cruel, handsome ex-lawyer who'd been raised in Africa, acted. In his Pannonian camp, he offered his soldiers a bonus of $2,000 each if they would agree to leave their stations on the Danube (near the present site of Vienna) and march on Rome at once.
As the money-hungry troops of Septimius Severus started toward Rome, Julianus read the messengers' daily reports of their crossing of the Alps and their rapid approach. Local affairs no longer interested Julianus. He rejected the suggestion of a gold statue of himself and chose instead one made of brass. He appointed his son-in-law governor of Rome. He issued an order to massacre the vacillating Senate, but then revoked it. He fretted and worried.
He expected other Roman cities to resist Severus. They did not. He expected Ravenna to fight. It surrendered. Feverishly, he spent money on new fortifications, and drilled his unhappy guard. He attempted to prepare elephants for defense, hoping to terrify the northern troops. But the elephants, previously used only for parades, were too flabby, and there were very few riders skilled enough to remain seated upon them.
Grasping last straws, Julianus secretly sent private assassins to cut down Severus. This was impossible. The general marched with a personal bodyguard of 600. In desperation, Julianus sent a messenger to offer Severus half the Empire, and to kill him if he refused. Severus replied that he would rather have Julianus for an enemy than a colleague, and promptly executed the messenger. At wit's end, Julianus sent a group of priests and vestal virgins to block Severus. This failing, Julianus concentrated on magic rites and sacrifices.
The march of 800 mi. made by Severus was a thing of military wonder. Striding at the head of his men, clad in full armor, he rarely paused for food or rest, but pushed his warriors 20 mi. a day. They reached Rome on their 40th day, June 2, 193 A.D., and violated all tradition by entering the capital in battle dress.
Didius Julianus was found trembling in his palace. A dozen ordinary soldiers led him to the baths of his apartment, as he cried out, "What harm have I done? Have I put anybody to death?" In his baths, they beheaded him. Didius Julianus had bought an Empire for 66 days. It had been a bad bargain.
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