1844. Auction the empire

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On March 28th, 193 AD, the Roman empire was auctioned off by the Praetorian guards to the wealthy senator Didius Julianus for the price of 6250 drachmas per soldier. 

The Praetorian guards had murdered the emperor Pertinax, and after some discussion with the emperor’s father-in-law Sulpicianus, who offered 5000 drachmas each to the officers to be made emperor, they decided to sell Roman empire to the best bidder by public auction. In the words of Edward Gibbon, 

This infamous offer, the most insolent excess of military licence, diffused an universal grief, shame, and indignation throughout the city. It reached at length the ears of Didius Julianus, a wealthy senator, who, regardless of the public calamities, was indulging himself in the luxury of the table. His wife and his daughter, his freedmen and his parasites, easily convinced him that he deserved the throne, and earnestly conjured him to embrace so fortunate an opportunity. The vain old man hastened to the Praetorian camp, where Suplicianus was still in treaty with the guards, and began to bid against him from the foot of the rampart.

After outbidding Sulpicianus, Didius Julianus was named emperor, and he received an oath of allegiance from the guards. In Gibbons’ eloquent words:

A magnificent feast was prepared by his order, and he amused himself until 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.

After the armies of Britain, Syria and Pannonia declared against Julian, a civil war began. The Praetorian guards eventually deserted Didius Julianus, and he was condemned and executed by the Roman Senate on June 2nd of the same year.

Source: Edward Gibbon, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, chapter V, volume I, first published in 1776.

One thought on “1844. Auction the empire

  1. M Sonnichsen says:

    I saw this post and scanned the rest of the site (downloaded your pdf, Garden World) and wondered –

    Have you read Jack D Forbes “Columbus and Other Cannibals”?

    In the book Forbes defines the imperial mindset as one of ‘wetiko’ (the cree word for cannibals) – something that uses, competes, destroys – basically has all the hallmarks of sociopathy.

    Over and over in history this mindset (he didn’t know where it originated but it ‘appeared’ as civilizations started to develop) – creates the same thing in different forms. How can it not, of course, since our mindsets precede our creations.

    So it’s no real surprise if we know about history, that we are ‘here’ again.

    It also explains why, over and over, good intentions are perverted – an inherent mindset to which people are more or less blind – twists what might have been more helpful than it becomes –

    I saw that you have a background in cognitive science and wondered if you had any insights as to how this might be prevented or mitigated so that the Garden World may grow

    PS I think the name ‘Garden World’ for this future world is beautiful and ver fitting.

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