© Jerry Fielden 1999 

The Praetorian prefecture under the Julio-Claudians – path to power or dead-end job? 


Was it a good career path to become a prefect of the Praetorian Guard under the Julio-Claudians? If one could stay out of intrigues and do one’s job without fuss, it probably was. But as soon as a prefect, who was only supposed to be a deputy commander of the Praetorians after the emperor, started or joined a political faction, or plotted for more than his share of power or against a princeps or his family, it was most definitely a deadly move for that particular official, as I shall show here. 

The Praetorian Guard and its origins 

Originally, a general in the Republic was protected by a guard called the cohors praetoria, named after the commander’s headquarters (praetorium).[1] Some say that the word “praetorian” also derives from the word “praetor”, whereas this guard would protect a praetor on campaign.[2] This guard eventually became a personal bodyguard for the faction leaders during the Civil Wars, each of them having one or more cohorts of praetorians.[3] 

In 27 BC, Augustus transformed these troops into the core of his own elite bodyguard army at Rome and in Italy, consisting of 9 cohorts of 1,000 (possibly 500) men.[4] According to Dio, there were some 10,000 men deployed in 10 divisions.[5] Augustus actually created a total of 12 cohorts, nine for himself and three (the Urban cohorts) for the Senate, which was the same proportion used in the legions (¼ for the Senate and ¾ for the princeps).[6] The praetorian troops enjoyed superior conditions, such as better pay, shorter length of service and a dressier uniform (even though they did not patrol in dress uniform, to avoid alarming the senators who were not accustomed to troops in Rome or Italy).[7] Augustus actually did not station these troops in Rome proper, but outside.[8] Most of the men in the Guard were of Italian origin.[9] 

The main function of this elite army was to be the protection of the princeps. It was hoped that they would deter would-be plotters and conspirators against the princeps. Part of the Guard would also follow the emperor on campaigns, but these would not affect how the generals planned their campaigns. Indeed, to this day, the Praetorians evoke a certain image, as plotters and conspirators themselves and definitely not as competent soldiers.[10] One can think of Nixon’s “praetorians” as an example of this association. 

In a speech to Augustus, Maecenas proposed several modifications to the running of the state. Amongst others, he recommends that Augustus appoint the two best equestrians to command the praetorian guard and the rest of the soldiers in Italy. He apparently recommends two prefects to ensure that Augustus always have someone to guard him.[11] On the other hand, this position was bound to be very influential, because of the closeness of the prefects to the center of power and of the number of men they commanded, so Augustus surely deemed it wise to use the old republican principle of checks and balances by appointing two prefects.[12] The prefect was not really a second-in-command to the princeps, but by being so close, he would naturally be asked by the emperor informally to accomplish certain duties that were not related to his primary job function, and thus acquired a certain additional influence. Indeed, some prefects, like Sejanus, became overly powerful because of the princeps’s dependence on them for the execution of all these duties.[13] 

Augustus had also chosen equestrians because he may have thought that they would not be interested in ruling, but also because he was not sure if a senator would accept an unelected post such as one of the new prefectures. There were also not many precedents for a senator in such a function.[14] Augustus also probably gave the equestrians these posts because he thought they would be more loyal to him than the senators.[15] Actually, many prefects had senatorial blood or ties: for instance, L. Seius Strabo’s mother was a Terentia. And then again, C. Nymphidius Sabinus was he son of a freedman or freedwoman from the court.[16] 

For Augustus, the praetorians were to be a patent demonstration of his armed might, and their loyalty, as well as their discipline, was to be a symbol of the stability of his reign.[17] 

The first prefects 

In 2 BC, Augustus appointed the first pair of prefects, Quintus Ostorius Scapula and P. Salvius Aper.[18] Very little is known of these two men, except some of the family ties of the Ostorii Scapulae. Apparently, Augustus appreciated this family quite well, and also appointed a Publius Ostorius Scapula to the prefecture of Egypt; he may have been the brother of Quintus. The family was of equestrian rank and of Italian origin and they had ties with the noble Domitii and Sallustii families.[19] A Sallustius Crispus (and Maecenas himself before that) might have even had the duties of a praetorian prefect in an unofficial manner before the appointment of the pair.[20] We do not know how long these prefects were in function, and who the other prefects may have been under Augustus, except for a possible Varius Ligur[21] or Valerius from Liguria,[22] maybe one and the same person. We do have some information on L. Seius Strabo, who was one of the prefects at the end of the reign of Augustus and at the beginning of Tiberius’s principate. Seius, and consequently, his son Sejanus, were related to the Cornelii, to the Terentii and to the Junii.[23] Seius kept his post under Tiberius for a few months, was part of the princeps’s consilium,[24] and was eventually promoted in AD 15 or 16 to the prefecture of Egypt, probably the top equestrian post of the day.[25] 

Sejanus, a would-be successor to Tiberius? 

With Sejanus, the son of Seius Strabo, we see the archetype of the haughty and ambitious minister. As we saw earlier, Sejanus was related to several consular families, as well as being himself a prominent equestrian. Also, at least two of his brothers had themselves been consuls.[26] He was born in either 20 or 19 BC[27], in Volsinii in Etruria. He was named praetorian prefect in AD 14 by Tiberius and worked alongside Seius Strabo for two years, and then was the sole detainer of the post until his death in AD 31. Sejanus was also part of the consilium principis of Tiberius: not many of the men who were part of this council survived the emperor.[28] 

Why did Tiberius give Sejanus so much power, with no colleague for checks and balances? For an explanation to this, we might look at Sejanus’s youth and at his family ties and political connections. We know that Sejanus probably accompanied or courted Augustus’s grandson Gaius before 1 BC.[29] Gaius and his entourage met Tiberius at Samos, where he had come to from Rhodes, and where the future emperor had to assure the princeps juventus that he was not plotting against him.[30] Sejanus might have also served under Tiberius himself in the North and he did serve with Livilla’s second husband Drusus in September of AD 14.[31] Some think that by promoting Sejanus to lead the praetorians and by using him in such a position, Tiberius wanted to neutralize a political group of which the prefect was part, based in the ancient Agrippa-Maeceneas rivalry. But Sejanus, even though he was only an equestrian and quite low in this group, actually made a move by concentrating all the Guard at a single barracks, thus dangerously augmenting their concentrated power, and his own at the same time.[32] 

In Sejanus’s march towards power, we see three possibilities: 1. after Drusus’s death brought on by Sejanus and Livilla, Sejanus was to succeed Tiberius and be a caretaker emperor or regent until the sons of Germanicus (or Gemellus[33])were old enough to be of age (which seems to be the most likely possibility in Tiberius’s mind), 2. he was actually aiming for the principate with no strings attached, in which case he was to be locked in a fight to the finish with the Julian line, and 3. he was not considered for any ruling power after the reign of Tiberius, in which case all his acts, including the death of Drusus, seem like a desperate power grab and an actual plot against Tiberius’s life would have been in the making.[34] 

Let us resume what happened: first, Drusus dies in 23 AD, then Agrippina and Nero are exiled, then Drusus is imprisoned in Rome. Nero is also driven to suicide. Only Gaius seems to have escaped the full force of Sejanus’s plotting, as he was in Capri by Tiberius’s side and less accessible to the wrath of the prefect.[35] Sejanus was then trying to marry Livilla, to get a foot in the Imperial family’s door, and he was also trying to get the son of Livilla declared heir to the throne, probably feeling that he could control him with more ease than the sons of Germanicus.[36] 

The main obstacle to Sejanus’s ambition seems to have been his birth:[37] as an equestrian, he was not what the Roman aristocracy deemed princeps material. Indeed, he was walking on thin ice where the Senate was concerned, and his power, which was high but was the power of a novus homo, was much resented by the nobility, which is demonstrated in the way Tiberius had him deposed via the conscript fathers. Sejanus also thought he had the backing of the Praetorians, but found out how surprisingly easy it was for them to change their allegiance to a new commander when the emperor commanded it and promised rewards,[38] although their change of heart was not a given in any case. To succeed, Sejanus might have needed stronger support from the lower ranks of the aristocracy, the people and the army.[39] He did get some support from several of the nobility, but not enough in any case to help him overcome the letter of denunciation that Tiberius sent to the Senate via Macro. The only nobles that really supported him were the lesser nobility, because he also supported them when he was dominant.[40] Indeed, he cruelly decimated the ranks of the old nobility over 17 years, by means of prosecutions, executions and enforced suicides, so no support would be forthcoming from the survivors.[41] He also would have had very little support from the populace: it is indeed said the people celebrated his demise with great joy and with the murder of many of his supporters.[42] 

Sejanus had tried to have the people consider him as a second Agrippa[43] to counter this impression of lowly birth in the eyes of the people and the Senate, but this did not seem to work very well. He had tried to make his lowly birth an object of admiration because of how far he had come, hence the comparison with Agrippa (and also with the low-born Servius Tullius,[44] to wit a statue of the king - or one belonging to the king - in his own house). This obviously failed, as the minister’s popularity compared to Agrippa’s was close to nonexistent. Indeed, when the end came, Macro was told to free Drusus Caesar and to show him to the Roman people after Sejanus’s imprisonment to counteract any popular movement that the prefect might have had in sympathy to his plight, but this was totally unnecessary, as the people followed him to his imprisonment with “jeers and blows”.[45] 

My own impression is that Sejanus saw the Julian males attaining the proper age for ruling on their own and was frightened by the possibilities,[46] and that is when the idea of a plot started. Tiberius was old but gave no sign of dying soon, so Sejanus had to start plotting to get rid of any possible threats to his present and future power. Hence, at first, the “ poison plot” to kill Drusus,[47] of which Tiberius does not seem to have known that it might have been Sejanus’s plotting with Livilla that caused the untimely death of his son, until he received the letter from Sejanus’s wife Apicata after her suicide,[48] although this letter can be seen as pure desire of revenge by Apicata and not proof of a plot on the part of Sejanus and Livilla.[49] In this letter, Apicata tells Tiberius that Sejanus organized the murder with the help of Livilla, her doctor Eudemus who was also one of her lovers and a slave called Ligdus who was a lover of Sejanus’s: many people of that day believed this story, although it has been now mostly discounted.[50] 

Also proving the theory that Sejanus wanted to inherit the principate for himself and not be a caretaker, was the plot against Gaius that had been put into motion by Sejanus and others such as Sextius Paconianus: it might have been this plot that had been the final cause of the prefect’s downfall.[51] Tiberius had most likely decided that he was going to pass the power to the Julian line and Gaius had to be protected: if he knew that Sejanus had been trying to get rid of the youngest Julian (and he most certainly knew that Sejanus had plotted against Agrippina, Nero and Drusus beforehand), he would have put the wheels in motion for the minister’s arrest and quick demise. Sejanus, however, did not seem to have been actively plotting against Tiberius’s life itself.[52] Indeed, even when he knew that all did not quite seem right in his relations with Tiberius, he did not attempt a coup.[53] But the plot against Gaius was a definite possibility. Gaius himself might have been painfully aware of this plot and moved successfully against Sejanus by being the originator of Antonia’s famous letter to Tiberius: indeed, Gaius did stay with Antonia before being called to Capri by Tiberius.[54] And knowing the cunning of Gaius, it must have been likely that he did attempt some kind of counterplot against the minister, and succeeded. And it is not proved that Antonia herself wrote the letter, as it is only mentioned directly in Josephus and in passing in Dio.[55] Gaius, indeed, had access to Tiberius (and probably some informers to help keep him informed on Sejanus and his faction) on Capri, although Sejanus himself spent some time on the island in 30,[56] so Gaius would have had to be very careful at that time. 

Here we will discuss a bit of Sejanus’s psychological makeup. One of the things that did not help Sejanus win allies to his side were his haughtiness: he scared his clients so much that they do not want to be the last to appear before him every day or to not be seen by him at all.[57] Sejanus, according to the knight Titius Sabinus, also had “cruelty, pride and ambition”,[58] so his various bad sides were known to the Roman people. He was seen as calculating, spiteful and “evil-minded”, indeed, his “good will could only be attained by a crime”, when one wanted his support.[59] He was also seen as arrogant, and all the crowds that flocked to him looking for a word or support from the great man must have made him even prouder.[60] However, he must have been charming and convincing to women, because of the way he involved Livilla and Aemilia Lepida in his schemes.[61] And apparently, the women he chose were not only powerful, but beautiful as well,[62] so he must have been fairly attractive himself, even though he was bald. And he must have been persuasive to induce Livilla to abandon her husband and marry him.[63] Also, Velleius Paterculus, who should have obviously been biased by his having to live under the shadow of the minister himself or being one of Sejanus’s followers, describes him as loyal and a hard worker, and with a “well-knit body to match the energy of his mind”. He was also “stern, but yet gay; cheerful, but yet strict; busy, yet always seeming to be at leisure.” Velleius also tells us that Sejanus shunned honors but received plenty, and was humble, calm, but alert. [64] And he was probably not lacking in courage as well, as can be seen in the famous cave episode: Sejanus had the perfect occasion to prove his loyalty to Tiberius by saving his life when a cavern in a villa called “Speluncae” they were dining in suffered a rock slide, and several people were killed. Sejanus had protected Tiberius with his own body.[65] This episode might also be seen as a move towards added power for Sejanus as well and it is likely that several people were soon to think that this was a calculated act by the minister, which it probably was because Sejanus needed Tiberius alive to further his ambitions, but Tiberius himself may have not really noticed this self-promoting act by the prefect, because he was grateful to still be alive.[66] 

An important step in Sejanus’s scheme to advance to the principate was his joining in the imperial family by marriage. This he hoped to accomplish in two ways: the first was his own marriage to Livilla, which was at first put off by Tiberius in 25 and then finally announced in 31, after Sejanus’s attainment of the proconsular imperium.[67] The second was the betrothal of a son of Claudius to the daughter of Sejanus.[68] Sejanus would have then covered all the bases in his desire to put forward his own family in a position of easy grasp of the principate after the elimination of the rest of the Julian line and of Tiberius’s own descendants. But these plans were all in vain and finally, the end had to come sooner or later. And it was with surprising speed that it happened. 

Finally, Tiberius, spurred on by the “Antonia” letter and by his other suspicions, must have started to act even as he was piling honors on Sejanus. For instance, the varying tones of Tiberius’s communications to the Senate towards the end did not help those who were wavering to make up their minds to support the prefect. Tiberius probably did this to keep Sejanus bewildered and also to gauge the feelings of the Roman people towards the minister (and to himself).[69] In these, sometimes Tiberius would be warm towards Sejanus, sometimes glacial: this must have not helped the minister’s cause in the Senate.[70] When Nero died, Tiberius sent a letter omitting Sejanus’s usual titles.[71] Sejanus can almost be seen as a victim here, and Syme (and Dio as well) considers him one.[72] Also, in another quite cunning move, Tiberius forbade any cult to a living human being, which included himself – and Sejanus. This was actually a restoration of a previous law, but Tiberius had a definite purpose in repeating it here.[73] Then Tiberius, when giving a priesthood to Sejanus and his son, also gave one to Gaius. He also probably insured, by using an agent called Lentulus, that when an enemy of Sejanus, L. Arruntius Camillus Scribonianus, was indicted in the Senate, the charges would be dropped.[74] Tiberius also raised P. Memmius Regulus to the consular college, which gave him a dependable asset in his battle to the finish against the prefect. Indeed, Tiberius sent the instructions that Macro was to relay to the praetorian guards to two men: Memmius Regulus, and the prefect of the vigiles, Graecinus Laco, when the time came to get rid of Sejanus.[75] Tiberius had also prepared to flee by sea to a nearby legion, so he was not interested in abdicating, but would have fought to remain in power.[76] Here we had a fight between the real “founder” of the praetorian cohorts[77] as they were known throughout the early principate and between a cunning and wily princeps. Tiberius was eventually to win this, but it was never a sure thing that he would, because he was not sure of the loyalty of the Senate and the Praetorian Guard. It is my opinion that he did not have to really worry about the Senate, who viewed this “upstart” would-be consular novus homo with distrust and enmity. However, it could have gone either way with the Guard: this is why Macro was sent with the promise of a donative as a balm for the men to the loss of their commander, and also why the Praetorians at the Senate were replaced with vigiles on that particular day. Tiberius’s letter to the Senate was also very long and meandering, to give Macro time to follow his orders and organize the Praetorian takeover. The letter also variously praised and blamed Sejanus, thus keeping him off guard and not allowing him time to organize his thoughts. Finally, there were orders in the letter to arrest Sejanus and two of his followers immediately and the orders were gladly followed by a grateful Senate. Tiberius had plotted well, and even if he was still secluded in Capri, and never to come back to Rome, still showed a mastery of politics that eluded the proud prefect and cost him his position and his life. 

For Sejanus, the position of Praetorian Prefect had been a lure to the glittering prize of imperial power that culminated in false hopes and in an untimely end. A few prefects that followed understood what had happened here and tried to keep more or less quiet and thus escaped with their life, if not always with their position. But some, such as Tigellinus and Nymphidius Sabinus, did not learn the lesson taught by the acts of Sejanus, and they were also to regret not heeding this warning, in other words, the consequences that ensued from their holding the top equestrian post and being overly ambitious, greedy or arrogant, as we shall see later. 

Macro, or the helper betrayed 

Macro was appointed praetorian prefect by Tiberius when the emperor had decided to get rid of Sejanus. Macro was known by Tiberius to be loyal. Indeed, he had served Tiberius well as prefect of the vigiles beforehand. Macro got the job done when came the time to bring Tiberius’s instructions to the Senate (in the form of a very long, meandering letter), and to the Praetorian Guard, whom he convinced to remain quiet in their barracks on that fateful day of October 31. 

Q. Naevius Cordus Sutorius Macro came from Alba Fucens, where he was born in 21 BC.[78] He was part of the Fabia tribe of the region. He became prefect of the vigiles under Tiberius. It was not the most powerful of positions, as compared to the other prefectures, like the praetorian prefecture or that of Egypt, but it allowed Macro to make himself a devoted following of men, which was to help him later on when the time came to take care of Sejanus. One of these men was Gaecinus Laco, his successor to the prefecture of the vigiles, who obeyed instructions from the emperor and his old leader with no hesitations on the day Sejanus fell. 

It is also thought that Macro played the role of the “eyes” in Rome of the absent emperor as well.[79] Macro certainly seemed to be the prototype of the stern, all-obeying prefect, but also a good leader of men and a inspirer of trust in the two principes he served – up to a certain point with Caligula, however. Macro was also chosen by Tiberius to accompany him, if and when he went to the Senate-house, which of course, he never did again.[80] Macro also played a major role in the prosecution of Sejanus’s followers, and got rid of a great many friends of the ex-prefect and a lot of his own enemies in that manner.[81] 

Macro then attached himself to the growing fortune of the young Caligula, and did all that he could to promote him as a successor to Tiberius, and obtained more and more power in the process.[82] Macro then married Ennia Thrasilla, niece of Tiberius’s astrologer and encyclopedist Thrasyllus. Caligula took a fancy to the bride and soon established himself as her lover, and even promised to marry her.[83] It is debatable that Macro was a willing instrument in this.[84] Eventually, Macro obtained Tiberius’s assentment to the succession going to the young Gaius (albeit jointly with the emperor’s grandson Tiberius Gemellus) and went to Rome to prepare the way for the succession. 

On the 16th of March, AD 37, Tiberius lay dying. Some stories have him coming out of a coma and asking for his signet ring, to the dismay of Caligula who thought he was now emperor. Macro and/or Caligula poisoned or smothered him to ensure that he was really dead, according to some.[85] Macro had moved fast and efficiently in Rome: there was no opposition to the young emperor’s accession, and the prefect had prepared a triumphant procession and entry into the capital for the new ruler; the people cheered and made many sacrifices to Caligula: indeed, “The magic of Germanicus’s name and Macro’s efforts had aroused enthusiasm far and wide”.[86] Macro also had sent agents to governors and legions in order that Caligula be proclaimed emperor by them as soon as possible. Macro administered the oath to Caligula to the men and sailors stationed in Naples when Tiberius died as well.[87] In Rome, the Praetorians stayed quietly in their barracks and did not oppose the new princeps and were rewarded with a donative for this,[88] the first time that this acknowledgement of a debt for an accession had been known to happen to the Praetorian Guard.[89] 

Gaius then had Macro bring Tiberius’s will to the Senate and then read by the prefect and after that, had it declared null and void, thus removing Tiberius Gemellus from the succession picture.[90] Caligula then started getting tired of Antonia’s interference and may have provoked his grandmother’s death by treating her with great disrespect, including forcing her to come to meet him only in the presence of Macro.[91] But she had been given great honors beforehand by Caligula, including rights that Livia had once had, including a priesthood of Augustus and the title of Augusta, so this is debatable.[92] 

In AD 38, Caligula was starting to get tired of Macro’s authoritarian and stern ways, however. When he saw Macro getting close, he would “put on a cross air”. Also Macro, nominated to replace Avilius Flaccus as prefect of Egypt, had the bad luck to be friends with his predecessor, whom Caligula had effectively disgraced because he was a supporter of Tiberius Gemellus as successor of Tiberius, which was an unforgivable offence in the emperor’s eyes.[93] 

This was the beginning of the end for Macro, as Caligula went into a incredibly violent invective against the prefect and his wife in the Senate, even though Macro had just been made prefect of Egypt. Finally, Macro and his wife Ennia were forced to suicide. [94] 

So we now realize that ambition did not work to keep one prefect alive, and now another had perished because he had the wrong friends, even though he had proven himself loyal to his ruler. Also, if Macro had actually killed Tiberius, maybe Caligula felt uneasy with a prefect that had already killed one emperor and could easily kill another, even though Macro had proven himself to be utterly loyal? This could be a reason for the death of another prefect, in a job that seemed more and more dangerous. Who would be the next to be in this hot seat and how would they react to the possession of this power? 

M. Arrecinus Clemens and the death of Caligula 

Caligula then appointed two new prefects in 38, Marcus Arrecinus Clemens and possibly L. Arruntius Stella.[95] Clemens was probably from the Camilia tribe of the Pesaro region, near Rimini.[96] His daughter eventually married the future emperor Titus and his son M. Arrecinus Clemens was also appointed prefect of the Praetorians in 70. Clemens was most likely involved in the successful conspiracy to kill Caligula in AD 41 and the other prefect may have been involved too. 

In AD 40, the prefects had been accused of being accomplices in a conspiracy against Caligula by Capito, who had pretended to be involved and promised to tell the names of the other conspirators to the emperor. Capito was found to be exaggerating when he told the names of the prefects and of close associates of Caligula (and he said Callistus and Caesonia were involved as well), so he was not believed. Caligula then took his prefects and Callistus aside and told them that they were three and could easily slay him if they hated him. After this, Caligula, believing he was hated, always wore a sword when he was in Rome, and tried to set them up against each other.[97] 

Eventually, a plot was hatched by some senators and some tribunes of the Praetorian Guard, including Cassius Chaerea and Cornelius Sabinus. The prefects were involved up to a point, as they both surely knew about the plot, if not participating in it actively.[98] Indeed, Clemens may have excused himself by stating his old age, but gave his blessing to the plotters, while cautioning them to keep quiet about the plot. [99] Durry argues that Clemens and his colleague actually prepared the assassination themselves;[100] also, Ferrill states that they were actually part of the conspiracy.[101] 

During the murder, the prefects were not as active as their tribunes, but Arruntius Stella eventually calmed down the German guards, who were very angry about the attempt on Caligula’s life, by telling them the princeps was dead.[102] And Clemens was telling as many senators as he could that the “deed was just”, and made a speech about Gaius actually having, in effect, killed himself by his own actions.[103] 

After the deed had been done, the Praetorians secured the palace and recovered Caligula’s uncle Claudius, the last Julio-Claudian candidate for the principate, which they eventually took to be their own candidate as emperor.[104] As for the assassins, Claudius, after his elevation, eventually put Chaerea to death, and Sabinus soon killed himself; however, the prefect (or prefects) were spared but replaced immediately by Rufrius Pollio and possibly Catonius Iustus.[105] 

So this time, the prefect (or prefects) lost his position, but not his life. At least, these men were involved in getting Rome rid of a terrible and dangerous ruler, and Clemens was actually later praised as having done his duty in an “admirable” manner under Caligula.[106] 

Claudius’s prefects – a revolving door? 

If one man of the Julio-Claudian dynasty owed a lot to the Praetorians, it was surely Claudius. And he acknowledged this debt readily, especially with an accession donative to the men – and coins in which his ties to the Guard are well advertised.[107] As for the prefects of his reign, he began by immediately replacing one of Gaius’s prefects, possibly Arrecinus Clemens, but most likely the other one, whose name may have been Arruntius Stella. 

The replacement’s name was Rufrius Pollio,[108] and he seems to have done well by Claudius. Indeed, when Claudius went to Britain in 43, he took along Pollio for the trip.[109] The crowning glory of the prefect’s career was the image and seat he was granted in the Senate by the emperor.[110] 

Another prefect who came to power around the same time as Pollio, Catonius Iustus, was not so lucky in his career. He was trying to inform Claudius of Messalina’s intrigues, but did not make it before he was killed in AD 43.[111] 

The consular L. Vitellius[112] was so trusted by Claudius that when the emperor left for Britain in 43, he made Vitellius prefect of the City, and of the Guard as well,[113] probably for the duration of the campaign. 

Then Rufrius Crispinus and Lusius Geta replaced Pollio and Iustus (or Vitellius) and held power over the Praetorian Guard possibly from 43 to 51 or 52. 

Rufrius Crispinus was devoted to Messalina and wanted to help her in her conquest of the actor Mnester by arresting her rival Sabina Poppea’s friend Valerius Asiaticus; she also wanted the Gardens of Lucullus, which happened to belong to Asiaticus.[114] Crispinus was well-rewarded for all of this; he was given money and the praetorship or its insignia.[115] When the time came to take care of the “marriage” conspiracy of Silius and Messalina, he was nor present with Claudius and the emperor also judged him unreliable, so he didn’t use him against his errant wife.[116] Eventually, Claudius married Agrippina, who promptly fired both prefects.[117] Rufrius eventually came to an untimely end when he was caught plotting against Nero and was first banished to Sardinia, then forced to suicide.[118] Later on, his ex-wife, Poppea, was “given” to the future emperor Otho by Nero,[119] and eventually married by the “artist-emperor” himself.[120] 

As for Lusius Geta, he was a supporter of Messalina and her children as well, which is why he was not entirely trusted during the Silius “marriage” conspiracy. Claudius, who was with Geta in Ostia at one point during this crisis, asked him if he was still in power.[121] Geta was trusted so little that Narcissus asked Claudius to put a freedman in charge of the Guard, preferably himself.[122] And some say that Narcissus got his wish on that particular day.[123] Geta eventually lost his post when Agrippina replaced him and Crispinus with Burrus.[124] He was made prefect of Egypt in any case.[125] 

We notice in most of these cases that the wife of the emperor seems to have had more say in the choosing of the prefects than the emperor himself; it was a dangerous game for a prefect to be caught in the middle of, but in this case, these men seem to have escaped with their life, except for the unfortunate Catonius Iustus. 

Burrus, the “old soldier”, sole prefect 

When Agrippina wanted to consolidate her power over Claudius, she persuaded him to fire both praetorian prefects and to put a single prefect in charge, Sextus Afranius Burrus. She had told Claudius that Geta and Crispinus did not get along and had weakened the cohesion of the Guard by their holding a popularity contest to win the soldiers’ affection and that they would best be replaced by a prefect who would restore discipline: Agrippina’s choice would be Burrus, and he would indeed know to whom he owed his position.[126] 

Burrus was born in a probably equestrian family between 10 BC and AD 1,[127] probably in Vasio in the Voltinian tribe, where an inscription enumerating his career was found in 1884.[128] His father was also called Sextus Afranius Burrus. The young Burrus first seems to have held a military tribuneship, and it is possibly there that he acquired his military fame and his crippled hand, although he may have acquired these later if he was the governor of a province, or maybe through military operations such as Corbulo’s when Burrus was prefect.[129] 

Then followed a series of procuratorships. His first was for Livia Augusta for her private purposes, dating after 14 and before 29.[130] Then followed a stint in the service of the emperors, first as procurator to Tiberius, then possibly to Gaius, then for Claudius. Under these emperors he might have been the governor of a small province, again with some possible action leading legions there, and where he may have gotten that military reputation.[131] Or he may have not lorded over a province and just been an efficient and capable civil administrator.[132] Burrus was then chosen as Praetorian Prefect, and eventually received the consular insignia.[133] 

Finally the call came to lead the Praetorian Guard. Agrippina had wanted a man who could be devoted to her, and surely a capable and proven administrator that could watch for her interests and her son’s. With Seneca, he was to form half of a duo that would have tremendous influence over the early part of the reign of the young Nero. Some have said that they were both the tutors of Nero, but most think that only Seneca could be named in that function.[134] Burrus seemed to have been more of an aide in the military and administrative sense, and Agrippina wanted him to show Nero how to be brave.[135] And, of course, he was in a position of great influence as sole leader of the Guard, but he seems to have almost been more of a client of Seneca’s and part of an Anneian party or group lead by the philosopher and into Stoicism.[136] Burrus and Seneca almost seem to have been a sort of duumvirate that led the administration of the Empire in those early days of Nero’s reign. 

The first step for Agrippina’s ambitions was to gain power for her son Nero, and she would need a loyal man in the position of praetorian prefect. Indeed, when the time came and Claudius was poisoned, Burrus was ready for the accession of the new emperor. He went with Nero to meet the praetorians, and the emperor got a warm reception from them on Burrus’s recommendation, and of course, Nero made the offering of a donative to the Guard, like his predecessor had done before him.[137] 

Agrippina then tried to gain more power and was possibly vying to be the empress of Rome, with the help of Seneca and Burrus, but the two wanted no part in this scheme and in the growing list of murders she had ordered. Indeed, they struggled at one point to keep Nero firmly in power against Agrippina and Pallas, an ex-freedman of Claudius’s that Nero hated. Agrippina even got a watchword named in her honor: “to the best of mothers”, and two lictors as well as a priesthood to Claudius.[138] But Nero was stronger than she thought and also very free-spirited. Burrus and Seneca actually let him get away with some vices at that point to obtain support for their policy, including his liaison with Acte.[139] Then Burrus and Seneca actually got some measure of success when they convinced Nero to come down from a podium to greet his mother as she was trying to come up and get involved in a discussion that the emperor was having with some ambassadors from Armenia, and to lead her to a seat out of the way of the podium.[140] This is probably when Agrippina understood that she had been set aside of active rule by Burrus and Seneca, but she still seemed to have some cards to play.[141] 

Agrippina soon used one of these cards. Britannicus, the son of Claudius, was promoted by her as Claudius’s legitimate successor. She told all about her poisoner’s talents and threatened to bring Britannicus to the praetorians to try and oppose the “outsider” emperor that was propped in his power by the cripple with a disfigured hand and by the orator, two men that esteemed themselves good enough to rule an empire.[142] Nero reacted quickly to this and had Britannicus poisoned.[143] Apparently, neither Seneca nor Burrus knew about this plan, and were both very quiet on the public front after this; they “reigned but did not rule anymore”.[144] After that, Agrippina was removed from the imperial presence, and sent to Antonia’s old palace, which made her vulnerable to accusations. She was indeed charged with treason by two clients of Julia Silana; apparently, Agrippina had plotted a revolt with Rubellius Plautus, a descendant of Augustus’s, to make him emperor and then marry him. A freedman called Paris was sent to Nero to tell him about the plot and the emperor was so scared that he decided to have Agrippina and Plautus executed, and Burrus replaced with Caecina Tuscus. Seneca prevented the replacement of the prefect, but Burrus was told by Nero that Agrippina was to pay for her crime. Burrus told Nero that “any one, much more a parent, must be allowed a defence” and that there was only one accuser present.[145] These words again demonstrated that Burrus’s reputation for courage and frank words was not overinflated, especially right after he was almost replaced by Nero. After this, Burrus interrogated Agrippina menacingly, and she conducted a spirited defence in her own behalf.[146] She was so successful in this that she actually had her revenge on her accusers[147] and also managed to get her friends rewarded.[148] 

Then Burrus was accused of plotting with Pallas to give the empire to Cornelius Sulla. This was quite exaggerated and not taken very seriously; as a matter of fact, Burrus himself was one of the judges for this case, and he managed to beat off the charges and to have the accuser, Paetus, exiled and his account books burnt to prevent his seizing more property of unfortunate accused men, as was his habit of doing.[149] 

In AD 59, Nero was in love with Poppea Sabina and feared his mother’s reaction when she would learn that he would divorce his wife Octavia to marry Poppea. Nero’s mistress fanned the flames of Nero’s anger at his mother[150] and he decided to kill Agrippina; he had a boat rigged by a freedman, Anicetus, to break apart and throw her into the sea. This attempt failed and Nero asked Burrus and Seneca to come up with a solution. Possibly they had known about the attempt beforehand, but now they both were silent, and Seneca finally turned to Burrus who said that the Praetorian would not get involved because they were loyal to the whole family of the Caesars, and that Anicetus himself should finish the deed, which he did with the help of an armed band.[151] This is one case where it seems that the competent, brave old soldier had a moment of weakness and cowardice; this is where he forsook the one that brought him his post and where he designated to Nero an assassin to do the task, Anicetus.[152] And after that, Burrus was even more of a coward when he got the centurions and tribunes to declare to the guilt-racked emperor that he had done the right thing, to escape “his mother’s daring crime”.[153] The one redeeming phrase he had is when he opposed Nero’s divorce of Octavia and he told the emperor frankly that he would have to return her dowry to Octavia,[154] which probably meant the Empire.[155] 

Finally, the prefect was nothing but a shell of his proud self, his frankness[156] and honesty had seemed to have disappeared; he was only capable of allowing Nero one vice to try to prevent another,[157] and to eventually become a cheerleader for the emperor’s singing, by leading the troops, centurions and tribunes in applause for Nero, even though the prefect was not happy at all about it.[158] 

Burrus’s death was most likely a murder; some say that when he fell sick, Nero sent him poison to make sure he would not survive his illness.[159] Nero visited the dying prefect, who “saw through the crime and recoiled with horror from his gaze” and then told him “indeed, I am well”.[160] This was also the beginning of the end for Seneca’s power too, as the philosopher lost the ally who brought the power of armed might to the duumvirate. 

Burrus had been a basically honest[161] and competent man, but unfortunately, closeness to the corruption of Nero seems to have rubbed off in the form of a certain laissez-faire and even some cowardice in his case. It was unfortunate that it was probably this prefect’s earlier frankness and qualms about Nero’s vices that probably cost him his life because of his post and its potential power. 

Faenius Rufus and the Piso conspiracy 

Nero then lost all measure and appointed a popular official, Faenius Rufus, and a “monster” of his own ilk, Tigellinus, about which we will talk later on. Faenius Rufus had been praefectus annonae, where he had seemed to be honest and not enriched himself.[162] Rufus was soon pushed aside by his partner[163], and his previous friendship with Agrippina became a liability,[164] and eventually, he had enough of the regime and plotted with Seneca against Nero in AD 65, in the famous Piso conspiracy, even though he pretended ignorance of the plot at one point.[165] Rufus even prevented one man from killing Nero during the interrogations of the plotters.[166] Rufus was eventually betrayed by some of the soldiers who informed on him, because they could not stand him being both “accomplice and judge”.[167] He apparently was somewhat “weak” when the time came to die, as he lamented his own death, even in his will.[168] 

Faenius Rufus’s career was another example of the deadliness of the job of praetorian prefect when one tried to use the position for plotting. 

Tigellinus and the politics of greed 

Here we have a Julio-Claudian prefect who is described by the ancient sources as the most evil after Sejanus. Tigellinus was appointed after the death of Burrus and was also described as the strongest of the two new prefects and that “his power was growing from day to day”.[169] Some say that Seneca actually supported Tigellinus’s appointment and that they were part of the same faction, even though in tradition, he was supposed to be Seneca’s enemy.[170] 

Gaius Ofonius Tigellinus was from a Greek background and his father was a Sicilian, from Agrigentum. He was raised in Agrippina’s and her sisters’s house, and he was later banished by Caligula for having improper relations with her.[171] He then moved to Greece and eventually settled in Southern Italy, where he owned land and raised racehorses. He became quite rich doing this.[172] He was later recalled by Claudius but forbidden to attend the imperial court. Under Nero, he was first promoted to praefectus vigilum and finally, in 62, to the praetorian prefecture.[173] 

He is described by Tacitus as “steeped in infamy”, “shamelessly profligate”, cruel and rapacious, and he “perverted Nero to every kind of atrocity”, and “ended by deserting and betraying” Nero.[174] Maybe Tacitus wanted to repeat his portrait of Sejanus, but in a viler fashion, because of the humbler origins of Tigellinus? Dio describes him as a “mere appendage of Nero”,[175] and as greedy too.[176] 

When he came to power, it was very quickly that Tigellinus joined the emperor in vices and debauchery, and organized banquets and mystical parties. He was soon set against the traditionalist senators and initiated many treason trials and executions against “the opposition and pretenders to the throne”: he took care of the investigations related to the Piso conspiracy and helped Nero get rid of Seneca, even though he may have owed the philosopher his position. In AD 65 and 66, Tigellinus is getting rid of any one he deems dangerous; he then leaves for Greece to accompany Nero, and seems to lose his influence after his return.[177] During the revolts and the fall of Nero, it is his colleague Nymphidius Sabinus that seems to have control of the situation: indeed, Tigellinus seems to have abandoned Nero and was claiming to be ill at that time.[178] 

After the emperor’s death, “both partisans and enemies of Nero wanted Tigellinus’s head”.[179] Galba refused to hand him over to the populace[180] but Otho forced him to suicide, which he did with a razor, an “ignominious death” according to Tacitus.[181] 

Was Tigellinus really a monster? Most ancient sources seem to think so, but again, maybe Tacitus was really coming down hard on him because of his origins. Dio seems to think he was more of an executant than a policy-maker. Maybe he was just “following orders”, but he was genuinely reviled by some of the senators and the people, and known to be greedy. And in his case, it was not desire of higher position that did the prefect in, but the hatred of the people. 

Nymphidius Sabinus vies for the principate 

When Faenius Rufus was relieved of his command in 65, one of Tigellinus’s assistants, Gaius Nymphidius Sabinus, was chosen to replace him. He was apparently quite competent, had held a post in the equestrian militia – possibly praefectus alae, had helped Tigellinus in his investigation of the Piso conspiracy, had obtained the consular insignia for his services during this crisis, and was considered a “specialist of state security”.[182] 

Nymphidius was the son of freedwoman (the daughter of Callistus) and probably of a Greco-Oriental gladiator, although he claimed he was the illegitimate son of the emperor Gaius, who had been his mother’s lover.[183] 

When the troubles started in 68, Nymphidius seems to have stayed loyal to Nero until he had no other choice.[184] Nymphidius went to the Praetorian camp on the night of June 8, AD 68, and told the men that Nero had fled to Egypt and that they should declare for Galba, who, according to Nymphidius, would pay them 30,000 sesterces apiece. He then went to the Senate and had them also declare for Galba, and they also declared Nero a public enemy.[185] Nymphidius also let the people kill many of Nero’s agents without getting involved.[186] Then Nymphidius, believing that Galba would not make it to Rome very quickly or at all because of old age, fatigue and illness, tried to take control of Rome. He first told Tigellinus to resign then invited all of Rome’s gratin to several banquets. He also sent agents to the praetorians to convince them to have Galba declare him sole prefect, and this, for life. He received more and more honors from the Senate, and even became angry when he learned that they were sending senatus-consulti in secret to Galba. The new emperor, though, foiled Nymphidius’s plan in part by naming a new colleague for the prefecture of the Guard, Cornelius Laco, to replace Tigellinus. Nymphidius then tried to convince army officers to help him, but they replied that Galba could choose whom he wanted. Then Nymphidius tried to convince Galba to stay out of Rome by writing him letters stating that the capital was a disaster area. Unfortunately for Nymphidius, Galba did not bite and that’s when the prefect decided to make his move and try to convince the men to make him emperor.[187] 

The troops, however, had been convinced by one of their tribunes, Antonius Honoratus, not to go along with this. The men applauded the tribune’s speech and the racket forced Nymphidius to come and have a look. When the men told him they wanted Galba as emperor, he changed his tactics and went along with them. He entered the camp, and suddenly, a javelin was thrown in his direction, then the men came at him with their swords and eventually killed him, thus helping Galba secure his throne a little more.[188] But Nymphidius’s promise of a donative by Galba eventually came back to haunt the emperor, who lost the support of the Praetorians when he refused to honor the prefect’s promise and stated that “he levied soldiers, not bought them”.[189] 

In Nymphidius’s case, we saw a man who attempted to raise himself high above his “station” in Roman society, and may have done so too early in the history of the Empire; indeed, men of lower conditions obtained the principate eventually, and no one blinked an eyelash. This is described in the very words of the tribune Antonius Honoratus, when he tells the troops to oppose Nymphidius’s bid for the principate: “will we choose the son of Nymphidia, by killing that of Livia’s after having killed that of Agrippina’s?”[190] And this is probably why this ambitious prefect lost his life, attempting something that not even a loftier-born man, such as Sejanus, could accomplish. 


It did not seem to be a sinecure to be a praetorian prefect in Julio-Claudian times. Out of the seventeen or so aforementioned men, six of them were executed or murdered on the job. Two were killed later on, and only two actually made it to the “top equestrian post” of the prefecture of Egypt, although a third, Macro, had been given the post just before his death, but did not make it to the province. Two of them vied to become princeps and they both died in their attempt. All in all, we can conclude that this was a very dangerous and unsafe post, unless you were lucky enough to live under Augustus, where things were so quiet that we do not know much about his prefects, or if you kept very quiet under the other emperors, which men like Rufrius Pollio or Lusius Geta seem to have done. 

Was it worth it in the end? For a certain sort of ambitious and ruthless individual, the lure of the position would have been hard to resist, even if it led to an early demise. It seemed somewhat like the situation of a fly attracted to a blazing lamp. 


[1] Brian Campbell, The Roman Army 31 BC – AD 337 – a Sourcebook, (London and New York, 1994), 38 

[2] Durry, Les cohortes prétoriennes, 68 

[3] Campbell, The Roman Army, 38; Marcel Durry, Les cohortes prétoriennes, (Paris, 1938), 75 and 77; Appian, Civil Wars, (London, 1968), 3.9.66, 67 and 69 

[4] Durry, Les cohortes prétoriennes, 10 and 78; Campbell, The Roman Army, 38; Ronald Syme, Review of Les cohortes prétoriennes, by Marcel Durry. JRS 29 (1939), 243; Naphtali Lewis and Meyer Reinhold, Roman Civilization, vol. 1, (New York, 1990), 580 

[5] Dio Cassius, Roman History, (Cambridge and London, 1917), 55.24.6; D.L. Kennedy, “Some observations on the praetorian guard”, Ancient Society 9 (1979), 275 

[6] Durry, Les cohortes prétoriennes, 78 

[7] Campbell, Roman Army, 38; Durry, Les cohortes prétoriennes, 77 

[8] Suet., Aug. XLIX 

[9] Campbell, Roman Army, 38 

[10] Durry, Les cohortes prétoriennes, 1 

[11] Dio, 52.24 

[12] J.B. Cambell, The Emperor and the Roman Army, (Oxford 1984), 116-117 

[13] Campbell, The Emperor and the Roman Army, 116-117 

[14] Campbell, The Emperor and the Roman Army, 117 

[15] Henry C. Boren, Roman Society, Second Edition, (Lexington MA, 1992), 174 

[16] Syme, Review of Durry, JRS 29, 247 

[17] Campbell, The Emperor and the Roman Army, 120 

[18] Dio, 55.10 

[19] A.E. Hanson, “P. Ostorius Scapula: Augustan Prefect of Egypt”, ZPE 47 (1982), 246-247 

[20] Hanson, ZPE 47, 246, note 10 

[21] Ronald Syme, The Augustan aristocracy (Oxford, 1986), 301 note 11 

[22] Dio, 60.23.3 

[23] Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford, 1939), 358; Syme, Augustan aristocracy, 301-310; G.V Sumner, “The family connections of L. Aelius Seianus”, Phoenix 19 (1965), 138-139 

[24] John Crook, Consilium Principis, (Cambridge, 1955), 36 

[25] Syme, Review of Durry, JRS 29, 247; ILS 8996 

[26] Raphael Sealey, “The political attachments of L. Aelius Sejanus”, Phoenix 15 (1961), 102; Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History, (London, 1924), 2.127.3 

[27] H.W. Bird, “L. Aelius Sejanus and his political significance”, Latomus 28 (1969), 61 

[28] John Crook, Consilium Principis, (Cambridge, 1955), 36 

[29] H.W. Bird, Latomus 28 (1969), 61 and 61, note 3; Syme, Roman Revolution , 428 

[30] Suet., Tib. 12-13 

[31] H.W. Bird, Latomus 28 (1969), 62 

[32] R. Sealey, Phoenix 15, 1961, 108 

[33] Robin Seager, Review of L. Aelius Seianus by D. Hennig, JRS 67 (1977), 185 

[34] Frank Burr Marsh, The Reign of Tiberius, (Oxford 1931), 164 

[35] Ibid., 187 

[36] Ibid., 188 

[37] Ibid. 

[38] Dio Cassius LVIII.9.5 

[39] Marsh, Reign, 188 

[40] F.B Marsh, “Roman Parties in the reign of Tiberius”, AHR 31 (1925-26), 237 

[41] Fernand de Visscher, “La caduta di Seiano e il suo macchinatore Macrone”, Rivista di cultura classica e medioevale 2 (1960), 245 

[42] Marsh, Reign, 197 and 198 

[43] Velleius, II.CXXVII; A.J. Woodman, Velleius Paterculus: The Tiberian Narrative, (Cambridge, 1977), 252-253 

[44] Ronald Syme, “Seianus on the Aventine”, Hermes 84 (1956), 260-261 

[45] Barbara Levick, Tiberius the politician (London, 1976), 171 

[46] Which included the likelihood of the new princeps getting rid of his predecessor’s staff 

[47] Dio Cassius, LVII.22.1: Sejanus had also hit Drusus beforehand, or Drusus had hit Sejanus 

[48] Marsh, Reign, 198 

[49] Levick, Tiberius, 161 

[50] Gregorio Maranon, Tiberius, the resentful Caesar (New York, 1956), 122-123 

[51] Marsh, Reign, 201-202 

[52] Ibid., 304 

[53] Dio Cassius, LVIII.6.4 

[54] Levick, Tiberius, 175 

[55] John Nicols, “Antonia and Sejanus”, Historia 24 (1975), 51 

[56] George W. Houston, “Tiberius on Capri”, G&R 32 (1985), 185 

[57] Dio Cassius, LVIII 5.1 

[58] Tac., Ann., 4.68 

[59] Ibid. 

[60] Ibid., 188 

[61] Levick, Tiberius, 170 

[62] Patrick Sinclair, “Tacitus’ presentation of Livia Julia”, AJPh 111 (1990), 245 

[63] Ibid., 246 

[64] Velleius, II.CXXVII 

[65] Tac., Ann., 4.59 

[66] Levick, Tiberius, 168 

[67] Levick, Tiberius, 170 

[68] Ibid., 160 

[69] D.C.A. Shotter, “The fall of Sejanus: two problems”, CPh 69, (Chicago, 1974), 43 

[70] Levick 175 

[71] Dio Cassius, LVIII.8.4 

[72] Ann Bodington, “Sejanus. Whose conspiracy?”, AJPh 84 (1963), 1 

[73] Levick, Tiberius, 176 

[74] Ibid. 

[75] Shotter, Cph 69, 44 

[76] Shotter, CPh 69, 45; Suet., Tib., 65.2 

[77] H.W Bird, “L. Aelius Sejanus: further observations”, Latomus 29 (1970), 1050 

[78] OCD 1996, 1458 

[79] Visscher, “La caduta di Seiano”, 248 

[80] Tac., Ann., 6.15 

[81] Ibid.,6.29, 6.47, 6.48 

[82] Ibid., 6.45 

[83] Suet., Cal., XII 

[84] Visccher, “La Caduta di Seiano”, 249 

[85] Suet., Cal., XII, Tac., Ann., 6.50 

[86] Anthony A. Barrett, Caligula – the corruption of power, (Manchester, 1989), 55 

[87] Arther Ferrill, Caligula, emperor of Rome, (London 1991), 92 

[88] Dio Cassius, LIX.2.1: some of the money for this actually came from Tiberius’ will 

[89] Barrett, Caligula, 60 

[90] Dio Cassius, LIX 1.2, 1.3 

[91] Suet., Cal., XXIII 

[92] Barrett, 62 

[93] Visscher, “La Caduta di Seiano”, 250-251 

[94] Dio Cassius, LIX.10.6; Suet., Cal., XXVI;Visscher, “La Caduta di Seiano”, 250-251 

94 Note 2: An interesting aside is that Macro left money in his will for an amphitheater to be built for the people of his native city. It is a bit surprising that this was actually permitted by Caligula, whom we would have expected to seize the property and prohibit inscriptions dedicated to the fallen prefect. But the monument was built and the inscriptions in it can be seen to this day, so we can suppose that Caligula respected the tradition of the times that left estate unseized to the inheritors of a suicide – Visscher, “La caduta di Seiano”, 252-253; Barrett, 79. 

[95] Flavius Josephus, Death of an Emperor, (Exeter, 1991), 52, 69 

[96] Alfredo Passerini, “M. Arrecino Clemente”, Athenaum 18 (1940), 148 

[97] Dio Cassius, LIX.25.7-8 

[98] Suet., Cal., LVI; Dio Cassius, LIX.29.1-1a; Flavius Josephus, AJ, 19.44-45 

[99] Jos., AJ, 19.45 

[100] Durry, Les cohortes prétoriennes, 181 

[101] Ferrill, 160 

[102] Jos., AJ, 19.148 

[103] Jos., AJ, 154-156 

[104] Jos., AJ, 19.212-273; Dio Cassius, LX.1-2 

[105] Jos., AJ, 267-273; Barrett, 176 

[106] Tac., Ann., 4.68 

[107] C.H.V. Sutherland, “The Emperor and the Coinage, Julio-Claudian studies, (London, 1976), 69; Barbara Levick, Claudius, (London, 1990), 39 

[108] Levick, Claudius, 37 

[109] Ibid., 142 

[110] Dio Cassius, LX.23 

[111] Dio Cassius, LX.18; Levick, Claudius, 57 and 142 

[112] COS III, AD 47 

[113] Levick, Claudius, 142 

[114] Tac., Ann., 11.5; Levick, Claudius, 61 

[115] Tac., Ann., 11.5; Levick, Claudius, 62-63 

[116] Levick, Claudius, 65 

[117] Dio Cassius, LXI.32, Tac., Ann., 12.42 

[118] Tac., Ann., 16.17 

[119] Dio Cassius, LXII.II 

[120] Suet., Nero, XXXV 

[121] Suet., Claud., XXXVI; Tac., Ann., 11.31 

[122] Tac., Ann., 11.33 

[123] OCD, 1026; Levick, Claudius, 65 

[124] Dio Cassius, LXI.32; Tac., Ann., 12.42 

[125] Eugen Cizek, Néron, l’empereur maudit, (Paris, 1982), 198 

[126] Tac., Ann., 12.42 

[127] William C. McDermott, “Sextus Afranius Burrus”, Latomus 8, (1949), 234 

[128] H de la Ville de Mirmont, “Afranius Burrhus, la légende traditionnelle; les documents historiques et épigraphiques”, RPh 34, (Paris, 1910), 82; McDermott, 230 

[129] McDermott, 232 

[130] Ibid; Tac., Ann., 12.42 

[131] McDermott, 232 

[132] René Waltz, “À propos d’Afranius Burrus”, RPh 34, (Paris, 1910), 244-245 

[133] Ville de Mirmont, 83 

[134] Ibid., 245; Ville de Mirmont, 87 

[135] Ville de Mirmont, 81 

[136] Eugen Cizek, L’époque de Néron et ses controverses idéologiques, (Leiden, 1972), 61 

[137] Tac., Ann., 12.69 

[138] Ibid., 13.2; Suet., Nero, IX 

[139] Tac., Ann., 13.2; Ville de Mirmont, 89-90; McDermott, 236 

[140] Tac., Ann., 13.5 

[141] Ville de Mirmont, 89 

[142] Tac., Ann., 13.14 

[143] Ibid., 13.15-17 

[144] Ville de Mirmont, 92 

[145] McDermott, 237; Tac., Ann., 13.19-22 

[146] Tac., Ann., 13.21 

[147] Silana, for instance, was banished; Tac., Ann., 13.22 

[148] IE, Faenius Rufus, the future prefect of the praetorians, obtained the superintendence of the corn supply; Tac., Ann., 13.22 

[149] Tac., Ann.,13.23 

[150] Ibid., 14.1 

[151] Ibid., 14.7-9 

[152] Ibid., 14.7 

[153] Ibid., 14.10 

[154] Ironically, Octavia received Burrus’s house as part of the return of her dowry: Tac., Ann., 14.60 

[155] McDermott, 243; Dio Cassius, 62.13.2 

[156] He told Nero once that when he “said something, he didn’t like being asked again”: Dio Cassius, LXX.13.2 

[157] Seneca and Burrus let Nero race instead of sing in public, Tac., Ann., 14.14 

[158] Tac., Ann., 14.15 

[159] Dio Cassius, 62.13.3; Tac., Ann.,14.51; Suet., Nero, XXXV 

[160] Tac., Ann., 14.51 

[161] Apart from a isolated sour note in Josephus, who says that Burrus was corrupt and sold the Jews to their enemies for a large sum of money: Jos, AJ, XX.VIII.9; Ville de Mirmont, 77 

[162] Ibid., 14.51 

[163] Dio Cassius, LXII.13.3 

[164] Tac., Ann., 14.57 

[165] Dio Cassius, LXII.24.1; Tac., Ann., 15.50, 15.58, 15.60-62 

[166] Tac., Ann., 15.58 

[167] Ibid., 15.66 

[168] Ibid., 15.69 

[169] Ibid., 14.57 

[170] Theresa K. Roper, “Nero, Seneca and Tigellinus”, Historia 28, (1979), 357 

[171] Dio Cassius, LIX.23.9; Cizek, Néron, 195 

[172] His love of horses may have been a natural connection with Nero: Cizek, Néron, 195-196 

[173] Roper, 346 

[174] Tac., Hist., 1.72 

[175] Dio Cassius, LXII.12.2-3 

[176] Ibid., LXII.11.2-3, LXII.21.2 

[177] Cizek, Néron, 196; Roper, 350-351 

[178] Cizek, Néron, 196-197 

[179] Ibid., 197; Plut., Otho 2 

[180] Dio Cassius, LXIII.3.4; Suet., Galba XV 

[181] Tac., Hist., 1.72 

[182] Cizek, Néron, 197; Syme, Review of Durry, JRS 29, 247 

[183] Cizek, Néron, 197-198; Tac., Ann., 15.72; Plut., Galba 9 

[184] P.A.L. Greenhalgh, The Year of the Four Emperors, (London, 1975), 11 

[185] Ibid 

[186] Jacques Sancery, Galba ou l’armée face au pouvoir, (Paris, 1983), 78 

[187] Ibid., 79-81 

[188] Tac., Hist., 1.5; Plut., Galba, 14; Sancery, Galba, 82-83; Suet., Galba, XI; Dio Cassius, LXIII.2.3 

[189] Dio Cassius, LXIII 3.3 

[190] Plut., Galba, 14 



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Thanks to Sandra J. Bingham for the bibliography!


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