Year of the Five Emperors

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Not to be confused with Year of the Four Emperors.

The Year of the Five Emperors refers to the year 193, in which there were five claimants for the title of Roman Emperor. The five were Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus and Septimius Severus.

The year 193 opened with the murder of Commodus on New Year's Eve, 31 December 192 and the proclamation of the City Prefect Pertinax as Emperor on New Year's Day, 1 January 193. Pertinax was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard on 28 March 193. Later that day, Didius Julianus outmanoeuvered Titus Flavius Sulpicianus (Pertinax's father-in-law and also the new City Prefect) for the title of Emperor.

Flavius Sulpicianus offered to pay each soldier 20,000 sestertii to buy their loyalty (eight times their annual salary; also the same amount offered by Marcus Aurelius to secure their favours in 161). Didius Julianus however offered 25,000 to each soldier to win the auction and was proclaimed Emperor by the Roman Senate on 28 March.

However, three other prominent Romans challenged for the throne: Pescennius Niger in Syria, Clodius Albinus in Britain, and Septimius Severus in Pannonia. Septimius Severus marched on Rome to oust Didius Julianus and had him decapitated on 1 June 193, then dismissed the Praetorian Guard and executed the soldiers who had killed Pertinax.

Consolidating his power, Septimius Severus battled Pescennius Niger at Cyzicus and Nicea in 193 and then decisively defeated him at Issus in 194. Clodius Albinus initially supported Septimius Severus believing that he would succeed him. When he realised that Severus had other intentions, Albinus had himself declared Emperor in 195 but was defeated by Septimius Severus at the Battle of Lugdunum on 19 February 197.

Didius Julianus[edit]

Caesar Marcus Didius Severus Julianus Augustus, the son of Quintus Petronius Didius Severus and Aemilia Clara, was born in Milan on either 30 January 133 or 2 February 137 with the correct date being unknown.[1] He was raised and educated in the household of Domitia Lucilla, mother of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and rose through Roman public distinction through the support of the Emperor and his mother.[2] In 170 CE, Julianus commanded the XXII Primigenia Legion in Mogontiacum (Mainz), Germany. Then he replaced Pertinax as proconsul of Africa.,[3] and Pertinax, now emperor, was murdered by the Praetorian Guard. This began the event known as, “Auction of the Empire”, which Didius Julianus is infamous for winning. He outbidded the father-in-law of Pertinax, Titus Flavius Claudius Sulpicianus, who was the prefect of Rome, by offering to pay the Praetorian Guard 25000 sesterces for the throne.[3] The Senate declared Julianus emperor in fear of the Roman army, but his rule was to be short-lived; Three other generals and governors across the empire declared themselves the rightful heir, and Septimius Severus marched on Rome. The people of Rome despised and rejected Julianus from the start, because they believed he was involved with the corruption. Without the support of Rome, the Imperial Guard would not fight for Julianus and Severus marched into the palace, declared himself emperor, and killed Didius Julianus after just sixty-six days of rule.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rieu, E. V. (1983). Lives of the Later Caesars. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd. 
  2. ^ a b Lendering, Jona. "Didius Julianus". Retrieved 20 Nov 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Meckler, Michael L. "De Imperatoribus Romanis". Ohio State University. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 

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