The Principate: History Of Military Dictatorship

1432 Words6 Pages
In this essay I will argue that the Principate is a history of military dictatorships insofar as certain emperors seize power via military means or emphasise a connexion to the army. I have chosen to define military dictatorship as a form of governance which relies on the usurpation of power by means of war, assassination and the consolidation of that power by the founding of dynasties which are, in essence, based around the current princeps’ choice of electing their own successors. Furthermore, I shall analyse emperors via the themes, bread and circuses, the army and Praetorian Guard, and accession: defeat and adoption.
The first theme I shall look at is the army and Praetorian Guard. Augustus’ Res Gestae says that he had around 500,000 Roman
…show more content…
Suetonius also mentions that the plebs pelted Claudius with stale bread during a particular grain shortage. However, I question both the veracity and logicality of throwing any form of food; after all, stale bread must surely still be edible? Thus, I am of the opinion that Suetonius has rather embellished this tale without actually analysing the reality of the plebs’ situation. Rickman mentions that when grain was lacking in Commodus’ reign, there was a special ‘Classis Africana’ which would convey the grain to Rome. Indeed, this strongly suggests that failure to provide the corn dole in Rome was something that would have really harmed an emperor’s image; it was better to form an entire fleet simply to ship corn than it was to lose the people’s…show more content…
This would have been an important part of Septimius’ approach to governance as a beneficent image would aide in legitimising the Severan Dynasty. In contrast, the story of Tiberius and the architect of unbreakable glass is recounted by both Pliny and Petronius who state that the architect was killed because Tiberius feared unbreakable glass would somehow put the common craftsmen out of work. Thus, one can see that principes maintained order by making sure that the people were content, any innovation that threatened that content needed to be removed. In this way, an emperor could win the favour of the populace by providing amenities which made him appear as the ultimate patron of the roman

More about The Principate: History Of Military Dictatorship

Open Document