Young Folks' History of Rome eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 189 pages of information about Young Folks' History of Rome.
comfort philosophy gave him, while his eyes were blind to the truth.  He died of a fever in his camp, while still in the prime of life, in the year 180, and with him ended the period of good Emperors, which the Romans call the age of the Antonines.  Aurelius was indeed succeeded by his son Commodus, but he was a foolish good-for-nothing youth, who would not bear the fatigues and toils of real war, though he had no shame in showing off in the arena, and is said to have fought there seven hundred and fifty times, besides killing wild beasts.  He boasted of having slain one hundred lions with one hundred arrows, and a whole row of ostriches with half-moon shaped arrows which cut off their heads, the poor things being fastened where he could not miss them, and the Romans applauding as if for some noble deed.  They let him reign sixteen years before he was murdered, and then a good old soldier named Pertinax began to reign; but the Praetorian Guard had in those sixteen years grown disorderly, and the moment they felt the pressure of a firm hand they attacked the palace, killed the Emperor, cut off his head, and ran with it to the senate-house, asking who would be Emperor.  An old senator was foolish enough to offer them a large sum if they would choose him, and this put it into their heads to rush out to the ramparts and proclaim that they would sell the empire to the highest bidder.

A vain, old, rich senator, named Didius Julianus, was at supper with his family when he heard that the Praetorians were selling the empire by auction, and out he ran, and actually bought it at the rate of about L200 to each man.  The Emperor being really the commander-in-chief, with other offices attached to the dignity, the soldiers had a sort of right to the choice; but the other armies at a distance, who were really fighting and guarding the empire, had no notion of letting the matter be settled by the Praetorians, mere guardsmen, who stayed at home and tried to rule the rest; so each army chose its own general and marched on Rome, and it was the general on the Danube, Septimius Severus, who got there first; whereupon the Praetorians killed their foolish Emperor and joined him.

[Illustration:  MARCUS AURELIUS.]

CHAPTER XXXV.

THE PRAETORIAN INFLUENCE.

197—­284.

Septimus Severus was an able Emperor, and reigned a long time.  He was stern and harsh, as was needed by the wickedness of the time; and he was very active, seldom at Rome, but flashing as it were from one end of the empire to the other, wherever he was needed, and keeping excellent order.  There was no regular persecution of the Christians in his time; but at Lyons, where the townspeople were in great numbers Christians, the country-folk by some sudden impulse broke in and made a horrible massacre of them, in which the bishop, St. Irenaeus, was killed.  So few country people were at this time converts, that Paganus, a peasant, came to be used as a term for a heathen.

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Young Folks' History of Rome from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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