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.]
THE PRAETORIAN INFLUENCE.
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.