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Praetorian Guard

The Praetorian Guard (sometimes PrŠtorian Guard) (in Latin: praetoriani) was a special force of bodyguards used by Roman emperors. Before them it was used by war lords[?], back at least to the Scipio[?] family -- around 275 BC.

Special praetorian troops, praetoria cohors, were created by Marcus Antonius and Augustus Caesar (Octavianus) and consisted of both infantry and cavalry. Octavian gave the prŠtorians a permanent presence, forming nine praetorian infantry cohorts of 1,000 men each and a number of cavalry units (turma) of 30 men.

Tiberius moved all the praetorian cohorts (by then 10) into armed barracks outside Rome, one of these holding the daily guard at the royal palace.

The praetorian guards had higher wages and less onerous duties than other soldiers. In the beginning they were recruited solely from Italy but, as time went on, they were also recruited from other provices.

The special position of the Praetorians made them become a power of its own in the Roman state, and its prefect, praefectus praetorio, was soon one of the more powerful men in this society. The emperors tried to flatter and control the praetorians, with the resulting coup d'Útats and rapid imperial succession. The praetorians thus came to destabilize the Roman state, contrary to their purpose.

In 193, the praetorians even arranged an auction for the throne, an auction won by Didius Julianus. After seizing power and executing Didius, Septimius Severus cashiered the current praetorian units and established an entirely new guard of 50,000 men from soldiers loyal to him.

Their final act in imperial history occurred when the Caesar Flavius Valerius Severus, following the orders of Galerius, attempted to disband them in 308, but they revolted, elevating Maxentius as their Emperor. Following his victory in the Battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine the Great disbanded the Praetorian Guard for good.

In common language, "praetorian guards" is a name for an exclusive group of attached to powerful people, such as Adolf Hitler's SS troops. However, the term is used in nonmilitary contexts: for example, a corporate officer or politician may have a small group of fanatical followers whom a journalist may describe as a "praetorian guard".



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