How elite were the Praetorian guards?

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,330
Citizenship was a requirement for service in the legions. That had always been the case although the requirement to own property was removed by Marius by 167BC. This was not ignored. Status was hugely important to the Romans and they could be incredibly sensitive about it. A non-citizen, or perhaps a citizen with less military ambition, had the option of serving in the Auxillaries with less status and pay. Completing service as an auxillary was rewarded with citizenship, and it is worth remembering that Caracalla extended citizenship to free men in the empire in 212, possibly with legionary recruitment in mind as much as taxation.

Those found not be citizens in the legions wee ejected from service. I don't know the specific punishment if any, but they were out. When Augustus raised emergency units from freed slaves after the disaster of 9ad, those men were not armed and equipped like regular troops nor would regular legionaries serve alongside them.
 
Jun 2019
14
Redlands, CA
THEIR REPUTATION IS THAT THEY WERE BAD AT FIGHTING. How could that possibly prevent a battle??

Sorry for the delay, had to grade papers. The Praetorians were selected initially from Julius Caesar's veterans after the rise of subsequent emperors like Augustus. I don't doubt that they declined as a more political, ceremonial unit, but they could fight. Again, explain why they were deemed to be two inches taller than legionnaires if not to intimidate. Stop dancing around the question.
 
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Jun 2019
14
Redlands, CA
THEIR REPUTATION IS THAT THEY WERE BAD AT FIGHTING. How could that possibly prevent a battle??
Video game??? I'm not 12 years old. I haven't played video games in 30 years. Well...maybe Nordsoftdev on the Civil War and Napolionic era. But I've been told by former West Point cadets they have used the game to demonstrate 19th century warfare. However, I'm more interested in Jstor and similar academic sites and journals. Video games aren't source material. What are your sources?

Edit: Norbsoftdev. I use NordPVN. So it flowed out incorrectly.
 
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Oct 2018
1,841
Sydney
Again, explain why they were deemed to be two inches taller than legionnaires if not to intimidate. Stop dancing around the question.
He answered the question in post 87, so let's not pretend that anyone is dancing around questions.

Is it surprising that a unit that was used to protect the emperor and his family was expected to look the part? No, of course not. Any emperor wants his guards to look intimidating and give the appearance of being elite. Note for example that epitaphs indicate that Praetorians were much more obedient when it came to the law that active soldiers could not marry. It was about appearance and group identity.

But does that mean that an extra two inches made them any more intimidating to a senator than any other military unit? I doubt it. A soldier with a weapon is as intimidating to a civilian as the next soldier. Did it make the praetorians appear intimidating to a field-army or frontier unit? It seems unlikely. As far as I can tell, there is no evidence for such a unit declining to face the praetorians in combat, and why should they have declined combat? Because of an extra two inches? We have evidence for prejudice in the Roman world towards soldiers who spent excessive amounts of time in cities and in peaceful regions. The Praetorians fit both of these criteria. This doesn't jive well with the idea that they were intimidating for other soldiers. We know of Praetorians fighting in civil wars for Otho, Vitellius, Didius Julianus, Macrinus, Maximinus Thrax and Maxentius, and none of these instances support the idea that other military units were afraid to fight them. Indeed, the Praetorian cohorts were on the losing side in each of these encounters, and in the case of Maximinus Thrax the civilians of Rome attacked the Praetorians and tried to sack their camp, initiating hostilities.
 
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Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,650
Australia
I have absolutely no idea what advantage 2 extra inches would even bestow in Roman style legions. It's largely irrelevant to the style of military tactics they used; many opponents Rome pummeled were far taller than them). I doubt it was even enforced for the most part, and gradually became an urban legend, but it clearly did nothing to aid their combat ability because for the most part they sucked at combat (and were known for sucking at it). Talking about one unit who had this moniker in the Republic days, and then using that to suggest all other members later enlisted in this (totally different purpose) unit were of comparable quality, is pretty dumb. It's especially dumb when we know they weren't, and for the most part were a glorified city watch.
 
Mar 2018
890
UK
Sorry for the delay, had to grade papers. The Praetorians were selected initially from Julius Caesar's veterans after the rise of subsequent emperors like Augustus. I don't doubt that they declined as a more political, ceremonial unit, but they could fight. Again, explain why they were deemed to be two inches taller than legionnaires if not to intimidate. Stop dancing around the question.

Video game??? I'm not 12 years old. I haven't played video games in 30 years. Well...maybe Nordsoftdev on the Civil War and Napolionic era. But I've been told by former West Point cadets they have used the game to demonstrate 19th century warfare. However, I'm more interested in Jstor and similar academic sites and journals. Video games aren't source material. What are your sources?

Edit: Norbsoftdev. I use NordPVN. So it flowed out incorrectly.
Are you joking? This thread is literally full of evidence that the Praetorians were not exceptional soldier post ~10AD. You're reply every time has been "but what about their reputation and the height requirement". It's been explained to you that they did not have the reputation you think they had, and that the height makes them neither better fighters or more intimidating, simply better looking (if it was ever even enforced).

If you want to talk about sources, please provide a single source stating that roman field armies post 10AD were scared to fight against the Praetorians
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,330
But does that mean that an extra two inches made them any more intimidating to a senator than any other military unit? I doubt it. A soldier with a weapon is as intimidating to a civilian as the next soldier
In fact it can. I always remember a photograph from the 1980's Miner's Strikes in the UK. A protestor blockading the gates got frustrated and attempted to drag a lorry driver from his cab abnd subject him to violence. However, the driver was considerably larger than the protestor, who's look of alarm and panic was worth the photograph. It's also the reason why over history soldiers have worn tall hats or cockades on their helmets, or why advice given to people confronting bears in the wild is to try and look bigger.

Specifically the German guiard was employed simply because the Germanians were taller than under nourished Romans.
 
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