How elite were the Praetorian guards?

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Being a soldier is about effectiveness in combat. A street thug can intimidate too, but he'll make a rubbish soldier. The praetorians of the Empire were simply glorified bodyguards and meddlers compared to the real soldiers, no idea why some people are making this bizarre reference to a unit that existed before the Empire did under Octavian. That has nothing to do with the praetorians as they existed in Imperial Rome, as basically a kind of city watch; often corrupt, and with very limited battle experience for the most part (compared to the real armies anyway). It was the real armies who determined the emperor in times of Civil War, no matter how the praetorians tried to get involved in it.
Its not like legions on the border were at war constantly. They were doing mostly bssic guard duty.
 
Jun 2019
14
Redlands, CA
"Being a soldier is about effectiveness in combat. A street thug can intimidate too, but he'll make a rubbish soldier. "

That's where you err. Soldiery in the classical sense is as much political as combat prowess. Our post 16th century ideal of "military" blinds us to what it used to be a millennia ago...or even contemporary, I suppose. It is so much easier/cleaner to intimidate a foe into submission, than to do so on the battlefield. Do you think the United States have been the predominant military force in the world for it's military force?...well...yes...but, because we haven't had to use it. And, I suppose I conflate the idealism myself. However, but military is far more political than what happens on the ground.

I think the intimidation factor was a crucial piece.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,246
Welsh Marches
Intimidation through the threat of overwhelming force is a wholly different issue, that does not show in any way that a street bully will make a good soldier! (My father was a professional soldier who fought in WW2 and he always told me that the thugs and bullies were almost invariably the ones who folded first in combat, and that it was quiet types whom one would hardly notice in ordinary life who often showed the greatest steel and perseverance).
 
Jun 2019
14
Redlands, CA
We are talking two languages here, my friend. I am not talking circles, I'm talking spheres. Political power is far different than street thuggery. It behooves you to define the difference.

My gratitude to your father. Indeed, a hero !
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Jun 2019
14
Redlands, CA
Are we not dancing around each other though? We are trying to define what a Roman was over centuries. They evolved, as do we all....escpecially over a millennia. I accept my frailties in this regard. Characterizing a Roman given their long history is impossible. My apologies.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,658
Australia
So Gary is basically talking in circles. The praetorians were, through most of their history, basically a city watch whose job was to keep the peace in the city. They virtually never saw combat, even if some members of their group had once been soldiers before they got out of shape as glorified body guards (and many doubtless hadn't). Since they were virtually never deployed in actual battle, and didn't go into the field to drill and march every day, there is basically no way they had the cohesion of an army (even in the days when a good chunk of their members had been former soldiers). A legion stationed in a volatile province was infinitely better. They had constant drills and marches to stay in shape, and keep up with battle formations and routine. They had actual experience in battle, as a single unit. A bunch of plodding city watchmen who had grown comfortable harassing civilians would be cut to pieces by real forces like these; and that's exactly what the actual history that happened shows us. When the praetorians tried to get involved in politics they were no match for real soldiers. Gary and others are living in some alternative history which didn't happen basically. It's not like history has changed matters either; the police force is no match for the army even today.

To control Rome as an emperor here are the things you needed in order of importance:
- Support of the armies
- Support of the armies
- Support of the armies
- Support of the praetorians
- Support of the Senate
- Support of the common people
- Support of the provincials

The army was far and away the most important thing. Everything else was nothing in the face of that. The praetorians were more useful than the puppet Senate though, or the people they intimidated on a daily basis.
 
Feb 2019
345
California
I'd be a bit more cautious about equating economic prosperity and healthy childhood diet. Obviously going hungry is not going to result in a tall kid, however, a non-impoverished farm-boy's diet, it seems to me, may well be at least as "healthy" as a patrician kid's fare. They didn't know much about nutrition back then and of course even today great luxury often goes hand in hand with not so great health due to indulgence in unhealthy luxuries or just plain overindulgence.....