How elite were the Praetorian guards?

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,798
USA
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.
Vigiles were city watchmen. Cohortes praetorianae weren't watchmen, they were a cohorts of pedites under the direct control of a magistrate, either a Consul/Pro-Consul or Triumvirate in the Late Republic, or Imperator Caesar during Principate and afterwards, acting in the role of a fully trained military force of "loyal" bodyguards.

A legion stationed in a volatile province was infinitely better.
At what? Standing guard?
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,636
Australia
Vigiles were city watchmen. Cohortes praetorianae weren't watchmen, they were a cohorts of pedites under the direct control of a magistrate, either a Consul/Pro-Consul or Triumvirate in the Late Republic, or Imperator Caesar during Principate and afterwards, acting in the role of a fully trained military force of "loyal" bodyguards.



At what? Standing guard?
I have no idea what point you're making here. Whatever point it is would undoubtedly be answered by re-reading the post you're quoting.
 

Davidius

Ad Honorem
Dec 2010
4,999
Pillium
Neither were Patricians.
Clodius was born, raised and lived most of his life as a patrician, only becoming plebean by a (very) contentious adoption and that was only so he could gain the plebean tribunate.

Patrician is not a synonym for aristocracy or oligarchy.
According to both the OED and Websters it most definitely is. I'm using the word in its modern sense.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,798
USA
Clodius was born, raised and lived most of his life as a patrician, only becoming plebean by a (very) contentious adoption and that was only so he could gain the plebean tribunate.
He became a Plebeian, and thus was a Plebeian. So was Milo.

According to both the OED and Websters it most definitely is. I'm using the word in its modern sense.
You're discussing ancient Romans, you most certainly aren't writing about anything modern. In Ancient Rome, Patrician meant something specific. It didn't mean rich. It didn't mean powerful. It mean being a direct male line descendant of the original Fathers of Rome, the original 100 man Senate. It changed later in the early Principate as others were honorarily added, but at the time of the Late Republic it still had a very specific meaning that we should all respect.
 
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HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,536
The one where you state praetorian cohorts are night watchmen? I read it. Didn't agree with it.
He said, and I quote: The praetorians were, through most of their history, basically a city watch whose job was to keep the peace in the city.

Not sure if that statement is true for "most of their history", but there were times in which their main tasks were guarding the imperial family/palace, keeping the peace in the city, and maybe even as secret police. So for the average praetorian during these times (around early Empire), most of the duties he's likely to perform would revolve around acting as a glorified city watch, despite being paid more than provincial soldiers.
Yet at other times (Trajan and later) emperors go on campaign and the praetorians followed them, in which case campaigning in far distant lands wouldn't be something I see a city watch doing. Even in these situations though, they don't seem to be some sort of crack elite troops except during their inception, just normal soldiers.

In short, it depends on the time period:

-The praetorians of Octavian confronted the praetorians of Antony.....Recognizing in each other the flower of either army, they hoped to decide the whole war by this single engagement - Appian

-But some found fault with him particularly because he abolished the practice of selecting the body-guard exclusively from Italy, Spain, Macedonia and Noricum, — a plan that furnished men of more respectable appearance and of simpler habits, — and ordered that any vacancies should be filled from all the legions alike. Now he did this with the idea that he should thus have guards with a better knowledge of the soldier's duties, and should also be offering a kind of prize for those who proved brave in war; but, as a matter of fact, it became only too apparent that he had incidentally ruined the youth of Italy, who turned to brigandage and gladiatorial fighting in place of their former service in the army, and in filling the city with a throng of motley soldiers most savage in appearance, most terrifying in speech, and most boorish in conversation. -Cassius Dio

-Everyone selected the branch of the service he desired: no matter how unworthy a soldier might be, he was enrolled for service at Rome, if he preferred it. On the other hand, the good soldiers were allowed to remain with the legions or the cavalry if they wished; and there were some who did so desire, for they were exhausted by disease and cursed the climate of Rome. Nevertheless the strength was drawn off from the legions and cavalry, and the high prestige of the praetorian camp was shaken, for these twenty thousand men were not a picked body but only a confused mob taken from the whole army. -Tacitus
 
Last edited:
Jun 2019
14
Redlands, CA
"Look at the actions of Clodius and Milo "

I don't disagree. Even look at contemporary American politics. It's not devoid of thuggery. But generally speaking, most leaders of nations over the l
 
Jun 2019
14
Redlands, CA
"So Gary is basically talking in circles. "

No. You just have, as do many people, a very simplistic ideal of want militarism is.

Okay, okay,, let's step back. Why was the Praetorian Guard supposed to be 2 inches taller than a Legionnaire?
 
Last edited:
Oct 2018
1,692
Sydney
-But some found fault with him particularly because he abolished the practice of selecting the body-guard exclusively from Italy, Spain, Macedonia and Noricum, — a plan that furnished men of more respectable appearance and of simpler habits, — and ordered that any vacancies should be filled from all the legions alike. Now he did this with the idea that he should thus have guards with a better knowledge of the soldier's duties, and should also be offering a kind of prize for those who proved brave in war; but, as a matter of fact, it became only too apparent that he had incidentally ruined the youth of Italy, who turned to brigandage and gladiatorial fighting in place of their former service in the army, and in filling the city with a throng of motley soldiers most savage in appearance, most terrifying in speech, and most boorish in conversation. -Cassius Dio

-Everyone selected the branch of the service he desired: no matter how unworthy a soldier might be, he was enrolled for service at Rome, if he preferred it. On the other hand, the good soldiers were allowed to remain with the legions or the cavalry if they wished; and there were some who did so desire, for they were exhausted by disease and cursed the climate of Rome. Nevertheless the strength was drawn off from the legions and cavalry, and the high prestige of the praetorian camp was shaken, for these twenty thousand men were not a picked body but only a confused mob taken from the whole army. -Tacitus
Are these quotes in reference to the reign of Augustus?
 

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,536
Severus and Vitellius respectively. During Augustus the Praetorians should be elite because they were chosen from veteran troops.