How elite were the Praetorian guards?

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,572
Australia
I specifically said I wasn't talking about the unit under Octavian/Antony, which has nothing to do with the Praetorian Guard of Imperial Times. Otherwise HScribe has it correct.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,308
One thousand years? The Praetorian guard (as a Rome based city guard, not a generals guard) existed from the reign of Augustus to that of Constantine.
The Praetorians were not a city watch. Rome had the Vigiles and the Urban Cohorts for that purpose. The Praetorians were, and would remain, a bodyguard, despite the fact they did little guarding and left many bodies behind them.

The effectiveness of the Praetorians isn't so easily understood. Their battle record is actually not too bad, though they never really shone. The issue is that whilst they were recruited from the pick of legions, life in the Praetorians was open to perks and privileges that other soldiers wished for. The Romans are quite unequivocal about the effects of long term peace - it ruins a unit's effectiveness and fosters bad behaviour (which is incidentially true of any army in any period to a greater or le)
 
Oct 2018
1,512
Sydney
Is that not a part of militarium? Reputation is a weapon. Should I quote Machiavelli again?
Are you saying that reputation was a weapon that could be wielded by the praetorians against other Roman soldiers or against civilians? In the case of the former praetorians could find themselves against battle-hardened killers who could plausibly look down on the praetorians as corrupted by city life (note that the soldiers on the eastern front were sometimes similarly derided for being garrisoned in cities and being exposed to the luxuries of the east). A possible case in point is the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, where Constantine's Gallic army (which had fought many campaigns throughout the 300s) trounced Maxentius' forces, which included the praetorians of the city of Rome. In the case of intimidating civilians and senators, it seems to me that any armed unit could do so, regardless of reputation.
 
Jun 2019
14
Redlands, CA
You aren't un-correct. But reputation isn't a hot meal. In fact, it's more like a marinade. Again, why were they supposed to be two inches taller than a legionnaire?

Edit: Damn spellcheck!
 
Last edited:
Mar 2018
789
UK
You aren't un-correct. But reputation isn't a hot meal. In fact, it's more like a marinade. Again, why were they supposed to be two inches taller than a legionnaire?

Edit: Damn spellcheck!

You can't just keep throw meaningless analogies in the air and hope they land as an argument. It's not even straws you're clutching at the moment, just flour!

The Praetorians had a reputation. Post Augustus, that was of being corrupt, political and weakened by city life. How is that reputation going to help them against a real foe? If anything it would harm them. The idea that they were elite shock troops was probably true in the Republic and, to some extent, in the campaigns of Augustus. But the idea that they were the very best troops the empire could muster is simply a myth spread by things like Roman Total War (were urban cohorts are an even more elite formation than Praetorians!).

As for being 2 inches taller, that could be a relic from republican days, or an attempt to make themselves appear as an elite unit. I doubt it was enforced, many restrictions on joining the Roman army were not. For example, Legionaries were supposed to be citizens but that was often ignored completely, or citizenship was given as a perk for enlisting.
 
Jun 2019
14
Redlands, CA
"As for being 2 inches taller, that could be a relic from republican days, or an attempt to make themselves appear as an elite unit."

Is that not the point I've been making from the start?

"How is that reputation going to help them against a real foe? "

Reputation doesn't win battles, it prevents them.
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,462
Japan
Were they ever truly elite?

They were a prestige corps, and were well drilled.... they got better pay, status and possible some snazzy bling/dye/shield pattern to make them swagger. Like Coldstream Guards or SS..
but there were no special selection requirements I believe, they were not 95th Rifles, Imperial Guard, Parachute, Brandenburger level elites.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,572
Australia
Why am I not shocked to learn this misconception flows from a video game about Ancient Rome... if I'd played it maybe I'd have understood better. I mostly focus on stupid misconceptions that come from movies and TV shows like Gladiator or HBO's Rome, which are laughably inaccurate and misrepresentative. I'm sure the game is no better.