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Pertinax (Bellum Romanum)

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19th Emperor of the Roman Empire

A statue of Pertinax.jpg
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign 1 January 193 - 18 July 196
Predecessor Commodus
Successor Septimius Severus
Spouse Flavia Titiana
Full name
Publius Helvius Pertinax (before ascension)
Publius Helvius Pertinax Augustus (as emperor)
Father Helvius Successus
Mother Trulia Regula
Born 1 August 126
Alba Pompeia, Italia
Died 18 July, 211 (aged 69)
Rome, Italia

Burial Rome, Italia
Religion Roman polytheism

Pertinax (1 August, 126 – 24 September, 196 AD) was Roman Emperor from 193 to 196. Successor to the assassinated, mad-emperor Commodus, Pertinax' reign, although short, was rather uneventful compared to other emperors throughout the history of the empire. Knowing that his reign would not be very long due to his age, Pertinax dedicated most of his time to making sure the power of emperor peacefully passed to a capable man and restoring the economic policies of the empire before the ascension of his predecessor, Commodus.

Other than the economic restoration of the empire, Pertinax's reign as emperor is also notable for Pertinax's relationship, and eventual incident with the Praetorian Guard, after which they would be annihilated and disbanded; although they would be re-established under Septimius Severus, one of Pertinax's best friend, who would be emperor before the turn of the century.

Early life

Family and education

As the son of a libertus (freedman) by the name of Helvius Successus and a high-class prostitute, Tullia Regula; born at an obscure settlement in northern Italia, Pertinax would have been the last person in the Roman world to someday become the the most powerful man in the world.

Pertinax's father chose his name as it referred to "pertinacity", which referred to his father's profession as a carpenter and woodworker. Pertinax's mother, Tullia Regula, was a hetaera (courtesan), who gave long-term sexual favors to rich noblemen across the empire. It was unlikely in of itself that a person such as she would fall in love and move in with somebody such as Successus. But nevertheless, Pertinax was born in 126 in Successus' small hometown of Alba Pompeia. The obscure settlement had little importance, other than being located on a road of moderate traffic in northern Italia.

Nearing his eight year, Pertinax's father arranged for him to be educated in Greek and Latin literature. As Pertinax aged and entering his twenties, he decided to become a grammaticus (grammar teacher). Little records of his teaching exists, although it is noted he was locally famous for being a very strict tutor, punishing students for the slightest of mistakes.

However, Pertinax quickly grew tired of a dull life as a grammaticus, and decided to join the legion. He quickly promoted through the ranks, and soon enough, Pertinax was well-known through his legion as a well-disciplined officer. In the Parthian War of Lucius Verus, Pertinax was able to distinguish himself among other officers, and achieved another round of subsequent promotions, even getting postings in Britannia and along the Danube. After climbing the ladder of importance, Pertinax finally gained the espicially powerful position known as the governor of Britannia in 185. This was so because the governor of Britannia had three complete legions under his complete command—45,000 men.

After a brief stint in Rome in the senate, Pertinax was briefly forced out of public life, but was just as quickly called back to serve as politician in Rome again, and governor of Africa. By 190, Pertinax was appointed to the position of Praefectura Urbi (Mayor) of Rome. Pertinax served during Commodus' last two years of madness. It was indeed Pertinax who was running the city while Commodus was off in the games fighting as the gladiator himself.

Rise to power

To celebrate the New Year in AD 192, Commodus decided he wanted to make an appearance before the Roman people not from the palace in traditional purple robes, but from the gladiator's barracks, escorted by a host of gladiators. After telling his plan to Marcia, Commodus' mistress, the night before, she begged him not to behave so carelessly and bring disgrace to the Roman Empire. Commodus, upset by Marcia's reaction, then told his plan to Aemilius Laetus, the commander of the Praetorians, then Eclectus, his chamberlain and head servant. After they, too, tried to dissuade him, he became furious and put their three names on a proscribed list of people to be executed the next morning, including names of many prominent senators.

While Commodus was taking a bath, his favorite servant boy Philcommodus found the tablet on which the list was written and ran into Marcia while he was holding the tablet. Marcia took it from him, thinking she was protecting a document from potentially being ruined, and in horror saw her name at the top of the list. She cried out, "Well done, indeed, Commodus. This is fine return for the kindness and affection I have lavished on you and for the drunken insults which I have endured from you all these years. A fuddled drunkard is not going to get the better of a sober woman".

She then found Laetus and Eclectus, and the three of them decided they had to kill Commodus in order to save their own lives. Usually Marcia would give the emperor his first drink after his bath so he could have the pleasure of drinking from his lover's hand. It was easy, then, for her to mix poison into the wine she gave to Commodus after his bath. After drinking the wine, he became so nauseous that his vomiting would not cease. The three conspirators were afraid he would expel all the poison, so they ordered Narcissus, the emperor's wrestling partner, to strangle Commodus for a large reward, ending the reign of the mad emperor.

With the emperor dead, Marcia and Eclectus married, running away from the dangerous life in the capital of the empire. The other plotters did the same, and Laetus was the only one within the city walls that knew of the plot beforehand. For a mere dozen hours, Laetus had the decision of who to bestow emperor-ship upon; becoming one of the most powerful men in the world for what seemed to be a very long dozen hours.

Laetus decided to appoint the Praefectura Urbi of Rome, Pertinax; the person who fell the bureaucratic, tedious duties of running the eternal city. He was told to meet the Praetorians in their camp right outside the city walls, and was soon known as emperor. Considering Pertinax's age, Laetus had expected him to be like Nerva: an obedient domestic emperor to serve as a placeholder for the next. Laetus soon learned that this was not the case with Pertinax.

Reign as Emperor

Death and Succession

Reign of Septimius Severus:
193 - 197
Reign of Clodius Albinus:
197 - 211
Reign of Unnamed Successor:
211 - TBD

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