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Over time more and more experienced legionnaires joined the Guards. The Praetorians were organized under a Praetorian Prefect, who became a vital military and political figure. The Prefect was eventually to command not only the guard but the urban militia of Rome. The individual cohorts were under the command of a tribune. Those who served in the Guards had better pay, conditions, and a shorter service than regular legionnaires. They were usually members of the Equestrian Order, which meant that they were from a high social class until 195 A.D when Septimius Severus reformed the Guard.<ref> Bingham, p 201</ref> The Guards were seen as a great way to advance the career of the ambitious, and its members had a great deal of social prestige.
[[File: Praetorian Guard Three.jpg|200px|thumb|left|The Battle of the Milvian Bridge]]
the decline of the Roman Republic, the various generals who competed for power and influence often created their bodyguard. The name Praetorian- comes from the Latin , for General’s tent. Julius Caesar was one of the first to use a unit of handpicked soldiers for his protection. His heir, Octavian (later Augustus) and his bitter rival Mark Anthony both had personal bodyguards. When Augustus became the sole ruler of Rome and its Empire, he created three cohorts of guards , that became known as the Praetorian Guard. One was stationed in Rome to protect the Emperor, along with his German bodyguard and two were located throughout Italy to maintain order.
Initially the guards were tightly controlled by the first Emperor, however under his heir Tiberius, the Praetorians became very influential. Under the command of the ambitious and scheming Sejanus, they were all concentrated in Rome
, and he built a base for them in the city.<ref> Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, x, iv</ref> This meant that the Praetorians were the dominant power in Rome and this continued after the fall of Sejanus after his plot to become Emperor failed. Under the insane and bloody Caligula, they became very influential in Rome. Indeed, one of the tribunes of the Guard assassinated Caligula after being insulted by the mad-Emperor. The guards after the assassination of the Emperor selected Claudius as the supreme leader of the Roman World, and he handsomely rewarded the Praetorians.<ref> Tacitus, xi, v</ref>
By this stage, the Guards had become a real power in Rome, and Claudius even issued coins bearing the symbol of the Imperial Bodyguard, indicating their influence at this time. The Guards later conspired against Nero, who upon hearing that he had lost their support decided to commit suicide, believing that all was lost. During the Year of the Four Emperors (69 AD), they installed and deposed Galba as Emperor and sold the Imperial diadem to Otho.<ref> Suetonius. Life of Otho, vi</ref> Vitellius upon seizing Rome curbed the power of the Imperial Bodyguard. However, when Emperor Domitian (97 AD) began to act brutally and unpredictably, he was assassinated, and the Imperial bodyguard was implicated in his death.<ref> Suetonius, Life of Domitian, vi</ref>
For a century the Praetorian Guard
were controlled by a series of strong rulers, especially during the reigns of the ‘five good emperors.’<ref> Bingham, p. 234</ref> However, Emperor Caracalla indulged the Praetorian Guard, and they recovered much of their power. When he was assassinated in a Palace conspiracy, the Praetorians took over and brutalized the city. In 193, the Guard auctioned of the Imperial office after killing Pertinax, who attempted to curb their power and limit their privileges.<ref>Bingham, p 213</ref> Septimius Severus, after he became Emperor, reformed the Praetorians and he ended the traditional Italian and Equestrian domination of the Imperial guard.
By 230 AD the Empire fell into an existential crisis
, this is the period known as the ‘Third Century Crisis.’<ref>Bingham, p. 278</ref> This was a period when a series of solder-emperors fought for the Empire, and the Roman World fell into anarchy and economic decline. During this time a Praetorian Prefect, Macrinus, a Thracian giant, became Emperor for a year , before being killed.<ref>Gibbon, Edward, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London, Penguin Books, 1985), p 245</ref> A series of energetic generals ended the anarchy, and from Diocletian onwards, Rome was no longer the center of the Roman World. He used his soldiers as his bodyguards, and the Praetorians were side-lined. In 303 A.D, when Constantine invaded Italy, the Praetorians backed his rival. At the Battle of Milvian Bridge, the Guards were almost annihilated. The surviving guardsmen were sent to the frontiers of the Imperial territory, and their barracks was demolished on the orders of Constantine.
====What was the role of the Praetorian Guards in Roman politics?====