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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 were demolished on the orders of Constantine.
[[File: Praetorian Guard two.jpg|200px|thumb|left| A Praetorian soldier from the 2nd century AD]]
The Praetorian Guards were usually the only significant military unit in Rome if not Italy. There was an urban militia (vigiles), and the German bodyguard of the Emperor, however, the Guards were by far the most formidable military force in the capital. This and their unique access to the Emperor meant that they were in a position to intervene in Imperial affairs. The Emperor came to depend on the Guard for his safety, and over time the Imperial bodyguard began to become ‘conscious of their power.’<ref>Bingham, p. 167</ref> The ruler of the Roman World was at their mercy if they acted in unison and decisively. They Guards were instrumental in the deposition of countless Emperors the exact number is unknown.