Salvius Didiy

Salvius Didiy

Roman Emperor in March-June 193
Date of Birth: 30.01.0133
Country: Italy

  1. Salvius Julian, Roman Emperor (March-June 193 AD)
  2. Ascension to Power
  3. Didius Julian's Rise to Power
  4. Downfall and Death

Salvius Julian, Roman Emperor (March-June 193 AD)

Salvius Julian, also known as Didius Julian, was a Roman emperor who ruled from March to June in 193 AD. He came from a noble family in Mediolanum (modern-day Milan), and his ancestors included consuls and prefects of Rome. He was raised by Domitia Lucilla, the mother of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who continued to support him. With her help, he obtained the quaestorship at an earlier age than usual. Marcus Aurelius then promoted him to the positions of aedile and praetor. After his praetorship, he commanded the 22nd Legion in Germany and later governed Belgica. Using a hastily assembled army, he successfully defeated the invading Chauci. For this victory, Didius was honored with the consulship around 175 AD. He later governed Dalmatia and Lower Germany, conducted state affairs in Italy, and once again governed the provinces of Bithynia and Africa. During his second consulship and proconsulship in Africa, he replaced Pertinax in these positions, which is why Pertinax always referred to Didius Julian as his successor.

Ascension to Power

After Pertinax was killed by the Praetorian Guard on March 28, 193 AD, they initially feared the backlash from the people and hastily returned to their camp. They locked the gates and placed guards on the walls and towers to defend against any attack from the angry mob. Indeed, the Romans mourned the death of the emperor as Pertinax was known for his meekness and fairness. However, no one took the lead in the discontentment, and the senators scattered to their estates upon hearing news of the coup. Within two days, the unrest in the capital subsided, and the soldiers regained their spirits. While still keeping the gates closed, they sent the most influential among them to announce that the Praetorian Guard would bestow power and proclaim as emperor whoever paid the highest sum of money. The first to respond to this offer was Pertinax's father-in-law, Sulpicianus, who was the prefect of Rome at the time. He appeared outside the camp's walls and initiated negotiations with the rebels.

Didius Julian's Rise to Power

Rumors even circulated that Sulpicianus was declared emperor and the Senate was preparing to confirm the army's decision. Didius Julian went with his son-in-law to the curia, but found it locked. At the doors, he met two tribunes who persuaded him to take the vacant place of the princeps. Didius Julian protested, stating that an emperor had already been proclaimed, but the tribunes, ignoring his objections, led him to the camp. Seeing that the bidding was not yet over, Didius also wished to participate. Initially, he was ignored as the soldiers attentively listened to Sulpicianus, but Didius wrote on tablets that he promised to restore the memory of the recently slain emperor Commodus, whose death the Praetorian Guard still mourned. Then the soldiers lowered a ladder for Didius and raised him onto the wall. He addressed the rebels with a speech and promised each of them 25,000 sesterces. Encouraged by such promises, the soldiers proclaimed Didius Julian as emperor. Nevertheless, he agreed to accept all titles and honors only from the hands of the Senate, and on the same day, the Senate confirmed the Praetorian Guard's decision, declaring Didius Augustus, father of the fatherland, and granting him tribunician and proconsular powers. On that day, Didius occupied the Palatine Palace. The hatred that the people felt towards Pertinax's murderers was now fully transferred to the new emperor. Although Didius had no involvement in the conspiracy, he was considered its main instigator. Whenever he appeared on the streets or at public spectacles, the crowds showered him with incredible abuse and threats. Stones were thrown at him, and if it weren't for the soldiers who protected their protégé by force of arms, he would have been killed the day after assuming power. Didius endured all of this calmly and ruled with great leniency. However, his actions did not soften the hearts of the Romans. They regained their spirits when they learned about the uprisings in the provinces. The Syrian legions proclaimed Niger as emperor, while the Illyrian legions declared allegiance to Severus. The revolt of the Illyrians particularly worried Didius as he knew that the most combat-ready units were stationed there. Furthermore, the name of Pertinax was highly popular in Illyria, both among soldiers and colonists. Didius ordered the Praetorian Guard to take the field and strengthen the fortifications, but the soldiers were lazy, spoiled by urban luxury, and unwilling to engage in military exercises. They each hired deputies to do the tasks assigned to them. As a result, Didius Julian had no army capable of resisting Severus.

Downfall and Death

Without encountering any resistance, Severus crossed the Alps and invaded Italy. The inhabitants everywhere welcomed him, and the Ravennate fleet defected to his side. Unsure of what to do, Didius convened the Senate and proposed making Severus a co-ruler to achieve peace, by declaring him emperor and giving him equal powers. The Senate approved this, but the people, seeing Didius' timidity and despair, began to defect to Severus' side. Knowing the hatred and contempt that Didius inspired, Severus decided that it was more advantageous for him to remain the emperor's enemy rather than becoming his co-ruler. Therefore, he rejected the Senate's offer. Didius called the senators together and asked for their opinions on what to do next but did not receive any definite answer. Then, following his own judgment, he proposed Pompeianus as his co-ruler since he was Marcus Aurelius' son-in-law and had long commanded the armies. However, Pompeianus refused, citing his old age. Meanwhile, the soldiers from Umbria defected to Severus' side. After this, the guards and bodyguards deserted the emperor. Didius was abandoned by all and remained in the Palatine Palace only with his son-in-law Repentinus. When the enemies were at the city walls, the senators gathered for a meeting and agreed to proclaim Severus as the sole emperor and execute Didius. A tribune was sent to the Palatine Palace with a detachment, and Didius was killed by a common soldier. Before his death, he humbly begged for mercy and futilely appealed to the protection of Caesar, that is, Severus. He ruled for only two months and five days. His main downfall was that, unworthily seizing the throne, he never learned to be an emperor and constantly groveled before those whom he was supposed to command. As a result, both enemies and supporters regarded him with contempt, and there was no one who would mourn his miserable end.