Eastern Mediterranean 193: Year of Five Emperors
When Marcus Aurelius finally died in 180, he was succeeded by his megalomaniacal son Commodus, who was eventually assassinated at the end of 192. Commodus’ successor Pertinax reigned for only three months before being killed by the Praetorian Guard, who objected to his curtailing of their authority. The Guard sold the position of Emperor to Didius Julianus, but his rule was quickly challenged by Pescennius Niger in Syria, Septimius Severus in Pannonia, and Clodius Albinus in Britain.
1 Jan–28 Mar 193 Principate of Pertinax▲
Following the death of Commodus, the respected governor and general Pertinax was proclaimed emperor in the Praetorian Camp on 1 January 193. Pertinax quickly moved to roll back Commodus’ excesses and push through reforms, invoking the ire of the corrupt Praetorians. On 28 March two hundred soldiers of the Praetorian Guard swarmed his palace, cutting down Pertinax when he came out to reason with them.
28 Mar–1 Jun 193 Principate of Didius Julianus▲
On 28 March 193—the same day they assassinated Pertinax—the Praetorian Guard announced that the position of Emperor would be sold to the highest bidder. After several hours of bidding, Didius Julianus, former proconsul of Africa, won the title by offering 25,000 sesterces to each Praetorian. This corrupt path of accession provoked popular outrage in Rome and civil war in the Empire. Unable to stop Septimius Severus’ invasion of Italy, Julianus was denounced by the Senate and killed by a soldier in his palace on 1 June.
9–19 Apr 193 Pescennius Niger▲
Soon after Didius Julianus became emperor, a short-lived popular uprising broke out in Rome, with the mob seizing control of the Circus Maximus and calling for Pescennius Niger and the Syrian legions to take the throne. Emboldened, Niger proclaimed himself emperor in April 193, receiving the support of the eastern provinces, and accepting embassies from Parthia and other countries across the continent of Asia. However, rather than marching on Rome immediately, he remained in Antioch and did not even order Egypt to cut the Roman grain supply.
11 Apr 193 Septimius Severus▲
Following the accession of Didius Julianus as emperor and receiving news of Pescennius Niger’s counter-claim, Septimius Severus, governor of both the Pannonian provinces, announced his desire to avenge the death of the emperor Pertinax. Rallying both the Danube legions and the Roman clients in Germania to his cause, Severus was proclaimed emperor in Carnuntum in April 193.
193 Clodius Albinus▲
At the time of the assassination of Commodus (December 192), Clodius Albinus was governor of Britain. As the Roman Empire descended into civil war in spring 193, the three legions in Britain backed Albinus rather than supporting any of the contenders on the continent. Nonetheless, Albinus, perhaps cautious due to his much smaller army, did not proclaim himself Emperor until 196.