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ThestoryofRomesEmperorsinthefirstcenturyADhasgotitalllove,murderand

revenge,fearandgreed,envyandpride.

Theirhistoryisarollercoasterthatlurchesfrompeaceandprosperitytoterrorandtyranny.

Hereditaryrule

Whywasthefirstcenturysoturbulent?Thefirstanswerissimple:hereditaryrule.Formostof
thisperiod,emperorswerenotchosenonthebasisoftheirabilityorhonesty,butsimply
becausetheywerebornintherightfamily.

Foreverygreatleader,suchasAugustus,therewasatyrantlikeCaligula.ForeveryClaudius
therewasaNeroforeveryVespasian,aDomitian.OnlyattheendoftheperioddidRome
takethesuccessionintoitsownhandsandselectsomebodywhowasreasonablysane,
smartandhonest.

Forceandviolence

Whatsmore,theempirestartedthroughviolenceanddependedonforce.Emperorscould
onlysurviveiftheirpeoplebelievedtheycouldoutgunanyoneandeveryoneelse.Ifanarmy
grewdissatisfied,theemperorwasintroubleifdissatisfactionspreadfurther,hewas
finished.

CivilwarhadbroughtCaesartopower.Onceemperorandwithoutanobviousheir,hehad
adoptedAugustus.Hemayhavebeenthefirsttochooseasuccessorandcallithereditary
succession,buthewasnotthelastClaudiussidelinedhisownsoninfavorofNero,while
Nerva"adopted"Trajantoensureasmoothsuccession.

WiththeImperialthroneofferingsuchenormouspower,andtherulesofinheritancealways
opentointerpretation,itsnowonderthatmembersoftheroyalfamilyjostledforpositionor
usedextrememethodstogettheresulttheywanted.

Jobforlife

Finally,onceonthethrone,therewasnoeasyexit.Emperorshadnoelectionsortermlimits,
noearlyretirementorpensionplans.Itwasajobforlife,soifanemperorwasmad,bador
dangerous,theonlysolutionwastocutthatlifeshort.Everybodyknewit,soparanoiaruled.

Formany,thesacrificesrequiredtogetthetopjobwereenormous:Tiberiushadtodivorce
thewomanhelovedforonehedidnotCaligulasawmostofhisfamilyexecutedorexiled
Claudiuswasbetrayedandthenpoisonedbythewomenheloved.

Althoughtherewardsofpowerwereenormous,manysmallerplayerslikeTitus,Galbaor
Vitelliusbarelyhadtimetotryontheimperialrobesbeforetheydied.Inthefirstcentury,
politicscouldseriouslydamageyourhealth.

SittingatthetopofRomansocietyweretheemperorandthepatricianclasses.

Althoughtheyenjoyedfabulouswealth,powerandprivilege,theseperkscameataprice.As
Romesleaders,theycouldntavoiditsdangerouspowerstruggles.

Lifeofluxury

AsabsoluterulerofRomeanditsenormousempire,theemperorandhisfamilylivedin
suitablestyle.Theystayedatthebestvillas,atethefinestfoodanddressedinonlythemost
magnificentclothes.

Lifewasluxurious,extravagantandindulgenttheemperorsfamilycouldspendtheirdays
enjoyingtheirfavoritepastimes,likemusic,poetry,huntingandhorseracing.

Palaceintrigue

Still,itwasnotaneasylife.Successiontotheemperorwasnotstrictlyhereditary:thethrone
couldpasstobrothers,stepsonsorevenfavoredcourtiersandanyheirhadtobeapproved
bytheSenate.

Asaresult,royalpalaceswereconstantlyfilledwithpoliticalintrigue.Potentialheirsandtheir
familiesalwaysneededtobepushingtheirname,makingtheirclaimandhustlingforposition.

Theywouldhavetokeepaneyeontheirrivalsforthethroneincludingmembersoftheir
ownfamilyandwouldneedtokeeptabsonthemanypoliticalfactionswithintheSenate.
Ultimately,tosecuretheultimateprizewouldoftenrequirebetrayal,backstabbingandeven
murder.Itallmadeforaverystressfullifeinwhichonlythestrongestandmostdetermined
couldsurvive.

Patricians

Rankedjustbelowtheemperorandhisrelatives,thepatricianfamiliesdominatedRomeand
itsempire.ThewordpatriciancomesfromtheLatinpatres,meaningfathers,andthese
familiesprovidedtheempirespolitical,religious,andmilitaryleadership.

Mostpatricianswerewealthylandownersfromoldfamilies,buttheclasswasopentoa
chosenfewwhohadbeendeliberatelypromotedbytheemperor.

Agoodeducation


Boysbornintoapatricianfamilywouldreceiveanextensiveeducation,usuallyfromaprivate
tutor.Thiswouldfocusonthesubjectsasophisticatednoblewouldbeexpectedtoknow,as
wellassomerequiredforhisfuturecareer.Poetryandliterature,historyandgeography,
somemythologyandimportantlanguageslikeGreekwouldallbetaught.

TheRomansalsoconsideredlessonsinpublicspeakingandthelawtobeessentialpartsofa
goodeducation.Mostyoungpatricianmenwouldgoontocareersinpoliticsandgovernment,
forwhichthesetwosubjectswerecrucial.However,thepatricianfamilieswerealsoexpected
tohelpcontinuetheancientpriesthoods.

Aprivilegedposition

Thepatricianclassenjoyedfewprivileges:itsmemberswereexcusedsomemilitaryduties
expectedofothercitizens,andonlypatricianscouldbecomeemperor.Butthiseligibility
carrieditsowndangers:patricianscouldfindthemselvesbecomingwrappedupinpalace
intrigue.Iftheyendeduponthelosingside,theycouldeasilylosetheirhome,theirlandsand
eventheirlives.

Apartfromtheplotsandpolitics,however,membersofbothroyalandpatricianfamiliesfaced
littleworkorrealresponsibilityandwereblessedwitharelativelycharmedlifecertainly
comparedtotheotherinhabitantsofRomeatthetime.