Bellum Romanum Poster

A scenario rarely done correctly—what if the Romans had survived to the modern day as a distinct group of people? In the minds of many  people, this sparks ideas of implausibility—perhaps Rome conquering half the world and enslaving its people. However, these scenarios generally ignore several problems which became fatal to the empire in our own history. But what if these issues were to be taken into consideration? Welcome to Bellum Romanum—A timeline written by JoshTheRoman.

Point of Divergence

A statue of Pertinax

A statue of Pertinax.

The year is 192 A.D. On New Year's Eve, 192 A.D, the mad gladiator-emperor, Commodus, has just been assassinated. What seemed like a blessing quickly spiraled out of control, and a year of crisis soon followed. Commodus was quickly succeeded by an old general by the name of Pertinax, a former governor of Syria, who most likely assisted in the assassination of Commodus himself.

Pertinax attempted to emulate the restrained behavior of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Commodus' father, but faced opposition from all sides. This was espicially notable in the Praetorian Guard. The Guard had expected a generous donativum when they had brought Pertinax to power, but they were irritated because Pertinax did not pay them immediately. Pertinax, on the other hand, was busy selling off all of Commodus' property, including the concubines the slain emperor kept for his personal pleasure.

Pertinax continued the strict discipline of the pampered Praetorians as his reign progressed, which worsened relations between the emperor and the Praetorians. This reached a high point when Pertinax was in neighboring city conducting business. While the emperor was away, the Praetorians attempted to replace Pertinax with Sosius Falco, a famous politician. This conspiracy was avoided, as it was betrayed; Falco himself was pardoned, but all the officers behind the coup were executed.

The relations between the two reached a tipping point on 28 March, 293. Pertinax was in the imperial palace when a contingent of 200 Praetorians rushed the gates. They had claimed they had only received half their pay. Due to the sheer number of soldiers present, none of the palace guards chose to resist them. Pertinax even sent the Praetorian commander to deal with them but even he sided with the insurgents.

Pertinax was advised to flee, but attempted to reason with the disgruntled soldiers. This proved to be a fatal mistake, and Pertinax was soon paid for this with his life as a soldier struck down Pertinax as he was pleading with the gang of greedy soldiers. During his short reign, Pertinax actively sought out and attempted to eliminate the looming problems of the empire, such as the devaluation of money. However, with his assassination, the potential of a great emperor was snuffed out.

But what if Pertinax successfully got out of this crisis alive? What if he had heeded the warnings he received to flee, saving his life? This decision would have both short-term and lasting effects throughout the empire, and soon enough, across the world. The alternate history of Pertinax's reign is continued here, and the overall timeline of Bellum Romanum can be accessed here.

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