Few military units have ever had the effect on world history as did the Praetorian Guard. From the foundation of the Roman Empire until the reign of Constantine in 306, the Praetorians protected—and sometimes controlled—the leader of the most powerful empire on Earth.
Like other elite guard units to come, the Praetorian were loyal to the Emperor personally, not necessarily to Rome. At least, that’s how it started under Caesar Augustus.
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Over the centuries, the unit began to slowly corrupt. It soon became comprised of members of noble families who conspired against the Emperor, even assassinating a number of them.
They weren’t limited to the role of a mere guard force. The Praetorian Guard fought in wars, in the Colosseum and other games, were a secret police force, and acted as volunteer firefighters for Rome, assisting the regular firefighters in fighting larger fires.
After a number of assassinations, the Praetorian took their meddling in government a little too far. They were bound to butt heads with some Roman emperor —without being able to kill him first. That emperor was Constantine I.
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The Praetorian Guard backed a pretender to the Roman throne. You can tell the pretender to a throne as opposed to the real emperor because the pretender is usually filled with knives, spears, or poison.
Constantine defeated armies belonging to the General Licinius and Senator Maxentius. Unfortunately for the Praetorian, they had backed Maxentius. Constantine liquidated and disbanded the Praetorian Guard, burned their barracks, and sent survivors to the far reaches of the Empire.
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This article originally appeared on .
Featured photo of Praetorian Guards finding Claudius Emperor: Wikimedia Commons