Didius Julianus                          193


In what was to become one of the most shameful episodes in the political annals of the empire, the death of Pertinax launched a frantic search for an imperial replacement. The imperial guard, who held de facto power, decided to "right the wrongs" of Pertinax in a most self-serving manner: by auctioning off the throne! Two of Rome's richest Senators, Didius Julianus and Sulpicianus bid back and forth the donatives to be given to each soldier until the sum of about 625 denarii was reached by Julianus. He was at this point declared the winner amid a joyous uproar. A joyous uproar, of course, by the soldiers who managed such a princely sum for themselves. The rest of Rome cowered in angst at what fate may bring them in the near future. Gibbon, the famous Roman historian of the eighteenth century, called it the "most insolent excess of military license" and recalls that after the initial festivities of the day were over Julianus "...passed a sleepless night; revolving most probably in his mind his own rash folly, the fate of his virtuous predecessor, and the doubtful and dangerous tenure of an empire, which had not been acquired by merit, but purchased by money."

And if he did worry he had ample reason to: as soon as news of this travesty reached the various legions scattered about the empire generals were driven to condemn the new emperor and set out to seek the position for themselves, backed by their veteran legions. Septimius Severus, the first to reach the capital, quickly deposed and executed Julianus and then went on to defeat the other rival contenders in a bloody and prolonged civil war.


AE Sestertius 28 March--2 June 193 A.D.


20.39 g., 27.7 mm.

Obv. IMP CAES M DID SEVER IVLIAN AVG: Laureate head right

Rev. P M TR P COS S C: Fortuna standing left and holding rudder on globe, bearing

cirnucopiae in left arm

RIC 15, BMC 24, Van Meter 6