About Maximapedia

Pertinax, Publius Helvius

PERTINAX, PUBLIUS HELVIUS (A.D. 126-193), born about A.D. 126, at Villa Martis, near Alba Pompeia, now Alba in Piedmont, on the banks of the Tanarus, was the son of a freedman who dealt in charcoal, an important article of fuel in Italy even at the present day. His father gave him a good education, placing him under the tuition of Sulpicius Apollinaris, a celebrated grammarian, who is repeatedly quoted by Aulus Gellius. Pertinax became a proficient in the Greek and Roman languages; and after the death of his master, he taught grammar himself. But being dissatisfied with the small profits of his profession, he entered the army; and being assisted by the interest of Lollianus Avitus, a man of a consular family and his father's patronus, he was promoted to a command. He was sent to Syria at the head of a cohort, and served with distinction against the Parthians, under L. Verus, the colleague of Marcus Aurelius. He was afterwards sent to Britain, where he remained for some time. Subsequently he served in Mcesia, Germany, and Dacia; but upon some suspicion of his fidelity, he was recalled by Marcus Aurelius. Having cleared himself, he was made prater and commander of the first legion, and obtained the rank of senator. Being sent to Rhsetia and Noricum, he drove away the hostile German tribes. His next promotion was to the consulate, and he publicly received the praise of Marcus in the senate and in the camp for his distinguished services. In Syria he assisted in repressing the revolt of Avitus Cassius. He was next removed to the command of the legions on the Danube, and was made governor of Mccsia and Dacia, and afterwards returned to Syria as governor, where he remained till the death of Marcus. Capitolinus says that his conduct was irreprehensible till the time of his Syrian government, when he enriched himself, and his conduct became the subject of popular censure. On his return to Rome, he was banished by Perennis, the favourite of Cotnmodus, to his native country, Liguria. Here he adorned Villa Martis with sumptuous buildings, in the midst of which however he left his humble paternal cottage untouched. He remained three years in Liguria. After the death of Perennis, Commodus commissioned him to proceed to Britain, where the licentiousness of the troops bad degenerated into mutiny. On his arrival, the soldiers wished to salute him emperor, and were with difficulty prevented by Pertinax, who seems to have found the discipline of the legions in that remote part of the empire in a most deplorable state. One of the legions revolted against him; and in trying to repress it, he was wounded, and left among the dead. On his recovery, he punished the mutineers, and solicited the emperor for his recall, as his attempts at restoring discipline had rendered him obnoxious to the army. He was then sent proconsul to Africa, and was afterwards made prsefect of Rome, in which office he showed much temperance and humanity. After the murder of Commodus, two of the conspirators, I,a?tus and Electus, went to Pertinax and offered him the empire, which Pertinax at first refused, but afterwards accepted, and was proclaimed emperor by the senate in the night previous to the first of January, A.d. 193. In the speech which Pertinax delivered on the occasion, he said something complimentary to Let us to whom he owed the empire, on which Q. Sosius Falco, one of the two consuls, observed, that it was easy to foresee what kind of an emperor he would make, if he allowed the ministers of the atrocities of Commodus to retain their places. Pertinax mildly replied,' You are but a young consul, and do not yet know the necessity of forgiving. These men have obeyed the orders of their master Commodus, but they did it reluctantly, as they have shown whenever they had an opportunity.' He then repaired to the imperial palace, where he gave a banquet to the magistrates and principal senators, according to the anlicnt custom. The historian Dion Cassius was among the guests. Pertinax recalled those who had been exiled for treason under Commodus, and cleared from obloquy the memory of those who had been unjustly put to death. But his attempts to restore discipline in the army alienated the affections of the soldiers, who had been accustomed to licence under the reign of Commodus. As he found the treasury empty, he sold the statues, the plate, and all the valuable objects amassed by Commodus, and even his concubines. By this means he collected money to pit the Pnetorians, and to make the usual gifts to the people of Rome. He publicly declared that he would receive no legacies or inheritance from any one, and he took away several taxes and tolls which had been imposed by Commodus. Pertinax was cherished by the senate and the people; but the turbulent Pratorians, secretly encouraged by the traitor Lsetus, conspired against the new emperor. After offering the empire to several persons, they went to the palace, three hundred in number. The friends of Pertinax urged him to conceal himself till the storm had passed; but the emperor said that such conduct would be unworthy of his rank; and he appeared before the mutineers, and calmly remonstrated with them upon the guilt of their attempt. He was making an impression upon them, when one of the soldiers, a German by birth, threw his spear at hira and wounded him in the breast. Pertinax then covered his face, and, praying the gods to avenge his murder, was finished by the other soldiers. Electus alone defended him as long as he could, and was killed with him. The soldiers cut off the head of Pertinax and carried it into their camp, and then put the empire to auction, offering it to the highest bidder. [didius, Julianus.] Pertinax was sixty-seven years of age, and had reigned eighty-seven days. (Capitolinus, in Historia Augusta; Dion Cassius b. 73.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | GDPR